05 November 2009


Don't try to get an iPhone the first day

Today was the first day that my mobile carrier, Telus Mobility (once BC Tel, the former British Columbia telephone monopoly), offered Apple's iPhone for sale. I've been a Telus mobile customer since 1998, and have generally had a good experience with customer service, wireless coverage, and phone performance—quite in contrast with how I felt when I quit using Telus broadband Internet four years ago.

I've decided to get an iPhone. I've had a first-generation iPod Touch (kindly given to me by my employer Navarik) for two years now, and my wife has been using an iPhone 3GS on the rival Rogers network since earlier this year. The combination of my iPod Touch and LG Shine 8700 flip phone has worked just fine for me, but I've also seen what those two lack and the current iPhones offer—the camera, GPS, always-accessible email and web surfing, better speed, and so on.

However, today, the first day, was not the one for me to try upgrading. With a little over a year left on my current phone contract, the basic policy is that I'd have to spend several hundred dollars more than the fully-subsidized $200 price for a new iPhone 3GS, and I'm not interested in that. But because I've been with them so long, Telus has offered me deals in the past—if I talk to their phone reps first.

Yet while there seemed to be plenty of iPhones on hand, the Telus retail computer system for its storefront franchisees was up and down all day, the phone customer service was overwhelmed, and I was unable, despite a couple of long waits on hold and a dropped call, to find out whether I would be able to get buy one cheaply. By the time I tried phoning a second time after that dropped connection, Telus wasn't even accepting new calls (!).

I had to step back and stop fuming that this was yet another occasion when a wireless carrier turned an exciting prospect into a frustrating runaround—you know, "I want to give the company more money, but it doesn't seem to want to take it." Yes, Telus should probably have been better prepared to handle the obviously substantial demand for this crazy phone. But the people I talked to were all unfailingly friendly and as helpful as they could be. They were simply let down by a technical sales infrastructure that didn't work for any of us.

Patience is still worthwhile. I'll wait a few days and try again. Telus hasn't quite blown it for me this time. Not yet.

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Ditto. I went last night and got the same "That will be $500+ for you..." I called Telus this morning and all their systems are down.

Seriously, why can't telcos EVER seem to get this right? Every big launch the systems go down. I'd be having a long talk with the folks in IT.
As I said to John Biehler on Facebook, it's amazing they can keep their networks running if they can't seem to sell and set up their phones.
They wanted me to pay full price and I only had 6 months and 25 days left on my contract (their policy: you have to have 6 months or less left to get the promo price). So I insisting on speaking to the "loyalty" rep, and then someone above the "loyalty" rep when she wouldn't give me what I wanted.

The customer service rep in the store, however, was very nice and helpful. I did feel bad for him, as I know it's not his fault that their system was down.
They're going to have to modify that six-month policy, I think. Rogers has already stated that they'll offer the full discount two years into a three-year contract. I'll also see what the loyalty reps say to me once I get around to calling again.
I think I'm still going to be SOL until next year some time (about 8-9 months the rep said). Unless Rogers does something like offer CDMA trade ins and such.

Maybe the larger issue is the wisdom of three-year contracts.
They are, basically, a payment plan for our phones, but we don't tend to think of them that way. Unfortunately, data/voice plans are no cheaper if you decide not to go with a contract. If they were, I think more people would buy the phones outright for the cheaper monthly rate.