Shortly before Christmas, Garry and I went somewhere and I forgot to bring my cell phone. I asked Garry if I might use his. I was appalled when I could barely hear anything, even with the volume full up and using the speaker. I realized if I could barely hear it, he couldn’t hear it at all. Which brought me to the inevitable conclusion that Garry needed a new cell phone.
Good wife that I am, I figured I’d get him a new phone with better sound so he would not be stuck trying to hear on a phone with such awful audio.
This was early December and Christmas was a couple of weeks off. How long could it possibly take to get a new cell phone, right?
I went online at AT&T, our long-time carrier. I checked to see if he or I was entitled to an upgrade. It turned out both of us were entitled to upgrades, but my phone is just a year old, I don’t use it very much and although I’m entitled to a new phone, I don’t need one. Garry, on the other hand …
This seemed a fairly straightforward process. I checked to see what phones were available on super special, discovered he could get an updated version of the phone he already has for $29.99, with the usual 2 year committment, but we’ve been with AT&T forever anyhow and I don’t see that any of the other carriers are better … so why not? It was the middle of the night, but I called AT&T and was going to order the new version of the Blackberry Curve … but they wanted a credit card and I was already in bed, so I said I’d call tomorrow. I was too tired to get up and deal with it right then.
When I tried to access the website the next day, I couldn’t. Eventually, I called and discovered it wasn’t me, wasn’t a bad password or my computer. AT&T’s servers were being upgraded. I should have guessed. I should have sensed the crackling of crisis in the air. Why they picked early December to do a massive server upgrade is anyone’s guess. It would not have been my first choice.
When I started to place the order, AT&T assured me that they needed to charge me $36 for the upgrade fee. “What upgrade?” I asked. “We already have all the services we need. The only service you are providing is putting the phone in a box and mailing it. You said it’s free shipping … but $36 is a shockingly high shipping charge. Since you aren’t providing any other services, that’s the only thing it could be.”
The young lady to whom I was talking said she couldn’t do anything about it, she was not responsible and everyone had to pay the fee. I said that I was not going to pay the fee and frankly, we’ve been long-term customers and this was shabby treatment indeed. I next learned that I was going to have to pay sales tax on the full list price of the phone, even though we all know that NO ONE pays full retail on anything, much less a cell phone upgrade. Thus this $29.99 had spiraled into around $100 …. which is more than our ultra tight budget could afford.
I said I wanted to talk to a supervisor. I was transferred and eventually, disconnected. Called back, went through the whole story again, was told — again — she couldn’t help me. Said she was transferring me to a department that could help me. When I got to that department, I was told it was the wrong department and I was going to have to go back and talk to the original people who had now two? three? times told me they couldn’t help me.
I would have been laughing but time was passing. I had started this on Sunday night and it was Tuesday. Christmas was creeping up on me and I had yet to actually place an order.
I don’t remember all the people I talked to, all the supervisors to whom I was transferred, all the deals I made only to find that the next person I spoke to had never heard anything about it. It has mercifully become a blur. My husband was cranky because he felt, since he hadn’t actually asked for a phone, I had no reason to expect a lot of sympathy or support. I pointed out he did need a phone and just being his wife ought to entitle me to sympathy and support.
It had indeed been my idea to get him a new phone based purely the uselessness of his old one. But that’s sentimental twaddle. I should have waited until he actually asked me for a phone, preferably begged me on bended knee. Generosity. That was my first mistake.
As the tale continued, it became the story without end. So many departments, so many disconnects. I ran down the battery on my cell phone and on the handset of my house phone, then switched to the other handset And still, no order.
Finally, it was Friday, December 21st. AT&T agreed to waive the charge, give me back a few bucks to compensate for the insane sales tax, and include free shipping. By now, I’d changed from the Blackberry Curve to the iPhone 4 which was on clearance for $0.99 and they swore up and down the east coast I’d have the telephone in my hands on Christmas Eve. Shortly after this amazing promise, I got another call from someone who said whoever promised me Christmas Eve delivery should not have made such a rash promise because who knew if I’d really get the phone? It could be weeks away. Maybe never.
We had been planning to be away from the day after Christmas through the following weekend. If they delivered the phone during that period, it would sit outside in the ice, snow and slush until we got home. But not to worry, she said. If that happened, I could “just send it back.”
