Looking at this slideshow of the new Nokia store in Moscow, I suddenly realized why I absolutely hate mobile phone stores: they don’t let you actually experience the merchandise.
In the worst cases — like at large electronics retailers like Staples and Future Shop — they have faked up demo models of phones, often solid chunks of plastic pseudo-phone with buttons that don’t even work. At best we’re given “real,” albeit non-working phones annoyingly tethered by wire rope to anchor posts “for our protection.”
Why is it that I can go up to Charlottetown Toyota, let them take a photocopy of my driver’s license, and drive away in a $20,000 automobile for a test drive, but my experience of a $400 mobile phone is limited to fondling an inert lump while surrounded by giant photos of happy people calling their loved ones in Prague?
So here’s my idea for cell phone stores: start a “try before you buy” program. Have a fleet of phones — one or two of every model you sell — available for a 24 hour “test drive.” Take a deposit if you must. Stick “pay as you go” SIM cards in the phone with a couple of dollars worth of calling time on them to ensure I don’t run up your bill with calls to Myanmar.
With this program in place customer could get a real feel for the best phone for their life. I could take the phone home and see if it really syncs with my Mac address book like Apple claims it will. I could see if Bluetooth is all it’s really cracked up to be. Take some pictures with the built-in camera and post them to Flickr and see how they rate.
I’m tired of walking into swanky lifestyle showrooms, pursued by ravenous salesguys looking to upsell me on a 1,500 minute plan “with a free phone included.” A phone — like pants — is a personal object and to truly try one on demands actually being able to, well, make a phone call with it.