Tag-Team Unhelpfulness From Best Buy And Virgin Keeps My Cell Phone Dead

Andrew bought a Samsung Intercept phone from Best Buy and hoped to activate it on his active Virgin Mobile account. But after he bought the phone, he discovered it wouldn’t be possible to activate it until later this month. Now he’s stuck without phone service and doesn’t know whom to blame.

He writes:

They had a whole shelf of them (well, more like a peg, but you get the picture). I checked them over, and asked a sales associate to pull one off the padlocked peg and ring it up. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I didn’t actually witness the sales associate scan the bar code for the activation. After rushing out to the car, I opened the package, pulled out the phone, powered it up, and attempted to activate. I already had a Virgin Mobile account, figuring it would be a trivial process to switch to this new phone.

The activation failed, stating that I needed to call customer service. Disappointed, I drove back home and tried again. No luck. I had a meeting to run to, so I decided to put off the CS call until later. When I got home, I called customer service, after trying to activate online and receiving the same message, and spoke with “Alex,” my virtual advisor. Alex was no help. “He” basically kept me from a live advisor, which the error messages kept pointing me to. After four calls with no luck, I finally looked up the shortcut to a human, which worked. Once I got to a human, I read back the numbers again, and he also received an error message, though this one more specific. He told me that my phone showed that it hadn’t been activated at Best Buy. Angry now, I called Best Buy where I purchased the phone and asked for the mobile department. I explained the situation, was put on hold, and then was told, “Those phones may not be able to activate until October 24th.” To which I replied, “What???”

I ventured back to Best Buy, brought in all the parts of the deadly plastic packaging, the charger/cable and phone, walked up to the mobile counter and explained the situation again. I was told by a nice manager that there was basically nothing I could do other than return the phone (which seemed futile since I’d be back after the 24th to get a new one) or just wait until the 24th when “maybe” it will activate. So far, keeping it is my plan unless someone tells me otherwise. I have decided on the phone, and don’t want to go through the chargeback process if I can avoid it. I also made sure that I can return the phone within 30 days, so if I can’t ever get this thing activated, I can just return it or exchange it.

Has anything like this happened to you?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Murph1908 says:

    Any other place to buy this phone? Give it back to BB and get it elsewhere.

    Why BB is selling a phone that can’t be activated for a few weeks is boggling.

    • yasth says:

      Best Buy put it on the shelves early as they do all the time.

      • Murph1908 says:



        Why is BB putting a phone out on the shelf early?

        They don’t seem to have a problem putting movies and video games out on the correct launch day.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      Who cares about customer service, and product usefulness!! That’s for the bees. We are talking dollars and cents here, not dollars and sense! Why would you bring up a valid argument!!!

      Although, my brain was thinking the same. Why offer a product you can’t activate and use? “Here’s your new Microsoft Xbox purchase card…. I know you spent $50 on it now, but it’s not available to use for another 10 days. Thanks.”

  2. Speak says:

    I have Virgin also and just recently saw this new phone for sale at Target. Since I just started my service at the end of August and I am happy with my current phone I didn’t feel like I needed to upgrade. I don’t know if a Target in the OP’s area has the phones, but if they do, I would try and return it to BB & get it at Target.

  3. Donathius says:

    I’d return it just so that you don’t run in to issues if it doesn’t activate. That way you’re not stuck with it.

    • katstermonster says:

      The OP has already checked that he can return it within 30 days, in case it doesn’t activate. It looks like he is going to wait until the 24th, try to activate it, then return it if it doesn’t work.

    • incident_man says:

      The Op needs to return it because Androids, as well as other smartphones are a pain to program correctly after the initial auto-activation attempt. After initial auto-programming attempts fail, getting the data to provision correctly can sometimes take hours, rather than just a few minutes with auto-activation.

      Besides, Best Buy needs to be taught a lesson in what happens when they pull a dum-dum move like selling something before it can actually be used.

  4. johnrhoward says:

    Why can’t it be activated? That doesn’t make any sense. Presumably, no one is buying these things for decoration, if they can’t be activated, they shouldn’t be selling them.

