Insane iPhone story (sold with no serial numbers, blue film) -- help!

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by jor525, May 10, 2012.

  1. jor525 macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2012
    I've had my iPhone for a year and a half. Never any problems with it, except the flash has always been weird--blue, and thus mostly useless. (But I didn't care enough to go get it fixed or get a replacement phone.)

    A few days ago, my iphone died (with still half a battery left). When I plugged it in, nothing. Tried a hard reset and all the things you're supposed to do. Nothing. That sucked, but that's not the weird part, phones die sometimes.

    I bring it in to an Apple Store genius. After hearing the story, and seeing I'm still under the warranty I bought, the genius goes "OK, we'll probably just need to replace it, let me open it up and take a look at it." He goes and comes back.

    Turns out that in the two places iphones have serial numbers engraved (beneath the back, and in the little SIM card holder that pops out), my phone has nothing. Also "the indicators were tripped, a screw was missing and the camera had a blue filter film."

    The guy asked/assumed that I'd had the phone taken to a non-Apple tech person, or that I'd bought a refurbished phone, or something. I've never taken this iPhone in anywhere until that day. I bought it a normal AT&T store, with the real box, etc etc. He told me they're not allowed to work on (or replace) phones like this--theoretically they have no idea if this is my phone, since they have no way to identify it: no serial number, and can't turn on.

    WHAT THE HECK? I just wanted to buy a regular phone back in 2010, and now I'm being punished for being sold this bizarre phone. Has anyone ever heard of anything like this?? Why would a phone have no serial numbers like this? Any ideas of what I could do? On the genius' advice, I went to AT&T; they had no record of me purchasing this iPhone in their system so were of no use. They think maybe I bought it at a third-party store. Maybe. But I really think it was an AT&T store, and my credit card statement from the time seems to confirm that. Thoughts or advice is appreciated!
  2. scaredpoet, May 10, 2012
    Last edited: May 10, 2012

    scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    And I suspect that herein lies your problem.

    I'm not saying that all AT&T stores are shady, but AT&T's return and restock policies are not nearly as stringent as Apple's, or even Best Buy's for that matter. Someone can buy a phone at an AT&T store, return it after it's been through who-knows-what, and that store can (if they're willing to look the other way) easily rebox it and stick it back on the inventory shelf and sell it to the next unsuspecting person who wants one. It's standard practice for store reps to break seals and open phone boxes to activate a phone in-store and make sure it rings before they hand it to you. So unless you're insistent and meticulous about making them break the package seals in front of you, it's possible for a less than ethical rep to pass off a previously returned phone as new to you, so long as there's no obvious damage or missing components. Particularly when you're buying a phone (like the iPhone) that's in high demand and stock is limited, it's probably very tempting for some staff to do that.

    This COULD be what happened in your case, but unfortunately, you'll have a very hard time proving it.

    I had the exact same thing happen to me, but pre-iPhone with a Palm Treo device. I plunked down the full non-contract price for a Treo smartphone at an AT&T store and got what I was told was a brand new phone. They pulled the phone and its box (open already) out of the back, activated the SIM, stuck it in the box and handed the package to me. And me being younger, naïve, and just giddy about getting a new gadget, I didn't think to pull the phone back out in-store and check everything there before leaving... I just wanted to get home to play with it.

    So, I take it home... and find that half the buttons aren't working, there's sand in between the keys, and the back of the casing was all scuffed up. This phone must've been taken to the beach or something and had a spill or two, then got returned or exchanged when the previous owner didn't wanna fess up to what they did.

    I headed straight back to the AT&T store, and argued up and down with the manager who swore the the phone was brand new and insisted that I was the one that drove aaaaaalll the way to the beach straight from the store, dragged this "brand new" phone through sand and mud, and broke it and now was back just hours later, wanting to pull a fast one on them.

    The only way I was able to prove my case was that I was able to show them the call timer, which had about 4 hours more use on the talk timer than the total time I had actually had the phone in my possession (per the store receipt). Only then did they grudgingly take the phone back, but conveniently, they didn't have any more in stock to exchange, so I got my money back instead.

