NPR logo Mysteriously, AT&T Stops, Then Restarts iPhone Sales In New York

Mysteriously, AT&T Stops, Then Restarts iPhone Sales In New York

Over the weekend, if you lived in New York and wanted to buy an iPhone, you might have needed to head to New Jersey.

Through Monday morning, AT&T had suspended online and over-the-phone sales of the Apple's iPhone in parts of the New York City metro area.

Since the dustup, which resulted in lots of not-so-good press coverage for AT&T, the telcom giant reinstated online and phone sales of the iPhone sometime mid-afternoon Monday.

The Consumerist broke the story yesterday.

During the outage, my personal attempts to purchase an iPhone Monday morning from the 10001 Manhattan zip code were unsuccessful. At AT&T's website, I got this message: "Sorry this Package is not available in your area."

Over the phone, customer service reps gave me different reasons for ATT's New York block on iPhone sales.

One said it was due to cell phone "fraud," another that it was due to overuse of bandwidth and another because there was a shortage of iPhone shipments to the New York area.

The Consumerist's Laura Northrup confirmed others were being told the same things.

Steven Schwadron, an AT&T spokesman, wouldn't elaborate on the outage.

"We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels. The iPhone is available in our New York retail stores and those of our partners," he wrote in an e-mail.

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All of this leaves a lot of questions: Why the blockade on sales? Why New York? Why the varying reasons? And why was Apple still selling iPhones in New York City when AT&T wasn't?

Many think it's just an issue of iPhone over saturation. The intense concentration of iPhones in a place like Manhattan just works AT&T's bandwidth too hard.

But some feel it might have been a minor issue, a small glitch that worked itself out.

Northrup told NPR whatever the cause, it doesn't look good for AT&T:

From a PR standpoint, it makes them look bad that they've just quietly cut off sales without making an announcement. If they had announced this and said this is why we're remitting iPhone sales in the New York metro area, I think people would still be annoyed, but at least they'd understand why, and at least there'd be a straight answer from AT&T as to why this is.