Alvin Meets iPhone (not!) – part 1

Having only been a pay-as-you-go customer up until now, I had never really sank my feet into the tar pits of frustration known as cellular providers up until now (actually, my brief glimpse into that was when they switched me onto a monthly plan without telling me all the charges that I would be incurring. I got them to switch me back, but stil…). Now, I am planning to replace both my iPod touch (which has been lost to some French vagrants) and my home phone with a brand spanking new iPhone 3GS (Yay!).

I’d pass by the Fido store (Fido is one of the Canadian iPhone carriers) numerous times in my consideration process and went in a few times, but they’re so dang busy that I ended up leaving with only a brochure. Finally, hearing about how Fido stores had no stock of 3GSes, I got tipped on going directly to the Apple store instead. So, that’s what I did. At the Apple store, I was greeted by a pleasant enough customer service person, but he told me that new activations would take a long long time and so I had to make a personal shopping appointment. He rebuffed my outrage at the delayed gratification by saying that they get a lot of people in the store looking for iPhones and if they spent all their time on activating iPhones, then they’d never have any time.. blah blah blah… so, I made the appointment for 5 days later — yes, that’s five whole days to wait for something that they actually already had in stock. I guess when you have customers coming out of your ears, trying to shove money at you for a new iPhone, you don’t need to be nice to someone like me.

So, like a good boy, I wait patiently until Sunday for my appointment and with their good customer service, Apple phones me and confirms that I’m coming for my appointment and they have the phone in stock. Easy peasy, right? See, I’ve learned that the paradox of Apple is that everything is coated in that easy-looking, clean, white, friendliness that is in their ads, in the attitudes of their service people. It’s a kind of mellow, “We’re sorry things aren’t working out, but smile anyway” kind of demeanor. I guess it’s better than the Windows/PC world, often fraught with a “too-bad-so-sad, figure it out yourself” demeanor, but still …

I go in for my appointment, all ready to leave with (as they promised) my iPhone working as I exit the store. Yeah right. After trying to sort out who talk to about my appointment (there’s no indication of what a person is supposed to do when the arrive for an appointment to announce themselves, but apparently the orange shirt guy is the concierge). Finally, when I sit down with the person who is helping me activate my new iPhone, the Fido system is down (@#$@!%!). The lady helping me is super friendly, trying to put me into the system at least 3 times, but still no go. So, she pleasantly turns to me and lays out my options of either leaving the store with the phone outright (i.e. pay $800 for the damned thing) or come back maybe tomorrow when the system is up again (possibly). I guess I’m supposed to be made of time. I guess I don’t have to go to work on Monday or anything like that. I guess I don’t deserve some special arrangement after having waited almost a week for my appointed waste-of-time.

As I leave the store, I am struck by the intricate web of ironies in my situation. If Apple had been willing to activate the phone for me when I came in on Tuesday, I would have already had my phone. Instead, they made me wait all week until the system was down to NOT give me the phone. Add to that the horribly elaborate way that cell companies need to make sure that they cannot let you get away without squeezing all your money out of you (that’s the part about the subsidies and how I couldn’t even leave with the phone at the normal, non-inflated price without an activation). I’m sure I’m not appreciating the nuances of the technology and business model that probably makes clear sense to someone, but after my annoyances of today, I have very little patience or compassion for Big Cellular.

So when will I finally get my iPhone? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll keep you posted. Sucks to be me, eh? (I know there are so so many worse problems than these, but at this moment it sure doesn’t feel like it.)

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