    Now, the staff might not've known that the phone was returned damaged, because they might not've bothered to test it or check it out. But it sure didn't come from Palm with sand already in it, so it HAD to have been taken out somehow and put back, and I was lied to when they swore it was a never-sold, brand-new device.

    And that's why to this day, I avoid buying anything from an AT&T store, unless I have no choice.

    Edit: This was definitely a corporate store where my experience happened, not a reseller. Though you definitely have good and bad resellers, too.
  3. iRooney macrumors 6502


    Jul 14, 2011
    Charleston, SC
    Primary question is...when you bought it was the protective film and all that still on the device? You probably won't know because the provider stores open the device and activate it for you. When I bought my phone from the apple store they had me break the seal and all that myself. Always buy from apple. Never the cell providers.
  4. AllieNeko macrumors 65816

    Sep 25, 2003
    My suspicion is that you bought from an AT&T dealer. Many of the dealers (for ALL the major carriers) brand themselves in such a way they feel and act like real stores. Real-life, brick and mortar phishing scams basically...
  5. iSR5 macrumors member

    May 10, 2012
    unfortunately, that happens a lot.
    Most of the wireless stores (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, ..etc) store their wireless devices inside a storage that will be located in an OPENED area for the staff only. Moreover, any member of that staff can access to that storage, which means anyone can BORROW a wireless device without the their knowledge.
    So, it'll be easy to use a borrowed device for a couple of days and turned back.
    However, the problem is that customers will be victimized in this case, and if they didn't know about their device in that same hour, then it'll be hard to help them out.

    That's why I always check my new devices inside the store before I leave it.

    I feel sorry for you, because you're so late.
    Next time, you should check your device inside the store before you leave..

    Goodluck mate.
  6. mcdj macrumors G3


    Jul 10, 2007
    Yup, sounds like you bought the phone from a shady dealer with an AT&T banner on the door, not an actual AT&T company store.

    Here in NYC, stores like that are everywhere. I can't believe the FTC allows them to pass themselves off this way.
  7. Ecoh, May 11, 2012
    Last edited: May 11, 2012

    Ecoh macrumors 6502a


    Oct 30, 2009
    I went to an ATT store to buy an iPhone, at first asked for the refurbished phone because it was $50.00 less. I was thinking it was just like an Apple refurbished iPhone.

    Sales person handed it to me already activated, before I got a chance to inspect it. She had already put the case on I had selected, and if I hadn't of changed my mind about the color of the case, I would have never seen the back. It was so scuffed up, I refused it on the spot. She then told me their "refurbished" phones are just returns from people who bought phones and then changed their minds. Some one at the store just makes sure all the parts are in the box and then they are put back on the shelf to sell as refurbished.

    This was definitely a corporate store. They would probably put a returned phone back on the "new" shelf if it still looked pristine on the outside, not knowing what was damaged on the inside.

    I will definitely buy my next iPhone from an Apple store.
  8. sviato macrumors 68020


    Oct 27, 2010
    HR 9038 A
    Wow, these stories are crazy. I'm surprised there doesn't seem to be much bad press facing AT&T regarding these issues
  9. jor525 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2012
    Thanks all. I am in NYC as well, mcdj. And iRooney, I actually remember distinctly that even though they did activate it in-store, the protective film was still on. (I remember because the first phone call I made I couldn't hear anything....the plastic was still on, ha.)

    What sucks is that even if I had known to "check out" the phone before I walked away, I wouldn't have known anything was wrong! Outwardly, the phone appeared in perfect condition. The only way to see the missing serial numbers is by actually opening up the phone. And, to be honest, I didn't even know the flash was irregular for months. I thought "Oh, the iPhone has a kind of crappy flash" until I happened to see a friend using their iPhone's flash and their pictures turned out correctly."

