My Nokia 6288 has been acting up for some time now. It resets randomly a few times a day, which is quite annoying if you happen to be in the middle of a conversation or typing a text message.
So, when Vodafone came up with the BlackBerry Storm, I thought I would have a look at it. It starts at 19 € if you sign up for the top flat rate voice and data contract, which may be a bit over the top for me. But I am still willing to pay a bit more for the machine if I like it. What I would really like to own is an iPhone, but there are two reasons why I can’t: first, only Telefónica sells the iPhone in Spain, and I will not enter into business with Telefónica under any circumstances (well, maybe I would if my life and the life of my loved ones’ were depending on it); secondly, my colleague Sara Atán owns one and she says it’s got a few glitches and functionality shortcomings that I am not ready to live with. So, no iPhone for me. Shame. It’s pretty. So Apple.
So I have the need for the Storm. I got the money. I got myself some time to find a shop and buy it. You would think I have everything I need to become a proud owner, right?
There’s a Vodafone shop across the road from work. So I get in there one morning and…
Cesar: Good morning.
Sales girl: Good mornning, sir.
Cesar: Do you have the BlackBerry Storm that is advertised everywhere?
Sales girl: Ummm… no.
Sales girl: No. We don’t have it for sale. I think we will have a few next week, but I am not sure. I can show you a demo model though.
Cesar: I see. Well, I would like to buy one if I like it. May I see the demo model then, pelase?
Sales girl: Yes, sure. (She disappears through a door and comes back after a minute.) Here you are. (She handles me a BlackBerry Storm.)
Cesar: Thank you. May I switch it on?
Sales girl: No, I am sorry. This is only for display.
Cesar: Oh. I would really like to see it working, you know. I will buy it if I like how it feels and responds.
Sales girl: I understand. But we can’t use this one. In fact, I don’t think it even has a battery in it.
Cesar: And you don’t know when you will have stock, right?
Sales girl: Maybe next week. If you give me a phone number I will call you as soon as we have them. There’s already a waiting list! (She smiles.)
Cesar: A waiting list? Do you mean that I will have to wait once you receive them?
Sales girl: Probably, yes.
Cesar: OK, thanks. (I give the phone back to her.) I will drop by next week, or the following.
Either Vodafone is not being able to fulfill the demand for Storms, or they are trying to build a sense of elitism around the product by purposefully limiting its stock. Only these two reasons would explain the situation that I have just described.
I thought that, maybe, a larger store would have stock. So I decided to pay a visit to El Corte Inglés, the largest department stores in town. They are not excellent in anything they do (except, perhaps, in groceries), but they are large. So I drove there and found the mobile phones section. As I was expecting, they were showcasing hundreds of phones for all the known operators in Spain. However, only one girl was behind the counter. And over six people were waiting to be attended!
I sighed and walked about a bit, eyeing the phones in the cases and trying to find a Storm. I couldn’t avoid listening to fragments of conversations that the sales girl was having with some customers.
Customer 1: I can’t hear people on the phone when they talk to me.
Sales girl: You mean, the sound is very faint?
Customer 1: Yes. Almost inaudible.
Sales girl: Ummm… let me see… (She turns the phone in her hands, checking the battery and the volume controls.) Oh, of course. The volume is set to 2. See? (She shows the screen and the volume controls to the customer.) You can adjust…
Customer 1: Yes, yes, I know! I set it so, because otherwise the ring is just a blast. I couldn’t stand the ring, so I set the volume to the lowest. But now I can’t hear people talking to me on the phone.
Sales girl: Well, of course. (Smiles.) You will have to pop up the volume just a bit… (She adjusts the volume up) …so you can hear the conversation.
Customer 1: No no no no no. (Pulls a face.) That will make the ring tone sound like a bomb. Can’t I put up the voice volume and keep the ring sound low?
Sales girl: I am not sure… Did you look in the manual?
Customer 1: Of course not. I bought the phone here, I imagine you are supposed to know that.
Sales girl: Well, there are hundreds of models of mobile phones, sir. I can’t know every feature of each of them.
Customer: Aaaall riiiiight. Maybe you can find a manual for me and we can look at it.
I promise I am not making this up. I patiently waited listening to hopeless customers that can’t read a f**king manual and resort to pestering a poor sales girl while other hopeless customers that probably can’t read a f**king manual either wait to pester the same poor girl, who will most certainly spend most of her salary in psychotherapy or paintball games to vent her frustration.
And I thought. I know that the policy of this place is “keep the customer happy”, and that this means, sometimes, spending silly amounts of times with them solving problems that they should solve by themselves. But this! I was willing to give the girl my money in 5 minutes. Just like that. I am a high-profit customer: they invest 5 or 10 minutes and me and they get 139 €. The folks in the line were taking hours with the sales girl and not buying anything! I know, it’s not the girl’s fault. But maybe her employer has the wrong priorities. Don’t you think so?