Pulling Out Your Own Hair, and Other Joys Of Cell-Phone Contracts
長岡天満宮 -- Nagaokakyo, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/640 sec, f/4, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos

What an ordeal. I spent almost eight hours at a SoftBank mobile-phone store today, trying to get some new phones set up. I have the phones in hand, but I'm still only halfway there.

The two-year contract for my and my son's iPhones is up for renewal this month. We've been with provider Docomo, and if we stick with them for a two-year renewal, our thanks is a 60% price increase(!) So, I'm moving to SoftBank, where for the same price we would have had for our two old phones, we get upgraded to the latest iPhones, and also add in another iPhone for my wife for essentially free.

And as another bonus, the SIM-lock can be removed after half a year, as opposed to Docomo, which refused to remove the SIM-lock on the new phone I'd paid full-price cash for.

So, that's the good news. The bad news is that it took almost eight hours to get the purchase done. It was ridiculous. Much of the problem came from the SoftBank store manager, who was either too sloppy about things, or perhaps purposefully over-promising early on in the hopes that once committed I'd not hold him to his word later on. I dunno.

Part of the problem may not be SoftBank's (or the manager's) fault, but whatever organization they use for credit checks. They entered umpteen permutations of my name in English and Japanese, along with various supporting documentation (passport, residency card, utility bill, etc.), and had to wait 15~20 minutes each time for the answer to come back. And wait we did, as the manager literally just sat there pressing refresh on his order-entry iPad, over and over and over again until the result (rejection) came in.

At one point he'd run out of ideas with what I had on me, so I ran home to get my passport and some utility bills. He neglected to say that the utility bills had to display my home address on them, which almost killed things, but luckily one of the ones I happened to bring did have my address on it.

After so many failures, he even suggested that maybe my 14-year-old son could be the owner of record. This was just ridiculous. But luckily, after about five hours, the approval came through and he quickly set up my new phone, as well as my son's.

When I asked about my wife's new phone, he said Oh, that's in Uji. Uji is a city to the south, perhaps an hour's drive away during an off-season rush-hour like today. Early on he'd said there's be no problem getting all the phones today, and now that he had confessed that it was so far away, he suggested to set up a temporary phone for her and have it swapped to the real one another day.

I got a bit testy and said I expected him to do what he said. There was some thought that he'd personally go to pick it up, which would take hours. In the end, someone from that store brought it via the train, so that saved half of a round trip. It still took more than 90 minutes.

Finally, it shows up and I'm about ready to sign the final contract and suddenly the price is $20/month more than he'd told me earlier. He casually explains about how they weren't able to get such-and-such a discount to stick for one of the three phones, so the price is higher. NO! More than a bit testy, I told him that I expected him to honor the price he told me, and that any issues about how to arrive at it is not my problem.

All that settled, I return home, but my problems were just beginning.

I hooked up my wife's new phone to her computer so that I could restore it from an iTunes backup, and was told that the phone requires a newer version of iTunes. Unfortunately, there is no newer version of iTunes for the version of OSX on her computer.

So, that means that we have to upgrade her operating system, but her computer is so old that it's probably not supported by Apple, which means we probably have to get a new computer for her. Such fun.

Not wanting to deal with any of that now, I just backed up her old phone to my modern computer, and then restored her new phone from that backup. It all seemed to work fine, except I guess music is not part of an iPhone backup, so all her music is gone.

Sigh. Modern smartphones are super convenient, but when things don't go smoothly, it's a special little slice of hell.

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

I was laughing while reading your about misery. Sorry, Jeffrey; it was your writing style, you see, that was funny.

And, that tranquil flower was entirely deceptive by the end of your account of your misery.

— comment by parv on June 1st, 2017 at 8:49am JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

A horrible but entertaining story. Cellphone providers generally suck. But I have to say, in the US, T-Mobile suck less than most with very reasonable deals and International roaming policies in particular. Personally, I hate iTunes with a passion. The fact that backups don’t include music is just nuts. It is possible to migrate your music from iTunes on one machine to iTunes on another but it’s hardly a one-click procedure:


— comment by Malcolm Hoar on June 10th, 2017 at 4:24am JST (6 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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