Shortly before Christmas, Garry and I went somewhere — probably a doctor — and I forgot my cell phone. So 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 that if I could barely hear it, he couldn’t hear at all. This 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 sound quality.
It was the middle of December and although I realized it was a bit close to Christmas, it was more than 10 days away and how long could it possible take to get a new cell phone, right?
I went online at AT&T, our long-time carrier and checked to see if he or I was entitled to an upgrade. It turned out that both of us were entitled to upgrades, but my phone is just about 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 seems a fairly straightforward process. I checked to see what phones are 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 then and there.
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.
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 upgrade service you are going to do is put the phone in a box and mail it to us. You said it’s free shipping … but $36 is one shockingly high shipping charge because if 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 possible manage.
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, that 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 now a week hence 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 could have pointed out he did need a phone and just being his wife ought to entitle me to sympathy and support … but that would just cause more acrimony. It had indeed been my idea to get a new phone based purely the uselessness of his old one. But that’s pure sentiment. I should have waited until he actually asked me for a phone, preferably begged. Generosity. That was my first mistake.
As the tale continued, it became the story with no 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 and 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? Could be … weeks? Never?
We had been planning to be away from the day after Christmas through next weekend … so 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 enough going through this one. 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 is ill … and despite assurances that 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. A little white box in a bigger brown box via 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 for some reason it created a conflict and would immediately spew error messages.
After finally getting the iPhone to synchronize with Outlook’s address book, the iPhone started demanding a password for voicemail.
Except that neither Garry nor I has ever needed a password for our voice mail. Not his, not mine, not ever. So 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 a 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 which, when added to my logical deductions, 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.
That this was the day after Christmas, probably 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, probably didn’t help. But he called back with a man who was clearly not an entry-level tech support guy. This one 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 them and I also hate the little raised keys on the blackberry. In fact, I never voluntarily write anything on my cell phone and why he does rather than use the computer he is sitting next to I have no idea.
This whole trial by fire has made me aware of how pathetic my older Blackberry Torch (first generation) is and how I probably do need a new phone. Maybe sometime next year I’ll have recovered enough from this grueling marathon to think about replacing it. But not yet. I need to rest and ponder a while, at least until the story gets much funnier. Maybe after I can laugh about it, I’ll try to buy a phone for me, too.
- 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)