Should I call the police BEFORE I confront the store manager?
August 5, 2017 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Should I call the police and run this by them before I ask the T-Mobile manager to confirm that this new iPhone 7 was purchased in full by me on Tuesday? It was a gift for someone who has Cricket. Cricket's policy is that T-mobile calls them and gives them the code/number so they confirm it's not stolen. I would like to be optimistic...

.... that if I ask for a T-Mobile account, they can do this for me since their employees already told me it was possible. Otherwise the cashier pocketed $800 cash and never put the receipt in the bag so it wouldn't be recorded.

On Tuesday of this week I purchased a new iPhone 7 as a gift to a friend who had his phone stolen a few months ago. Gamestop had no used phones in stock within an hour of my location. I have Sprint service and so I walked to the Sprint store next door to buy the phone. Sprint wouldn't allow me to buy it unless I switched my new S8+ and put it on my account. I explained it was a gift and wanted to buy it outright, but apparently they don't do this so I walked across the street to the T-Mobile store.

It was late afternoon [and I have all this time/geolocation data recorded on my phone GPS]. There were only two employees in the small store manning the two registers. I asked them if I could buy an IPhone if I didn't have a T-mobile contract, and they tried to convince me to switch blahblah but said it wasn't a problem after I told them it was a gift for someone else.

Employee gets the phone from the stockroom, makes the transaction, and I attempt to pay with my Samsung Pay app. This doesn't work (and both the friend and furniture delivery people were already waiting for me) so I hurriedly paid in cash. I didn't really care since I had plenty of cash already on me and don't need to rack up credit card interest right now.
Before, during, and after the transaction I clearly explained that this phone would be a gift for someone without a T-Mobile account. I was repeatedly reassured that all the friend had to do was put his SIM card in to use to the phone,

I drive directly back home to meet my friend. I realize the receipt isn't in the bag, which annoys me but doesn't particularly concern me as it's brand new and seemingly not likely to be returned. Friend has Cricket service, and calls me an hour later to tell me that Cricket says I need to ask T-Mobile to unlock the phone. No Problem. We have the phone and all the original packaging. The purchase was very recently. I call T-Mobile and they assure me that if I bring the phone with the IMEI/serial to the store they will take care of it.

So last night I meet the friend at T-Mobile. It quickly becomes apparently to both myself and the friend that the employees (shock shock) don't know what the hell they are talking about. They tell me that I need to call Cricket, not them. LOL OK, we step outside and do that, and the Cricket Rep says again that T-Mobile will do. They just need to give them the IMEI and phone number so they can verify the original owner has consented. Makes sense.

We step back inside and the same employee now tells me that "There's nothing he can do about it" because I didn't have a T-Mobile account. I calmly explain that this $800 phone was purchased outright with cash less than a week ago. The person who made the transaction may not have been working that shift, but how many young white males without a T-Mobile account purchased a black 32GB Iphone 7 with cash this week? I can tell them the exact date and time down to within 2 minute accuracy when I bought the phone and I can identify the employee who made what would have been a memorable transaction. So my name and phone number must be in the computer for the cash transaction Tuesday at 4:50 PM, there must be inventory logs that confirm this phone came from this store, and at the very security footage obviously.

These guys spent many minutes bugging the shit out of me to switch to their surface as I handed them $800. Obviously making a free 3 minute phone call would be a good way to convince me that they have better service. Finally the guy needed to close up, but told me the manager would be in this morning and she can help me.

Now to me this seems pretty easy to prove the phone is mine without a receipt. There are only three possibilities:

1. I stole the phone from their store this week, which is felony theft.
2. The cashier pocketed the cash without entering the transaction properly, which is both felony theft and embezzlement I imagine.
3. I purchased the phone and the proper, easily accessible records are right there to confirm this.
Since I actually DON'T like Sprint and was thinking of switching, what simple way to get a customer! By showing them that your business matters!

I will be very polite and calm when I enter the store this morning. If the manager digs her heels in about this, she is either staggeringly bad at her job, or so intent on giving a paying customer a hard time that she doesn't want to catch the employee or person who stole this phone from an actual T-Mobile subscriber. Either it's mine or it's stolen. And it's a felony.

