Cell Phone Woes

After accidentally amputating my 5th antenna last week, I decided to get a new cell phone. As it happens, the black RAZR has no external antenna. Woot! I love faux-practicality. I begin the hunt for the best price.

Oddly enough, locally-run Cartoys.com is offering the best terms out there: a one-year agreement with Cingular, and the phone is free after $100 mail-in rebate. I generally hate rebates, but the deal is too good to pass up. I fill out the online order form, indicating that I want to port my existing Verizon number from Austin, TX. So far, so good.

On Sunday I get the phone. Just the phone. No documentation, nothing. I have to wait until Monday to call Cartoys. They give me a new phone number with a Redmond, WA area code. They also tell me that I’ll have to call Cingular myself to activate the phone. Upon hearing the new number, I remind them about porting my old number. They tell me that Cingular can help here as well.

I call Cingular and things start to get even more confusing. The representative tells me that my SIM card is for the California market, and can’t be used to port my old number. I’ll have to go to a bricks-and-mortar Cingular store to pick up a free replacement SIM card.

This is a pain, but I do it.

New SIM at the ready, I call Cingular back and read them a sequence of digits befitting a recently-discovered Mersenne prime. Everything seems to go according to plan, and I am directed to call an 800 number to accept the terms and conditions of my contract. This will be the final step.

A stupid automated voice reads my contract. “Twenty-four months,” it says. That’s not right. I’m only supposed to be committed for a year. Instead of pressing 1 to accept the contract, or star to repeat it, I hang up (no other options are offered).

At this point my memory gets fuzzy. I think I call Cartoys first, and they offer to contact Cingular on my behalf. They get back to me saying that everything is fine and has been all along. Again I dial the number to accept the terms and conditions. Again the stupid automated voice says “twenty-four months.”

Must…resist…homicidal…urges…

Back to Cartoys, who have become decidedly unhelpful at this point. Call Cingular, they say. I call Cingular. I spend 30 minutes arguing with the representative who alternates between telling me he can’t do anything, and suggesting that it’s impossible to buy a 1-year term contract over the internet (despite the fact that I have done exactly this). I mention the receipt that I am holding. I ask him to look up the Redmond number that Cartoys originally gave me, and he sees a 1-year term. Neither of these facts seem to dissuade him.

May I please speak to your supervisor? (Translation: you are a damn moron, and at this point I’ll take my chances with any other sentient life form.)

After the obligatory retelling of my entire story, the supervisor changes the contract on the Austin, TX number to 1 year. I get the impression that she thinks she is doing me some kind of favor. Again I call the terms and conditions robot. This time the speaker quacks “twelve months”. I accept.

Now she tells me, all I have to do is cancel out that Redmond, WA number. Fine. Whatever. I never wanted it in the first place. I’m transferred to someone else for this purpose. Believe it or not, the fun continues.

The new voice on the end of the line mentions something about a $175 cancellation charge. I pretty much tell the whole story again. I’m really good at it. Maybe next time I’ll use funny voices for the different characters.

“Because we’re within 30 days, I can do it free of charge due to buyer’s remorse,” he says. Another “favor”. This is getting too weird. By now I am the most freaking remorseful buyer on Earth, but it doesn’t sound right. I ask him to table the whole cancellation thing until I talk to Cartoys but it’s too late: the Redmond number is already cancelled.

“They’ll probably want you to return the equipment,” he says. He talks about going down to pick up a new phone if this happens. He quotes me a price on a replacement phone. I tell him I don’t understand. I just got the damn phone, why the hell would I return it? Maybe Cartoys won’t want it back, he says.

Maybe?

At this point Cartoys is closed. All their phones are magically disabled the instant their painstakingly-calibrated atomic clock strikes 4:59:59 PM. I resolve to call them tomorrow.

To be continued…

Update: Dan from Cartoys got me all sorted out. Unfortunately, the only way to undo all this mess was to ditch my Austin number and go with the Redmond one. After everything I’ve been through, this actually seems reasonable.

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