I could not cope with the idea of returning the phone. This was bad. Doing it twice would be unbearable. I had been on the telephone with AT&T for more hours in one week than I had been on the phone with everyone else I know during the entire previous year. Granted I’m not on the phone much, but this had eaten at least 25 hours of telephone time … and there seemed to be no end in sight. Ever.
Somewhere during this period, our plans for visiting friends post-Christmas were cancelled because my friend was ill. Despite assurances there was no way I’d get the phone by Christmas Eve followed by equally passionate assurances I definitely would get the phone by Christmas Eve, I simply had no idea when or if I was getting a phone. Would you like to take a guess?
I got the phone Christmas Eve. There it was, a little white box in a bigger brown box. Delivered by FedEx. No bubble pack. Just the phone banging around inside the shipping box. So I waited until the day after Christmas and called about the lack of padding in the box because I didn’t want to wind up with a dead iPhone 4 being told it was somehow my fault. I was assured by someone somewhere that this wouldn’t happen, so I went ahead opened the box and tried setting up the phone.
The first tech support individual, from AT&T, told me that Garry would have to enter all the information by hand. I said “up your nose with a rubber hose” or words to that effect. Garry’s address book has at least 300 entries and I think I’m being conservative. I pointed out that the iPhone is supposed to sync with Outlook and by now, a few disconnects later, I was on the phone with Apple tech support and my cell phone was recharging, the battery having run down to zero again and I was on the second of the two “house phone” handsets, having run through the first phone’s battery. We finally doped out, between him and me, that we had to delete the “cloud” function and NOT synchronize the two email addresses linked to Outlook because it created a conflict and would immediately spew error messages.
When I finally got the iPhone to synchronize with Outlook’s address book, it started demanding a password for voicemail. My head began making a funny buzzing sound that kept getting louder. Were those voices talking to me? Possibly … if only the buzzing would stop and let me think …
Neither Garry nor I has ever needed a password for our voice mail. Not his, not mine, not ever. We didn’t have any passwords to give them. When the Apple tech guy said I’d have to call AT&T to get it sorted out, I went into full meltdown. I could not face another long wait, multiple disconnects … and trying to interface with who knew how many morons before maybe … by New Year’s … I could get through to someone who would know what the problem was and fix it.
Finally, the fellow at Apple who actually seemed to have at least a pretty good knowledge of the product managed to get the address book issue dealt with … said he himself would call AT&T and put us in a conference call and we’d sort the whole thing out. He said he’d call me back and I begged … I think groveling might better describe it … that he really call me back and not leave me hanging.
This was the day after Christmas, the busiest day of the year for tech support what with everyone getting a telephone, tablet, computer, or some other electronic widget under the tree. Likely this didn’t help. But he called back with a man who was obviously not an entry-level tech support guy. He was a Big Gun. You just knew it. He fixed it. He said it was a software artifact from older phones and he was going to delete it from the system and it would never trouble me again.
Then he gave me a $40 credit giving me a small profit on the transaction unless you count my time as being worth money in which case I’m far behind. Far, very far behind.
Garry has a new cell phone. He said “thank you,” and I said “you’re welcome,” but personally, I think I’ve earned a medal at the very least.
So for all the people who told me to “Get a Mac” to solve my problems, I will agree the iPhone is a fine, well-made phone. Was it easy to set up? No. Did it have fewer glitches than my other phones? No. If anything, it had more issues. I got it for a great price and it has, as I had hoped, very loud speakers so Garry can hear it. Hopefully, he’ll get used to the virtual keyboard.
I hate it even more than I hated the tiny raised keys on the Blackberry. I never voluntarily write anything on a cell phone and why Garry does is beyond me.
This whole trial by fire has made me aware of how pathetic my older Blackberry Torch (first generation) is and how I need a new phone. When I’ve recovered from this experience, I will think about replacing it. Why do cell phones need replacing so often? They are so expensive, shouldn’t they last more than a year? Just saying.
Meanwhile, I need to rest and recover my perspective. I have to wait until the story gets funnier. At least until I find my misplaced sense of humor. Then I’ll buy another cell phone.
