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Re: Verizon stores in NYC
I'm not from the area to be able to tell you a specific store to go to, but generally if you buy one way, you have to deal with any issues the same way. I.e. if you buy from a corporate store, only a corporate store will be able to assist you with that phone if you need to exchange it or change your contract. Same if you go to an independent Verizon store. I'm not sure how it would work if you bought it 3rd party like at Best Buy. This probably won't be an issue in a place like NYC, which should have plenty of options, but something to consider if you get out of the main cities. Corporate stores aren't very popular in rural areas, which could hinder getting store level service. Of course there is always calling customer service too.
Even if you don't buy from a Verizon branded store, I recommend going to one for the first hand testing. The phones are all fully functional, not demo models with fake screens. I've always found the sales reps to be fairly non-pushy in my area, but that's Wisconsin. I've never had issue just saying I'm looking around and being able to browse on my own. They of course are helpful (and Verizon branded stores specifically because they should know their phones best) and usually have helped guide me to a phone they think I would like based on what I ask about, not whatever the new flagship/most expensive phone happens to be at the time.
This may sound counter intuitive, but you may want to consider going during a time the store is very busy. If you're worried about the salesmen constantly trying to talk you into something while browsing on your own, the crowd will help create a buffer between you and the staff, since there will be more people to sell to. Once you decide on a phone, I would say just buy from whoever has the best deal for you if you plan to stay in and around NYC.