After many years of resisting and getting flak from friends, family and strangers alike, I finally made the enormously difficult decision to buy a smartphone.   I actually came to the decision after sitting in a restaurant for half an hour waiting for a friend, who had emailed me 35 minutes previously saying that he was there but in the back.  Imagine how stupid we both felt when he got up to leave thinking he had been stood up, and walked past me on his way out. 

Everyone I asked said the same thing,  iphones are the best thing since the invention of the wheel and square cut bread, so I did my research online with the help of my good friend (and shamelessly used tech support guy) R, and we chose a tariff, a phone and all I had to do was go to the Carphone Warehouse and buy it.  This is shaping up to be the shortest blogpost ever, right?  Unfortunately for you I uttered the words “all I had to do” and “Carphone Warehouse” in the same sentence and so this post just got a hell of a lot longer.

Anyway, it was Thursday and I went to Carphone Warehouse.  I told the guy that I had done all the research, and I wanted this phone.  I didn’t want the iphone 6 which had just come out because everyone kept talking about the problems associated with them.  I therefore decided on the iphone 5S which apparently is the phone for me.  We went through all the tariffs etc. and I went along to the store armed with everything I thought I needed:  Money and information.

After waiting for 15 minutes behind an old lady who couldn’t understand why her phone wouldn’t do the thing she wanted it to do when she wanted it done,  (and please understand, I am not judging this lady at all, she was merely expressing what all of us are often too embarrassed to express – IT DOESN’T OBEY ME!  I AM SUPPOSED TO BE THE MORE INTELLIGENT BEING HERE!!!  WHY WON’T IT LISTEN???) It was my turn.

The man, a young fellow, asked me what I needed.  The conversation went like this:

“Hello, can I help you?”

“Yes, I would like to buy an iphone 5S on the O2 network tariff, here are the particulars.”  I handed over my notes.

“Wow, you’ve done your research and made my life easier!  This won’t take a minute.”

Prophetic words.

“Let me just get my tablet.”  The next ten minutes were spent switching the tablet off and then on again, shaking it, tapping at it softly and violently and pleas for help to his colleague.  For the purposes of this post, I will call the two Carphone Warehouse employees Rodney and Del Boy with Rodney being the guy who was supposed to be helping me and Del Boy his colleague.  Rodney was the younger of the two, and Del had that Enlightened Know-it-all look about him.  He tends to talk to customers as if they are a bit slow on the uptake, in that very British way of keep saying what they don’t understand, but just raise your voice and elongate the gaps between words.

The tablet eventually came to life.  “Now, let’s see, “ he said.

“Your surname?”

“Blah blah”

“And how are we spelling that?”

“B-L-A-H –B- L- A-H”

“First name? “

“Maria”

“Are you Greek?”

“Yes.”

“Me too.”

Awkward pause during which I wondered what to make of the information and he wondered what made him volunteer it.

“Address?”

“Postcode?”

He handed over the tablet:  “Please fill in your email address  and phone number.  Are you keeping your current contract?”

“No, I replied.  I wish to end my contract with Virgin and move the number to the new phone and O2 contract.”

“That won’t be a problem.  We have to call virgin and get your (insert three letter acronym which I always forget here) number.”

“OK”

I handed back the tablet.

“Right, I just have to do a  credit check.”

Fifteen minutes later, having answered more questions than are required to enter North Korea without a visa and having signed away two of my unborn children, my corneas and at least one of my other major organs, the credit check came back ok.

“OK,” said Rodney cheerily.  “Let’s get you a phone!”

He tapped the ‘get phone’ button on the tablet.  Nothing happened.  He tapped it again, nothing.  He went over and spoke to his colleague, nothing.  They called head office.

Del Boy came over and spoke loudly and slowly:

“THERE   IS   A   PROBLEM   WITH   THE   SYSTEM   AND   WE   CAN’T   ACCESS   OUR   NETWORK.   YOU   WILL    HAVE   TO   COME   BACK   LATER.”

“It’s not exactly convenient for me to come back later, having already spent 45 minutes here with no end in sight….  Can’t I come back another day?  Or tomorrow?”

“You could come back tomorrow, but we don’t actually have the handset you want in stock, and so if you want your new phone before the weekend, then we would have to order it today.  It would be here tomorrow.”

