Today I turned down a free Samsung Galaxy tablet. What’s WRONG with me?

Samsung Galaxy tablet

I really enjoy visiting my local Sprint storefront, but it isn’t usually a philosophically challenging experience.  Today was a little different.

My main reason for going there today was that the connector card that I use for mobile internet access on my laptop stopped working.  This took more than an hour to straighten out, during which I  waited around, doing as much work as I could with the help of my Samsung Galaxy smart phone and a portable Bluetooth keyboard.

The store associate who was helping me had good news: my connector card was covered by insurance, and a free replacement will be available. He also went over my service plan with me, eliminating a monthly $10.00 fee for an option I never use.  He then offered me a free tablet, if I added another phone line to my account, which would probably cost me $12.00 a month.  I explained that I didn’t need one.  He apparently found this not only baffling but mildly upsetting.  How could I not want a new device?  Didn’t I deserve a treat?  Wasn’t I tired of the small screen of my smart phone?

In fact, I like the size of my smart phone very much.  I also dislike making snap decisions.  I also wasn’t feeling like there was any gap in my life that a tablet could fill.  He appealed to me, to his colleagues, and then to me again to explain the mystery. I jokingly invoked Occam’s razor: “non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate  (i.e., “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”).

He then asked what I did for a living, I explained that I was a technology strategist for nonprofits and philanthropies, and that shiny object syndrome is a known hazard in the world of nptech. This had roughly the explanatory power of Occam’s razor – which is to say that it had none at all.  By this time, I was laughing at the absurdity of being pressured to take an electronic device that I wasn’t sure that I wanted or needed, and he begged me to explain this.  “Help me to understand, so I can grow.”

I did my best to explain that sometimes more is not better, that simplicity can be a philosophical choice, that impulsive purchases did not necessarily lead to happiness.  He excused himself, and retired to a back room.  He returned with a tablet model that he had not previously shown me, a white Samsung Galaxy that looks a great deal like my Samsung Galaxy smartphone but larger.  (In other words, very appealing.) Unboxing it, he told me that not only was it free, but if I added another line and took the tablet today, they’d give me a $50.00 credit.  In other words, he was prepared to give me money to take an electronic device that he was convinced that I needed.

I ended up thanking him and saying that I’d think about it, and perhaps come back in a couple of days for it.  He protested that the $50.00 credit was only on offer if I took it today. I explained that I didn’t need a $50.00 credit badly enough to justify an impulse purchase, and thanked him again.

For me, it raises two sets of questions:

1) How do sales commissions work at Sprint stores?  Would the $50.00 credit have come out of this associate’s commission?  In fact, was it worth it to him forgo the commission he might have received in order resolve the cognitive dissonance he was experiencing at the thought that a customer would not take a free (and very appealing) tablet?

2) What is WRONG with me? I’m not such a disciple of simplicity that I never fall into the delusion that buying a specific object will make my life complete. So what made me so stubborn about committing to a new electronic device?  Is my geek cred forever destroyed?

Obviously, this Samsung Galaxy tablet is not just a mobile device – it’s a learning experience.  I suspect that what I’m about to learn is that in the next 48 hours, I will start craving the tablet, and having waited a decent interval to satisfy my self-respect as a judicious consumer, I’ll go back to the Sprint store and get it.  Cognitive dissonance is not merely something that happens to other people.

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5 thoughts on “Today I turned down a free Samsung Galaxy tablet. What’s WRONG with me?

  1. Caspar Green 03/30/2015 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Your post caught my eye because I just bought a Galaxy tablet yesterday!
    I wholly agree about the importance of resisting “shiny object syndrome”. In my work specializing in nonprofit websites I frequently get requests for so many “features” it becomes impossible to communicate clearly the story the organization needs to tell. “Featuritis”, as I’ve come to call it.
    Features are only as good as the clarity of purpose for which they’re chosen.
    Anyway, thanks for a thoughtful read, and enjoy the new shiny, should you return to the shop tomorrow!

  2. alsohuey 03/30/2015 at 9:44 pm Reply

    Today, I finally relented and let DishNetwork give me a new DVR, but only because they’re discontinuing both support and programming on the old one. I’m not a huge fan of replacing things that still work.

    Fortunately, my ten-year-old flip phone is no longer apparently an indicator of being a Luddite, it is now “retro” and “cool”. So at least I got THAT goin’ for me.

  3. kayza 04/01/2015 at 9:23 pm Reply

    I think that there are two reasons you got so stubborn. One is that you are smarter than you let on, and you know very well that this “free” tablet is NOT free – you are going to have to pay for a line. (And that’s the reason, by the way he was willing to give you a credit, so you should sign up as a “post paid” user, which is apparently gold in the business.)

    The other is that you are a touch stubborn, I think. And it sounds to be that this kicked in to bolster your philosophical aversion to “shiny object syndrome.”

  4. Deborah Elizabeth Finn 04/09/2015 at 11:36 am Reply


    As predicted, I ended up returning to the Sprint store two days later to get the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet.

    Here’s what I’ve learned about it thus far:

    1) It’s much better for reading e-books than my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone.

    2) It’s convenient to be able to check my calendar on the tablet while I’m talking to someone on my smartphone. Ditto for being able to forward documents or email while talking on the phone.

    3) The battery on the tablet runs longer than my smartphone battery, which means that I can rotate the two for everything except phone calls. (The Sprint store associate told me that the tablet can be adapted for use as a phone, but I haven’t explored this yet. I’m hoping it doesn’t involve holding the tablet to my ear.)

    4) In spite of the larger size, the electronic keyboard of the tablet is almost exactly as tedious to use as the smartphone’s electronic keyboard. It will not be tremendously helpful to distraught technophobic social workers who want to input case notes in the field, unless they also buy a compatible (non-virtual) keyboard for the tablet.

  5. Dave Chakrabarti 04/09/2015 at 1:12 pm Reply

    Quick points:

    It’s not just the $12 line fee; there’s also an ongoing opportunity cost, because that contract probably runs two years to get the discounted (free) tablet. So you’re being asked to predict your tech needs for two years, and accept on faith that this is the best tablet for those as-yet-uncertain needs. This is not an insignificant cost.

    Your resistance might have just been a defensive responsive to what sounds like a very high pressure sales approach. I tend to get suspicious in situations like that, especially when there “just buy it right now, I’ll take away your discounts if you try to go home and think about this or research it any further” entreaties / threats being made.

    I should stop by your blog more often 🙂


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