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On Call: Confessions of a carrier store employee

Wireless customers may cringe at the thought of visiting their carrier store, but the experience can't always be great for employees, either.

Any frequent On Call reader will know that in previous columns I've featured CNET users who've had frustrating experiences when buying a phone, adding new services, or just seeking help with an account in a carrier store. I even griped myself about T-Mobile's "upgrade fee" a couple of years ago. As I said then, customers just want to be treated well. They want their questions answered honestly and accurately, and they don't want to feel that there's an "upsale" to every transaction.

Yet, I'm also pretty sure that it's not always a good time on the other end. Customer service reps working in carrier stores spend each day as the face of their employer, which can't be an easy thing to do. They're on the front lines, so I'm sure that your average rep has answered just about every question, and has heard just about every complaint, imaginable.

That's why I wanted to devote this edition of On Call to the carrier employee perspective. Recently, a rep from one of the big four carriers sent me a few pointers that customers should remember when visiting a carrier store. And with his permission, I've reprinted them below. Admittedly, I don't love the second point, but I think that on the whole he offers good advice.

  • Be sure you are either the account holder or are authorized to make changes. And don't forget to bring identification.

  • If a hot new phone was just released, don't expect to just walk into a store and pick it up. The hotter the phone, the longer the wait time. And by "wait time," I mean weeks and months, not hours and days.

  • If you have a good experience with a salesperson, ask for their card, or at least a contact number, and go to them whenever you want to make changes to your account. Not only are they typically faster than calling the customer service line, they probably know a few tips and tricks to making sure you get the best deal.

  • Most (if not all) employees work on commission, so they get paid for most changes you make to your account. But if you reverse the change, they lose the commission.
  • We are not certified technicians. If your phone isn't working, or it's misbehaving, the best we can do is check your settings, pull out the battery, and put it back in. If the phone is less than 30 days old and has no physical damage, we can usually replace it in-store. Otherwise, call customer care.

  • If you have billing issues, call customer care. They are trained in billing; we aren't.

  • We are human beings. Sometimes we make mistakes, just like you do.

Are there any other carrier employees out there? What would you add?