AT&T Customer? No Go Phone For You!

In case you though AT&T wanting to run a credit check before they sell you a prepaid phone was as dumb as AT&T could get, reader Dan writes in to tell us about an AT&T store that wouldn’t sell him a phone because he was already an AT&T customer. If he hadn’t copped to being an AT&T customer, he could have walked out of the store with a lovely LG CG180 Go Phone. But since he admitted he had an AT&T number, the sales reps at the store wanted him to put an extra $100 down. More, after the jump.

Well the AT&T refusing to sell a go-phone isn’t a isolated incident.
I go in.
Me: “Ya, can I get the CG180 go phone?”
First Guy: “Just the phone, No SIM?”
Me: “Ya.”


First Guy:”What’s your current AT&T phone number?”
Me: Like an idiot I tell him.
First Guy to Shift Supervisor: “Can he buy this?”
Shift supervisor:”Sorry sir you can’t buy this phone your not a go-phone customer.”
Me: “Well…maybe I want to be one now, can’t I just buy the phone?
Shift Supervisor:” Well if you want, but you have to buy 100 dollars worth of credit with it.”
Me: “It doesn’t say that anywhere in the store, isn’t that why its called pay as you go?”
Shift Supervisor: “New Go-Phone customers don’t need to, but since you already have an AT&T account you have to.”
(The account isn’t even in my name. Its in my mom’s.)
Me: “Well, let me get this straight. if i came in and didn’t tell you I was an AT&T customer I could get it?”
Shift Supervisor: “Yes, but you are, so you can’t. But you can buy a better phone for a little bit more, as long as you do it as a qualified upgrade.”
Me: “No…I want this phone. my friend has it and I really like it.”
Shift Supervisor: “Well you would have to buy it at Radio Shack or Best Buy, corporate stores don’t do it.”
Me: “But isn’t the online the same as the corporate stores? I can buy one on there.”
shift Supervisor: “I suppose you could.”
Me: “Fine…I will.”


What a bunch of BS. I called AT&T because I was that pissed and asked. They said “the shift supervisor must have been misinformed about policy, she should have sold you the phone.”

Store was 6th ave in NYC


Even if Corporate claims it’s not policy, it’s strange that the store would be under impression that current customers have to pay more for a product. Isn’t that a little counterintuitive? Wouldn’t you trust your current customers, who have a billing history with you, more than strangers? Oh, wait. It’s a prepaid phone. It shouldn’t matter in the slightest. Time to add to AT&T’s file of Bizarre Customer Service Blunders.



Edit Your Comment

  1. nadmonk says:

    Sounds like price gouging to me.

    When my last cell broke, and I didn’t have the protection plan, and I wasn’t eligable for a new phone for another 12 months, the manager of Radio Shack actually suggested using a prepaid phone and swapping the SIMs.

    It cost me $40 and I’m still using it 18 months later.

  2. heavylee-again says:

    This makes me wish I wasn’t a Verizon Wireless customer, so I could swap out phones at a more reasonable price.

  3. bohemian says:

    But if he buys a go phone they can’t sell him something overpriced that comes with a ten year contract.

  4. GearheadGeek says:

    It’s not even surprising, though it’s greedy. They are selling Go phones under cost. Even though they’re not directly subsidizing it with contract service, they’re expecting to make their money selling you minutes. Their assumption is if you’re already a postpaid customer, you’re just looking for a newer phone. It’s the reason US carriers avoided GSM for years, it’s harder to lock you into their service and their hardware and doing things their way.

  5. Pro-Pain says:

    Some people are just total douchebags. I bet if you’d of hauled off and busted in his grill right in the middle of the store he’d of thought about telling someone “no” a second time…shame that would be an assault charge. The stupid prick employee deserved it. Revenge is best served cold anyway.

  6. jamar0303 says:

    I already buy unlocked Japanese phones because they’re light-years ahead of anything AT&T offers. Maybe y’all should do the same…?

  7. heavylee-again says:

    @Pro-Pain: So the idiot manager deserved to be ‘busted in his grill’ for being wrong and rude, and even though ‘he’ is a she?

  8. Pro-Pain says:


  9. annelise13 says:

    I’m not sure the people at the AT&T stores are interested in selling phones at all. I stopped by one last year when I was looking at upgrading, and was told that they couldn’t price match anything on the AT&T website (which I’ve been told isn’t true) and that I should just go home and order it online because I would definitely get a better deal there. So that’s what I did. I’m cool with being told how to get the best deal, obviously, but I found it odd that they seemed strangely hostile to having customers at all.

