Updated Again: Is AT&T Shafting Its Stores?

This evening, I headed out to our local AT&T store to buy myself a brand new HTC Surround Windows Phone 7 handset. Unfortunately, when I got to the store, they didn’t have any. After I asked about it, I found out that it wasn’t because they’d sold out; it was because they still hadn’t gotten any. On top of that, they hadn’t even been told yet when they would be getting their first batch of the phones. The poor guy at the store really had no idea what the story was; he hadn’t even yet seen any of them in person.

So, on a whim, I decided to drive across the street and check Best Buy. Sure enough, they had them. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the feeling that the people there were really the kind of people I wanted to deal with. They only seemed to know what was written on the tags that were shown below the phone (new customer price, upgrade price, no-contract price, flagship features, etc.). In addition, Best Buy’s no-contract price was $50 higher than the no-contract price shown on AT&T’s website. I decided that I would probably get better service by ordering the phone online, so that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Have you been able to find the HTC Surround in your local AT&T stores, or have you only seen them at other retailers? I’m wondering if there is any rhyme or reason behind the fact that the official AT&T store in our area has yet to see the new handsets, but Best Buy has them ready to sell (for an extra $50 for users that don’t want a contract, no less).

Update: After speaking with an AT&T representative, I found out that the upgrade price for existing AT&T customers is actually $299.99 (I previously thought that was the price for existing customers that didn’t want to extend their contracts) if they buy directly from AT&T online.

So, it turns out that Best Buy, which is offering the HTC Surround as an approved upgrade for $199.99, is actually offering a better price if you’re in the situation I’m in. That rep also had no explanation as to why the store would not have the phone in stock, except to say that s/he does not have access to store inventories and that the inventory rotates regularly.

However, it appears that NewEgg is offering the phone for new customers and upgrading customers at a price of $99.99, so it looks like that is most likely from where I’ll be ordering mine (unless I hit some sort of other snag).

Update Again: In case you didn’t gather from my more recent posts, I did in fact purchase an HTC Surround. I bought it from NewEgg for a price of $99.99. In addition, I went ahead and purchased NewEgg’s 1-year replacement plan for $69.99. Unlike AT&T’s replacement plan, which costs $5/month and has a $50 deductible any time you make a claim, NewEgg’s plan has no deductible if you need to get your phone replaced. Apparently you can get the phone replaced up to 3 times each year.

I also got a decent leather holster, some screen protectors and a car charger for the phone. Altogether, the phone, the replacement plan and the accessories totaled up to $199 (the same price I would have paid just for the phone at Best Buy and $100 less than I would have paid just for the phone at AT&T).

Also, when I re-checked NewEgg’s site a little while ago, I saw that they’re actually offering the Surround for $79.99 to new AT&T customers, so you get an even better discount if you’re not a current AT&T subscriber.

Another Update: TheNextWeb is reporting that the Samsung Focus is on sale right now at Amazon for $49.99. After a quick investigation, I also found that the HTC Surround is being sold at $49.99, too. These prices seem to apply to new AT&T customers, current customers eligible for an upgrade and current family-plan customers looking to add a line to their accounts. In addition, Amazon’s no-contract price on the phones is currently $469.99 rather than the standard $499.99.