In Which I Buy A Phone

While I like Metro PCS phone service, they suck at selling phones.

cell phone image

I ordered a phone from you on December 22 and paid for overnight shipping. I did this because one of your employees in one of your stores said it would save me a $15 fee they’re required to collect if you buy the phone in a store.

Since Monday the 24th was not a holiday, the phone should have shipped on the 24th and would have then been delivered on the 26th.

It did not ship on the 24th.

Santa did not bring it on the 25th. (Made the bad list again this year)

The phone did not ship on the 26th.

So I called Customer Service. More precisely, I tried to call.

My first call, I was on hold for 45 minutes before I gave up.

I checked the order online. The web site reported that the order was submitted. I already knew this because I received an email confirming my order was submitted. I wanted shipping details but none are there.

I called Customer Service again. This time, I wait another 45 minutes and about to hang up when someone comes on the line. I am not elated, it’s more of a grudging acceptance that the next level of frustration has now been reached. I give the young man the order number and he puts me on hold.

I wait in the virtual lobby with the Montovanni music and some woman repeating over and over how much she appreciates my patience. She must be on acid. Carlos comes back and tells me that the order has been submitted.

I tell Carlos, I don’t actually know #6596’s name but given his masculine voice and Mexican accent I decide he is Carlos, perhaps because it’s has the same letters as Carols, it may a holiday Freudian thing, but whatever. I tell Carlos that I know it has been submitted because I have read this on the web site and I have a confirmation email that tells me the same thing. Carlos asks me how he can help me. I say that I want to know where the phone is and when it will be shipped and arrive at my home with tick-tock precision like that parcel shipped to Russia by Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Carlos puts me on hold. I can imagine the panic in the room on the other side of the line, “He wants to know …!”

I am losing faith in Metro PCS as I wait and listen to the elevator music.

Carlos is back. He tells me that he does not know when the phone will be delivered. He says the order is at the warehouse and only the warehouse knows. So I ask Carlos if I can contact the warehouse. No. Can you contact the warehouse? Only by email, we can’t call them because we don’t have a phone number for them, in fact – Carlos tells me – they do not even know where the warehouse is located. I am thinking even Fort Knox’s location isn’t a secret.

I express my frustration at this state of affairs and Carlos gives me a well scripted apology. I can tell this gives him assurance that he is doing a good job of providing customer service and I can hear him grinning with pleasure at his competence.

He asks if there is anything else he can do for me?  I ask him what he thinks he HAS done for me.

Carlos repeats his apology.  I say if you can’t tell me when I am getting my phone then no there is nothing else you can do for me.

Carlos hangs up.

I drive to the local Metro PCS Corporate store (after I visit an affiliate store and am told they can’t help me) where I am told by a nice young lady with a Russian accent that she cannot tell me when the phone will ship or when it will arrive because they cannot see orders in the store which are made online. But she can email the warehouse for me and inquire. She promises that she or her manager will call by 3PM that afternoon. No, they do not know where the warehouse is located and cannot call there as they do not have a phone number.

I leave feeling like a Russian orphan lost in an archaic system.

On the morning of December 27th I check the computer to find that the phone has not shipped. I know this by looking at the web site again to see the status and it says, “submitted.”

I call again to customer support. I almost immediately get through this time, only five minutes on hold, and this time I get Jesus (#3026) this time with a thicker accent but sounding more self-assured than Carlos, I have hope.

Where is my phone, I ask him. He says, let me check. He does and he tells me the order was submitted. He reads the stock apology and tells me that he does not know when it will ship. He asks me if I want to cancel the order.  I say yes, I want to cancel the order and then I will go buy one from the Russian lady at the Metro PCS store who never called me back and pay the $15 charge. He says I can’t cancel the order. I say well why did you ask me if I want to cancel the order. He says well my computer won’t let me cancel it and he walks me through the steps of cancelling the order as if he is training me for his job and says, “See, it says unable to cancel.” I tell him that no I can’t see but while I know he is trying his best to help me I want a supervisor to speak to. I am going to get some action by gawd.

I am put on hold for fifteen minutes and then Jesus comes back on the line to apologize for the wait and to express his appreciation for my hold and to tell me that the supervisor is with another customer and will be with me shortly. I say thank you.

Another 15 minutes on hold. Jesus is back to say that his supervisor is too busy to talk to me and will have to call me if I would leave a number. I give Jesus the number and he says she’s going to call in 20-30 minutes.  I ask who will be calling and he says that he can’t give me her name or phone number or tell me if she was born female or is transgendered as they cannot give any identifying information about another agent and all they can give me about themselves is their booth number.

Jesus hangs up.

Several hours later she calls while I am talking to the Metro PCS store so I miss the call. She does not even leave a voice mail with a stock apology.

The Metro PCS store called me to inform me they got a snarky email from the warehouse. It read something like this, “This order was placed on a holiday weekend. It should have shipped on the 26th but did not due to a blizzard, it will ship today.” Technically, the phone was ordered on December 22nd which was loosely a holiday weekend, but not really because neither Friday the 21st nor Monday the 24th were holidays. Plus, the weekend before Christmas is not a holiday weekend at all for retail businesses like Metro PCS phone retailers, especially when Metro PCS sends out a special phone deal by text message on December 21.