  10. blackmage439 says:

    “…it’s strange that the store would be under impression that current customers have to pay more for a product. Isn’t that a little counterintuitive?”

    It seem unless you beg, current AT&T customers who are renewing their contract DO NOT have access to the same deals as new customers. I have proof of this, as my family just went through it. We went through no less than two phone reps who said two things about upgrading your handset:

    1. Do not phone in your order. Use the online store, and you’ll get a better deal.

    2. New customers have access to better deals.

    When purchasing your upgrade through the online store, you are brought to a special, account-holder-only, upgrade store. The selection is severely limited, the deals are worse, and there is no access to refurbished phones.

    I should also point out that you should wait until AFTER your contract expires to upgrade your phone. According to the fine print on their website, the $18 “activation/upgrade fee” is waived after 24 months… we’re on month ~22… At least we got bitch’n phones out of the deal (Samsung A517).

  11. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    From my experience working at Radio Shack: Stores hate it when you buy a go phone with no intention of using it. You are well within your rights to do it, but they’re going to try to convince you you can’t.

    The reason is simple: Radio Shack, Best Buy, etc., get paid a commision on go phone activations. If, however, that phone gets taken away, or if through audits they AT&T find out that it was never actually used as a Go Phone, they’ll take that comission away.

  12. Scuba Steve says:

    Lying is the easiest way to make a sale.

    Just imagine all the folks that fell for it.

    I imagine that if you were– or weren’t– an AT&T customer, that sales associate would have wanted you to buy $100 dollars worth of credit.

  13. BankOfFees says:

    Buy pre-paid phones in cash from Best Buy (as much as they suck, and yes I refuse to show my recipt). Buy the minutes card in cash. When you activate phone, make up an address. Get a new pre-paid phone every month or so.

  14. rworne says:

    This is the key line in the story:

    Shift Supervisor: “Yes, but you are, so you can’t. But you can buy a better phone for a little bit more, as long as you do it as a qualified upgrade.”

    If he won’t upgrade the phone on his account and lock himself into a new contract, they don’t want to do business with him. Refusal to sell the phone was just a sales pressure tactic to get the customer to cave.

  15. stacye says:

    Hooray for the OP posting the store!

  16. twstinkers says:

    AT&T has always had stupid or inane rules about activating accounts and getting new phones. To avoid the hassles, I have just been getting unlocked phones and swapping SIM cards. That is the reason why people overseas avoid this nonsense like retarded salespeople and dumb corporate policies. Whatever happened to the customer is always right?

  17. IrisMR says:

    It’s sad for me to say that about my gender, but chick salesfolks tend to be really anal about retarded rules.

    Especially if they misunderstand them

  18. calvinneal says:

    These are not ATT rules> This is two smart ass employees making sure they get a commission. ATT said this isn’t a policy. It isn’t. Target, Walmart and KMart all sell GO Phones. Basically, throw away the sim, insert your sim and you are on good to go..

  19. samurailynn says:

    @twstinkers: How can I tell if a particular phone will work with AT&T’s service? Also, do you know if it’s possible to add a phone line to an account without having a contract on it? I’ve been told that the only way I can add a phone to my husband’s plan is to sign a 2 year service agreement. But I’ve also been told by other sales reps that it all depends on the phone and who I talk to. My husband is about 6 months into his contract, and I would rather not have an added line with a contract in case he wants to switch plans when the contract is up. I hardly ever use my phone, so I prefer to just tag along on whatever plan he has.

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Sounds like the store manager was trying to pull a fast one on Dan. I’m sure the store makes zero profit on the Go Phone itself, so they tried to tack on the $100 prepaid minutes for a quick sale. Lame.

    And I have to agree with the others, in that ATT shows no love for current customers. I’ve been a customer since 1998 and I frequently get craptacular offers for free phone upgrades. Now of course the phones they offer are low end models. And I get the privilege of paying an activation fee AND renewing my contract for 2 years. Ha! No thanks.

    I’ve been contract free for 5 years now. Unlocked phones on ebay and refurb Go Phones are the best thing everrrr.

  21. jimv2000 says:

    I have a feeling that that $100 bucks wasn’t going to see the inside of the cash register.

  22. sicknick says:


    Weird. I work next to an At&T store and a few months ago they sold me a Blackberry Curve for 25 bucks to offset my Verizon ETF.

  23. Jesse says:

    That’s part of the risk of going through a retail store. You can go to three stores and get three different answers for the same question.

