Cellular Express Plus vs. AT&T - Which company are you going to choose? Do you feel lucky?
DAY 1 (Friday)
Lets say that you own a cellular phone which has developed problems, and your wireless service is provided by AT&T. (In our case, the phone having problems was my wifes. We have been on the AT&T Family Plan for years.) You recall seeing a neighborhood store with AT&T prominently displayed over the front door (and maybe you call this same cellular phone store before arriving, and they answer the phone by saying AT&T.)
When you arrive at the store (as did my wife in 2008), you see the AT&T signage above the front door, and as you enter the store, you see the AT&T symbol and name on the front door, and once inside, you see the AT&T name and logo displayed throughout the store. As a reasonable person, you think you are in an AT&T-owned store, and you feel fairly confident that your dealings will be with AT&T employees who are following the AT&T-owned business regimen.
You are WRONG!!! You are in an independently-owned Cellular Express Plus-owned store that makes their money by selling cellular phones and accessories, and who can also sign you up for an AT&T wireless phone service contract. It is an authorized retailer-owned store that has its own rules of operation. In our experience (2008), those rules can allow some fast and loose sales tactics to be practiced on those who reasonably believe they are in a real AT&T-owned store.
Once inside the store, you explain the problem you are having with your cellular phone to the customer service rep, and you hand your phone over to him. In very short order he pronounces that phone can not be repaired, which was exactly what you had been hoping you would not hear. (In our case, he said the problem was due to a defective antenna.) He then begins to show you the new AT&T-approved phones, and HE OFFERS TO DISPOSE OF YOUR OLD CELLPHONE FOR YOU. He makes light of the worth of your old phone, saying that they toss all the old phones which are beyond repair (like yours) in the dumpster out back.(Has this happened to you? Did you let him keep your old beyond repair cell phone? If yes, you may well have been ripped off. Fortunately in our case, my wife decided to keep her old, unrepairable cell phone please read on.)
You then are showed some new phones to replace your defective cell phone. The salesperson that had been helping you suddenly has to leave and he turns you over to the store manager who then rings up the transaction. (My understanding is that this technique is known as a T.O. = take-over, and sure enough, on day 3 (see below) this same manager used the excuse that he was not the one who told my wife that her cell phone was defective, and therefore he could not be held responsible for what she had been told by the first salesperson neither would he disclose the name of the first salesperson, as the giving out of names of company employees is against company policy, but now I'm getting ahead of telling about this sorry experience...) You are told that all new phones come with a mandatory 2-year contract with AT&T. Since you need a cell phone that works, you decide to bite the bullet. So you pay for new phone, and sign up for the mandatory 2-year AT&T contract. You may have been deceived in several respects up to this point, and there may be more deception yet to come.
One truth is that you can pay full retail price for the new cell phone and avoid the 2-year contract. The difference is roughly $100 per year for each of the two years, or roughly $10/month more for two years, which to me is worth the extra money. When we established this to be true, we returned to the store later that day. We were then repeatedly told by the store manager (in the hearing range of other customers who were in the store at the time) that ALL new cell phones require a MANDATORY 2-year contract. Finally, he acknowledged that if a customer pays full price for a new cell phone, the requirement of a 2-year contract is waived.
At this point, we decided we did not want to do business with this store, and that we wanted to return the new cell phone (on the same day that we had purchased it), and cancel the 2-year contract that had been signed that same day. The CEP-owned store manager told us (also in the presence of other customers) that if we returned the new phone and cancelled the 2-year contract, he would see to it that the rest of our accounts with AT&T would be cancelled, and he promised us several times that he would see to it that we would never be allowed to sign up for AT&T service again. (Has this happened to you?) I use my AT&T cell phone extensively in my business, and I have an AT&T wireless aircard for my computer to allow me internet access while in the field, so these promises/threats were very disconcerting.
I walked outside to think about the threats the manager had just made. Two other customers who had been in the store came out and advised me that 1) this was not a real AT&T-owned store, and 2) I should call AT&T and tell them what was happening, which I immediately did.
AT&T Customer Service told me that 1) we had 30 days to return the new phone to the retailer and cancel the 2-year contract; 2) the store was not an AT&T-owned store; 3) one can pay full price for a new phone and not be required to sign a service contract., and 4) that the retailer had no power to cancel the other accounts we have with AT&T, or to affect in any way our future dealings with AT&T.
This was turning into such a nightmarish episode that I called 911, and asked that an officer be sent. I explained to the officer the details of what was occurring, and his basic take was that we were dealing with a civil matter. Afterwards, we sat in our vehicle for a few minutes, trying to come to grips with what was happening. As it was late/after dark, we elected to leave things as they were for overnight, and we exited the parking lot.
