Last Friday I queued up with all the other early adopting Apple fan boys to collect my new 3g iphone on launch day. I took photos of it. I hyped it. I even taught my two year old to say "daddy gotted iPhone" in anticipation of my shiny new toy. As of a short time ago, I no longer have that iPhone and have a ruined credit rating to boot. Here’s what happened…
I’d pre-ordered from Carphone Warehouse which, when 02 ran out of stock prior to the launch, still had a few of the 16gb version available. I ordered it and got a confirmation that I’d passed the credit check. Then I got another email, saying they’d run out of stock. A day later, I got yet another email saying that I did in fact manage to secure an iphone and it would be delivered to the branch of Carphone Warehouse at London Bridge Station, as I’d specified.
So on Friday I came in to London early and joined the queue at the shop only to be turned away an hour later when staff told us it was unlikely any of us would be leaving with an iPhone because their system was down.
I went back after lunch and collected my iPhone. They didn’t check my ID, ask for me to sign, look at a receipt or anything. I just walked in, told them my name and was handed an iPhone. I took it back to the office and showed it to my envious colleagues. Then I tried to sync it with iTunes which, as those who tried to do the same on Friday know, took many attempts – in my case, several an hour for around 12 hours. Eventually it worked. I registered. I put some of my music from itunes onto the iPhone. I waited patiently for my iPhone to register on 02, the network provider chosen by Apple in the UK.
I waited. And I waited until Sunday when I could wait no more and went into my local branch of Carphone Warehouse where I bought a nice case for my iPhone and asked when it would be online. The member of staff there laughed and said it could be another day or two, such had the problems been on launch day.
On Tuesday, a fully 96 hours after I’d collected my phone, I began to get a bit upset. It still wasn’t on the network. I phoned the Carphone Warehouse helpline. The friendly person on the other end asked me my details and found my order but said that, as far as she could tell, it was still open.
I hadn’t, from what she could see, collected or paid for my phone.
I explained that I did in fact have it. She phoned someone in their web sales department, then another in their IT department, trying to close the order so that I could get connected to the network. After a while she asked if I’d prefer for her to phone me back. I said yes but, two hours later, still hadn’t heard from her and went home for the day.
On Wednesday I phoned again. They tried to do the same as the previous helpline employee and also encountered difficulties. They suggested I take my iPhone to the shop where I’d bought it which, at the end of the day, I did despite realising that I could probably have simply kept the thing without ever paying for it.
On Wednesday evening I spent an hour in Carphone Warehouse at London Bridge Station. The staff were genuinely helpful and here’s what they found out:
1. I’d ordered my phone and asked for it to be delivered to one of two Carphone Warehouse outlets at London Bridge listed on the website.
2. That London Bridge shop had actually been closed… more than 3 years ago.
3. The City Link courier knew that the other shop was closed so delivered, as it was on his daily round, my iPhone to the store where I collected it.
4. Only the store that no longer existed could close the order.
The guy in the shop tried to sort it out over the phone and, after an hour, got the store helpline people to cancel my original order. I then went home so it could go through the system.
Today I spoke to the manager. He had the phone transfered into his system, reopened the order, and set everything up so that at lunch all I’d need to do is pop in and confirm my identity using a chip and pin credit card. I did this but it wasn’t at all straight forward and what happened next is totally unbelievable.
I could see on his screen that I had passed the credit check done originally. I could also see that there had been a subsequent check made, also passed. I’d asked the manager earlier, and had been assured that, no subsequent credit check would be made on me. For those who aren’t familiar with the system, each credit check undertaken actually reduces your credit rating, particularly if you happen to get declined.
I wasn’t pleased, but the excitement of my iPhone finally getting onto the phone network – after 6 days – kept me from getting upset.
Then there was some sort of problem with the system so I was asked to do the chip and pin check again, which I did. Again this was fine. He hit some buttons and told me I’d have to have a new sim card. I selected a number from the screen, he put it in the system and hit some buttons. Suddenly there was a problem. He could see the results of the two previous credit checks on screen but the system was telling him to contact Carphone Warehouse because another credit check had been run and I’d failed.
The manager explained this and calmly called the store support line who he spoke with for around half an hour. It transpires that they’d actually run as many as five credit checks on me (he wasn’t entirely sure) and that although I’d passed the earlier ones, I’d failed the last one – precisely because they kept running them and, perhaps, because they’d authorised, deauthorised, then authorised my setting up of a new account with 02.
After hanging up the phone, the manager told me that I could, if I want to, go to the Carphone Warehouse and immediately order an iPhone and, because I’d already passed the credit check there, they wouldn’t run another one.
Then he told me that the phone – the iPhone I’d queued up for and, as far as I knew, had paid for, installed stuff on, put music on, personalised, etc – was in his store’s stock. He was very sorry, but he couldn’t let me leave the shop with the iPhone because it belonged to Carphone Warehouse, not me.
So I handed it over.
Because of the incompetence of Carphone Warehouse I was given a phone, after quite a long time waiting in queues, that I never should have been given. And because of Apple’s incompetence in planning for the sale of millions of the new iPhones, I had to spend hours trying to sync that iPhone. I spent hours then switching the phone on and off hoping that would trigger the network ping from 02 needed to activate it. I moved music, some of it purchased from the iTunes store and thus with DRM which limits the number of devices I can install that content on, over to the iPhone. I spent hours configuring bits and pieces of software, downloading apps (over wifi) and getting to know my new phone. I spent several hours at the Carphone Warehouse store and on the phone trying to sort it out.
Up to that point I didn’t have a working phone but at least my credit rating was in tact. Now, because I was honest and took a phone that had been given to me with NO attempt to verify my identity, acquire my signature, or anything else – making it totally untraceable – back to the store beacause I just wanted it to work, I’ve now come home with NO IPHONE and a RUINED CREDIT RATING.
So thanks Steve for the new iPhone and for choosing as your partners a company that has demonstrated to me over several days and several ways that they are totally and utterly incompetent.