Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cell Hell

Well, it's that time again. Actually, it's long beyond that time again. The time when this correspondent gets a new cell phone.

Last time, in 2005, I found a fairly extensive collection of phones at the local stores. These days, if the phones do not have full keyboards or play dozens of tunes, they're not on the shelf at all.

Don't get me wrong: I am a gadget geek. I frequently carry my Pocket PC (iPaq H3850), which is pretty useful in spite of now being ancient in IT terms (I've had it about 3 years, and the model dates back 5 years). But, especially in the warmer months, its a pain to carry with a cell phone. Of course, the device was given to me by my job, so that means it cost me nothing (remember my motto: if it's free, it's for me!). I don't spend my cash on stuff like that.

And as for cell phones I still maintain that if I am forced to sign a 2 year contract, I better get a phone for nothing or next-to-nothing. I could buy unlocked phones from eBay or wherever, but I've heard enough stories of people getting scammed that I simply decided I don't have the time to deal with that business.

So I've been off-contract since January. Admittedly, I've been lazy in selecting a new phone. Complicating matters is that I share the minutes with my MBH and her sister; so when I get a new phone, they get a new phone. Rarely do either of them make enough calls (besides to each other) that would justify their own contract, so pooling minutes works well.

And while they neither want or desire a fancy phone, they have to get the same model of device. So trying to get them to agree on a phone can be an arduous task.

With that said, after 7 months, I finally ordered phones on Sunday. They got Nokia 6126, and I got myself a Samsung BlackJack.

So I should be happy, right?

I placed the order online Sunday. Living in rural Pennsylvania, my address in unlike people who live in other areas: My home address is Rural Route 4, Box 1234, TownName, PA, Zip. The Post Office recognizes it. The IRS certainly does. So do Fed Ex, UPS and DHL. But all too frequently, online ship-to address forms cough at the thought of shipping to a PO Box. So we've adopted a street-address, as in RR 4, 1234 Quaint Street Name, TownName, PA Zip. The Post Office accepts this, since Letter Carriers can figure it out, and so do the other package companies. So that's what I put in for the ship-to address.

Tracking the package via Bloglines, I found out yesterday that the three boxes were originally 'on truck' then 'held for proper addressing.' Calling FedEx, I gave them my info.

She: The address is incomplete, sir.
Me: OK, here it is.
She: Thank you sir, but we show only RR 4, TownName. Unfortunately we're bound by AT&T's contract with us.
Me: OK, what does that mean to me?
She: We can't correct your address. You either have to come to our office, or we have to return them to AT&T.

Now where I live, there's a FedEx hub about 30 miles south of me... practically on my way home from work.

Me: I understand; just hold it at the 30 miles south location and I'll pick it up tomorrow.
She: Oh, no sir! It's at the 85 mile northwest location. You can pick it up there.
Me: WHAT? Why in the world do you deliver out of that location and not the closer one?
She: That's the closest one to your area.
Me: What about the 30 miles south location?
She: Well... it appears the line that divides the territory is just south of your town.
Me: It's no wonder you guys couldn't find Tom Hanks on that island.
She: Sir? Tom who? What island?
Me: Skip it. You can't ship it to the closer location?
She: No sir, we can either hold it or return it.
Me: You're telling me I have to give up about 3 hours of my time because AT&T couldn't give you a proper address? And because you can't send the package to a more convenient location?
She: I can give you easy driving directions!

As much as I am angry with FedEx, the real blame is AT&Ts. Of course, if FedEx could ship the boxes back to AT&T, you'd think they could ship them to another one of their own offices.

So I called AT&T; I said that after being a customer of theirs for 8 years, I was not amused. Either correct my address, get them to move the boxes to the other location, or cancel the order.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the order is cancelled. Or at least I think it is. I'm calling them this morning to see whats-what.

I know: in the global scope of life, this is not even worth mentioning. But I am so danged busy, I don't have the time to deal with this crap.

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