Sunday, September 10, 2017

Anything else I can help you with?

Ordering a smart phone in America. A romance.

I have a cell phone. You flip it open, hit the minus sign in the upper right-hand corner which brings you to contacts. To keep life simple, I only use the phone to call my husband, so there's only one step to remember.  You scroll down till you find his name and you press “Send.”  Not call.  “Send.”

Not that I have a problem with counterintuitivity. I’m an old dog, but I am still moderately teachable.

What I am vulnerable to, though, is the number of people who see me using my flip-top and reacting as if I were peeing on the sidewalk outside of Starbuck’s. What? You don’t have a smart phone? How do you order Uber? How do you find your way home?

I see, I see. Still living in the 19th century. How quaint.

I resisted until my current $100 per year phone-only contract ran out with Verizon and finally decided to bite the bullet. Went online to “research.” Nearly drove myself insane with the offers for things I knew I didn’t want for prices that would take me straight to the poorhouse. I gave up and turned the task over to Taku, who for some reason is still young.

He recommended Cricket and the Apple SE phone. Nice thing about Cricket is they have an outlet at Telegraph and Ashby, a five-minute walk from the house.

So yesterday I walked over there and said, “I want to sign up for your basic plan, $40 a month reduced to $35 once I sign up for automatic payment. And I want the Apple SE for $229.00. And I want to use my old number. Here’s my phone. Where do I sign?

I had done my homework. I should not have taken more than ten minutes of the agent’s time, but what he said back to me was not, "Yes, sir, I'll be happy to help you," but “I’m sorry. We don’t have any SEs left at the moment.”

Well, when can you get one?

He gets on the phone, calls the outlet across town, confirms that they have one. I hear them promise to hold it for him. He will pop by there tonight and would I please come back at 1 p.m. tomorrow (today) and we’ll set you up.

Dandy. I can wait a day. My service doesn’t run out till tomorrow.

So I go back at 1 o’clock today. There’s another gentleman waiting on customers. I wait about ten, fifteen minutes till he’s finished with them. He says to me, “Are you the guy who ordered a phone yesterday?” “I am,” I said.

“Well, I’m sorry, but they sold it.”

“What? Did you not commit that phone to me?”

“I’m sorry. Can you come back another day?”

Another day?

“Or you can order online. Which is better anyway, since you can save yourself the $25 sign-up fee.”

Fine. I’ll go home now (I know it’s only a five-minute walk but that’s two hither and backs, and with my old man feets, that’s twenty minutes in the sun.

So I grouse awhile about how service in America ain't what it used to be and how nobody's word is worth peanuts anymore and then go online to and start the process. 

I find the plan, put it in my cart, find the SE phone, put it in my cart, click “continue” and enter my name, credit card info, the name I want to use for the account, enter a password with lots of letters and numbers, upper and lower case, including the Icelandic letter ð, and click on the order icon.

Rejected. The credit card is rejected.

I call the company. Get a chat going. I’m told I need to use a different credit card.

Well, no, I don’t want to use a different credit card. I only use one credit card. I like to keep track of things.

agent is typing…agent it typing…agent is typing…

I’m sorry sir, there is a problem with your credit card. You need to call your bank.

Fine. I call the credit card company, learn that the charge didn’t go through because of a fraud alert. Twenty minutes on hold (some of our centers are busy because of Hurricane Irma, I’m told), I get a real person. I tell her the problem, assure her it’s really me, and am told the hold is now clear and I should reprocess the application.

Rachel (not her real name) at Cricket is still waiting. That’s good. I try resending, but the problem reappears.

“Try a different browser,” Rachel tells me.  I go from Safari to Chrome and try again. This time I cannot enter my user name because “that name is in use.” It wasn’t when I first applied some fifteen minutes ago, so that’s going to be a problem. Same with the address and credit card. “Already in use.”

I then lose the connection with the Rachel at Cricket. So I click on chat again and get Geraldo (not his real name.) I tell Geraldo the sob story from the beginning. Can’t get in.

Can you use a different credit card?

That’s not the problem, now. The problem now is I cannot enter my user name or the phone number because you think somebody else (which  I know is me) is using it.

It’s now 3:30. I’ve been trying to sign up for this "smart" phone for an hour and a half now.

“Will you try again tomorrow? Maybe your name will be cleared by then.”

Maybe?  OK. I’ll try tomorrow.

Is there anything else I can help you with?

Are you sh**ting me?

Call me on my land line.

I have no plans to leave the house for at least a week.

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