Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cell phone adventure

Here's a funny story about trying to get a new cell phone. Isn't it wonderful how computers take over the drudgery and make our lives so much more efficient and convenient.
Last fall my prepaid cell phone took an unplanned trip through the washing machine. Tried drying it out, but no success. I don't use it much (important messages come via email; only people who want money use the phone) so I didn't rush to replace it. I can check voicemail from another phone for a while. Except, I didn't have the voicemail remote password set up. Called customer service twice, waded through the voice responses, talked to a couple of nice people in India, and found that the only way to set up a password is from the (broken) phone. So, rushed out to Radio Shack, found a $15 phone on sale for about $8. Now I can set up the remote password, and everything's fine.
The Adventure Begins
Last week, a certain Large Retail Store advertised a $50 phone on closeout for $30 with a free $20 airtime card. $30-$20=$10 effective cost - sounds good to me, so I decided it's time to upgrade. At the LRS they have 2 phones left, but the tag still says $50. Grab one, take it to the price-check scanners, it says $30 , and there's a tag by the prepaid phone cards saying "free with the phone." All set. I grab one of each, checkout and see that I paid $30 for the phone + $20 for the card. Why isn't it free??
Back to the electronics dept.: there are several prepaid cards for multiple services - all the same size and color, differing only in the cellular system logo, which takes up maybe 5% of the card's front. Very helpful clerk explains that I had grabbed the card below the sign, when I should have grabbed the card above the sign. Get the right card and head for customer service to exchange.
Nice girl in customer service processes a return of the old card and purchase of the right card. Price comes up as $20 - not free because I'm not buying it on the same sales slip as the phone.
No problem : nice girl and very helpful supervisor decide to return card, return phone, and I can repurchase them together. Problem solved.
Except: when a cell phone is returned, the computer automatically marks it as possibly defective and does not allow it to be resold! This is a phone that's a) in a clamshell package that's nearly impossible to open under any circumstance, and b) has never left the store, and the computer won't allow it to be sold.
Supervisor calls computer dept, nothing they can do to remove the block. Calls the clerk in electronics, has him bring up the other phone that's still on the rack.
It's apparently been through the same process: the computer won't let them sell that phone either!
After an hour in the store, involving 3 people, we decided there was absolutely no way to purchase either of the 2 phones laying on the counter in front of me in unopened packages. So, If you want to talk about this story, you can call me on my old $8 phone.

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