July 30, 2010 by Evin
The day started off with a crash – of carrot/peach juice in my grocery tote, leaking onto my trench. I should have known to crawl back into bed right then and guard myself against the fates. But when my husband and I decided that three years was long enough and it was time to upgrade mobile phones from pay-as-you-go to the iPhone 4 with plan, I was willing to wait outside the 3 store on Patrick’s Street to make it happen. Or at least try.
We arrived a couple minutes before 10:00 p.m. for the midnight launch. The roped off section in front of the store was empty. We started the queue. After two hours, there were about 50 people there. The turning point came when the 3 staff asked the crowd ‘who has reference numbers?’ What’s that?
Though it was poorly publicized, reference numbers were given to certain interested consumers allowing them to essentially skip the queue to reserve an iPhone. Half of the waiting crowd had an elusive reference code. One of the individuals stated that he got his code from a friend who worked at 3. Another said he just walked into the store and said he wanted to an iPhone and they took care of his paperwork then so he could just finalize things at midnight. Honestly, it reminded me of Thanksgiving turkeys or Harry Potter books – and not in a warm fuzzy way. Anyone with a reference number went to the front of the queue. When the reference code customers were helped the rest of us would get our turn. We patiently waited (ok, I whined quietly to myself). There was a bit of sadness from the queue because some people with reference numbers just walked up shortly before midnight. There was nothing on 3’s website mentioning that reference numbers were a possibility so it was a bit disheartening to feel this may have been reserved for ‘insiders’. The reference number folks were done after an hour and a half maybe then the 3 staff had a little meeting to discuss how to process the non-reference number customers.
We finally went into the store around 1:30 a.m. or so. We had all our documents in order, but there was one piece that was not listed on the website that we didn’t have so I ran home to get it and ran back. They processed our paperwork only to discover that our credit application was declined. This is evidently done by a company in India. They ran it again and it was declined. This brings up the interesting question, how much credit does one need when the monthly contract payment is €40 and the phone is being paid for up-front? So, we then find out that several people in a seemingly random distribution were also declined and this had been increasingly frequent over the course of the launch. Those being declined seemed to be grown-ups with proper jobs too, so it was a confusing situation. We decided to wait until Dave, the 3 store manager, spoke with the credit verification company in India, thinking this would resolve the issue. We waited. Finally, around 3:00 a.m., we were told by Dave they’d know the situation in the morning and they’d ring us shortly after 8:00 a.m. We went home. It was a surreal and disappointing experience.
This morning, another visit to the same 3 store to ask for an update yielded a twist of the proverbial knife when, while there, someone went in and seamlessly bought an iPhone. We started to wonder if the reason for being declined is because we were opting for the ‘classic’ plan which would bring less money to 3 overall. I know, it’s crazy talk. It just seems so odd that of those standing around with us having also been declined after credit verification, most said they could easily pay for the entire thing (phone and 18-month plan) in cash up-front but that option was not permitted.
The store opened seven hours ago and no progress on our request to purchase the iPhone 4 with monthly contract. I’m looking longingly at the tin cans on the kitchen counter and thinking there’s bound to be a bit of string lying around here.
UPDATE: We have returned to the store twice since that fateful night. Once the morning after when they opened and again the afternoon after. We offered to pay cash for the entire phone and service/monthly contract up front, but this was not permitted. The credit verification was declined once more because we have limited credit history in Ireland. Plus, there is a suspicion that this stems from minor errors or indiscrepancies in the application, such as middle initial versus middle name or some such thing. No matter the cause, even showing up with the cash and a bank-provided credit report stating good standing was not good enough to get an iPhone. While there for two hours this afternoon, someone else came in and completed the process in a mere ten minutes. Further insult to injury after spending eight of our last 24 hours on Earth in the 3 shop on Pana.