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Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to handle a broken phone

Like most of us, I’m stuck in a contract-relationship with my phone company. Mostly, it doesn’t make much difference in my life, but there are times when I feel very frustrated with the lack of choice or options. Since they know they own me, they make all the rules and all I can do is follow along.

I got a new phone just over two weeks ago, and I really like it. For a not-so-young and only moderately tech-savvy woman, I’m learning how to use it pretty well. I can do all the things I bought it for and more.

I’m extremely cautious with this very slender electronic wonder covered in glass. I handle it carefully and never put it in my pocket. I haven’t dropped it or set anything down on it. So, imagine my surprise when I lifted it off the end table two nights ago, pressed the button on the bottom-center, and heard a pop. The accompanying crack quickly spread. From the spider-web configuration by the button, two fissures grew—one diagonally and the other all the way up the length of the phone.

What the fuck? Yes, I believe that was my not-so-eloquent response. But, the phone was only two weeks old that day. Certainly the company would take responsibility for this manufacturing flaw.
Hah! You are probably saying right now that I am very naive. Well, as it turns out, I did get a mostly-free replacement phone, but it has been an ordeal and in case you need to follow in my footsteps, here’s what you do.

First, you go to the store where you bought it. You have to go there even though they will not want to talk to you and will tell you they can’t help you. What they will do is give you a piece of paper that looks unimportant. It has a lot of fairly useless information on it, but also contains the addresses of “local” AT&T repair shops.

Next, you drive to another location which is almost certainly much further away. Ours was about thirty-five minutes further.

Then you wait in line to talk to a kid wearing a pin-on tie with a five-o’clock shadow that is probably five days old. When you get to the front of the line, you tell him the same thing you’ve just explained to the pimple-faced kid and then the manager (who was only about a year older than the kid) of the first store. Then you hand him your phone. If you’re at all attached to it, say goodbye first because you will never see it again.

He will hold your phone in two fingers as if it is a nasty piece of refuse and ask if you went to the store where you bought it. 

"Yes. They said they couldn't do anything."

"Did they give you a work order?"

"Um... they gave me a piece of paper with your address on it, but they didn't write anything on it."

"Do you have it?"

Fish the folded form-letter out and hand it over. 

"Okay. Here are your options." The word “options” is used, but the reality is there is only one option. You must now pay for a new phone.

“How much will that cost?”


Gasp. “But I just bought it two weeks ago! I haven’t done anything to it. It obviously had a manufacturing flaw.”

“We can’t take back a broken phone and give you a new one.”

“But… you can sell me a phone that only lasts two weeks and then I have to come in and buy a new one?”

“Well, a new one would cost $400.00 because you're not eligible for an upgrade.”

“Of course I'm not. I just bought this two weeks ago!"


"So, I have to give you another hundred and a quarter because two weeks ago you sold me a phone that wasn’t made right.”

“I can’t take back a broken phone and give you a new one.” 

Stare him down for a few moments at this point, waiting for him to give you something more. He will finally say, “You can call AT&T and complain if you want.”

“What if this one breaks in two weeks? Do I have to pay you again?”

“I can’t take a broken phone and give you a new one.”

The woman next-in-line looks on impatiently.

 “How much would it cost if I’d bought the insurance?”

“Then it would cost you $199.00.”


“There’s a fee to carry your insurance over to the new phone.”

“So you’re saying if I’d bought the insurance it would have cost me more.

Unblinking, he says, “Yes.”

“Well, I guess I don’t really have any choice.”

“So, you want me to replace the phone?”

“You’ve only given me one possible option and now you’re asking me if I want to take it.”

“If you like, you can browse the AT&T store while you wait.”

Swallow all the rest of what you’d like to explain to this kid. It isn’t his fault, you tell yourself. You walk off to wait, but you refuse to look at anything else in this store. You really want to warn the prospective buyers who are talking to salesmen on the floor. You fantasize for about fifteen minutes. It takes time to bring your photos and other information over to the new phone.

Then, you hand over your credit card and pay—about $135.00 with tax.

Then you head home where you can spike your data usage while you “update” your new phone for the second time in two weeks. Then you put in all your passwords again, re-download programs you use, and lament informative or funny conversations you’ve lost on your instant-message log. Finally, you decide you will call AT&T, just for a laugh.

You wait on hold for about forty minutes. You explain for the fourth time what happened to your phone. The tech on the other end of the line replies sympathetically in a strong accent. He doesn’t offer any other options but you persist. He leaves you on hold several times to speak to a manager. Finally, after another half-an-hour, good news! Because you are a valued customer, they’re going to credit your next bill 125 dollars! You get everything back… except the tax… and the lost information from your first phone… and an entire Saturday.


  1. And it just keeps getting worse.
    Cable company.

    What I wonder is....where's my paycheck for doing everyone else's job?
    God Bless.

  2. The guy at the 2nd store must’ve had one heck of a pokerface. That, or he’s just jaded from all the other people that came in before you. Still, having to pay for a new one in only two weeks time would definitely rile me up as well. It’s a good thing that AT&T decided to give you that credit for your trouble, although technically you still lost out on time and tax.



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