A post on CNN Money found that during a quick assessment of 10 Verizon stores and reps in New York – arguably a small sample size – the representatives would pitch Verizon’s Android’s 4G phones over the “old fashioned” 3G iPhone. Said one rep: “The iPhone is a great phone, but it’s on 3G. I’m not going to recommend a phone that’s outdated.”
Now I don’t doubt David Goldman’s story that Verizon reps are pushing Android inventory in New York if only to clear out the back room. However, I had to test it myself. I chatted briefly with a Verizon rep online and found that she (I assume it was a she as her name was Chiquita) just wanted to close the sale rather than steer me towards anything else:
You are now chatting with ‘Chiquita’
Chiquita: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. May I help you with your order today?
You: i need a smartphone for my brother. I’m thinking iPhone. Anything I should know?
Chiquita: When ordering a smartphone device would need to add data.
Chiquita: Will that work for you?
kitten: I mean is there anything new that would be better?
kitten: I think he’ll pay for the service. I just want something fast and cool and iPhone seemed like the best one, right?
Chiquita: What is your brother looking for in a device?
kitten: Music, apps, maybe like a good camera. He’s pretty not-geeky
Chiquita: Yes, because I have the Iphoen4S./
kitten: You like it?
kitten: Everyone has it I know but I still have a dumbphone or whatever
Chiquita: With the information you are providing with the Iphone4 would be a great device for your brother. With the fully touchscreen for easy navigation using the web, applications, and music. Our customers really love the Iphone4. With the 8.0 mega pixel camera for taking wonderful photos.
Chiquita: Are you a new or existing customer?
kitten: I think he’s existing but he hasn’t upgraded in a long time.
You’ll also note that Verizon is currently incentivizing 4G with double data plans for LTE phones. We also spoke to one sales rep under the condition of anonymity who said they had heard nothing about any specific promotion to with Android phones. And, as you see in my own exchange, the rep was more than happy to steer me towards an iPhone. Panic averted.
The biggest problems with Kremlinology like this is that some sales incentives may not percolate out to every sales rep and that the impetus to push Android phones may be regional and plays into a number of biases in terms of perceived wealth, gender, and surrounding culture. Although a blind, Turing-style interaction with a sales rep online is fairly blind, whether you’re pushed an iPhone or a RAZR at a store on Broadway has a lot to do with a lot of things. Until we see a document (and we’re looking) that says Verizon reps get extra ponies if they pitch Android over iOS, I’m not buying it.