Day 2: (Saturday)
The next morning, I took the old phone to the nearest real AT&T-owned store (in Vero Beach on Highway 60). They simply replaced the battery, and the phone works perfectly! They said that the new phone we had purchased the day before would have to be returned to the store that had sold it to us. I then spent about 30 minutes on the phone with the real AT&T Customer Service cancelling all the options that had been added to our long-standing account with AT&T the day before by the Cellular Express Plus-owned store manager, even though my wife had told him that she did not want any extra features while he was preparing the sales receipt for her signature.
The extra features CEP added were such as answer tones, enhanced voice mail, message starter, smart limits, and were itemized in a tiny chart at the lower left of the sales receipt which she did not notice when she signed it, but which were included even though she had told them she didnt want any extra features. That these items were made a part of the agreement was not mentioned when the CEP manager had her sign the sales receipt. The fees and conditions that would be imposed on the purchaser in the event the purchaser returned the phone were not mentioned, either.
At this point, we were no longer under the illusion that the store at 1701 Highway US 1 in Sebastian, Fl was a real AT&T-owned store, despite the extensive AT&T signage inside and outside its premises, the way they answer their business phone, and the way they present themselves in general. It is a Cellular Express Plus-owned store, and there are about 3 dozen such stores in Florida, and over a half dozen in Alabama, all under common ownership, according to their website. In our experience, the difference between dealing with a real AT&T-owned store and a Cellular Express Plus-owned store that looks like it is an AT&T-owned store is like the difference between daylight and dark. The real AT&T-owned store treated us with straightforward and competent customer service, and also showed us respect.
Day 3: (Sunday)
Shortly after the CEP-owned store opened (on Sunday), we presented the phone and accessories to the same manager, thinking that he would take it all back without question since her old phone was working fine with the battery replacement that had been done the day before, and because at the same time, the AT&T-owned store had programmed it as her phone in service and had taken the new phone off service. They had even replaced her SIM card at no charge, and no charge for the battery! The attitude of the CEP-owned store was basically one of defiance. He ordered me to leave the store.
Once I was outside the store, to my wife he denied responsibility in the matter of her having been told her old cell phone was beyond repair, saying that the other associate had been the one that told her such, and he refused to give her the name of this other sales rep.This manager then told her in an arrogant manner that his store was in the business of selling phones not batteries. He countered her every point with by saying: You signed the contract, didnt you? He told her he was not going to take the phone back that day, that she was to hang on to the phone and accessories, and take them back home until they called to tell her it was OK for her to bring it all back in. He told her that she should be getting the call in about 2 days. As she was about to leave the store, he told her that she would have to pay $90, then he changed the amount to $60, that she would pay if she ended up returning the phone to him.
When we got home and read the fine print/page #2 of the sales receipt (which turns out to be a contract between you and Cellular Express Plus), we saw the fees and conditions that will be imposed upon the purchaser if the cell phone is returned to a Cellular Express Plus-owned store during the 30-day period. It goes on to state that no accessories can be returned- period. It states that whatever the final amount due back to the purchaser after CEP subtracts all the charges/fees/etc from what the purchaser originally paid, can be handled by Cellular Express Plus by processing a standard check in the mail that can take 3-6 weeks. And do not think that you can simply give back the items to Cellular Express Plus and call your credit card company to cancel the charge they made on your card, because part of what you agreed to on Day 1 when you signed the sales receipt was to sign away your right to do this per the fine print/page 2.
Day 4: (Monday)
I decided to begin this day by appealing to the real AT&Ts Customer Service for help in the unbelievable state of affairs we were in with a company that calls itself an Authorized Retailer of AT&T. After all, why should we be waiting on a phone call from this Cellular Express Plus / authorized retailer company to tell us when it would be OK with them for us to return the cell phone that they had tricked my wife into purchasing only 3 days earlier, and when she had been told by the CEP manager that she had a 30 day window to do so? When the real AT&T customer service rep heard the sorry state of affairs we were into with their authorized retailer, he told me to have my wife immediately take the phone back to the point of purchase and he would talk by phone with whoever was in charge of the Cellular Express Plus store that would be receiving the phone.
