I’ve decided that being an “expert” communicator (I teach various communications topics to college students) is only helpful if everybody involved is playing by the same rules. My experience today indicates one of three things: the rules have changed and no one bothered to tell me (“failure to communicate”), some (hopefully, not all) sales associates don’t receive enough (if any) training in how to talk to customers, or I’m not the expert I thought I was. In fact, maybe it’s all of the above.
Today I spent 4-1/2 hours trying to get a replacement for my Windows cell phone. I’ve had it about three years. The battery died (at least that’s what I thought) last Thursday. On Friday I went to the batteries & bulbs store. When they told me it would take a “minimum of 6 days” and cost me $39, I told them no thanks. On Saturday, I ordered one from Amazon for $19.99 and received it Tuesday. I installed it and charged it and the phone still wouldn’t work, so I decided to go to the AT&T store and get a replacement.
“Replacement” seems to be the key word here. The sales rep asked me the problem, and I told her I needed a replacement for my phone because it had stopped working, even after I installed a new battery. “What kind do you want?” she asked me. I told her I just wanted to replace the one I had and asked her if she could recommend anything. “I could, but you need to tell me what you want.” I repeated that I wanted a replacement for the one I had. “Well, I need to know what you want on your phone, like the camera—do you need a really good camera?” “I just want what I have,” I responded. “What kind of phone is it?” I told her the brand and said it’s a Microsoft phone. She asked me what kind of platform and I told her Windows. “All Microsoft phones are Windows,” she said. “Then I’m not sure what you’re asking me,” I said. By this time, I was starting to feel like I was being pranked.
“We’ve only got two similar to yours,” she said, and showed me one for $299 and one for $599. I chose the cheaper. She looked up my account information and told me that since it’s a “go phone” and not a contract phone, I’d have to pay for it at the time of purchase. While I was mulling that over (I was really hoping not to spend more than $100), I asked her if I could transfer the old SIM card and she said no. It suddenly occurred to me that I was going to be spending a heck of a lot of money and not getting a heck of a lot in return. I told her I changed my mind and wouldn’t be needing her “help.”
I went home and went to my online AT&T account. I couldn’t remember my four-digit password, and when I clicked on “can’t remember password,” they sent me a one-time code to . . . you guessed it, my cell phone! So I decided to use my landline to call go phone customer service. That in itself was a challenge. As usual, everything was automated, but there was no option for speaking to a live person. I hung up, went to Amazon and tried to find the same phone—the problem there was that I didn’t know the model #, plus phones that looked similar were $200.
So I made a second call to the automated go phone customer service. After listening to all the prompts, I finally blurted out “Operator, please!” fully expecting to hear “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.” Instead, Ms. Friendly Automated Responder said, “Please hold while I connect you with a Representative.” HALLELUJAH!
The heavily-accented representative sounded like she was a million miles away, so I didn’t have a lot of faith that I’d get any resolution. However, she was extremely helpful and polite. After having me read her the IMEI # inside the phone (now that was a feat—I wear bifocals, but I really needed a magnifying glass to see the numbers), she informed me that the phone was under warranty until March 27 and I qualified for a free phone! I didn’t even know there WAS a warranty on the phone . . . and wouldn’t it have been nice if the sales associate at the store had asked me that? My new best friend told me to go back to the AT&T store and tell them I qualified for a new phone.
You might as well get comfortable because I’m just getting started.
Of course, I didn’t want to go back to the first store and face Ms. Not At All Helpful again, so I went to the next closest AT&T store. I told my story to the sales rep there. He explained that the warranty can only be honored at their Creve Coeur store. Heavy sigh. I told him I didn’t want to drive that far, so he said I could purchase a similar phone for $29 . . . and yes, my SIM card would transfer. Alas, when he went to look for it, they were out of stock. He checked with a store about 5 miles away and they had two left, so off I went.
I went through the whole story at Store #3. The sales rep found the phone, but it was $59.99. “Why the $30 difference?” I asked. He didn’t know so he went to talk to a manager. It seems that the $29 price was only good if I were willing to change phone numbers; it would cost me twice that to keep my existing number. I asked for the address of the Creve Coeur store. I had already been to three; why not make it four if I could save $30?
Okay, we’re coming to the end now . . . almost. I get to the fourth store, explain everything to the guy behind the counter. Of course, they don’t have the phone at that store; I’d have to send away for a replacement, which will take four to five business days, unless I want to spend $15 for priority shipping. I do. And they’ll have to put a hold for $100 on my credit card until they get the old one back. Fine. Do it.
In the meantime, the rep’s been charging my phone, which according to him, “seems to be working now, although I did have to wake it up. It was in sleep mode.”
“Who told it to go to sleep? I sure didn’t!” (At least I don’t think I did. How do you put a phone to sleep anyway?)
This entire saga took 4-1/2 hours out of my day, which I had planned to spend working on my taxes. I could have saved at least half of that time if the first sales associate had been astute enough to ask the right questions—like “Is it under warranty?” instead of “What do you want?”
All’s well that ends well, I guess. I mean, even if the new battery would have worked if the phone were awake, I’m getting a new phone, just like the one I had, and I’m saving anywhere between $29 and $300. Thank you, Ms. Not At All Helpful! Your failure to communicate just saved me a bundle!