Old-fashioned ripoffs in new tech world

Caveat emptor! Buyer beware! I am not the most tech-savvy person I know; but I know enough to know I don’t know enough. Hence, I can be hornswoggled by a slick salesperson. But give me a little time to think about it, and I can figure out I’ve been had. Case in point:

I have an iPhone and it was due to be upgraded. I could have kept the one I had; it worked perfectly fine, but the lure of a newer, faster phone was available. So I took it. My son-in-law has always said, don’t go to a certain store, they don’t know what they’re doing. Go to another big-box type. But the thought of waiting in line for interminable minutes until an employee could get to me was something I just didn’t want to do that day. So I went to the store he advised against in Erie.

The sales lady, oh wait, what do they call them now? Oh, associates. The associate I was dealing with seemed to be particularly disinterested in working with me. I told her I really was a neophyte with technology. Perhaps she didn’t understand neophyte. Anyway, she pointed to the new iPhone Xs on the wall and challenged me to pick one. I understand now that the iPhone X is outdated (I only bought it two weeks ago!) but at the time there was a choice of iPhone Xr, Xs, or Xs Max.

“What’s the difference,” I ask?

“Not much,” is the reply.

Well then, “why the different prices?”

“One has a better camera.”

Hmmm, I’m happy with the camera I’ve got, so I chose the least expensive model; which is not to say any of the models are inexpensive.

“We’ve got a special going on today,” she says. I can get a free tablet if I buy a charging stand and a battery pack, or something like that.

Hey! That sounds cool, I’m thinking. A free tablet. I don’t know how to use a tablet, or what I would use it for, but it’s free. So I buy the whole package: 260-some odd dollars. I get it all home and start reading instructions. Why do I need a wireless charging station? I have chargers all over the house that plug into the phone. And why do I want a battery pack? I’m never going anywhere where a charging station isn’t available. There is a 14 day return policy.

Enter a sales representative from another Pennsylvania location. I stopped in to get a second opinion on all this stuff I’d purchased, and just as I thought, I don’t need any of these new-fangled options. “Return it,” he said. “I’ll help you get set up for what you actually need.” So back to Erie I go. “I want to return this charger and battery pack.” I can do that — for $50 restocking fees on each item. I went round and round with the associate until she called the manager in. The original associate is there as well, totally wide-eyed and concerned that I wasn’t happy. By this time I’m attracting a crowd, because I’m not being very quiet, or compliable. I want the money back I paid for this stuff! There is a 14 day return policy!

“Oh, we’re sorry. You bought a package deal. You would have to return everything in the package.”

Great! I go out to the car, get everything I bought, plunk it on the counter and say, “OK, I’m returning everything!” Except the phone itself, because it took them forever to load my information from my old phone onto the new phone, and I don’t want to go through that again. And, by the way, they didn’t load the information right anyway.

Eventually I get a refund for $170 on my $260 purchase; bilked out of $90 in return fees. What a rip-off. Beware, return policies aren’t always what they seem. Those restocking/return fees will get you every time.

I went back to the other location and while he commiserated with me on the treatment I got, there wasn’t much he could do to get all my money back. But he did set me up with what I needed; an Otterbox (which I insisted on) to protect the phone, and a free tablet; which did not require a purchase of all that other stuff they sold me in Erie.

I like that guy. He’s honest. He’s fun to work with. And he takes the time to explain things to a neophyte un-tech savvy old lady like me. Thank you Mike!

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com