Almost a fiasco…

Saturday morning I discovered that my local Apple Store had in stock availability of their new flagship, iPhone X. I wouldn’t usually venture anywhere near a mall two days after Thanksgiving, but the desire for new and shiny tech got the better of me. Stunningly, I arrived five minutes after the mall opened and parked within 20 yards of the door. It seems that their “holiday hours” are poorly advertised and almost no one realized they were opening an hour early. Fine by me.

I was an AT&T cellular customer since back in the mists of time when they were known as Cingular. I was generally a satisfied customer, too – until I moved to Fortress Jeff, which is located in a black hole of their coverage map. I could make and receive calls over wifi, but when wifi was down, my cell was pretty much an expensive paperweight. Unacceptable. With this change of phone, I wanted to make the jump to Verizon, who neighbors promised had at least a bar or two of coverage even the local power and cable is out. It happens more often than you’d imagine out here at the end of the transmission line.

Without going into details, I’ll just say that AT&T, Verizon, and Apple corporate policies all threw up roadblocks to converting from the Apple Upgrade Program under AT&T to the same program under Verizon. The guy I was working with, though, was an absolute bulldog and took the problems first to the floor manager, who was as confounded as we were. The floor manager then elevated the issues through two layers of management “in the back.” Finally they decided there was actually no way to get from Point A to Point B using existing policy and procedures. That’s they point where one of them decided “we’re going to break the rules” to make the sale.

I can’t say for sure if any rules were broken, but if the number of Apple employees standing around looking concerned while they fiddled with various entries on their tablet is any sign, they were certainly doing something unusual. In the end it took six people and almost an hour to make the sale.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t seamless, but in the end I walked away with exactly what I wanted. I appreciate that level of tenacity when the easy answer was “we can’t.” I appreciate it even more when I’ve got two bars of service when the wifi’s off. Well done, Apple. It’s a wonderful lesson for other business out there that customer services really, truly doesn’t have to suck.

Phone behaving badly or: My excuse to go to the Apple Store…

In case anyone has been trying to reach me, I apparently have a phone problem. After getting an irate phone call wondering why I haven’t returned any of a dozen text messages that were sent in my direction, I thought it wise to give my friends at AT&T a call. After a little over an hour on the horn with three levels of tech support they narrowed it down to a) a SIM card issue or b) a hardware issue. Apparently the only thing they know for sure is it’s not an issue with their network. They at least were nice enough to point out that “oh yes, we can see a number of failed texts coming in to your number today… that’s really weird.” Really weird particularly because just as many were making it through the system as well. Sigh.

To make the long story of technical support a little shorter, they wanted me to go over to the local AT&T store this morning and let them fiddle with the SIM for a while. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I don’t actually know where the closest AT&T store actually is. In the event that it’s an actual hardware issue rather than just a SIM thing, I thought it would be a better idea to go ahead and bring my ailing 4S back to the Apple Store from whence it came… Which is fine, because I have an unholy love of the Apple Store… except for the part where it’s Saturday, and at the mall, and it’s going to be full of people. And we all know how I feel about places like that.

If there’s any up side to this, it’s probably that whoever decides to buy my iPhone after I pick up the new model in two weeks will in all likelihood be getting a freshly refurbished replacement model since a swap out is pretty much the standard procedure for my trips to the Genius Bar. Still I wish the old girl had held out for just a another 14 days and saved me the trouble. And if anyone out there has tried to text me in let’s say the last 24 hours and hasn’t gotten a response, yeah, sorry about that. Hopefully by around 1:00 this afternoon we’ll have things resolved… or not. It’d say that odds are 50/50 at best that incoming texts will ever be reliable again, but that’s just the optimist in me coming through.

Just another launch day live blog

4:37a – Well folks, here we go. Up and moving, getting caffeinated, and prepping to head over to Delaware for my tax free shopping fix. Starting to see some reports from the earlier time zones coming out and it sounds like it’s another winner. I’ll be uploading pics, general impressions, and plenty of snarky comments from the beautiful Christiana Mall Apple Store this morning. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy bringing it to you.