  5. bsh0544 says:

    They’re probably lying about the return period. Return it now while you can, buy it again when it can be activated. There’s no advantage to holding on to a useless phone for 10 days while at best your return period slowly ticks away.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      +1. I was going to make some comment about looking for a Consumerist story in 10 days on how BB wouldn’t take the useless phone back because it was outside of the 15-day period for prepaid phones sold in plastic clamshells.

  6. anime_runs_my_life says:

    What I want to know is WHY it can’t be activated until the 24th. Is it some special phone that isn’t supposed to be out until that date and Best Buy screwed up by selling it too early? Is there some sort of promo? Otherwise, it makes no sense at all and just smells of another Best Buy screw up.

    • EarlNowak says:

      Yeah, Virgin hasn’t released it yet so their systems won’t accept it. Best buy screwed up and sold it early.

      • rmorin says:

        I don’t know the accuracy of that, I’ve had one for two weeks no problem. Maybe Best Buy specifically is not allowed to carry it, but the OP can order it online (with free shipping) or go to a Target in the area and certainly get it if that is the case.

  7. BlkSwanPres says:

    You also may want to look in to the Samsung Moment, the Samsung Intercept is basically a crappier version of the Moment.

    • nickcv says:

      The Intercept is the only Android phone on Virgin Mobile, and service starts at $25 a month for 300 minutes with unlimited data and text. There are definitely better phones available, but not with a plan this cheap.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Supposedly the Intercept is the successor to the Moment, but I watched a review last night and the features are poorer than what was offered on the Moment. That doesn’t make any sense.

        • jackbishop says:

          The Samsung Moment is being phased out (on Sprint at least) in favor of its weaker brother, the Intercept, and its beefier cousin, the Transform. There are a few points on which the Intercept is superior to the Moment (GPS responsiveness being the most conspicuous), but you’re right that it’s not actually a step up. The step up would be the Transform.

    • AllanG54 says:

      I have a Moment. While it’s not a bad phone it’s heavy as hell and battery life is terrible if you’re using it for data or on the web. You can literally watch the battery meter take big steps toward discharge as you use it.

  8. CommodoreWinky says:

    According to the intertubes, this phone was released for Virgin Mobile on October 4th, but I did read at least one source claiming that it was a Target exclusive for a while. Maybe Best Buy put it out on the shelves before they were supposed to?

  9. framitz says:

    I purchased an LG Rumor Touch from Best Buy. It activated just fine to replace an old phone, but at the end of the month I found it impossible to renew ($25 a month unlimited text and data with 300 minutes) without calling Virgin customer service. Their customer service is nearly worthless.

    After two months trying to get the situation straight I received a call on a Sunday. I was able to explain that there is obviously a database error that is the root cause. There was a logic loop that said ‘top up’, but top up was disabled, and renewing as an option was not presented. This representative was knowledgeable enough to actually listen and contact someone who could fix the problem.

    The problem was corrected, I was never notified what was done or that it was fixed which is OK since all is good now.

    On my next renewal everything worked as it should, but I had to bug, and bug, and bug them until someone competent got involved.

  10. The cake is a lie! says:

    Dude, just return it and go back to buy it again when it can be activated. Your 30 days is ticking as of the date of purchase, not from the date of activation. Why give them weeks of your time to be able to sort out any problems which may happen after you activate it? This sounds like a non-issue to me. The OP stated he was in a rush and probably didn’t get all the information from the store before he bought the phone. How is this a consumerist worthy problem? Do you post every stupid customer experience now? You should have just told him to return it and buy another one later.

  11. nickcv says:

    I bought this phone at Target on September 28 and had no issues activating it. That’s weird.

  12. denali says:

    Umm… People are having no problems activating this phone…


    So, I’m calling shenanigans on BB.

  13. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    What I’m wondering is, when he purchased it at BB if they activated it onto a new account which is why he can’t switch it over to his pre-existing account. Using a new phone requires a clear ESN, maybe that’s the issue.

  14. Miz_Ivy says:

    “Now he’s stuck without phone service and doesn’t know whom to blame.”

    Um, Best Buy. It’s not Virgin Mobile’s fault Best But put the phone on the shelf too soon.

    Return the phone. You can get a different one that you can activate right away, or better yet vote with your wallet and get one somewhere else. If you really want this particular model, come back and get another one on the 24th. That way if they’re full of it and it still won’t activate, you’ll have a reasonable time to return it.

