so, two weeks ago, my cell phone stopped working.

approximate timeline:

  • july, 2000: i get a new cell phone, from at&t wireless, since i’m dissatisfied with cellular one cingular.
  • may, 2003: upgrade from my crappy nokia to my sony-ericsson t68i, which i love, love, love.
  • 2004 sometime: cingular buys at&t wireless. of course. i sulk, but keep the service because i still like the phone and don’t want to change my number.
  • july, 2005: i decide to upgrade my phone before leaving on my road trip, because my beloved t68i is getting a little beat up. despite going in to the store and listing as my priorities “bluetooth ppp capabilities, size, and keypad that doesn’t suck,” the guy sells me a phone without bluetooth, which i discover about ten minutes after walking out of the store, while playing with the menus in line in a different store in the same strip mall. i immediately return the phone, with an obligatory 24-48 hour wait for service to be restored to the old phone.
  • july, 2005: apparently cingular “forget” that they credited my account for the phone i returned — which had necessitated an entirely new cingular account, because it was a “real” cingular phone instead of an inherited at&t wireless phone — and promptly start billing me for an account for the phone that i returned. except they don’t actually get around to the “bill me” part. apparently they finally sent it off to collections for non-payment, which would probably have been nice to have known about. the account is “written off,” which is a technical term that apparently means “at some undetermined point in the future we will screw this customer over in return for them not paying us the $169.61 we gave them back.”
  • march, 2006: i call ameritech sbc at&t to arrange to move my landline phone service from my old apartment to my new one. while i’m at it, i decide to take them up on their offer to consolidate my cingular wireless bill into my at&t phone bill (and thus the acquisition renaming “what company were you a customer of?” nightmare comes full circle). this was a mistake, as it apparently gave them an excuse to mess with me.
  • early june, 2006: i go to clear my text messages *again* after my memory fills up *again* because of this one really whiny server at work that’s been paging us every four hours for like three months now, and the phone display no longer says AT&T Wireless or any other carrier name, but instead reads SIM ERROR. rebooting it has no effect, and it refuses to talk to the network.
  • last week: spend 90 minutes on the phone with at&t, going through four different departments and four different customer service agents in order to make sense of the mess. agent number three claims that my cell phone was cancelled because i forgot to pay my bill, except i had paid my phone bill earlier that day. agent four said that they would note on my account that the bill was paid and send my account off for reactivation, which would take 24-48 hours. that was on thursday.
  • monday, tuesday, wednesday: my phone is still broken, but so is my spirit. cannot cope with another hour and a half on the phone with people who thank me for being an AT&T customer, as though i had a choice in the matter or were, say, receiving actual service from them.
  • today: suck in my gut and pick up the phone, out of desperation to get my phone back before they give my number out to someone else. listen, it took me like five years to get everyone in my family accustomed to calling that number, and i am not going through that again even if it is a stupid 847 number and i haven’t lived in 847 in like five years. spend another 85 minutes on the phone, only two agents this time, and the second one, gary, brings up the written off account from the bollixed upgrade last summer as the source of the trouble. apparently i’m a bad customer and they don’t love me anymore, and that’s why they are refusing to reinstate service. (though note that i still don’t have a clear answer as to why the phone was actually cancelled in the first place.) gary reverses part of the charge and credits me the rest (huh? oh, fuck it; whatever), and tells me that i’m going to have to get a new sim card to get back online. (what? my old sim card worked fine until YOU CANCELLED ME FOR NO REASON.) okay, whatever. i just want my phone back. he looks up a local cingular store in my zip code, calls over there and tells one of the sales guys what to do to get me back, gives me the guy’s name and the store’s hours. i manage to squeak over to the store twenty minutes before their seven o’clock closing time, and find my sales guy. he then spends twenty minutes on the phone with the mothership, only to learn that (a) i am going to be forced to upgrade my phone, because since it’s an ATTWS phone and not a cingular phone no one will have a sim card that works in it, and, (b) furthermore, he can’t do it at his shop because they’re only an “authorized dealer” and not an actual cingular store (although the big sign says cingular and there’s bloody enough orange decor to blind you), so he calls up the next cingular store up the road and sends me over there to get set up. i make it to the next cingular store with fortunately about 40 minutes to spare before they close, and find my designated sales guy, who has been briefed about The Situation. he tinkers and says i’m going to have to buy a phone. never mind that i can’t afford to buy a new phone at the minute, what the hell ever, i just want to get a phone and get it working and get the hell out of dodge. i pick out a razr —

    <wasy> niqui should get the pink one!
    <wasy> PINK!
    <wasy> PINK PHONE!
    * niqui looks ashamed.
    * niqui … was planning on it.
    <wasy> ha!
    <niqui> they only had one left, so they put it aside for me.
    <niqui> shut up.
    <wasy> PINK PHONE!
    <niqui> dude, if i’m gonna be forced to get a new phone, i’m going to get the one that amuses me

    — despite the cost being nearly twice what i wanted to pay for my forced upgrade. we retreat to the sales desk so that he can hook me up. only,
    the credit for the written off account that cingular forgot i returned — TO THIS EXACT CINGULAR STORE! — has not been processed enough, and so i am still ineligible for a migration, i.e. to get a working phone. dude offers to check the system as soon as he gets in to work tomorrow afternoon, and give me a call when he knows if i should come in to get my new phone, or if i should just not bother yet.

so. i still don’t have a working phone. i don’t even know why my phone stopped working. i’ve put three hours in on the phone, gone through half a dozen customer service agents, another several in person, about ten miles of extra driving in rush hour traffic (so let’s say that was about an hour and probably a gallon of gas). i’m going to have to go back, so there’s an extra half hour of driving (at least it’ll only be to one store). i’m being forced to buy a new phone, which, okay, i could have gotten the awful low-end model for $30 after rebate and instead i picked out a nicer one for $130 after rebate, but still, an expense i wasn’t planning for — despite the fact that i was still more or less happy with my old phone. and i still don’t know when my damned phone will be back on!

i have been completely pwned by ma bell. this is just sad.