At about 9PM on December 27th I received an email announcing the shipment of the telephone and giving me a FedEx tracking number. I learned from looking at the Fed Ex web site that the warehouse is in Indianapolis, IN, and the phone has been sent to Memphis, TN. The FedEx web site also tells me that the phone will be delivered by 3PM on the 28th.

I sleep blissfully in the knowledge that the phone will come the next day.

On December 28th, I make coffee and tell my son that his phone is being delivered today. We go to the Fed Ex web site to track its progress across the country from Memphis and we see that the timeline has not progressed but that the delivery estimate is still the same, today by 3:00. Because I live in a locked community and delivery is therefore blocked causing them to leave “We Tried” stickers on the gate. This usually causes one to have to call them and have the package held at some remote facility and then you’ll have to schlep into a seedy industrial area of town and risk having your windows knocked out to steal your cell phone that you forgot on the front seat because you were trying to get out of the car and across the parking lot quickly without being mugged.

Shipping to my building is a nightmare.

So I call Fed Ex and get a lady who has a Memphis accent. She tells me that she does not think the phone will arrive today because it missed the plane to Sacramento. I ask her how a phone misses a plane. Was it held up in security, was it carrying a box cutter, did its box have the word “bomb” written on it by the person at the warehouse who writes snarky emails? She says she doesn’t know why it missed the plane but that there is usually only one plane each day and none on the weekend (holiday or not) and so it will arrive on Monday, maybe.

I tell her to hold it for me at a Fed Ex location rather than try to negotiate the locked gate. She says IF the phone makes the plane on Monday, it will be in Sacramento on Monday for pickup. But she isn’t sure it’s going to make it yet.

Of course my son flies out on Tuesday so if the phone doesn’t arrive in time, it will have to be re-shipped to him in which case I will have the role of the warehouse and I will finally be in control of the situation. I may have to drive the phone to Phoenix myself.

Connecting to The Matrix via Cell Phones

So I’m walking around Target yesterday stocking up on the basics, soap, Kleenex, things like that.  As I wander around with my list of items and discipline myself to buying only what I need and not the tortilla chips and salsa that cry out to me from the chips aisle, I pass several people who appear to be talking to themselves.  I approach these people warily because this Target is located on the edge of a slightly dodgy area where sad people sometimes stand on the street corner in their rags and shout at the cars going by.

The third person I see doing this open air monologue is a large, well-dressed African American lady built like Queen Latifah.  She has long straight black hair that hangs in an oval around her face.  She is delightedly carrying on a conversation and it suddenly occurs to me that I can’t see her ears and that in all likelihood she has a Bluetooth device and a cell phone in her purse.

Mystery solved but I start to think to myself about the implications of this cell phone revolution we have experienced.  It started in the US in 1983 with large clunky phones.  It has evolved to smaller, lighter, more powerful phones that talk to cars, computers and wireless ear pieces.  These days it isn’t so obvious when someone is on a cell phone call because they don’t need one arm cocked to their ear any longer.  They can walk and shop and drive with hands free and mind engaged.

Nobody has to be where they are any more.  They can be with their friends, their boss, their clients, whomever they want to with the push of a button and by speaking the name of the person in their auto dialer.  It’s a bizarre evolutionary change in our social behavior.

The cell phone has connected us and isolated us all at the same time.  The argument for connecting us is easy to make because when one has a cell phone these days there are few spots where a call can’t be made or received.  Unless the phone is turned off or silenced, the person with a cell phone can be connected to almost anyone from anywhere in the world. 

Back in about 1994 I took a trip to Toronto with my Dad and we were driving out to Lake Simpco and we were in the country outside of Toronto.  I had my bulky Motorola bag phone in the car and it began to ring.  It was my secretary at work in California.  That was my first realization that my ability to be independent, out of touch, a disconnected soul wandering the world, was compromised by this electronic wonder.  I marveled at the fact that some network could place my call to my phone from over 3,000 miles away.

I’d argue that cell phones also disconnect us from each other.  So many people are shackled to their cell phones.  The cell phone often takes precedence in their minute-to-minute functioning.  People talk on their cell phones in the checkout line while the poor cashier is trying to deliver good customer service and a make a brief but personal connection that will encourage the customer to return.  People talk on their phones in restaurants, at concerts, in the park.  The old axiom “Wherever you go, there you are” just isn’t true any longer.  It’s more accurate to say that wherever your mind goes, there you are.

Making people drive without holding a cell phone is a good thing because people should drive with both hands on the wheel, or at least have both available to grab it if needed.  But the cell phone takes one’s mind out of the car and into the virtual word of a conversation with someone completely removed from the present driving situation.  I’ve used the phone extensively in business when driving and there have been times when I cover half the distance home during a conversation and can’t recall the landmarks.  I have marveled at the ability of the mind to focus away from the present to the virtual.

The cell phone often acts to isolate us as we interact with the world around us.  It acts as a buffer between us and other people in the world as we text, take calls and carry on remote conversations.  It is interesting that many people seem to even use the cell phone to insulate themselves from other people they are personally with.  It is possible that it’s a social status builder to talk to other people while with people, to take “important” calls from work when in social situations, to promote self esteem in that other people have a need for one’s virtual presence.

Cell phones are changing our social interactions and isolating us from the real world while connecting us to a virtual world.  It’s not so far from the physically connected people in the movie “The Matrix”.  I would not be surprised to learn that the cell phone companies have physically integrated designs on the board for permanently connecting individuals to the Net; it’s probably just that they haven’t figured out how to market the surgery yet.