  15. MeowMaximus says:

    Srr, th P s t flt bcs h BGHT TH PHN T WRST B. Srsl, wh wld nyn wh rds ths wbst VR d bsnss wth Wrst B. Rtrn th dmn phn, nd nvr b nythng frm thm gn.

  16. DigitalShawn says:

    You have 30 days to get a refund with a receipt, including mobile devices. Exercise that right.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    I’ve never had anything like this happen to me.

    “I was in a bit of a hurry, so I didn’t actually witness the sales associate scan the bar code for the activation.”

    The 5 minutes not spent there caused the OP 30+ minutes of frustration later.

    I would return the phone and either get it there in 10 days or elsewhere. In either case I would not leave the store without some kind of proof that it’s working or activated.

  18. fpage77 says:

    This is so not true I bought a Samsung Intercept for Virgin Mobile on 9/29/10 and activated it that day.

  19. rmorin says:

    The Target near me had if you by this phone you also get a 20 gift card. I bought it about two weeks ago and it works fine. An android phone with no contract and unlimited data and texting, plus 300 minutes a month for $25 bucks? Heaven.

  20. jiminy says:

    Hey – there’s a simple explanation for all this – and I’ve got no vested interest in this – Best Buy has been selling the Samsung Intercept for $99 since about March 2010 with the intent of signing you up for a Sprint account with a 2-year contract at $189 or $90 or $70 per month, depending on number of minutes. But only in September did Virgin Mobile start adopting this same phone for its $25 per month no contract deal (beginning with sales at Target). Surely, you don’t expect to be able to get away with paying $99 and skipping out on their 2-yr required contract so you can use it on Virgin Mobile’s set-up, do you?

  21. Rickgonjinn says:

    Hi everyone, long time lurker, first time poster.
    Let me preface this by saying I work in best buy mobile as my part time job and I quite enjoy it. We are doing a lot to differentiate ourselves from carrier stores, etc. Anyway…. Virgin mobile activations have been giving us a pain in the ass over the last month or so. First thing, a virgin transaction cannot be totaled up without scanning the serial number, which is supposed to activate the phone. We had this same problem in my store Wednesday and it took a one hour! No exageration, phone call with virgin to get it activated. When we call them they don’t believe us, and we had to talk to a manager, which is what took so long. So es, in a way the problem is with best buy, but it is at a level much higher than the line level associate, and virgin is being very uncooperative in helping us. Please post any questions in comments, as I’ll keep checking.

  22. mcpeepants says:

    I wonder if just the non-Target ESNs are blacklisted right now – I’ve been eyeballing this thing for 2 weeks… It was NOT on Virgin’s model list for phone swapping on Wednesday when I last looked, but you could buy the phone from them

  23. Block73 says:

    I bought this phone Oct. 6th from Target. I didn’t have any problems activating it either. I believe you should give it back to Best Buy and either go to Target or Virgin Mobile’s website. They have it on their website now. Initially Target was the only store that had them.

  24. opals25 says:

    I thought I would shed some light on the situation for you guys. I’m a BBY employee who tried to set one up today myself and ran into the same problem. The phone doesn’t list a street date in out inventory so as far as any employee can tell it should be good to sell, but its hard to say if that might be an error higher up the chain. Where the real problem lays though is in unlocking the phone. Just like with Itunes cards or any other prepaid phones the phone needs to be “unlocked” at purchase to allow the serial number to be activated; where we saw a problem was that the POS systems never prompts for an unlock on purchase so the phone doesn’t get unlocked. It looks like its a problem on BBY’s side of the system with something not being updated properly to reflect the phones availability in our inventory. I’d recommended returning the phone in the mean time, if there is a problem with unlocking it then its not going to get unlocked until its repurchased so holding on to it does you no good. Nobody is going to try and screw you out of a return period but its still $250 in dead weight you probably don’t want hanging there in the mean time. As for activation on the 24th, I never heard anything about that at my store or during my several phone calls with Virgin Mobile; infact the Virgin rep. sounded as if they thought it should work and be unlockable now but that it simply wasn’t getting unlocked.

  25. Puddy Tat says:

    Buy all the phones and return them all opened boxed ;)