bring back ma bell

9:10am — get an SMS message on my Treo, explaining that there is a new Critical Firmware Update for my model Treo on Verizon Wireless, and that I must install it immediately in order for billing to continue to function directly. Oh god. The last time I tried to do an firmware update on my Treo, it took most of a day. Fuck this noise: I already knew I was going to get an iPhone, may as well bite the bullet.

Arrive Apple Store Palo Alto 11:10am. Get in line. A few minutes later, a perky young woman in an orange t-shirt comes up, asks me what model iPhone I want, hands me a ticket for that model, and explains that I can wait in line (estimated 45 to 90 minutes) or come back later. I ask if I’ll still have to wait in line if I come back later: in fact I will. Fine, I will wait: I’ve got a zipcar until 1:30pm, and I’m parked in a 2-hour space.

11:55am — arrive at the head of the line. Not bad, not bad. A chipper young man takes my ticket, leads me into the store and starts asking me about what kind of plan I want and do I already have an AT&T account? I’ve got my Verizon account info in hand and know exactly which plan I’m signing up for: he’s happy, this is going to go quickly.

12:30pm — four different attempts to port my old cell phone number have failed. Each attempt requires starting the entire process over from scratch, including running my credit card through for a credit check and having me manually input my SSN into the chipper young man’s handheld. Each attempt to run my credit card through the handheld takes 5 minutes of frantically swiping in hopes that this time it will actually read the magnetic strip. Finally after the fourth try, the now less-chipper young man suggests that maybe we can set up my account with a new number, and then I can walk into an AT&T store and have them do the port there. He says he’s sorry about this, and that usually he recommend as little contact with AT&T as possible. I assent.

12:40pm — the now strongly aggravated young man goes in search of a new handheld unit, as his one is no longer even pretending to be willing to read any of my credit cards.

12:50pm — the first attempt to register the account with a new number has failed. He calls AT&T, tells them the magic words, and they tell him that it’s because he entered my billing address as “Box 12345” instead of “P.O. Box 12345” and that the system doesn’t support this. He relates this information to me with an expression of incredulity. A few moments later, he gets cut off from AT&T and has to re-dial them. As he is attempting to re-establish contact with someone with a clue at AT&T support the session on his handheld expires and the unit resets.

1:05pm — I am starting to get a little nervous about my borrowed car and its parking space

1:20pm — After two more tries, with an AT&T rep on the phone with him, he succeeds in activating a number! I’m done, right?

1:21pm — No, apparently the phone has to be connected to a computer running iTunes, right now, in the store, and activated. I call zipcar and let them know that I’ll be returning the car late.

1:31pm — I leave the store, clutching my new phone and a receipt.

1:45pm — at work, at my desk, I realize that they gave me someone else’s receipt, unless my name has recently changed to “Matthias Vaska” without my knowledge. Call Apple Store.

1:55pm — finally make my way through the voicemail tree and hold queue. Am informed by a different chipper young man that they can’t email me my receipt, but if I come back to the store any time in the next few days they can reprint it. Great.

2:00pm — Figuring that I may as well get all of my time-wastage done at once, call AT&T, am transferred to the porting department.

2:25pm — Am told the following:

1. In order to port my old 718 (New York City) area-code number, I will need to have the operating area of the phone temporarily changed back to new york city.
2. To do this, they will need a NYC address to associate with the account, even if it’s never used for billing.
3. Then they will need to issue a new SIM card with a temporary NYC number and install it into the phone.
4. Once the new SIM card is installed, THEN they can port my Verizon number.
5. …and since this requires physically changing SIM cards, the only way to do this is to personally walk the phone into an AT&T corporate store.

Best retail experience EVAR!

I’m sure more hilarity will ensue once I actually make it to an AT&T store. Stay tuned!

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