When it was out turn, the Apple dude rang me up in about five minutes, but the discount to Mobile Me didn't register, so he canceled the transaction, and tried to ring me up again. But according to AT&T I just got a new phone (the transaction he just canceled) and so am not eligible for another phone for another two years.
Then came lots and lots of calls to AT&T. AT&T/Apple partners. AT&T Corporate. AT&T local stores. An hour passed. AT&T refused to be helpful and reset my eligibility. The Apple/AT&T liaison spoke to me, and said that there is an entire customer service department at AT&T set up to do nothing but reset eligibility in cases like this, which are common (why they can't just fix their checkout system is beyond me). However, this "customer service" department can't reset eligibility for at least 72 hours. OMFG are you kidding me? AT&T actual can't affect their own records for three days?
Then the Apple/AT&T rep told me they just usually work the the AT&T store down the street, because from the store level computers, they can reset eligibility instantly. WTF? My Apple guy kept trying to call the local store but they would not answer their phone. Other stores refused to assist and only referred him and me to the national call center, who can't make changes for three days. Again, AT&T service FAIL.
Ultimately, the Apple guy decided to just take my ID, new phone, secret info and everything down the street himself and get it done. They do this all the time, no problem. (It seems this eligibility snafu during the purchase process is common.) He said we could just chill around the store or meet him back at the count in 10-15 minutes. Skot had already been kind enough to wait through my Muni nightmare, and wait in line, and wait though all of this crap, just so we could go for 2-4-1s, so I offered to get him a drink in the neighborhood while we waited. Apple dude had my number and would call or text when all was good.
Skot and I went down the block to a dive-ish place advertising cocktails, in theory to avoid hotel bar price points. We stopped into Jack's Grill, which was packed with tourists and claims to be "The Home of the Maltese Falcon."
My phone had no service, less than a block from the Apple Store. Again, more frustration at AT&T. We came back to the Apple Store around 8:00.
Apple dude doesn't seem to be back yet, no one can tell me anything other than that AT&T is an uncooperative partner, my phone is dead, and I am approaching rage levels. So Skot and I sidled up to an iMac to blog this, and express my frustration. It's been two hours. The process from front of line to exiting the store could have been five minutes without the frustration from AT&T.
Update: Dude is back. The manager at the local AT&T store refused to help him. First he service-blocked to keep another employee from helping him. Then flat out lied saying they can't do that or access my account from there. They do this all the freaking time. I spoke to a half-dozen Apple employees who have dealt with this same issue at that same store repeatedly without incident. The AT&T employee even started to show the manager how to fix it and was shut down. Then the manager said I had to be there in person, even though there was an Apple guy, done this before, in uniform, with my ID and papers and everything, and the AT&T online account notes indicated all of this, with my permission and the manager continued to refuse service. The Apple guy tried to call and text me to come over in person, but by then AT&T had deactivated my existing phone because the system thought I was using the new one they wouldn't let me purchase! Again, AT&T FAIL!
Is having an iPhone really worth suffering through AT&T? No, clearly it's not. Sure, our experience in SF is that their actual phone service sucks beyond all competent measures, but to add the insult to injury of aggressively offensive customer service? If so much of my life weren't so fully integrated with the Apple platform, I'd be out in a heartbeat.
Just yesterday some frustrated iPhone users were saying that we use the iPhone less as a cell phone and more as a portable computer so that AT&T's miserable service was just an annoyance rather than prohibitive. Now I'm rethinking that assessment.
Especially when I heard that one of the reasons the Manager refused to assist was that it was quarter to closing time and he wanted to leave. He actually said as much. So that when I met up with Apple guy at 8:03, it was too late to do anything about it.
So now my levels of frustration are off the scale-incredibly frustrating trip downtown, hours wasted in the store, missing our happy hour appointment, spending $20 for two vodkas while waiting to fix a $30 error, and having a simple electronic switch turned into a bureaucratic nightmare by a behemoth tech company that seems to, from the CEO to the personal level, make it their stance to screw their own customers at every turn because they can.