- Putting the iPhone 4 to the test (reviews.cnet.com)
- The Biggest Complaint About Cell Phones Isn’t Cost or Battery Life . . . It’s Your Friends Getting Mad at You For Not Checking Yours Enough (daybreakshow.wordpress.com)
- What’s this, At&t?? (ireport.cnn.com)
- Smart Phones, an Everyday Necessity, but Will Other Devices Take Over? (epicagear.com)
- Daily Prompt: Are you being served? (dailypost.wordpress.com)
This was basically a good day. Really. Gar and I went to a real party and saw people we almost never see. We didn’t stay long because both of us have trouble with loud parties, but it was a lovely home, good company. Pleasant and full of happy noises.
We got home with only one missed turn off and managed to correct it, even though our GPS, “Richard,” seemed to feel we could make a u-turn on the Southeast Expressway, also known as Route 93 … an elevated limited access high-speed road with perhaps the heaviest traffic in the region. At rush hour, no less. So instead of our GPS, we were forced to rely on a blind luck to find a route that would let us reverse our direction and get back onto the Expressway in the opposite (correct) direction.
If we hadn’t been just outside of Quincy, it would have been easier … probably. Massachusetts was one of the earliest settled parts of the U.S. and our roads are a mess. If you look on a map, they look like a bowl of spaghetti.
We have wrong way concurrence of road, incredibly complicated intersections, signs that don’t make any sense … and no signs where you desperately need them. For you foreigners (anyone not from around here), the town is actually pronounced Quinzy, leaving me with the eternally unanswered question: Was our sixth president called John Quincy Adams, or John Quinzy Adams.
The roads in and around Quincy are totally illogical. To go south, you have to first go north, but not necessarily vice versa. The signs, although better than they used to be, can’t entirely clarify. Getting on and off of route 295 heading south on route 146 requires keeping right, then left, then right in rapid succession, and when coming back the other way, a high-speed dash across 5 lanes of rapidly moving traffic and the signage doesn’t begin to explain that you have to gun it and keep going, no matter how many cars and trucks are heading at you. If you are driving in a vehicle that doesn’t accelerate quickly, prayer is recommended.
And that is approximately where we missed a turn off. With our GPS shouting at us to turn around, then losing track of us completely. At one point, we were apparently in the middle of the bay, at least according to Richard. It’s wasn’t as bad as downtown Boston — few things are — but it’s bad.
We eventually managed to circle around, though we had to go a few miles.
We got home and discovered that Nan, our innocent, sweet lamb of a Norwich Terrier had chewed a very neat but sizable hole in the previously unopened 20 pound bag of dog food. It’s hard to tell how much she ate, but for a dog that is about 11 inches at the shoulder, she is astonishingly food-driven. Her need for food is hard explain unless you’ve seen it because she is such a little sweetheart … and willing to battle a mastiff to get to the food dish first.
After dealing with the dog food, I decided to take care of what I assumed would be a simple task: getting a new cell phone for my husband. His phone has gotten old. It’s just a couple of years old, but in cell phone years, that’s practically ancient. I can barely hear on it and I have normal hearing, so he probably can’t hear anything. It’s just old.
But AT&T says that Garry is entitled to an upgrade and they have the new version of his Blackberry Curve at the upgrade price of $29.99. So I logged myself in … it took three tries, even though it was unquestionably the correct password … and when I went to do the upgrade, I discovered they were going to charge me $36 dollars for “upgrade services” plus $18.69 sales tax. The phone is $29.99 … which would make the tax significantly more than 50% of the price of the phone. The “upgrade service fee” is more than the phone.
Both of us already have Blackberries. We are adding no new services. We are changing nothing. So the “services” consist of mailing us the phone, whereupon we insert the chip, the battery, charge it, configure it and all that jazz.
I have stuck with AT&T for years, not because they have the best signal — not even close — or the best prices, but because they’ve always had great service. I was seriously pissed off. Eventually, I talked to a supervisor who agreed that perhaps the $36.00 fee was a bit much, but the sales tax is based on the full retail list price of the phone … a price nobody ever pays. And oh, the systems at AT&T are down, so they couldn’t take care of it right now. By then, I’d been dumped out of my account and in trying to get back, was informed that I’d tried to get into the account too many times and was now locked out. Not that it made much of a difference anyhow since the system had stopped recognizing my password yesterday and only intermittently recognized the new one.
They said they’d call me tomorrow. I said I was going to be at the hospital all day tomorrow seeing the neurologist who I hope can do something about my back, or at least make some of the pain go away. I’d happily settle for less pain.
