About 6 months ago, my trusty TREO died.
It had always been problematic, so I decided to replace it with a Blackberry.
There is a Cingular store on the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, about 100 yards from my home, so I went there.
They were more than happy to sell me the Blackberry. $500, after rebate.
In the intervening 6 months the store underwent a change – it became an ATT store instead.
And this morning, the track ball on my Blackberry died. So I walked down to my Cingular, now ATT store and told them that the Blackberry that they had sold me 6 months ago was now broken. Could I get a new one.
They asked me if I had bought it less than a month ago or more than a year ago.
I told them it had been six months.
They told me there was nothing they could do for me there. I would have to go down to someplace called the “Device Support Center”, which was on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.
I pointed out that I had not bought the ‘device’ at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, I had bought it right here, from them – 6 months ago.
They said if I had bought it less than a month ago or more than a year ago, they could replace the ‘device’ here, where I had bought it, but since I did not fall into either of those categories, I would have to go to the ‘device support center’ instead.
I told them that had I bought, say, a shirt, at Bloomingdales, on 59th Street and Lex, and I had to return it, I would not have been told that I had to go to the ‘shirt support center’ on 34th Street instead.
They gave me a helpful piece of paper. It said, “Device Support Center. 9 West 42nd Street.” So I got in a cab.
The ‘device support center’ resembles a waiting room at the Greyhound Bus Terminal. You take a number and sit in a plastic molded seat… and wait… and wait.. and wait.
Although there were five ‘service’ people working there, no one seemed to be working. And as the “Device Support Center” seemed designed to support all of New York (the sign in sheet asked, among other things – ‘how long did you travel to get here’ – some people answered as much as 90 minutes.. of travel), the lines were very long.
Two hours later, there was at last some service.
But not much.
After they swapped out my phone, it was still not working right, so I went back to my local Cingular/ATT store on 53rd Street. Edward, who works there, fixed the problem in a few minutes.
I asked him why they couldn’t just swap my phone themselves.
He said that is was ‘more convenient’ to use the ‘Device Support Center’.
It was more convenient for ATT – but not for it’s customers.
I told Edward I was going to move to Verizon.
“They’re even worse”, he told me.
In the old Soviet Union, the State was supposed to provide for the workers. Doing away with the evils of competition, there would be only one supermarket, one clothing store, one automobile manufacturer. It didn’t work, because in a non-competitive environment, the people who work there don’t care.
Neither do the people who run AT&T, apparently.