AT&T Stops Online NY iPhone Sales Due to Network Frailty? (Update: Maybe Not)

Consumerist is investigating readers' complaints regarding the inability to purchase an iPhone through AT&T's website when using an NY zip code. According to a CS rep: "New York isn't ready for the iPhone." UPDATE: Online fraud is the more likely cause.

The conversation Consumerist's Laura Northrup had with an AT&T customer service representative after confirming that iPhones could not be purchased online when using any New York zip code almost plays out like an SNL skit:

Daphne: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support. How may I assist you with placing your order today?

Laura: Hi, I was looking at the iPhone 3Gs and the system tells me that I cannot order one in my ZIP code. My zip code is 11231. (Brooklyn, NY) Is this true? Are iPhones no longer available in New York City?

Daphne: I am happy to be helping you today . Yes, this is correct the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone.

Daphne: You don't have enough towers to handle the phone.

Laura: Thank you for your help. So the phone is not available to people anywhere in the city?

Daphne: Yes this is correct Laura.

Yikes. Turns out Laura then went to try and buy an iPhone online and was shut down using any NY zip code she tried.

Then we tried it and were similarly shot down but not with the same message Laura got from a customer service rep.

We know that AT&T's aware that it sucks in NY, but is the solution to a localized network strain from heavy data usage to stop online sales of a particular phone? Doesn't exactly seem like the most sensible of ideas, especially since there are plenty of iPhones in AT&T's brick-and-mortar New York stores.

Something else that's peculiar about this "sales ban" is that folks in San Francisco, another spot where data puts a huge strain on AT&T's network, are still able to purchase the iPhone online:

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A possible explanation to things comes in the form of whispers regarding some kind of New York-based online sales fraud, but somehow the answer to the old ""Is it the network?" still seems to be a loud, angry "Yes!" After all, how can a bit of online sales fraud prompt refusing to sell one particular phone model to an entire market? Then again, if it really is the network, why are they still selling iPhones in stores?

Whatever the real story here, I'm definitely curious to hear if AT&T makes an official statement on this odd issue. Hell, I'd be happy with just another Luke Wilson pep talk. Instead, we're waiting for a AT&T media rep to write us back and further clarify the situation. [Consumerist]

Update: According to the folks at TechTrackr, AT&T told them that the reason for the mysterious lack of iPhones for New Yorkers is because AT&T "periodically modif[ies] [their] promotions and distribution channels." AT&T refused to go beyond that statement, so this is still a bit of a head scratcher.