Even after you ve decided on a cell phone provider perfect for your circumstance and needs, you still need to sign a contract and pick out a phone. If you ve ever wandered through a mall before, you may have noticed booths or stores that offer plans and phones for multiple service providers. You may have also seen a Cingular or Sprint store. So what s the difference?

The Company Store

The company store is just that: a store owned and operated by the company itself. The employees there are more likely to be knowledgeable about that service s perks and will probably be best able to answer any questions that you have.

Remember that many sales clerks work on commission, and they will likely  explain  all that is bad about their competitors (whether the clerk has any real knowledge about the competition or not).

Also, while cell phones are sometimes more expensive at a company store, you have forged a contract directly with the cell phone provider. If your phone ever develops problems (and is still under warranty), it may be easier to obtain a replacement or have it fixed.

The Authorized Reseller

Many of the booths in malls, along with chain stores such as Spring Communications, are authorized resellers. They ultimately sell the same cell phones and plans as the company stores: once you ve bought a phone and signed up for a service plan, you re business with the authorized reseller is done. Your monthly bill will be from the cell phone provider itself.

Because authorized resellers are often working for more than just one cell phone provider, they can help you compare various providers and plans to best suit your needs. The clerks still work on commission, but they don t care which provider you go with (just as long as you buy from them).

Authorized resellers often offer excellent deals on phones. Recently while I was shopping for a new cell phone, an authorized reseller in my local mall offered a free $300.00 phone with a new two-year service contract. Just down the hall was a company store for that provider. The company store offered the same phone, but at the full $300.00 price tag. Shop around to find the best deal available, but be aware that any phone and warranty that you purchase will go through the provider, not the authorized reseller (which might make getting repairs difficult).

Ultimately, it s the difference between buying a used Honda Civic from a Honda dealership or from a general used car lot that sells many makes and brands of cars. It s the same car, but the retailer is a little different.

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