How I Got a Free iPhone 5 From Walmart

The one upside to my interaction with the world's worst corporation.

There are lots of websites that supposedly tell you how to get a free iPhone 5. But I’m pretty sure that they’re all scams.

So when I legitimately got a free iPhone 5 from Walmart last week—and when Walmart told me that “anyone” could get a free iPhone 5 from Walmart—I thought that it was my civic duty to tell you all about it.

I’m always hearing how terrible Walmart is, whether it’s because of the company’s labor relations, predatory pricing, working conditions or crappy products that may or may not contain chemicals that kill small animals and children.

This is a company that was sued 4,851 times in one year—once every two hours. But I never had much of an opinion of Walmart myself, simply because I had gone 39 years of my life without shopping there. Until last week.

An AT&T rep told me that I was eligible for an upgrade and that Walmart had the iPhone 5 for $99. Awesome! Or so I thought.

There happened to be a Walmart on the way home from a family funeral I was attending last Tuesday. I stopped in there, but a sales associate told me, “We don’t carry iPhones.” I explained that AT&T told me that Walmart did, in fact, carry iPhones. “Oh, well yeah, but you need to go to a Walmart Supercenter.”

A Walmart Supercenter? Apparently such a thing exists.

Well, have you ever tried calling a Walmart? No one answers the phone. Supercenter or not-so-Supercenter. If you call Walmart, you’ll hear one ring followed by an automated voice that says “Welcome to Walmart.”

And then you’ll hear more rings. And more rings. And still more rings. At least that was my experience over literally dozens of calls to multiple area Walmarts.

Most of the time, no one ever picks up the phone. That’s right, a company that saw $466 billion in sales during the last fiscal year and that employs 2.2 million “associates” worldwide can’t afford to pick up the phone—or have one of those new-fangled automated menus to help guide your call.

After the phone just rings and rings and rings, one of the following things will happen:

a) you will get frustrated after a few minutes and hang up;

b) Walmart will hang up on you (the call just magically drops);

c) or a disgruntled Walmart associate may answer the phone—this rarely happens, and keep in mind that when someone does answer the phone, it’s only to then transfer your call to the required department, where it’s likely that no one will pick up the phone, and the call will eventually just go back to the disgruntled Walmart associate who you talked to in the first place.

I spent a good long time on the phone talking to and not talking to folks at Walmart.

Two Walmarts that I eventually got to pick up their phones told me that they did have the iPhone 5 in stock but that they don’t do AT&T contracts anymore. No one could really explain to me why this was the case. “Um, something happened like a year ago, I think,” said the one vapid associate. “But other stores do them, I guess.”

With my frustration level building, I called 1-800-WALMART to report Walmart’s repeated failure to answer the phone, and to generally vent. The customer service rep didn’t seem the least bit concerned that no one answers the phone at Walmart, but she did offer to talk to her “merchandising team” to locate an AT&T iPhone 5 for me. Great!

After I was on hold for maybe 10 minutes, she came back with three options “in the Philadelphia area.” Two were in Western Pennsylvania. The other was in Eddystone, Delaware County.

So I told the family to get in the car. We’re going to Delco, kids! Woo hoo! Fortunately, after a few attempts, I actually managed to reach someone at the Eddystone Walmart, who transferred me to someone in electronics that actually picked up the phone, and that person informed me that while they do have the iPhone 5, they don’t have it for AT&T. Because of course they don’t.


On Wednesday, I decided I was going to make one last ditch effort with the King of Prussia Walmart Supercenter. One day earlier, someone there told me that they might be getting more iPhones for AT&T in their next shipment.

So on Wednesday, I called. And called. And called some more. Eventually, I managed to get a human being on the phone who transferred me to someone in electronics who actually picked up the phone.

“They just came in,” said the electronics associate of the AT&T iPhone 5. I asked him if they would still be there in an hour. Yes, he told me. “We have plenty.” I got his name—we’ll call him Ronald—and my wife offered to run out there to pick it up for me.

So, you know what happens next, right?

My wife drives about 45 minutes out of her way—in traffic, in our old jalopy—to pick up my awesome new AT&T iPhone 5. When she arrives, the lady in electronics told her that there wasn’t a single AT&T iPhone 5 in stock.

“Oh, there must be some mixup,” my wife told her. “You see, Ronald told my husband that they just came in.”


“Well can I talk to Ronald?”


“But I drove all the way out here. I really need to talk to Ronald.” Nope. “He’s busy in the back,” she told her rudely, after calling Ronald on the phone. (I was listening in on speakerphone.)

Now you’ve gone and infuriated my wife. And, to top it off, now she’s going to be late picking the kids up from school.

So I fired off an email to (as instructed by a Walmart social media person, who responded to my repeated #WalmartSucks tweets)

And, realizing that I was probably going to be writing about how awful Walmart is, I also contacted their Media Relations department using this form, telling them that I needed a comment for my story about their epic customer service breakdown.

A media relations person got back to me quickly. She said she would look into it. This was on Wednesday, late afternoon.

On Thursday, she called me again. She explained that there was a “miscommunication” between Ronald and the other associate, and she apologized profusely for my inconvenience. And then she told me that a Walmart representative would be hand-delivering a brand new, free iPhone 5 to me within a few hours. Sure enough, at noon, a friendly Walmart dude showed up with my free iPhone 5. It’s black, and it’s awesome.

“We would do this for anyone,” the media rep told me. “This is how we would treat any of our customers.”

And there you have it.