Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Torch" Wielding Villagers

"Next WEEK?! That's the worst thing you can SAY to an early adopter!" 
--Phil not getting his iphone the first day on Modern Family

 Early adopters get on my nerves. I think they're smug. So it was with a great deal of trepidation and irritation that I entered the store last Thursday to pick up the new Torch, on the day it was released.

I had no choice. The BlackBerry Bold trackball had frozen. Again.  I have lost count of how MANY times this has happened. Six? Seven? I know if you search blackberry on this blog, it will come up at least as often as "food" and "Ambien," which is saying something.

I didn't even WANT the first BlackBerry -- it was a gift after the number 8 finally died for good on my trusty little Nokia.  But I have stuck with them, long past the point of reason, and am now flirting with what might just be a co-dependent/abusive relationship.

I don't know what I get out of it....except....it's not an iphone. I am a word girl. I want my keyboard. I always said if BlackBerry added a touchscreen that retained the keyboard, I would get one. And that's when I heard about the Torch. But it wasn't out yet. And I still had a bold with a dead trackball, again.

I called up the provider and explained, but he said since it was past warranty, I would have to file an insurance claim.

"Oh, no. I will not," I explained, "because that isn't FAIR."

I believe he thought he was reasoning with a two-year-old,  but I had had it. As I told him, I am happy to pay the Insurance Premium as "insurance" against something stupid I might do -- drop the phone in a puddle, lose it... anything could happen. But I am NOT paying that $100+ deductible to "insure" against their design flaws.

I barely ever even had a "new" Pearl, or Bold, despite having bought several of them, because the trackballs always died within a month or two. Then they were warrantied out with "refurbished" phones. And a month or two later, the trackballs on the "refurbished" phones died too. There's nothing wrong with recycles. But I got frustrated paying full price for new devices with such obvious design flaws, and then getting stuck carrying around their beat-up "refurbished" models the rest of the time. Even if they'd just fixed my new phones, that would've been better.

I explained all this to the young man on the line in Bangelor as politely as I could, over and over, until he eventually kicked me over to a "supervisor." I repeated the whole scenario as calmly as I could to the nice lady. I used my inside voice, and I told her I was doing my best to refrain from profanity, because I did realize that none of this was her fault, personally. In turn, she "apologized" for my "frustration," and said she would make it right with a new Bold.

So I took the new Bold to the store, with an eye toward trying out the Torch.
Which was a problem, because AT&T service promptly went out all over the southeast. We lost signal, and apparently so did pockets of Georgia. The outages were broadcast all over the news -- which I was forced to read about on the big screen, like an Animal.

At the end of the process, I have to say, I have never worked so hard to hand over my hard-earned money to someone who so clearly couldn't be bothered to take it in my life.

Since Lucas was off the day I went in (the one guy in the city -- as far as I know -- who understands blackberries), everyone else in the store was an iphone guy. There were massive signs on the door saying they didn't know when the outage would be restored. And the store was filled with angry would-be torch-wielding Villagers. One guy was mad because he couldn't bring his dog in the store, another middle-class guy in a golf shirt seemed on the verge of beating his child in public, but contented himself with hissing through clenched teeth, "you touch one more thing in this store, and I am going to ... go bananas." I got the sense that "bananas" was the only euphemism he could think of that was child-protective-services friendly. But under my breath, I promptly responded "bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. Bananas," because it's impossible not to.

The outage meant I came home with a phone on which I had no training, and no understanding of how the features worked -- or, as it turned out, even something as basic as how to pull the battery. (Try googling it -- all you'll get is a lot of answers about appropriate and inappropriate disposal and battery-life.)

This left me at the mercy of @blackberryhelp on twitter which I've been busy messaging like it's my fulltime job (and to their credit, I have to say, they respond everytime -- and they even knew how to pull the battery).

That is... until my twitter app started popping up a screen that said, "You have been rate limited," which is, apparently, a message no other smartphone user has ever seen, in the history of time. Believe me, I asked around.

I started with AT and ;T. They double-checked. All my plans include unlimited data, so there was no chance they'd "limited" my "rate" on anything. After researching every permutation they could think of, they routed me to blackberry -- explaining that if I were to call them on my own, I would be paying for tech support.

I was already mad, but I was downright indignant at the prospect of that. 

"Are you....kidding me?" I asked, slowly... pausing because it took profound mental exertion to refrain from inserting my usual profanity of choice before the word "kidding." By this time my teeth were clenched so hard I was coming down with TMJ. I could not believe this.

"Do you mean to say that after I have suffered through all these years of blackberries... defective blackberries, with design-flawed trackballs...and a parade of used phones.... that two days after I buy the brand new model that they have spent a jillion dollars advertising and promoting but their staff can't use because they're all too busy with their iPhones ....or they would be, if they could get service... Do you mean to tell me, that after all that, they would also like me to pay them for the privilege of troubleshooting this device... this device that I just paid hundreds of dollars for...that even they can't operate?"

His answer was something along the lines of "uh, yeah," but he assured me I wouldn't have to pay for this particular call, because he was routing it through. Which he did, so that I ended up with a young man on the other end of the line, presumably in Canada, who divulged that they didn't even have their Torch simulator screens working yet, and that there was only one or two of the actual phones floating around the building.

What I was thinking was... A. he probably should not be telling me this (regardless of whether or not I happen to work in media), and B. if they aren't prepared to support the device, they probably shouldn't be selling it -- regardless of the gazillion dollar ad campaign. 

Although he gamely tried to start an online support session, linking into my laptop, and attempting to download a bunch of (probably completely irrelevant) software that I'm quite sure my IT guys would kill me for. (For one thing, he wanted me to sign in using Internet Explorer and they forbid that a long time ago.)

Sometime in the middle of the session, "the rate limited" menu disappeared from my twitter screen. No one knows why. It isn't anything he did. The phone was in the other room. It wasn't anything I did. It's probably the same thing that happens when you take your car to the mechanic and it refuses to make that noise in front of them.

At that point, he admitted defeat, and so did I. But I couldn't hang up without getting one thing off my chest. I said I didn't know what RIM's relationship is to AT&T, but if I was allowing AT&T to be the exclusive carrier of my product, I would make sure that AT&T put somebody on that sales floor who actually carried a blackberry. If they want to be an iphonestore, they should put a sign on the door that says they're an iphone store, and then stop selling BlackBerrys

And then we poor, unwashed blackberry masses who can't seem to shake our clearly unhealthy, one-sided, co-dependent loyalty no matter how hard they try to drive us away would know up front that we have to take our business elsewhere -- probably to some back alley blackmarket operation, which soon may be the only option left. 

Because that's what it's coming to. I might head down there later and try to sell some busted trackballs.

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