Locked, out of stock and over a barrel

Smitty runs up against the deep, dark secret of American wireless marketing:

I had occasion to return my handset to the manufacturer today. I shipped the wee gadget off to Huntsville, AL for to see the phone doctor.

There is an AT&T shop near the mail joint, so I figured I’d go buy a cheap backup handset from my preferred vendor, slide in the SIM card, and have something to tide me over until my main handset returns.

Too sensible. This sort of reasoning will not be tolerated.

I explained my situation, picked out a decent handset and set about buying the thing. The sales guy said that there would be no refund on an unlocked phone. Store credit, sure, but no money back, since I’m not an AT&T customer. I trust my brand, so fine. He has me sign something explicitly stating that I understand this proviso, which I think a bit much, but I’m still trusting the creep.

So I bought the thing, and then he started to tell me about the unlocking process, to get it to work outside of AT&T. He couldn’t do that in the store, he had to call some service guy. Fine. Called up this guy, collected my contact information. They guy informed me that it’s going to be 72 hours before they can email me the magic code to unlock the phone.

It could be worse, though. Try this with a CDMA network provider. The phones aren’t technically locked, but they’re not truly unlocked either: they require something more than a string of characters to be made to work on somebody else’s network.

All sorts of Bad Deals characterize the American wireless biz. My own phone, as manufactured, has no problems with MP3 files, but the function has been crippled by orders of the network provider: you can’t use them for ringtones unless they themselves sold them to you. The alternative is (gag) WMA.

Says Smitty:

Your policy blows the grand wazoo, and people should find other vendors with less crappy policies.

Vendors, if pressed on the matter, will argue that it’s those crappy policies that keep them in business.

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8 comments

  1. McGehee »

    23 September 2009 · 9:50 pm

    My own phone, as manufactured, has no problems with MP3 files, but the function has been crippled by orders of the network provider: you can’t use them for ringtones unless they themselves sold them to you.

    Ugh.

    The only restriction for ringtones on my phone is file size; I can’t assign it as a ringtone if it’s longer than, say this one I trimmed out of a full-length track.

  2. CGHill »

    23 September 2009 · 10:08 pm

    This would seem like a good time to link back to my own experience with producing the little sound bites.

  3. smitty »

    24 September 2009 · 4:52 am

    The mind-blowing point from a capitalistic perspective is that there is no one capitalizing on the business opportunity to treat customers as other than a spittoon.

  4. ms7168 »

    24 September 2009 · 12:19 pm

    US Cellular is bad about forcing their EasyEdge internet service upon customers to get ring tones and the like. However if your phone has Bluetooth you can connect to other phones and get tones that way or to the computer =if= your phone’s Bluetooth is capable of telling the computer what it can do. Mine will not so therefore I can’t get anything from the computer :(
    I can from another phone.

  5. McGehee »

    24 September 2009 · 12:35 pm

    I transfer sound files using a microSDHC card.

  6. Old Grouch »

    24 September 2009 · 5:27 pm

    …it’s those crappy policies that keep them in business.

    Barf.

    And haven’t they ever heard of churn? Or customer acquisition cost?

    If anything is keeping them in business, it’s everyone else’s crappy policies.

  7. Scooby214 »

    24 September 2009 · 7:55 pm

    If you still have your Nokia 6133, the solution is to convert your mp3 ringtone to wma format. I did this using Winlame with my ringtones, then copied them back to the phone. They work great that way.

    The newer T-Mobile phones are still pretty locked down, though they will allow you to use “Non T-Mobile purchased” mp3 ringtones.

  8. CGHill »

    24 September 2009 · 9:19 pm

    Ye olde Audiograbber CD ripper will apparently handle WMAs should I be so inclined: at least it’s an output option.

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