Sure enough, he called when we drove into the parking lot of CEP, and he remained on the cell phone until my wife walked with it live into the CEP store, and the real AT&T rep then talked with the CEP-owned store manager (luckily the individual who was inside was the same manager who had been on duty for each of the three previous days when we were there.) This CEP-owned store manager wilted under the real AT&T Customer Service Reps directives over the cell phone as to the processing of this return was to be accomplished immediately. Furthermore, the real AT&T rep credited our wireless account with an amount to the amount that Cellular Express Plus withheld per the fine print/page 2 of their sales receipt contract. We did have to eat the cost of the (unopened) accessories she had purchased on Day 1 (per CEPs fine print/page 2), but it is worth the $40 to be free of Cellular Express Plus.
I took the unopened car battery charger to the real AT&T-owned store later that day (Day 4), and they told me they would have given me credit for it, but it was not on their manifest as a current item that it might be discontinued merchandise. Now we wonder about the new cell phone that the car charger goes to had it also been possible discontinued merchandise?
In my experience, when you sign a CEP sales receipt, you will fall into one of two groups: The Lucky group, or The Unlucky group. Members of the Lucky group will not have to deal with the fine print/page 2 of the sales receipt, because they will never have a reason to return their new phone to CEP during the first 30 days (but did they really need the new phone? Had they brought in their old phone for repair, and end up letting the CEP rep dispose of the old phone because it was beyond repair, like they tried to do with my wifes phone?).
The Unlucky group members have to learn the hard way about the fine print/page 2 of the CEP sales receipt. When these people (like us) want to return their new cell phones within the 30 days, they will be slapped with the fine print/page 2 of the sales receipt. These Unlucky group members will either:
1) Keep the phone they would have liked to have turned in, probably because they do not want to be subject to the CEP fees and conditions/fine print/page 2 that they face, or they are told as they told my wife: take the phone home and we will call you, and they never call, or
2) They turn the phone in and eat the financial consequences.
According to the website for the real AT&T-owned stores, their deal is: 30-day trial use the phone for up to 30 days to make sure its the one that you want. If you dont like it, you can return it to the closest AT&T retail store, and exchange the phone or cancel service without penalty.
It is my belief that the public has a right to know about the differences between dealing with a real AT&T-owned store and a Cellular Express Plus-owned store, and that steps should be taken to educate the public of these matters until these matters become common public knowledge. If this education process were to come to pass, the public would be able to make an informed choice between these two handheld wireless companies, and I believe the size of membership in the Unlucky group would decrease as the public awareness about the differences between the two companies increased.
If you would like to do business with a genuine AT&T- owned store instead of a Cellular Express Plus-owned store, you will need the following information:
(The cities in which CEP operates in Florida are: Melbourne, West Melbourne, Cocoa, Merritt Island, Palm Bay, Indian Harbor Beach, Titusville, Jacksonville, Orange Park, Hobe Sound, Palm Beach Gardens, Pompano Beach, Sebastian, Stuart, Vero Beach, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Panama City, Daytona Beach, and Lake Wales, according to their website.)
FLORIDA LOCATIONS FOR GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES WHICH ARE LOCATED IN SAME AREAS AS CELLULAR EXPRESS PLUS AUTHORIZED RETAILER-OWNED STORES:
-BREVARD COUNTY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
195 Malabar Road NW
Palm Bay FL
4450 W Eau Gallie Blvd
1450 N Courtenay Pkwy
Merritt Island FL
3065 Columbia Blvd., Suite C-107
-VOLUSIA COUNTY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
1781 Dunlawton Ave
Port Orange FL
374 W Granada Blvd
Ormond Beach FL
-FLAGLER COUNTY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
106 Palm Coast Pkwy, NE
Palm Coast FL
-ST JOHNS COUNTY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
256 State Rd 312
St. Augustine FL
-JACKSONVILLE MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
18 Blanding Boulevard
Orange Park FL
9041-137 Southside Blvd
5207 Normandy Blvd
4668 Town Crossing Drive
4160 S 3Rd St
Jacksonville Beach FL
"3267 Hodges Blvd, Suite 11"
9400 Atlantic Boulevard
10750-16 Atlantic Blvd
1680-45 Dunn Ave
-GAINESVILLE MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
3634 SW Archer Rd
-TALLAHASSEE MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
2418 N Monroe Street
3521 Thomasville Rd Ste C
-PANAMA CITY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
3212 West 23RD St
Panama City FL
633 Hwy 231
Panama City FL
-VERO BEACH / SEBASTIAN MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
6310 A 20Th St
Vero Beach FL
-PORT ST LUCIE MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
1395 St. Lucie West Blvd
Port Saint Lucie FL
-STUART / HOBE SOUND MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
3313 SE Federal Hwy
-PALM BEACH GARDENS MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
3101 PGA Boulevard
Palm Beach Gardens FL