Finally (finishing this at home now): I have to go down to AT&T in person, myself tomorrow and argue that they reset my iPhone eligibility. Then go back to the Apple store, where they said they could not hold a phone for me but there "should be enough," and pay through the nose for the new iPhone 4 and go through this process again. I was hoping for an iTunes card, and asked for a magic trackpad, for all of this hassle. They threw in a year of AppleCare for the phone, which I wasn't going to buy anyway. Meh. (And the trackpad even costs less.)
The worst part of all this though is that it ruined a perfectly good Friday night. I got my wrist and jankle worked on and was feeling good, was excited about a new toy, and looked forward to some cheap TGIF drinks with friends, instead I spent three times as much as I would have, missed the Friday after-work fun altogether, and multiple muni rides. Now my association with the product is nothing but bile.
But at least I got to have fun Skot times and he was great company throughout even though I could not set aside my rage enough to ever relax.
Maybe the shiny new features, once it's all installed and crap, will snap be back to a good mood.
Update 2: Went down to AT&T store today (painful way to spend a sunny Saturday), waited in line, and was finally assisted by a manager who was nothing but smiles and controlled demeanor while dealing with frustrated customers (he has been trained very well, and never once cracked under the unpleasant pressure—I say this to his credit.). However, it really doesn't matter how pleasant the manager was when all he could tell me was that he was incapable of actually fixing my problem, a problem not caused by the customer mind you, but by their own systems. It basically felt like someone was saying, "fuck off and die, we don't have to care because you don't have any choice," but saying it with a smile and a pat on the back. With all of the teabaggers and militia and gang crazy people out there, and the United States' inability to deal with meaningful gun regulation, I am genuinely surprised there is not more bloodshed at AT&T storefronts. And I worry for the few friends I have who are employed by AT&T. Is their corporate plan to inspire so much ire as to create a violent response? Is that some sort of corporate/Republican regulation conspiracy? What the hell is with these people?
I was assured that while they could send a request to reset my eligibility, there was nothing they could do to actually remedy the situation for three business days. Apple has to use an AT&T database to authorize iPhone purchases. But AT&T only updates that database over three business days, and Apple doesn't have any access or authority to override any of the shit it spews out, regardless of circumstance. Some partners.
So now, the AT&T computers at the AT&T store say I am back to being eligible for an upgrade. The AT&T servers required to be accessed by Apple do not. I went back to the Apple store as instructed. My new Apple Dude, Tomas was exceptionally understanding, kind, articulate and competent, and he really spent the better part of an hour trying to do whatever he could to remedy my situation and let me just freaking pay for and leave with an iPhone 4.
AT&T servers repeatedly refused to allow the transaction to continue, claiming I was ineligible. I witnessed this myself on their screens.
Tomas then spent another 15 minutes on the phone with their hotline to AT&T.
Best they can do: I have to come back THURSDAY—yes, a feaking week after I waited in line and tried to buy one the first time, just so AT&T can have time to update my status and allow me to spend my hard-earned dollars on the damn new phone.
If AT&T presumes to be a competent global tech company, they should be able to update their own databases in less than
Oops, I said "competent." Actually, I typed it. If I said over a phone call it would have been dropped by now. Ever since they scuttled Cingular's towers there has been no coverage in my neighborhood. Every time I call or write customer service, I am assured "they're working on it." Empirical evidence does not support that assertion, rather the contrary.
Based on their customer service assertions, I have been conditioned to perceive every communication from AT&T to be not something honest-but-erroneous, but an intentional lie.
Rumors of potential availability of the iPhone on other carriers are just that: rumors. And often easily dispelled. I wonder how many will jump ship, and happily pay for the termination privilege, just to deal with a carrier, any carrier, other than AT&T. And honestly, if fat Luke Wilson shows up talking about AT&T wireless coverage in San Francisco one more time, the nearest San Franciscan will be serving up a bitch slap right quick.