Phone Store Hell, Part Deux [UPDATED]

November 21, 2009 at 9:56 am (By Amba)

J was sleeping soundly yesterday evening, so on my way to get milk and eggs at Whole Foods, on a side trip I darted into the AT&T phone store to switch out my defective phone.  (This is the crappy model that cost $1 to make somewhere offshore, for which they charge $29.99; the “Select” button would scroll instead of select — I’d pick a ringtone, press “Select,” and it would go to the next one.  I’d also have to make several tries to unlock the keypad.)  All three cash registers were busy, but I managed to get a floating floor rep to cut in on one during long negotiations between another rep and a customer.

While I was waiting (the state sales tax percentage had apparently changed in the past month, making the swap mathematically challenging), I read, upside down, a printout on the service podium that was titled, I kid you not, TRIAGE.  It was a script, detailing word for word how to elicit, massage, and shepherd the customer’s concerns.  [wording approximate] “I understand that you are frustrated with your phone.  If I can’t help you with that, I’ll connect you with someone who can.”  “While you’re waiting for your [product], why don’t you take a look at this one?”

He told me I didn’t have to return the box to avoid the $35 “restocking fee,” but I did have to try one more time with the same model phone.  No upgrade without punishment for having been a cheapskate the first time.  I felt as if I’d married the damn phone, had gone in for an annulment on the grounds that it had misrepresented itself, and was getting marriage counseling instead.

He told me it’s a very good model and they’d never had this problem with it before.  (He acknowledged that he himself had the problem when trying to work the phone.)  He switched the SIM card into an identical model and, all in all, the transaction with wait time only took about half an hour.  (I wondered if J was freaking out and slinging his leg over the bed railing.  It can happen if I’m gone for more than half an hour.  I had set up the old-fashioned corded phone for him — he doesn’t understand the cordless — but was afraid to call him because I’d put the phone in the bed beside his hip, the only place it would fit, and there was a good chance he wouldn’t be able to figure out where it was and would then freak out, if he hadn’t before.  Fortunately, he was fine this time.)

When I got home I forgot to plug the phone in immediately.  I’m not that into cell phones, brain tumors, etc.  So maybe what happened next is my fault.

When it started peeping piteously this morning, begging for juice, I plugged it in and it immediately said, “SmartChip registration failed.”

I called the local-looking number below the store address on the receipt.  Ten minutes of phone tree later, I was talking to someone in India.  I hung up.

Maybe that was a mistake.  Maybe the guy in India, reading from his own TRIAGE script, would have held my hand and guided me through taking the SIM card out and putting it back in.  Maybe he could have sent it a remote signal all the way from Bangalore that would have straightened it up.

I just had this sinking feeling that after another half hour on the phone, he was going to send me back to phone store hell.

UPDATE: Theologically corrected, per Ruth Anne:  phone store purgatory.

As I wrote in the comments:  “I went over to the phone store. The guy turned the phone off, turned it back on again, and it worked. The guy on the phone in India could’ve told me that. This one was from India, too. Those guys from India are smart!”

I spoke too soon.

I got it home, and the first time I tried to do something with it, it said again, “Smart Chip Registration Failed.”


  1. Ruth Anne said,

    Your nomenclature is off. This is not hell. This is purgatory. [Mom was laughing at the story, too].

  2. amba12 said,

    Am I purged yet?

    I went over to the phone store. The guy turned the phone off, turned it back on again, and it worked. The guy on the phone in India could’ve told me that. This one was from India, too. Those guys from India are smart!

    So I went to Whole Foods and wasted money on coffee and a scone. D’you think they’re in cahoots??

  3. Donna B. said,

    I envy you NOT. While my cell phone service has been relatively reliable, my husband’s has not. We’ve had this “registration failed” problem with his phones more than once.

    But… as long as it’s a registration failure, there’s hope of resolution. My husband’s cell phone problems have gone beyond that. (below my be more “accurate”.)

    As silly as it sounds (and in an effort of self-defense, I’ve tried to make it sound sillier) my husband has managed to lose, misplace, displace, mislay, dislocate, or relocate two cell phone batteries.


    Count your blessings, dear Amba :-)

  4. Rod said,


    Ruth Anne is on track, but as one raised Catholic, it sounds more like Limbo to me. Both Purgatory and Hell are more daunting. Extending the religious metaphor (and I’ve never met a metaphor I didn’t like), IT guys are a sort of pre-Vatican II priesthood. My son was a computer science major. He can set up my computer, and he knows the purpose of each button on my TV remote. I am thankful for his help, but when he explains why he chose a particular configuration or how something works, it all sounds like Latin mumbo jumbo.

  5. amba said,

    I’ve never met a metaphor I didn’t like

    I can so relate to that, I wonder if it’s what brought us together . . . :-P

  6. Bobby said,

    I have learned that when any modern elecrical device malfunctions, I ask any teenager at the bus stop and they will fix it. The bus stop is right outside my house. They can’t do Math nor read, but they can make any handheld device work :)

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