4:42a – I think it’s cute that Apple sent me an email letting me know that “The new iPad is here”. Wow. Thanks for the heads up on that. Maybe I’ll trundle on over to the Apple Store and check it out. You’d think by now they’d know me well enough not to have to send the marketing.

5:17a – It’s go time. Hope the real die hards kept me a place in line.

5:59a – DE State Police are running crowd control. Big, big crowd.

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6:16a – DSP is randomly pulling people out of the crowd and putting them in line. No apparent organization or plan from Apple to manage people. Not good.

6:27a – 3-400 people in the main line.

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6:30a – What the line looks like if you pre-ordered for personal pick up.

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That’s right, who’s 4th in line. This guy right here.

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7:30a – 12 people in the personal pick up line. All very civilized. The other line, not so much. Lots of Apple employees and troopers yelling at people. Good times.

7:37 – sadly, I just turned down an offer to be interviewed by the Wilmington local news station. Sorry to disappoint.

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7:49a – This crowd is stooooopid. Lines completely out of sight now. Lucky to be in line with some fun guys. Making this enjoyable.

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7:59a – in my hand and out the door.

8:02a – Here are a few shots on the way out. Stay tuned for the review.

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What annoys Jeff this Week?

Honestly? Not much. The Tundra is back in the driveway, I was in and out of the MVA in about five minutes to order replacement tags (the front plate folded like an accordion in the recent unpleasantness), and I’m ticking off the minutes until it’s time to crawl out of bed and line up for a tasty new piece of electronic kit. The long weekend is underway.

Getting back in the truck is honestly more satisfying than I thought it was going to be. It feels like a good solid step back in the direction of normal. Getting use to the sheer mass of that vehicle again is going to take a bit of time. That’s what you call a good problem. I’m so happy not to be looking up at everything else on the road I can hardly stand myself.

So yeah, what annoys Jeff this week? Not much at all. It’s one of those rare moments when I’m reminded just how lucky I am. Don’t get use to it.

Live blogging the launch…

In the past, I’ve been in the habit of live blogging iStuff launches from the line at the Apple Store at Saaddle Creek. Since a trip to Memphis seemed a bit excessive even by obsessed Apple fanboy standards, I thought I’d change gears a bit this time around. I promise I’ll spare you the details of sitting in the kitchen casting longing looks out the door every time I here a large truck pass by. Today, I’ll focus a little on unboxing and adding a few pics and initial impressions.

If you’re wondering what I’m doing to pass the time, check out the forums at http://www.macrumors.com. They’re always a great time waster. Oh, and laundry. I’m doing that too. Judging from the line the local morning news programs are showing at Towson mall, hanging out here at the house seems like it might have been the best idea. Plus, sitting around in the rain never seems like a good idea.

Without further runup, here’s what we know so far…

– 0611: Package out for delivery from the UPS sorting facility in Newark, Delaware. Delivery address is still wrong on their website. Status: crapshoot.

– 0822: Six cups of coffee down. Dogs snoring. Tapping foot impatiently. Updates and pictures as breaking news happens.

– 1014: Still waiting. Coffee count is 12 cups.

– 1151: Still waiting. Hail the size of marbles and torrential rain. Switched to Coke Zero. If I’d have gotten up early this morning and stood in line I’d be up and running by now. Lesson learned.

– 1224: The mail truck sounds an awful lot like an UPS truck. Sadly, it only brings bills and other junk mail.

– 1336: And still waiting. Next launch I’ll be back in line. With iPhone 4 I was home, activated, synced, and at the Flying Saucer by this point in the day.

– 1428: Still waiting. Last visages of patience evaporating and beginning to seriously ponder the likelihood of finding a phone “in the wild” at a retailer at this late hour of the day.

– 1451: Aaaaaaand there goes the FedEx truck.

– 1523: FedEx truck #2 delivering on my street. Yet no UPS.

– 1544: It’s here. It’s here. It’s here!

– 1616: It’s now the traditional time on iPhone launch day when AT&T chokes.

– 1705: AT&T activated is still hosed. They are allegedly running 2-3 hours behind demand. After 5 years of doing this, one might think they’d have gotten an effing clue.

– 1759: Finally broke through the server jam. iPhone 4S is restoring from backup. We’ve got a pulse.