The LAST time I want to be FIRST


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to post on Friday. Like a million others (or 425,000 others depending on who you believe) I was waiting in line and at the Apple Store for my new 3G iPhone – for a total of 7 hours!

Now, to be honest, I was ready for a long wait. I knew it was a little silly to be in line at 7:30 am, but there I was. I realized, of course, that being in line at 6:00 am would be truly insane and besides would only mean being a little closer to the door – with 2 hours more to wait until the store actually opened. But after waiting a year and 11 days, I was prepared for 3-4 hours in the thick of things for the thrill of being one of the First, even if it was the second time around.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the utter lack of competency and caring on behalf of AT&T. (My alternate title for this post was “AT&T made me cry.”)

At 10:30 and with just a few people ahead of us (my husband and owner of an original iPhone for a year and 11 days was with me to acquire his own bigger, faster, stronger gadget), I was pleased that my estimated hours of anticipation were right on the money. However, I was also nearing full-on panic because we’d been on the phone with AT&T for over half of that time. Not withstanding endless loops of IVRs and vague menus that naturally had no selection for “If you’re one of the million people we hope will buy a new iPhone this weekend – Press 7″, not a single one of the 11+ real live (supposed) people we spoke with could seem to solve this puzzle:

Hi, I use your service and send you quite a lot of money every month. I’m planning on buying something that I really, really want and know I will love that will enable [a.k.a force] me to send you even more money for even longer, doesn’t that sound great? can you help me? In other words, I’m a current AT&T customer with an iPhone, I’d like to UPGRADE to a Family Plan with another iPhone. Can you do that?

I’m sorry, Sir, you’ll have to buy your phone from an AT&T store. I’m sorry sir, we can’t help you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

Are you kidding me? How did they not foresee this particular scenario? Wouldn’t this be the very definition of “low hanging fruit”? Didn’t they imagine that lots of wives and sons and daughters and lovers and all sorts of iPhone-maniacs that have “family” would naturally think, “hey, honey, you should get one now too?” Apparently not.

And though I’m sure between my husband and I we must have read every blog, factoid, rumor and innuendo in the previous month, no where did we think that we would have to go to AT&T to get our new phones – or we certainly would have been in another line!

So there we were, the next in line, with no way to get a second line! Well, alright. Lucky for us we were at Montgomery Mall, where there is an AT&T store around the corner from the Apple Store about 20 yards away. So around the corner we go. Only to find a line full of other disappointed Apple fans. The lady with the baby carriage who had been a little ways ahead of us. A family with two kids whose cheerios and sippy-cups had long ago run dry. Oh, and the “Manager” of the AT&T store, informing us that they were sold out. He – another real live person – shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, made a face and said, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”

How sad. What a heartbreaking story of…uhm…I can’t think of the word…D’uh-ness? With over 5 million phones in the market, AT&T had hundreds of thousands of opportunities to turn current customers into loyal fans, and new customers into delighted buyers who loved the ease and sophistication of switching to AT&T. Instead, they became The Bad Guys, the ones keeping me (and lots of others) from what I loved and longed for.

But what’s worse, instead of Insidious Masterminds or Evil Geniuses, they just seemed ill-trained and un-empowered. A legion of bumbling henchmen and loser lackeys who are always the ultimate undoing of any brilliant plan. And they made me feel almost as stupid. They made me regret my feverish excitement about being the First. That’s the Last time. Because they also made me dig my heals in and refuse to buy my phone from AT&T. (I did not, I’m happy to report.)

I was ready to love them by association. Instead, every day in my contract with them is just another day closer to the end of their exclusive agreement. The day I jump ship. When will the cell-phone industry realize that indentured servitude isn’t the same thing as loyalty?

For toppers, now more than 48 hours later, my phone is still not receiving calls.

But tune it next time to learn why I can still love Apple, even though they broke my heart, a little.

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