I worked in mobile phone retail for 4 years. In that time, I saw thousands of people buy, return, praise and bemoan phones.

My position, as a technical support agent within a retail store, meant I dealt with a lot more of these incidents than others may have during this same time. When every return has to be authorised by you, you get a sense of what people don’t like.

The truth

When you walk into a store to buy a mobile phone, you’ll probably have an idea of what you want to buy. If not an exact model, you’ll have an idea of the price range and feature set you’re looking for. The job of the sales person (or ‘Advisor’ as they tend to be called now), is to upsell you to a phone that makes the most for the company.

If you walk in looking to spend £50 on a cheap-ish handset, they’ll look to upsell you to a £99 handset, or across to a £10 a month contract for the next 2 years. Why? Because that makes more money for the company.

If you walk in looking to buy an iPhone, you’ll likely be suggested a Galaxy, Xperia, Lumia or One. Why? Because Apple don’t spend marketing money on giving sales incentives to sales people, and they don’t do deals on the price with the carrier.

The shop, and its staff, are working in their own interests. They’re a business (one that’s scared of being relegated to a dumb pipe, where we all buy the devices we want and then just go to them for a £10 a month data line).

They’re not looking out for you. They’ll say they are. The same reason why they sell you overpriced insurance, “just in case anything bad should happen to your new, expensive, cant-live-without phone”. The same way they want you to cover up your new purchase with an ugly, £30-in-the-store-but-£2-online case.

It comes back

The number of handsets I saw returned because they were sold to a customer instead of the customer wanting to buy it was staggering. (It, also, almost always was the handset that had the highest incentive on it that week).

When someone is sold a phone because the salesman is going to get £5-£7.50 for selling it, the likelyhood is that all the lifestyle and usage questions he asked you at the beginning of the sale were just to make you feel you were in control.

The next time you walk out of a store with something completely opposite to what you went in for, think long and hard about what just happened. It may be that you were lucky and got someone who really does think that device is best for you, and it’ll work out (it happens).

Rather, the likelyhood is that you’ve just bought the phone the phone company wanted you to have. A decision that was made before you even walked in the store.

I do not blame these business for taking steps to keep making money. I know that they’re having a bad time right now. I just don’t like the way they do it. The affect this has on people. And I couldn’t put up with it anymore, so left the industry 1 year ago.