I spent a good amount of time at Google’s New York City pop-up shop this morning, and while the product demo areas were great — and felt true to what you’d imagine a Google retail store to be — the actual buying process was anything but.
Most of the staffers spread around the Flatiron location definitely seem to be Google employees, as they’re all fairly knowledgeable about the Pixel 2, Home speakers, Pixel Buds, and other new products on display. But when it comes time to buy a phone, you’re handed off to people working on behalf of an authorized Verizon reseller. Specifically, it’s this company right here.
I’m a Verizon customer, and when buying a phone, I generally avoid these resellers and stick to the official, corporate locations. It’s usually a better experience, and at the very least it makes returns a lot easier. If you want to return a Pixel bought at the pop-ups, you’ve got to bring them back to that same pop-up. And if your return period extends to after the temporarily locations close, you’re told to call a phone number to process a return. Yeah… no thanks.
Update: Google has reached out to say that it will reimburse customers who paid extra at its pop-up stores today. “This was an error, which is now fixed,” a spokesperson writes, adding “Sorry for any confusion. We’ll be reaching out shortly to reimburse those impacted.” Our original story, which includes details about the reseller, follows.
But the worst part of this is that these pop-ups, which are basically Google stores in the minds of visitors, are overcharging people for the new Google phones. The one in Manhattan definitely is, at least. All models of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are marked up by $30. The $649 Pixel 2 is marked up to $680. The 128GB model is $780. 64GB XL 2? $880, and it’s $980 for the 128GB version.
To be clear, this is neither the result of sales tax (which would work out to a total of over $700 for the usual price) or a bundled activation fee. Activation fees appear separately on a customer’s bill and are not factored into a device’s pricing.
This $680 price is also shown on Victra’s website — with the activation fee listed separately. Victra is the Verizon reseller working out of Google’s pop-ups.
Apparently they’ll price match the regular rates if you call out this nonsense, but it’s still pretty inexcusable. Not even Verizon itself is charging a penny extra for the Pixels when you buy direct from the carrier. And you’re walking out of here with a Google shopping bag. How is the company okay with this?
The pop-up at least has all models of the Pixel 2 in stock besides the “panda” white/black 2 XL. They’ve also got Google’s first-party cases, which (thankfully) don’t seem to be marked up at all. I’d steer clear of the absurd $50 tempered glass screen protector for the 2 XL, though. It’s from Pure Gear and doesn’t carry any “Made for Google” badge.
Look, Google is free to pursue whatever business deals it wants and go about retail in any way the company pleases. But I’m definitely of the belief that it has made some bad decisions here. These should be unlocked Google Pixel phones sold to you directly by the Google Store. You should be able to get Google’s extended, accidental warranty for the phone at a place that looks like a Google retail shop. But most of all? You shouldn’t be getting scammed out of an extra $30.
By the way, the photos in this article were taken with a Pixel 2. What a camera.