KPRC 2 Investigates cell phone carrier bait and switch: Warning about salespeople who try to get you to switch your service provider

We have a warning if you are approached in a store by a salesperson who wants to switch your cell service. KPRC 2 Investigates looks into who these salespeople are and why you need to be careful when you sign a new contract.

HOUSTON – Stores are hopping right now with holiday shoppers. We have a warning if you are approached in a store by a salesperson who wants to switch your cell service. KPRC 2 Investigates looks into who these salespeople are and why you need to be careful when you sign a new contract.

Approached by salesperson while shopping in a big box store

It’s happened to all of us, right? You are walking through a store checking off your list when someone approaches and says, “Hey, who is your cell provider?” Maybe you look the other way or pretend like you didn’t hear them.

Diana and Zachary Carr actually stopped and even signed up for service, but they say they didn’t get what they bargained for. Juggling four kids with another on the way Diana and Zachary Carr are busy. That’s why they planned to run in and out of the Target on I-45 and Cypresswood one school night.

KPRC 2 Investigates cell phone switch provider issues. A warning about salespeople who approach you while shopping. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

But as they passed the electronics department, they say a gregarious guy named Mark approached them.

“He asked us about our cell phone and how much we pay for it. And there was all of a sudden this better deal we could have,” said Zachary. “It’s like now they’re treating like this, and you’re a marine and you’re a veteran.”

The Carrs are long-time T-Mobile customers, but the salesman told them he could save them some $300 a month if they switched to AT&T.

“He actually had an AT&T shirt on too. So we thought he worked for AT&T,” said Diana.

New cell phones never arrived

The Carrs signed a new contract and paid the taxes for two brand new cell phones, about $400. UPS tracking sent a message that the first phone was delivered the next day to someone named Ashley at the front desk.

“I was like there’s no one at my house named Ashley and there’s no front desk here,” said Zachary.

The Carrs say it got stranger when they called AT&T and the company said they could see the phone order in their system but since it wasn’t made with the company they couldn’t track it. AT&T also said they couldn’t blacklist the phone to prevent someone else from using it.

“Well, whose employees are these? And then that’s when I reached out to you because I was like, hey, let’s get the consumer cops,” said Zachary.

KPRC 2 Investigates cell phone carrier switch issues. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

KPRC 2 Investigates stopped by the same Target about a month later and right by the electronics department we got the pitch.

“Upgrade you to the iPhone 13. Get you unlimited talk, text, and data, best 5G coverage in the nation, for $80 a month,” the salesperson said.

Not actual AT&T employees

The salesperson we talked with has papers say AT&T and so does his shirt but these are not AT&T employees.

“What’s the name of the company that you work for?” asks Amy.

“I work for Imperium Elite but we contract directly through AT&T,” he responds.

This was not the same salesman who solicited the Carrs but when we reached out to AT&T a spokesperson responded with this:

“It may also be helpful to reach out to this target location.”

And then a few days later, they sent us this statement:

“This was a legitimate transaction processed by a third party, but at the customer’s request we have canceled the account and issued a refund.”

Plan sold wasn’t even available

The Carrs say the AT&T rep told them the plan they signed up for was not available.

“They’re basically just going to tell you whatever they need to tell you to get you to say, yes, I’ll switch,” said Diana.

“If you’re going to look to save money on a cellphone plan, go to the actual carrier, go to a satellite store for the carrier,” said Zachary, “don’t talk to somebody in the stores, just ignore them walk away.”

The Carrs still don’t know who received the first phone that went to the wrong address but AT&T refund them.

When we reached out to Target about the Carr’s experience inside their store, a spokesman sent this statement:

“After learning about this situation, we worked quickly with our partners at AT&T to confirm that the Carr family has received a full refund and that the cause of the issue is being investigated. Our partnership with AT&T in select stores in based on shared values and in elevating our guests’ experience, and we’re glad that this was able to be resolved for our guest.”

We contacted Imperium Elite, the third-party company with salespeople inside the Target store. No one from the company called us back.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.