Box breakers have fully switched their focus away from specialist retailers as the networks and multiples have cracked down on the practice.
Staff in O2, Orange and The Carphone Warehouse have, suddenly, stopped selling handsets to box breakers after employers issued strict warnings about the activity. Staff said sales to box breakers had dropped practically to zero in recent weeks.
Warnings from certain networks and multiple independents have come in the wake of an investigation by Mobile News into the propensity of specialist retail staff to cooperate with box breakers (see issue 411).
Hugely discounted stock in non-specialists is now the principle target for box breakers, with Argos, Woolworths, Tesco and Asda the prime targets.
One O2 staffer said: “The usual box breakers still try their luck in store but don’t get anywhere.
“They still carry their large bags full of handsets and openly tell us where they get them from – normally Argos and Woolworths.”
A Carphone staffer from central London said: “We used to sell to them all the time, but we were warned against it. To be honest, they have stopped coming by the store now.”
One box breaker said his staff collect hundreds of handsets a week from supermarkets.
He said: “The big specialist retailers are not the main targets anymore – except for iPhone stock, from Carphone and O2. It has hardly affected stock levels.”
An Asda spokesperson said: “Asda takes the issue of box breaking very seriously and has taken several steps, including limiting the number of handsets a customer can purchase.
“We work very closely with all of our partners to ensure we prevent box breaking.”
A Woolworths spokesperson said: “We have a number of procedures in place to prevent it and we work closely with the networks and our own risk management department to minimise any risk.”
A spokesperson for Tesco added: “We have a quite rigorous policy in place; we recognise it is an industry problem and are constantly monitoring it.”
But a box breaker responded: “My guys get a lot of handsets from Tesco and Asda stores because there are so many store outlets about. Staff in those places just don’t care who they sell to. It is very easy.”