Is There Anywhere You Can't Buy A Phone?
By Alex KIDMAN
I was browsing through my local computer store -- yes, they do still exist, albeit to a smaller and smaller clientele these days, which is understandable when you realise that nearly everybody's buying non-upgradeable laptops these days rather than desktops that can take individual parts -- when I noticed them.
Row upon row of phone accessories and phones. OK, fair enough, I thought -- I'm in a technology store, and smartphones are just small computers. The logic there is understandable. Given that the number of people who build their own machines is a niche, and that the number that go to a store rather than order online is a smaller sub-niche, I figure they're doing what they can to survive. Having purchased a few parts for the Frankenputer I'm building, I headed out to grab some lunch at the nearby shopping mall.
Only to be hit by more phones. Phones from little stalls in the middle of the mall. Phones from the major telcos -- and for some reason, in my local mall, the Virgin, Optus and Vodafone stores essentially stare each other down from next door and over the way respectively. Just to add a little humour, the middle area has a '3' branded small store. You can't miss the phones there, either.
No phones being openly sold in the food court, although I can spot a small store there and the local Telstra store to boot. Head into Dick Smith… and they'll sell me a phone. Same at JB Hi-Fi, K-Mart or Coles. Hang on… Coles? Who buys a phone along with their lettuce and meat pies?
(Pro tip: Don't combine lettuce and meat pies. Just… don't.)
I've wondered for a while what the figures for those who buy outright versus those who buy on contract are, although anecdotally it appears that as a nation we buy on contract; far too many people don't appreciate the cost of a phone until they destroy or lose it, and suddenly have to pay upfront for a replacement. Those folk aside, do we really need all of these venues for mobile purchasing? Who's keeping all of these businesses afloat, given that we appear to be rapidly approaching the mobile phone sales event horizon?
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It's probably the same reason why you find multiple car yards in a row, or a Hungry Jacks or KFC across the junction from a McDonalds. If it's a good spot to sell phones, that's were everyone wants to be, so Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin cluster together in malls around the country.
But it's not only mobile phone outlets that don't seem to have enough customers to stay in business. Apart from the supermarkets, cafes and a few other exceptions, I can't work out how most of the shops survive unless they make a massive markup on the sales they do achieve. And that, I suppose, is quite possible. Do mobile phone sellers still get a trailing commission on your future bills/top-ups?