Cell Phone Sales Spike in Square

The Thayer dorm room that David R. Ferris ’05 shares with his roommates is missing something that most 18-year-olds across the globe could not live without: a telephone. Instead of heading to the Coop to ogle the selection of cordless products, the three may not buy a land line at all and simply use cellular phones for all of their calling needs.

If they decide to forgo a phone for the year, Ferris will need to equip himself with a cell, so he’s been looking into service plans. The rumors are that Sprint PCS is the way to go, he says while chatting with friends outside of the Science Center.

Though Ferris is still contemplating the purchase, other students are buying—and buying and buying.

The Sprint PCS store on the corner of Church and Brattle Street, which opened last May, was number one in sales in the northeast last month, and this month sales are already up 300 percent, according to Sprint sales representative Deyano S. Manco.

Customer service representative Sabry Soukehal adds that stores are expected to sell 550 phone activations a month. The Cambridge branch beat that by an extra 17 percent.

“Just the other day we had our best sales day since the day we opened and gave out free phones,” Manco says.

Manco attributes part of Sprint’s success to the fact that its plans are available to people who don’t have a Social Security number.

“At this store we deal with a lot of international students because Sprint’s the only company that gives them an option,” he said.

Recent Sprint PCS rebates on several Samsung and Sanyo phones have been extremely hot sellers among students. The Samsung 3500, the most popular phone for Sprint customers, had been available for free (with a mail-in rebate) and quickly ran out of stock. In the past few days, the store has had to direct customers interested in the phone to stores in Boston and Brookline.

Other Square cellular dealers haveexperienced a similar spike in sales. By midday yesterday, Radio Shack sold out of three phones—all of the models covered by the Sprint special.

Merchandising Associate Chadi Salamoun moved more than 30 phones in two days, and is hoping more will come in stock so he can capitalize on the student rush.

“I’m losing money now,” he said. “I already lost five sales today.”

The scene was similar at Staples yesterday, where Business Machine Technician Victor Woodroffe was selling phones at a rapid clip while students kept picking up and testing the samples. “Everyone wants a cell phone,” he said. “So did I. I got one the other day.”

At the Cellular One store, which handles Cingular service, sales representative Robert M. Tran said he had also noticed slightly higher sales. The Nokia 5165, the phone his store is offering for free with plan activation, is the top seller among student customers.

None of these sales would be possible without the huge influx of customers who just moved into the area.

Alison B. Miller ’05 and Lily Mea ’05, roommates, both just purchased phones from Verizon representatives who had been hawking their plans in the Science Center.

“It’s just really convenient when you’re out of your room,” Miller says, explaining why she needed a cell.

“I think my parents thought I would feel more obligated to call home if they bought me a phone,” Mea adds.

All three of first-year Neeta Lal’s roommates had phones, so she and her father made a trip to the Radio Shack at Cambridgeside Galleria the other day to buy a Sprint package.

While waiting for one of their friends to wrap up her call as they walked through the Yard, Jill L. Bradley ’05 and David J. Bowen ’05 admitted that they were both exploring their cell phone options.

“I’ve been shopping around,“ Bradley said.

Of course, not all students are embracing the cellular phone movement. Lacey R. Whitmire ’05 and friends were complaining about how many rings had gone off during the expository writing placement test yesterday.

“And everybody has these tiny expensive things,” she said.

—Staff writer Victoria C. Hallett can be reached at hallett@fas.harvard.edu.