Beyond the Ring: How Verizon Ping Keeps Monsey Connected
By: Yitzy Fried
Shmiel Sperber is the owner of Ping Cellular, a Verizon Wireless establishment located in the Evergreen Mall. As he surpasses fifteen years in the business— years that have marked the transition from beepers to sophisticated smartphones—he sat down for a conversation with Rockland Daily, in which he recalled his humble beginnings and his growth along with the burgeoning Monsey community.
“We opened in the Monsey Hub, a one-employee operation, sixteen years ago. At that time, our business was 95% basic phones,” he recalls. Then came blackberries, which some people got, while many still relied on beepers and smartech, and the store moved to Route 59 and Main Street to the location of Perl Experience, and they expanded to two employees.
Then came the smartphone era—which changed the business forever.
“In the beginning, it was only businessmen who wanted these phones, so they could send and receive emails. Companies and vendors began doing business by email. There were also mashgichim in the kashrus field who also got these phones. And that was when the big shift began.
“When Evergreen Mall was looking to expand, they wanted me to take a space there. I did not… I didn’t see their dream at the time. It would only come later,” Shmiel relates. “With the proliferation of cellular phones being the new norm, we were growing at a fast clip, and that was when we relocated to the Mall, after an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state-of-the-art location.
“Today, we remain the only heimish-owned Verizon store in the entire Rockland County.
With all the growth and the many customers, there are many challenges that come along with it. “The average sale could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, because people want everything transferred from their old phones, and they often cannot make up their minds about which device to get.
“One struggle in our business is how to satisfy everyone with regard to the kosher usage of each device: the Rabbonim and dayonim, the schools, and the consumers. Our policy is that we do not sell a smartphone to a yeshiva bachur or girl, and we take our responsibility extremely seriously. We work hand-in-hand with TAG to exchange information between us, and to inform our customers about the options for filtering each device, and they are grateful for this,” Shmiel says.
Another challenge is remaining true to his values as a frum-owned business: “Working for Verizon Wireless, we are beholden to their franchise rules, which means that we must post the posters that they send us. We actually carved out a special provision with the Verizon higher-ups that we will not display any immodest ads in our store. In addition, we are the only Verizon store that we know of in which all the phones on display have no internet access.
“My goal in the business is to have returning customers, and we treat them like family. In today’s generation, you have to give customer service. One bad Google review can do a lot of damage. I tell my employees that people tend to get very emotional about their cellphones. Everything is on those devices, and people can even get unruly.
“I regularly give training to our employees on customer relations, and an extreme emphasis on confidentiality. People may not know this, but we make the same money selling a smartphone or a basic phone, so we have no agenda in selling smartphones vs basic phones. Our trained professionals work with the customer to ascertain what they need.
“This, in my opinion, is the true road to success.”