, DECEMBER 16, 2006
  (STAR) By Kathy Moran - I am no mall rat. If it were at all possible I would avoid the mall. But, in this day and age, every store has a branch at the mall. Convenience.

So, when the unavoidable happens and I do find myself in a mall, I make it a point to check out the techie stuff the place has to offer, aside from the sports shops and bookstores, of course.

I admit there was a time I would frequent the so-called "gray market" in search for the gadget that caught my fancy. But that was a few years back, when the gray market beat the cellphone distributors to the newest models of cellphones. No longer.

Matter of fact, with the aggressive marketing of the cellphone companies, the gray market has become a thing of the past for people looking for a warranty, good service and a new phone (not one that looks new).

During a recent trip to the Mall of Asia, my first stop was the Nokia shop. A clean, well-lit, spacious store, plus all the hottest Nokia phones greeted me as I entered the shop. It was a weekday afternoon so the crowd was manageable.

Lots of bright space is important to any shopper especially in a store where the goods have to be handled, caressed and pressed before they can be purchased. It can be so irritating to shop and have another customer looking over my shoulder checking out what I am doing.

The other big no-no for me and what irritates me the most at a gadget store is the reply, "Sorry, naka-seal kasi ang item. ‘Di namin puwedeng buksan."

"We allow customers a few minutes to handle any of the phones they wish to see," said Gerry, the friendly customer service personnel who helped me. "But we prefer to give customers one phone at a time."

So it was.

I took my time checking out the basic features of the phones I chose. I normally check out the sound of the ringtones. See whether the screen has no glitches or gaps in between when the phone’s turned on; this way I know if the phone’s LCD is in good condition. I also see what other extras come with the phone. Gerry informed me that there are a lot of customers who come in and case the phones they are interested in. They leave to check out other similarly priced phones and then come back when a final decision is made.

And this is where the customer service can make or break a phone purchase decision. "We try to be accommodating and answer all the questions of our customers," said Gerry. "This way they will chose a Nokia over other phones."

The decision on which phones to put on display is made through a selection process. Of course, the high-end phones, which are the newest on the market, have a special place in the store. And then there are the middle-range phones, which most customers look at. And the lower-end phones which young kids like to get as gifts.

I was also told that there are customers who come into the store looking for phones they see on the Net which are not yet available locally. These customers are loyal Nokia users who only go for the latest phones.

I noticed though that in the other Nokia stores some of the "dummy" phones on display were missing. "There are people who steal these phones," said Gerry. "We were told that they use the casing for second-hand phones, so they look brand new."

The Bluetooth headsets are another favorite gadget of mine. There are all sorts of Nokia headsets, Bluetooth or wired, which are really cool. It is amazing how they have been transformed to fit just about any ear type, or fashion preference, too.

It is important for any gadget shop in this day to have a service center there. This way small problems like checking out a memory card, helping transfer tones, directory and other information on the phone can be done as soon as a new phone is purchased. Also, it lends credibility to the store. A fix-it shop means that the warranty is no joke. The gadget-person in me is always in a hurry, and we like our toys fixed – pronto.

Dear Santa… gotta have a new cellphone. Make it Nokia, please.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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