So I am prepared to call the cops my damn self for the principal of the thing. Yes, I know I could unlock the phone easily in about 10 minutes with software, and unlocking your own phone isn't illegal. But I shouldn't have to do that because I'm not a ****ing thief. If someone stole $800 from me, I want to get it back.
posted by WhitenoisE to Law & Government (14 answers total)
I would work it out with the store manager before calling the police. T-Mobile has a stake in this too, especially if the employee did pocket your cash. I'm not sure calling the police would be the right step as much as filling a police report. If you do call the police, I'd definitely use the non emergency line for your area and keep your explanation concise ("I'd like to file a police report for fraud").

Best of luck with this doozy.
posted by toomanycurls at 7:47 AM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I cannot imagine the police doing anything more than filing a report of your claim, if they even agree to do that. If the store manager wants to report a theft, they'll pay attention to that. But cops aren't going to spend any time trying to sort out who screwed up in what way here. You gave cash to a store employee; the employee handed you a phone. It's hard to see how you were damaged in any significant way. I have spent a lot of time around cops and I'd be shocked if they didn't blow this off entirely.

So lets say you go to the manager. You show her a brand new phone and want her to unlock it. You have no receipt. You have no service plan for it. Maaaaaaaaybe you'll get her to check the records and maaaaaaaaaaaybe they'll try to confirm your store. But I'd bet the most likely scenario is "sorry, without a receipt or a service contract, we can't help you."

The lesson here is: if you pay for something worth $800 with cash, be sure you get a receipt. If I were in this situation, I'd just unlock it myself and go on with life, but if you go through the some kind of confrontation at the store or police involvement, please tell us how that goes.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

(You might also want to think about what you do when the manager says "Yep, that's definitely our phone, and it's missing from inventory. I trust our employee and you don't have a receipt, so we're calling the cops to report you for theft.")
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

Tell your friend how to unlock the phone and leave a nasty Yelp review about how the T Mobile store forgot to give you the receipt. And next time, buy an unlocked phone!

I'm not sure what the cops are supposed to do here--although, since you DON'T have a receipt, they might get into YOUR business if they decide you're annoying then. Your friend will also be involved--also all over a phone that he could be peacefully enjoying as a gift instead.
posted by kingdead at 8:03 AM on August 5, 2017

If you haven't spoken to anyone above the store manager, you should escalate. This sounds like incompetence on some level. With a chain like this, there is probably a district manager and a regional manager. It is all too easy to botch a transaction like this and it may just be an employee who screwed up and is now invested in covering it up.

Definitely do be calm, and if there is any chance you gave the employees a sense of pressure and urgency, don't come off that way. You are not to blame here, but acting hurried when doing a large transaction, combined making it complicated, is often considered a tipoff that someone's going to try and do something shady.
posted by BibiRose at 8:17 AM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's annoying. I agree that they should have security footage (if there's any question as to whether you bought the phone). They also should be able to look up the receipt by time of purchase--I have done this at another store when the credit card that I used got replaced and I no longer had the original number. (Ideally, you would have gone back as soon as you noticed the receipt was missing, since there could have easily been something wrong with the phone once your friend opened it that required return...).
posted by pinochiette at 8:19 AM on August 5, 2017

What you have is a customer service dispute, and cops do not exist to act as your muscle in customer service disputes. After all, why should they take your side in this customer service dispute? What if you call the cops and they believe scenario one, in which you are the thief?

Secondarily, if you are thinking the cops would be interested in an employee stealing from the till, I don't think we have enough cops to monitor every cash register in every store for them to care about that kind of thing.
posted by hhc5 at 8:22 AM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

A lawyer would make more sense than police, since they might, effectively, be selling you something under false pretenses or denying you a service you paid for. Good luck. Your being a pain -- but a reasonable pain -- to the company will make it easier for other people in the future (possibly, even, non-white males who wouldn't be as comfortable raising a stink).
posted by amtho at 8:34 AM on August 5, 2017

[One deleted. WhitenoisE, it's totally understandable you're very frustrated with this situation, but AskMe isn't a space for venting or getting into a back-and-forth with answerers... Just pick the answers that are useful for you, and let the other ones go. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:12 AM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm confused. You bought a phone, cash, no receipt, from T-mobile. You now need T-mobile to (1) unlock the phone and (2) call Cricket to verify that the phone was not stolen. These are two different issues. The IMEI is a handset identifier and has nothing to do with whether or not you have an account or not, and nothing to do with whether or not the phone is locked. You have access to the IMEI (it's on the packaging and on the SIM tray), which will show that the phone was not reported stolen. As for the unlock issue, T-mobile will unlock a phone within 2 business days of purchase, but someone with authority (e.g. a store manager) may be able to extend that window if you ask nicely (like not threatening to call the police).