Of the 450 minutes we pay for (and they no longer offer that plan … you have to buy at least 500), last month we used, between the two of us, 17 minutes. Of my 200 MB data, I used 9 MB. Of his 200, Garry used 12. We don’t need more features. What we need are telephones with decent sound that can be used to make telephone calls. We aren’t going to play with apps. We just need telephones for emergencies. There doesn’t seem to be a plan for people like us.
I started to wonder if we really need Blackberries at all, but there are practically no phones you can get that aren’t smart phones that have even passable sound quality. We both have laptops and desktops on which we get email. I also have a netbook and Kindle … both of which get email. How many ways do we need to get email? We take everything with us everywhere we go out-of-town. If there was a decent telephone that isn’t a smart phone available, we could save $60 a month. But any phone with good sound quality is a smart phone and requires a data plan which we don’t need or want. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Again.
Finally, I settled down, baked a frozen pizza and watched some television. I’m mentally preparing to find out if my spine is salvageable. I have a feeling that sleep is not going to come easily tonight.
I think I need to chill. Between dealing with my new HMO (that’s a whole other story) and AT&T, and the dreaded cable company … how did I ever find time to work a full-time job? I’m way too busy to work.
My husband and I have Blackberry Smartphones. These days, I have the Torch (it was on sale), but Garry still has the Curve. He uses it for email, to track appointments, and to make phone calls. The reason we both wound up with Blackberries and not iPhones was simple: iPhones have pathetic voice quality for making phone calls. So do most smartphones. Blackberry is the only one that seems to care whether or not you can actually hear the voice on the other end.
No one, apparently, makes phone calls anymore, so phone manufacturers aren’t interested in telephone voice quality. Everyone is obsessed by apps. They want to know what apps they can use. They text, play games, take pictures …. but they don’t use the phone as a phone.
In this household, the only thing for which we use our telephones is to communicate and keep our schedules. That’s it. I lack the pointy little thumbs that make texting convenient for younger people. It’s a genetic adaptation I don’t have. My thumbs do thumb-centric things like grasping tools: they are not good for typing except touch typing where they are fine for whacking at the space bar.
Why would I want to do all that stuff on my phone when I have a desktop, a big laptop, a net book, and a tablet? If I want to take pictures, I have two Olympus PEN camera bodies plus 4 high-quality lenses, as well as a small superzoom point & shoot Canon that I keep as backup in my purse. My telephone is good for three things: making and receiving phone calls, synchronizing with Outlook‘s calendar (so Garry and I know who’s going to which doctor and when) and email. He uses it for email a lot more than I do. I prefer a full-size keyboard.
I use a camera for taking pictures and a computer for most everything else. I know that my Torch has a ton of capabilities I never use and I don’t care. I don’t want to use them. Twice I have used my phone to take a picture because it was the only thing available. Otherwise, I like cameras for photography, computers for computing, GPS units for navigation, and telephones for talking to people on ….tada … the telephone.
Unless you are on the road all the time without access to WIFI, what possible advantage do you get by running your world from this tiny device? Why do you even want to? Is it the only mobile device available to you? You mean you don’t have a laptop, netbook, or tablet?
I genuinely don’t understand why anyone feels a pressing need to use a small inconvenient device to do things that are so much easier to do on a bigger device … which they probably already own.
How well do I understand my phone? Enough to do what I need to do. It has good audio for telephone calls! It’s a telephone, you know?
One day, people will discover that they are doing everything the hard way. This is likely to occur when the younger generation starts to hit their late 30s and 40s and discovers they can’t see tiny little objects without special glasses. It happens to everyone and nothing you do will prevent it.
At that point, like a thunderbolt from Zeus himself, an entire generation will realize that it’s a whole lot easier to type on a keyboard, edit graphics and format text on a monitor large enough to see more than a few words at a time and bright enough to tell whether or not the photograph is in focus (what a concept!). They will be shocked by the discovery, thrilled to realize they no longer need to squint at a tiny screen when they could see the whole thing on a big bright high-definition monitor! It will be an international epiphany of epic proportions!
Not only that, but maybe people will remember how nice it is to hear the voice of a loved one, not just see a text or email. We might even rediscover (be still my heart) intimacy. You never know. Human relationships may come back into fashion!
I’m already there.