I bought a phone at WalMart and nothing bad happened.

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Good news: If you want to save a boat-load of money, you can buy a Lumia 521 for $130, then pay $30 per month for unlimited data and texts, plus 100 minutes of talk. There is no contract, and you can always add minutes or pay per minute with methods that aren’t reload cards. Bad news: If you want the cheap phone and the cheap plan, you have to buy both at WalMart. I have to admit that the last place I thought I would get my first phone to review for WinSource was in the contract-free, rejects-of-the-major-networks aisle, next to a… well, it’s called a Galaxy Exhibit 4G, but that doesn’t mean I know what it is… And yes, apparently, it is more expensive than the Lumia.

I know the question you’re about to ask, but you won’t get the answer you desire: No, even when T-Mobile stocks the 521 themselves, the cheapest plan they’ll offer is $50 per month, and that’s with a 0.5GB full-speed data cap (You only get throttled rather than charged for overages). You must buy both the 521 and your first refill card where you “Save Money and Live Better.” Apparently. So of course, I wasn’t expecting… well, any service, if you get what I mean. Perhaps they would not have the phone in stock despite the contrary being indicated online for this store. Maybe I’d be waiting half an hour for some associates to bumble around the storage area.

Weirdly, the exact opposite happened: I immediately met with an associate who was friendly, knew the phone was called the Lumia 521, and was, amazingly, more informed than I was, particularly about the plans and how they were organized. She was perfectly friendly and recommended me to grab an extra $30 card to keep the phone ready to go for the next two months. To top that, she offered a $15 accidental damage warranty. For two years. Yes, I know I’m buying a Nokia, but even they can break from time to time (Nokia’s marketing scouts now know I am not loyal to their cause), and I’ve never heard of the price of a nice supper covering two years’ worth of drops and spills. WalMart offers such accidental damage warranties for various price ranges of devices.

The packaging is very thorough in its labeling, and the design is neither minimal nor erratic. It is clearly a package designed to be sold in T-Mobile retail stores, as there is no mention of WalMart or their $30 text-and-web plan. You get a whole slew of documentation, the micro SIM card, an A/C wall charger, and a (incredibly tiny) USB cable, plus the phone and battery of course.

In case you’re wondering, the big-picture reason that this post even got published is because, according to social-media stories we have read, sales aren’t exactly being encouraged by employees on the sales floor. And by “not encouraged,” we mean that plenty of workers (and we’re talking official carrier stores here) are either completely unknowledgeable or flatly shunting customers that inquire about Windows Phone devices to other kinds.

Weirdly, not a single official retail store in my area has had this problem; not AT&T, not Verizon, and now even my WalMart’s staff are more open to WP8 than some carrier employees. For example, nearly a third of the shelves in my AT&T store are dedicated to Nokia and HTC Windows Phone products, and whenever I come in to get a Lumia accessory or ask a question, I get asked about how I like my Nokia. What’s ironic is that this neck of the woods (Southwest Alabama) doesn’t really even know what an Android is, let alone Windows Phone; everybody has iPhones. Everyone.

Any horror stories or interesting tales from your local stores?


  • Edgar Cervantes

    I usually walk into a store already knowing what I am getting, so I have never had any issues. If stuff comes defective I exchange it, but that’s not Walmart’s (or any store’s) fault, really.

  • I know people that got a phone with the $49 dollar special. I think it is unlimited minutes. They seem to be happy with it.