Congratulations on the honors degree in biochemistry, though.
posted by basalganglia at 9:21 AM on August 5, 2017

Just to clarify, because you are getting all twisted up about this and you seem to be letting your indignation cloud the facts and the process and doing things a weird way as a result:

Did you even ask for a receipt? Just say "The employee didn't give me a receipt, this is the date and time, I'd like my receipt please"? It doesn't suggest that you have in the question.

" If someone stole $800 from me, I want to get it back."Nobody stole $800 from you. Nobody. At any point in this story. You purchased a phone and didn't get a receipt. You exchanged goods for cash. You're all good, in that regard. Now, if the teller didn't record the transaction (did you see the till drawer open and shut?) then the Teller may have stolen FROM THE STORE, not from you. You *may* have inadvertently purchased stolen goods, but being as that was within a legitimate store, you're probably good.

None of this matters in unlocking the phone, however. TMobile should be able to unlock it for you, over the phone, with the IMEI and whatever other info they ask for if the phone hasn't been reported stolen (which would be by the store, if you have an issue). It doesn't say you tried to call them, it just says you spoke to the store, who sound like they are dumb, to me. Just call TMobile. You can't show a receipt over the phone, so that's not an issue, so just tell them the date and location of purchase. If they don't know what the hell that phone is doing out in the wild, then take that to the Manager because they have a problem they need to fix with their employee.

You have the following:
A phone purchase without a receipt. My approach would be to speak to the manager, and give them the time and date of the transaction and say "I want my proof of purchase" because this is important - it affects the warranty of the phone, for a start, and is needed by the new owner of the phone.

If the store manager cannot produce a record of the transaction, then they have an issue. An employee stole a phone from the store and sold it to you for cash. This is not your problem, and they either need to refund your money and take the phone back and redo the transaction properly, or they need to just give you a receipt right there and then.

If they give you a receipt, no problem. If they refund you, no problem. Replicate the transaction or buy it direct from Apple as an unlocked device (which was the right answer in the first place, incidentally).

There IS the outside chance that the store may think you stole the phone and are trying to legitimise it. The facts, as you present them to the manager based on what you showed us here - ABSOLUTELY SUPPORT THAT. Remember that. There is no difference between "This guy fetched the phone from the back room and I gave him cash for it" and "I went into the back room myself when no-one was looking and swiped a new phone and now I want to pretend I bought it".

Calm down and read that again. The ONLY proof that you didn't steal the phone yourself from the store, at this point, is the till transaction (if even one exists), and your word (not worth much) and the security footage (if it exists).

Do not call the cops. Because without the footage or a till transaction, then you're in a world of grey areas. Do your best to be the reasonable party and persuade the store to fix it.

If there is a till transaction, you are getting all worked up for nothing. Get the receipt reprinted, call TMobile as above. If there ISN'T, then make sure you are polite and that the Manager believes your story first by being reasonable, not a shouty angry person.
posted by Brockles at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2017 [18 favorites]

Thank you Brokles and BibiRose. I'm going to close this. I think the post sounds angrier than I actually am. I am just confused and tired, and sad. I am not a shouty angry person. I am very quiet, calm, anxious, and have low self esteem. I'm so tired and I just want to go to bed and not wake up. I overcompensate by being overly generous to people and I really asked because I didn't know. Now I know. I just really feel bad about myself now and I'm sorry I posted the question because I really do feel like a jerk now. I'm sorry.
posted by WhitenoisE at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just really feel bad about myself now and I'm sorry I posted the question because I really do feel like a jerk now.

There's no need for that. You felt slighted and possibly cheated. That's ok. It doesn't make you a jerk to be mad about that, and especially not if all you did was write a question that sounded more mad than you were. No biggie. The perspective of others should just allow you to clear that bad feeling you got from it all and see it from a different, unemotional perspective. It doesn't mean you need to feel BAD. At all.

Relax. You did nothing wrong, per se, it's all still the store. Get them to sort it out.
posted by Brockles at 10:33 AM on August 5, 2017 [15 favorites]

If you just need the phone unlocked I would take it to the flea market in the basement of some mall and have one of the booths there do it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:20 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

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