  24. HamlinCornutus says:

    @samurailynn: Rather than try to get on a current contract, just sign up for a prepaid service. Tmobile has $100 cards that are good for 1000 mins and a year. The prepaid cards are even cheaper on ebay. Then the service is less than $10/month – even less if you added on to your husband’s plan. All you need is an unlocked phone or you can just buy their cheapest phone for $30.

    I have done this for a few years. No contracts, no activation fees, no hassle.

  25. TPS Reporter says:

    What the store manager didn’t tell him is that by walking in and asking about the Go phone, that has now renewed his contract (or his mothers) for another 2 years. It’s in the fine print, read it. Or at least implied.

  26. Lucky225 says:

    it’s not the credit check for a go phone that pisses me off, it’s the fact they want ANY personal information for a PREPAID phone, sheesh.

  27. ellastar says:

    @nadmonk: They’re not supposed to do this. If At&t notices that you have your contract SIM card in a prepaid phone, they’ll flag your account and it will be suspended until you get a contract phone. Because so many reps (At&t as well as RadioShack) were selling Go Phones like this, and customers’ accounts were getting suspended, At&t offered up a phone specifically for customers who need a new phone (broken/lost), but aren’t eligible for or don’t want to upgrade. It’s a pretty basic phone, but then so are most of the prepaid phones. They’re only available at At&t stores. You’re lucky that your SIM hasn’t been flagged yet.

  28. Byzantine says:

    @Lucky225: If you want a prepaid phone without having to give personal information, simply buy a phone off the shelf at any store that sells them prepackaged. You just take them off the shelf, pay cash, and walk out.

  29. redheadedstepchild says:

    I’ll back this up. I thought that my 2 year old razr had died (batteries kept getting toasted). The rep would upgrade my phone for a 2 year contract extension, but wouldn’t let me purchase a gophone and swap cards.

    Turns out I just had a string of bad batteries, but still, obnoxious.

  30. TurnkeyDB says:


    “The selection is severely limited, the deals are worse, and there is no access to refurbished phones.”

    I have no idea what/where you’re reading but when I look into a new phone through my online At&T account I see like 80 phones and 70 of them frickin refurbs!

    A few have discounts but if you don’t want a contract even the refurbs are full price.

  31. mikecolione says:

    Some replys to everyones comments:

    calvinneal — Actually, it is corporate policy to NOT sell Go Phones to existing post paid customers. Stores in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area sell the 2610 for 40.00 (the same price as the cg180) for people that can’t upgrade yet.

    jimv2000 — 100 cards keep the number active for a year so the rep doesn’t get charged back. Even if you use all the minutes, it still eliminates the chargeback for the rep which is probably why he said that.

    annelise13 — Reps often suggest the website if the customer will hurt their sales ratios. It’s BS, but it happens.

    LatherRinseRepeat — Existing customers often get extra discounts of 50 – 100 dollars on top of the 2yr price. Most even get the upgrade fee waived automatically.

    MrBill38 — This wouldn’t have put the number under contract, the system wouldn’t let the rep add a conract because it’s not a contract device.

    Byzantine — You still have to give your name and address when you call to activate it. All the carriers have the same requirements. I’ve used or sold most of them. It’s true you can give fake info though.

  32. Scuba Steve says:

    @Byzantine: I didn’t have to give T-mobile my address. At least, not until I wanted to transfer my pre-paid number to a regular phone on anothr carrier.

  33. bryus says:

    I did this same thing earlier this year. My wife washed her Sync so I gave her mine and signed up for a 3rd line on our family plan. That got me a Centro for $100. I told the rep I put my wife’s SIM in my Sync and wanted my SIM in the Centro and that I would buy a GoPhone later for the new SIM. He was cool with it.

    I bought a referb GoPhone for $40 online and I never activated the new SIM, I just put the family plan one I had in it. It’s been fine for 3 months.

    Clearly this is a greedy/evil store manager.

  34. samson says:

    My strategy opinion. Cingular buys failing regional tdma carriers for a bargain. Converts all to gsm because better tech for cramming people on towers. Spend all that money to brand to ATT. Att rose from the dead to become a monopoly again, sorta. I need to go to Harvard so I can figure out how these CEO think. Are any companies these days run like they are going to be around in the future. I wonder if Cerbus the doggie of the dead will be their when these companies need to be escorted to the after life of bankruptcy. Yes, i know i am a horrible writer with bad breath and no sustainable narrative.

  35. artemis56 says:

    I had an account with AT&T a few years back, the triple play kind, you know cable, net, and home phone. Supposedly at a very reduced rate. Ended up costing me $300.00 for one month. So if I ever get an account with them again, for anything, they will have to pay me to use their service.