When I went to Wichita recently to rectify the situation of a malfunctioning cell phone, the best-case scenario I envisioned went something like this:
“Oh, Mr. Kleine, the screen of your Palm Pixi has stopped working. I see you have insurance. Let me get you a new phone. Actually, would you like an iPhone? We’ll give you the upgrade for free because of this inconvenience.”
The worst-case scenario involved a brightly lighted interrogation room, my hands tied behind my back, and a Verizon employee grilling me about my phone while holding a dental drill in one hand and an ice pick in the other.
“Seriously I don’t know how it broke. Just one day it stopped working.”
“That is not an acceptable answer Benjamin. We have our ways of getting information out of you” (insert evil chortle).
I thought the chances of the best-case scenario were decent, I would put it at 4-to-1 odds (except for the iPhone.) I can hear the chuckle of readers mocking my wishful thinking.
The factual outcome was both utterly benign and frustrating, capitalism at its finest.
“We see you have insurance. Well, we can’t do anything. You’ll have to call this number and then they’ll mail you a new phone.”
So, in a store filled with phones — glittery big touch-screens, pull-out key pads, and phones that can morph into an Autobot — I called the number, talked to a robot for a while, and then a human told me I didn’t have the authority to make a claim because I was not the policyholder.
Currently, my dad pays my cell phone bill, and I will let him do so until he wants to stop. I called him and he said he tried to tell me it was futile to go to a store in person. He told me in a text message I could not receive because my phone was broke as a joke.
What have we come to in America? The Verizon salesman wouldn’t even call the insurance company number for me. Such a move would have cleared up the policy issues and he could have given me a phone on the spot.
I asked my dad what the employees at the Verizon store do all day. He answered frankly that they sell phones.
Verizon does not make their phones, they have companies like Samsung, Palm, and LP do that for them.
Verizon provides the airways and sells phones. That’s it. It’s a brilliant business model; I’m sure they make lots of money.
I wish I could go to another service provider, but I know they all play the same game, and win repeatedly. No one, not Sprint or U.S. Cellular, would have handed me a phone on the spot.
It makes me want to live in the woods away from technology like a hermit or a bridge troll.
However, I’m addicted to my phone like everyone else. For the few days where I had nothing, the inability to text, schedule events into an electronic calendar, or instantaneously access the Internet made me feel isolated like a Tibetan monk living on a mountain. As Rob Corddry eloquently put it in “Hot Tub Time Machine,” I had to talk to people with my mouth.
I’ll move to the woods as soon as I can fit it into my schedule. Let me just pull out my phone and punch a date in.