“Can’t you order the phone to come tomorrow and we can do everything at the same time?”

“No, I am afraid not, you will have to order (and pay for) the phone before we can order it.  At the moment our network is down which means we cannot accept payments etc.   Please come back in a couple of hours.”

At this point, I was excited about the phone, but I was also quite anxious that R, my lovely tekkers friend should be around to help me set it up.  The weekend would be ideal in this situation.

“I’ll do my best.”  I told them, mentally re-juggling my day.

I went about my business –which was delivering bread as it happens- and then went back to the store.

“Ok, is your system back up and running? Can we order my phone now?”

“Yes, of course.  What is your name?  Surname?  Address, email address?  Postcode?  Bra size?  The pin number on your first bank card ever?  How many states in the continental US contain the letter T?  Do you currently or have you ever held an Equity card?  Does God exist?  Have you ever eaten cold two day old pizza from under your bed whilst in College?”

Back to the beginning we went, I promised all of the things I had promised before, added my email address and phone number and noticed that he had spelled my name wrong in all of the paperwork.

“You’ve spelled my name incorrectly. Can you fix it?”

“Not without going back to the beginning” he says.  “Could you please tell me where you were when England beat Germany 5-1 in the Euro qualifier?”

“Forget it.”  I said, “I’ll just change my name by deed poll.  It will be simpler.”

So we ordered the phone.

“Come back tomorrow and collect your phone, we’ll set it up for you.  Is it a new contract?”

“Er, we have been over this.  Twice, almost three times.  Yes it’s a new contract that is why we spent 20 minutes of the accumulated 3 hours I have been in here, on hold waiting to talk to Virgin. We are transferring the number though.”

“Oh, yes.  No worries, I can transfer your contact details into your new phone.”

“Ok, thanks.”

I left the store.  I want to make it clear at this point, that even if I wasn’t stressed at their incompetence, being in that store for any length of time is nothing less than the worst kind of torture.  It is a small store, one of the employees is yelling, there is a heater just above the front door which is spilling hot air to the point of making everyone’s spectacles steam up, after about 3 minutes, we were all disrobing down to our underclothes to avoid evaporation, or heat stroke.  Then there is the soundtrack.  It was December and so the music was Christmassy, cheesey and LOUD.  And terrible.  As I left the shop I realised that I had hunched my shoulders to such a degree that I physically had to reach up and unglue them from ears and push them down.  The freezing outside temperature and busy high street  felt like an oasis of calm and serenity compared to the over-heated noise polluted atmosphere I had spent 3 hours in already that day.

I went home and meditated in silence for the rest of the afternoon to recover from the two visits to the Carphone Warehouse and to prepare myself for the following day’s visit.

The next day I went back in.  I was fourth in the queue.  Bravely I kept my clothes on and just stood there melting under the heater.  About 20 minutes in, Rodney sees me and says:

“Hi, we have your phone, just let me deal with these customers…”

I put on my best benevolent-all-the-time-in-the-world smile.

“No problem…”

Another half hour passed by.  I had actually dropped a couple of kilos by then,  the evidence of which had gathered in my shoes.  It just isn’t natural to sweat that much.  Thank goodness my socks were absorbent.  I gave up and took off my coat and scarf.  I was glistening like a Mr Universe competitor at this point.

“Not long now!” said Rodney cheerfully.

“Ok” I smiled back, “No hurry!”  Seriously guys, it must be the yoga.  I was totally zen.  Of course, I might have simply sweated out the will to live.

Another 30 minutes later, it was finally my turn.

I approached the counter, now holding my handbag, coat, scarf, sweater and overshirt.  I was still wearing my shoes even though they were now squelching with all the sweat that had poured off me.

“I’ll just go inside and get your phone.”

“Ok, thanks”

Five minutes went by.  I heard Rodney’s voice coming from the next room.

“Del Boy, could you come here a minute?”

Del Boy excused himself from the raisin who had come in just after me, and disappeared into ‘the back’.

I could hear muffled shouting.

Finally the door opened and Del Boy came out.  “I am NOT doing it!”

The door closed.  Del Boy resumed shouting at the severely dehydrated customer.