-POMPANO BEACH / FORT LAUDERDALE MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
2472 1/2 E Sunrise Blvd
Fort Lauderdale FL
ALABAMA LOCATIONS FOR GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES WHICH ARE LOCATED IN SAME AREAS AS CELLULAR EXPRESS PLUS / AUTHORIZED RETAILER-OWNED STORES (LOCATIONS PER CEPs WEBSITE):
-HOOVER MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
3032 John Hawkins Parkway
-BIRMINGHAM MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
220 State Farm Pkwy Ste 104
9256 Parkway E
-MONTGOMERY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
2767 Eastern By-Pass
7024 Eastchase Parkway
5554 Atlanta Highway
-DOTHAN MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
4884 Malloy Plaza
-ENTERPRISE MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
-TROY MARKET- GENUINE AT&T-OWNED STORES-
(If for some reason you would like the exact locations for the Cellular Express Plus-authorized retailer-owned stores in Florida and Alabama, see their website at cellularexpressplus.com)
I have been fortunate during the past 10 to 12 years to have had a real AT&T-owned store as being the wireless handset store nearest to my home. I did business with the same store when it was a Cingular-owned store prior to Cingular being bought out by AT&T. I have been fortunate with not having had dealings with a Cellular Express Plus/authorized retailer-owned store before now. We moved, and the nearest store now is the one that is the subject of this narrative. There is an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!
If you are already signed up with AT&T wireless, and you need service for your cell phone, you are vulnerable! If you walk into a Cellular Express Plus-owned store, and you end up letting them keep your cell phone because they tell you it is beyond repair because of a defective antenna or such, so they can throw it away for you, you have placed yourself at their mercy. They showed us that they have no mercy.
Although I could have named a few of the key players, I refrain from doing so for several reasons. The main reason is because of various postings on the internet that I see placed there by individuals who claim to be (and I believe are) former employees of CEP. From reading the postings, I believe that most of CEPs current employees are probably trying to get by financially by simply playing the CEP sales game to the best of their ability, and they go home with a clear conscience most days.
Their postings tell of their being driven to the wall by incessant demands of their employer that they always need to go another extra mile if they are to do their job well, and since they feel responsible and want to be responsible, they allow themselves to be driven past the point of what is possible into the realm where distinctions blur between what is right and what is wrong, and what is reasonable and what is unreasonable, and they go and go until they can go no further or they are fired, and have little to show for what had been a tremendous effort on their part to do a good job for a long time, maybe years (search: Cellular Express Plus Florida).
Surely the employees of CEP must at some point get some sort of genuine AT&T training, but at the Cellular Express Plus authorized retailer-owned store which my wife walked into because she thought it was a real AT&T-owned store, the employees used their training in a 4-day attempt to bend us to their will that we would keep the new phone, so they could make stick what had been for them a slam-dunk sale.
If you have been fed (or especially if you fell for) the Cellular Express Plus BS about your-old-phone-being-no-good-and-they-will-dispose-of-it-for-you, or especially if you let them dispose of your old, unrepairable phone, or you were told 2-year service contracts were an absolute requirement with your new phone purchase (with no mention that you may pay retail price and not have a contract), or if you received threats of lifetime banishment from the AT&T universe if you return to them a recently-purchased new phone, thereby cancelling the 2-year contract they wrote, or even if you thought you were dealing with an AT&T-owned store up until the time you were handed a sales slip that bore the name Cellular Express Plus at the top, please submit a description of your experience as an update to this report, or publish a report of your own by following the links on this webpage. It may be of real help to someone who will then not have to learn about these matters the hard way like we did!
Narratives posted on the net about Cellular Express Plus usually have rebuttals attached. The purpose of many of the rebuttals seems to be to water down / explain away / or shift blame from the CEP-owned store which is the subject of the narrative back onto the writer of the narrative. I expect rebuttals of this sort will soon be attached to this narrative, which relates the true nightmarish experience which my wife and I went through in 2008 with Cellular Express Plus.
More than likely you read this narrative after you did an internet search using the key words Cellular Express Plus. If so, you are probably either searching for answers to a mess you are currently in with CEP, or you are in the CEP camp and you hit on this webpage because you routinely search for new postings about your company. If the reason for your reading this is the former, I know how you feel, and I welcome you to the Unlucky Group; if your reason for reading this is the latter, its too bad that at work you resort to treating people in the manner my wife and I were treated to try keep your sales numbers up and thus make a living.
CELLULAR EXPRESS PLUS, YOU FOOLED US ONCE!