Mrs G’s mobile took its last fall this week. Thankfully the two-year contract had lapsed, which Optus were happy to keep collecting the full premium on without notification.
And why is it that the constant stream of callers trying to sell phone services has dried up now that their product is actually needed?
So this morning the Grinder crew jumped into the runabout and went on a quest for a new phone and service contract.
My spotty-faced friend at the nearby Dick Smiths recognised me straight away as the guy who points, asks, and buys. True to form we got to the point with a couple of Nokia models and negotiated a fair price for a unit outright. As it happened, this price proved hard to beat. The real problem was finding a service that would welcome you without buying one of their own phones.
Resisting the urge to just hand over the card and get it all over and done with, we piled back in the car and dropped in on a local phone retailer adjacent to our regular supermarket. Behind the counter was a woman in her early twenties clicking about with the PC. The time to acknowledge us was little long, but maybe she was just checking out one of Jericho’s hot pictures that rate so well with the chicks. When she did look up, I immediately thought with a face like that she’d need to have a nice personality
We asked about bringing our own phone to a new plan and were pooh-poohed for suggesting the idea.
‘We only sell plans with phones’.
‘We’re interested in a Nokia 3120, and hold a completed contract with Optus, what can you do?’ was our (we’re here anyway & open minded) response.
Belinda (I think it’s Hebrew for ‘back end of a bus’), returned with a few glossies and a handful of options worth considering. To sum it up; $11 a month for the same phone or $22 a month with $22 of free calls. Over two years the phone was ours for about the same as buying it upfront. This way we’d still be with Optus and get to keep the same number.
Belinda also made it clear that a credit card, medicare card and drivers licence would be required to sign up. I quelled the voices within before they had a chance to question how relevant it was to sight a drivers licence or medicare card (with all the family names on it), or what a driving qualifications had to do with buying a phone. Or that the use of a licence other than presentation to police officers was not authorised under the Motor Vehicle Act.
She then thought it worthy to explain repeatedly how the payments are flexible and she should know because she’s ‘always maxing out her credit card’. It was soon apparent this young lady didn’t manage her finances very well and thought we were akin to her in some way. This was poor form, not relevant and getting annoying.
It also became apparent that Belinda, the scrubber that she was, also had a cold. I’m not sure if it was the constant sniffing or the smearing of her nose against the back of her hand that first alerted me.
We thanked her and headed back to the Grinder workshop for lunch and some time to research the deals on the web. After a couple of hours and about six gig of downloads we thought the $11 deal offered by Belinda was as good as we’d get. The same deal was available online, but the idea of supporting a local retailer and not relying on postal delivery was most appealing.
Back at the shop, another woman who seemed to meet the same selection criteria as her colleague was assisting Belinda. I think her name was Sandy. Now, I always try to continue a sale with the person who has already invested the time helping me out, so greeted Belinda and told her Mrs G would like to sign up for an $11 plan with a 3120 phone.
Without the slightest courtesy, Sandy interrupted and said, “You cant have that. We only do the $22 plan. You might be able to get that on the net but you have to get the $22 plan to get any customer service”.
Hmm, okay. Based on that remark I was beginning to have my doubts about the quality of customer service anyway.
I shrugged my shoulders and said that it was the $11 plan that best suited our needs and if that’s the case so be it and turned to go, no point arguing. I was told to ‘Hang on’ and a phone call was quickly made in earshot.
“We don’t do the $11 deal for 3120’s do we… oh, okay we can.” And hung up, “Yeah we’ll do it,” without an apology, “are you porting?”
“Porting?” I ask. Am I supposed to know what this means?
“Are you bringing a number over?” snaps Sandy.
And so the barrage of questions began. Never have I seen such scrutiny. Belinda took charge with the paperwork, recording Mrs G’s every personal detail while she sniffed and smeared. Are you married?
How long have you been at this address?
Do you have a job?
Are you full time?
If not, what are you?
How many hours?
Your job title?
Who is your employer and how long for?
Who can I contact to verify this with?
Who was your previous employer?
To avoid another dental bill from grinding away so much tooth enamel, I stepped back and took charge of the kids who were understandably starting to get ratty.
When every private detail had been extracted, a phone call was made to some mysterious entity that is empowered to authorise such an enormous transaction. Somehow it escapes consideration that the duly signed credit card this will be debited from is good for a sum many times what the phone and its account will ever be worth.
And then the hitch.
“Oh, you’re casual. Can we contact your employer to verify your hours?”
Simmering I thought to myself “Yeah Good luck on a Saturday afternoon! And what exactly is the point if Mrs G is casual, her wage can vary from one week to the next. Casual by definition means her employment isn’t guaranteed.”
“Do you have a pay slip or account that shows your pay going in?”
The urge to (try and) quote Samuel L Jackson with “Well why didn’t you just say so and I’ll pull one out of my ass.” Was very tempting.
We walked out and back to the car. Grindling #2 asking why the car wheels were making a squeaky noise, and Mrs G clutched herself to her chair almost in tears.
Third time lucky we walked in to the shop. Mrs G handed in her last piece of dignity to the fat, ugly and unfriendly staff and submitted herself to another fifteen minutes of insensitive scrutiny.
The phone and account should be ready early next week. Give me an HTML interface any day, and the local ‘B’ dealer
can shove their customer service.