I swallowed dryly.  My lips were chapped, my throat was dry, my skin was cracking, I wanted to get my phone and go home to moisturise and rehydrate.

A fairly accurate illustration of how I was feeling after about an hour of standing under the heater in the shop.

A fairly accurate illustration of how I was feeling after about an hour of standing under the heater in the shop. (Photo is Disney’s).

Rodney comes back out.

“Er,” he starts, “it appears we have a problem.”

“A problem?” I ask maintaining my zen.

“Yes, I thought that your phone arrived in our delivery this morning, but it wasn’t your phone.  We don’t actually have your phone.”

My mind blanked and I watched a brief compilation video of the last 75 minutes in my head.

“I am so sorry.  You can come back first thing tomorrow morning and we will have it then.  Actually, probably best if you don’t come in first thing, to make sure it gets here.  Maybe you could come after 11am.  Or even better, after 1pm….”

“I –“

“Actually, why don’t we just call you when the phone comes in.  That you’ll be sure it’s here next time you come.”

“I –“

“Yes, that’s the best option.  Do we have your number?” He pulled out his tablet. “Oh, yes!  Of course we do!!  Haha, is it a new contract or are you transferring your number?”

I started getting dressed.  I couldn’t trust my voice.  All of the zen feelings I had been channelling for the last hour and a bit had left the shop as soon as Rodney started talking.

I kept it brief so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself either by crying or screaming.

“I’ll wait to hear from you,” I said, and finally dressed, left the shop.

Later that day I got an email from O2 saying that the new number would be transferred on the following Tuesday.  I immediately thought there was no point in going to the Carphone Warehouse before Monday.  After all, of it was that busy during the week, I didn’t even want to think about what it would be like on a weekend.

I did wait to hear from them however for them to let me know when my phone was in.  At about 3pm I called them.

“Hi it’s Maria.  Is my phone in?”

“What phone was it?  Is it a new contract? What was the chassis number of your first car?”

“It’s the iphone 5S, I have been in 3 times already, including one visit yesterday for over an hour only for you to tell me my phone wasn’t in.  You were supposed to call and let me know when the phone came in.”

“Oh, it’s you.  Yes it’s here, it has been here since this morning.  I thought Rodney was calling you.  Are you coming to sort it out?”

“No, I’ll come in on Monday when it is a bit quieter.  I just wanted to know the phone was actually there.”

“OK, well we’re here tomorrow and of course we’ll be here on Monday too.  See you then.”

I put down the phone and spent the rest of the weekend not thinking about iphones or the Carphone Warehouse.

On Monday, I went in, stood in line for 20 minutes, and then asked for my phone.

“Oh, yes.  What is your name?  Is it a new contract?”

“No, it isn’t we are transferring the number though.”

“Oh yes.  Maria.  What was the name of your first pet’s imaginary friend?”

“Horatio Higglebottom.  Can I have my phone now?”

“Yes, do you need me to do anything else?”

“Yes, I would like you to transfer my contacts and photos.  Is that extra?”

“No, it’s included.”  I heaved a sigh of relief.  I had been prepared to offer sexual favours for that one.  Bullet dodged.

He plugged my shiny new phone into his doody and it did its thing.

Finally I had a new phone.  I took it home, fiddled about with it, got almost everything sorted and waited for R to come home to help set up my email.

He tried and tried but nothing doing.  The next day I went out with some friends and they tried and tried and nothing doing.  I called the guy who actually works the servers for my email account.  Nothing doing.  My brother had several gos too.  Still nothing.  So after an accrued 5 or so hours (over 4 visits) in the Carphone warehouse,  answering questions of ever-increasing obscurity not to mention countless hours spent ranting and crying to R about why the phone doesn’t do all the stuff I was promised it would, I am now the proud owner of an iphone 5S.  Which I can’t get  my emails on.  So it’s just like my old phone really.  Only I keep sending people rude messages because the autocorrect thing doesn’t allow for all my gringlish texting.  And I have goofy thumbs so simple things take an age.

My new iphone, complete with lovely case, which I am unable to remove.

My new iphone, complete with lovely case, which I am unable to remove.

So I’ll still be sitting in restaurants waiting for friends who have emailed me to say they are already in the back of the restaurant.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

All I have to do is go to the Carphone Warehouse and they should be able to sort it out for me.

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