WARNING: The following post contains an excess of Affluentitis. Also known as ‘first world problems’ disease and White Whine, those afflicted with Affluentitis suffer from a hyper-developed sense of entitlement and self righteousness. According to the Surgeon General prolonged exposure to this disease can result in you becoming a spoiled brat. To avoid this risk it is strongly recommended that you skip this post entirely and instead enjoy Fareed Zakaria’s column on the democratizing influence associated with developing a culture built around the concept of the rule of law.
I’ve known for a while that my days of not owning a cellphone were drawing to a close and yesterday I finally bowed to the inevitable.
For those of you who just fell out of your chairs I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.
Better now? Good, we can move on then.
My initial instinct was to just upgrade Richard’s cell plan to a family plan. Nice. Easy. Straightforward. But, for reason’s passing understanding Richard set himself up with a Sprint plan, aka the plan of many features and very little network coverage. I could easily see me being mildly miffed (irrationally irate) by network dead zones, so I did some research and figured out that the cost of the Sprint Family Plan versus me getting a Verizon Individual Plan was $20 a month. $20 a month for the price of me not yelling at my phone every time I can’t get a signal wasn’t even a choice.
So with plan in place we set off for the Apple store. It started off well enough, or as well as a packed Apple store on a Saturday afternoon can be. After a wait of not too long we managed to track down an Apple employee, who couldn’t help us but who was able to locate another employee who could (apparently not all employees can sell all items – why Apple? Why?). We start the sales process, questions are answered, forms are filled out on screens with keypads that necessitate two thumbed typing, IDs are checked, astonished stares are levied at the claim that there is no prior cellphone. Basically, it’s all your normal sales process, albeit one with a hyperactive and fussy baby trying to push his stroller into unsuspecting passer’s by.
After we’ve been in the store for about an hour (YES. IT TOOK A WHOLE HOUR TO GET TO THIS POINT!!! I HAVE NOT THE WORDS) we finally arrive at the credit check. Mr. Apple store punches some things into his portable cash register (sales iPhone) and then says “oh. I have to get a phone so I can call Verizon.” I shrug my assent, but mostly don’t notice his retreating form since I’m still busy trying to keep my 1 year old from setting off any store alarms or breaking merchandise displays. Eventually sales clerk reappears with a phone. And I wait. Then he hangs up and tries again. I wait some more. Third time. Fourth time. About 5 minutes goes by before he informs me that he can’t get through to Verizon, he’s getting an error message on the phone, and so he can’t get my approval. He can’t sell me the phone; at least, not with a plan attached. Not to worry though, he assures me, because there’s a Verizon store a couple of blocks away and they can certainly get me all set up.
By this point the husband and baby have disappeared to a kid clothing store nearby, so I hunt them down, relay the news, and off we all set to go try again to purchase my phone.
When we arrived at the Verizon store we were very helpfully informed by the employee at the door that there are several people waiting ahead of us, but someone will be with us eventually. I eye my
ticking time bomb offspring and nod my assent with a fervent prayer to any God who happens to be listening that this won’t result in any tantrums, either mine or the baby’s. Eventually someone approaches us. We give the quick rundown of what occurred in the Apple store and ask him if he an sell us an iPhone. He is quick to assure us that he would be happy to, and agrees that the Apple store experience was unusual and unnecessary.
30 minutes later I have filled out all of the same paperwork I filled out at the Apple Store, and we’re back to the credit check. “Oh.” The sales clerk says, staring at his own portable electronic device. “So. Um. They want a manual check, so we have to fax over a copy of your driver’s license and your latest utility bill.”
Having thought about this several time’s since I am trying to imagine the kind of person who hears that sentence and immediately responds with “not a problem. Let me pull it out from the portable file folder I carry around for just such a circumstance.” Perhaps such a person exists, but she is no friend of mine and I sure as hell am not that person. I don’t happen to carry around with me a copy of my utility bill everywhere I go on the off chance that some prepubescent sales clerk will ask for it.
I tell him as such, politely I assure you, and ask him what my other options are. I can, for example, pull up an electronic copy of the bill and email it to someone.
Nope. No. It MUST be a PAPER copy of the bill so that they can fax it in.
There are no other options. Without this bill they cannot sell me my phone.
You’d think after two hours and two failed attempts I would bow to the inevitable and accept my lot as the phoneless one for all time. But I have this naive belief that if I’m offering to give a company a not insubstantial sum of money, and to sign a two year contract promising more cash, that they will eventually let you do so.
After leaving the Verizon store we had to pass back by the Apple store on the way to the car. So I thought, “what the hell. Maybe they can connect to Verizon now.” I foolishly thought that Apple would be able to somehow circumvent the ridiculousness of needing a paper copy of a bill. They don’t even have paper receipts after all.
To prevent this post from becoming too ridiculously long the gist of the third attempt is that I still did not successfully purchase the phone. Verizon’s bureaucracy is air tight. The need for a manual credit check complete with paper bill was the same in either place. At least this time it only took about 30 minutes.
So 2.5 hours later I still didn’t have a phone, having failed to purchase it 3 times in a row. Samuel and Richard were by this point at a Mexican restaurant a block away, to which I retired in a funk for a much needed margarita. About half way through the drink I decided that if this was Verizon’s approach to customers during the sales process then I really didn’t want to experience what customer service looked like after locking myself into a two year contract.
Given that, I decided that the Sprint family plan was the way to go after all. At the point I made that decision the story gets way less interesting, mostly because it starts to work exactly the way it should. Richard calls Sprint, they cheerfully agree to upgrade the plan, moreover they tell him they’ll process the upgrade and purchase before we even get there. By the time we arrive at the store the purchase is done, all we have to do is sign, pick up, and go. Sprint wins. I have a phone. Email me if you want the number.