    Now I'm just damn curious: if it had sand in it, or was damaged, etc etc I'd understand. But why would it have no serial numbers? Someone bought it, replaced the insides, and returned it?? But it still worked perfectly, so what would that person be gaining?
  10. Elven macrumors 6502a


    May 13, 2008
    Spare parts for a more expensive iPhone model which got damaged? replaced the parts taken with shady 3rd party bits.
  11. Shadowbech macrumors 601

    Oct 18, 2011
    Planet iPhone
    That could be the possibility. If I remember, I think people did away with this with the ipod nano. They bought a 16 GB and a 32 GB. They took out the 32 GB and put in a 16 GB device into the 32 GB and returned the device where it was purchased. Of course store people didn't check and assume it was the 32 GB model that they were returning and got the refund back. Essentially they paid a 32 GB for the price of a 16 GB model.

    Who knows, if the customers buys the iphone, and is smart to get a new sim card tray from ebay with no serial and imei imprinted on it, use that and then return the phone and another possibility is that the serial number on the device won't match with the serial number on the box.
  12. rgctx macrumors regular

    Apr 12, 2012
    IMO this sounds like a inside job. A shady sales rep.
  13. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    Most likely someone had that phone, bought a new one, put the old one back into the new box and put the plastic on their old phone so it looked new, then return it for a refund. Then the store never really checked it, plastic on it all the parts are there etc why bother.

    Crap like this happens all the time. I knew a guy that did that with a play station to best buy. Loser
  14. Arnezie macrumors 65816


    Oct 10, 2011
    see where I'm going with this?
  15. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    No, enlighten me.

    If there's one thing on my phone that I personally don't use, it's the flash. If my flash was blue-tinted, I wouldn't have cared and I wouldn't have returned or exchanged it.
  16. Arnezie macrumors 65816


    Oct 10, 2011
  17. Leonard1818 macrumors 68020

    Nov 15, 2011
    unfortunately, this was my introduction into smartphones as well.

    Through recommendation of a coworker I went to a Verizon "premium retailer" to see his "good friend" about smartphones for my wife and I. Walked in and said "Hi ______ I'm ______ and my coworker ________ sent me to see you" "Do you have any Samsung fascinates in stock? (yes) Are those brand new in box? (Yes, all of our phones are).

    SECOND QUESTION out of my mouth.

    Long story short -- the one they gave me was brand new cause I was standing there. The one they gave me to give my wife and activiate later was blatently used.

    I took EVERYTHING back, pissed off, and made them give me all of my money back. The only benefit was that I was in a position where I was two weeks away from my upgrade date and verizon wouldn't budge. My phone had broken and I was going to be two weeks w/o a phone. The reseller was able to upgrade me when they sold me the used phone. When they returned everything, they left it in the system that I was eligible. I walked into a verizon corporate store that evening and got brand new phones for my wife and myself.
  18. noteple macrumors 65816


    Aug 30, 2011
    Bottom line, sleaze balls are everywhere.

    If you are going to buy a handset in this case an iPhone, buy it from the manufacture, Apple.
  19. 7DSniper macrumors regular

    Apr 15, 2012
    South Florida
    Settings< General< About< Scroll down to Serial Number, what does it say?
  20. troy14 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 25, 2008
    Las Vegas (Summerlin), NV
    Guess you didn't read the part where he couldn't turn his phone on.
  21. 7DSniper macrumors regular

    Apr 15, 2012
    South Florida
  22. AllieNeko macrumors 65816

    Sep 25, 2003
    They don't. AT&T store refurbs are "open-box" units, not true refurbs. Most should be perfect, but not all. Depends how the person treated it before returning it.
  23. LandonDonovan macrumors regular

    Jun 24, 2010
    Did you ever get it fixed? A shop could probably replace the camera and battery/charging port for you for $50. Most you could get out of it in that condition would be about $150. It doesn't happen often, but people have way too much times on their hands and want to make a few extra bucks by swapping phone parts and getting replacements. Other times, people think they can fix the issue themselves, but end up returning the phones.
  24. gsugolfer macrumors 6502a


    Jul 11, 2010
    Georgia, USA
    ATT should also be able to tell you if it's ever been activated on another plan. That's based purely off assumption, as Verizon will do this. They won't give you any details, of course, but they will tell you if it's been activated.

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