iPhone 7 Launch

As those of you who have kept up with my story for awhile know, I work in Telco (for those of you who haven’t – surprise!).  While Telco has a tendency to get busy over Christmas (like all retail), we have a different time of year that brings out the crazy in all our customers, and people storming through the doors.  For us, this happens every September, when Apple announce their latest iGadget and the world goes into meltdown.

There are two types of people who work in Telco – those who can’t stand iPhone launches, and those who live for them.  I am in the latter category, which is lucky, as the iPhone 7 launch was my fifth one, although first in this job.  I worked the 4s, 5, 5s and 6 launches, although unfortunately missed out on the 6s as I was between jobs at the time.  You’d think the novelty would have worn off by now, but you’d be wrong.  If anything, my excitement grows every year.  Seriously, this is my Christmas.  I count down to it.  I love knowing all the nitty, gritty details about what the plan is for the day in advance.  I love reading up on the new phone, ready to answer all the questions that will come flying at me that day.  Previously, I’d spend hours designing posters advertising accessory packs, and drooling over which cases we could have in stock by launch day.  iPhone launch is my thing.

This year promised to be my biggest launch yet – not necessarily for the turnout, but just that I work in the biggest Telco store in the country, a store where the media flock to on a frequent basis.  I’ve never experienced something like that before, and it was so exciting knowing it was coming up.

Let’s step back though.  Back several weeks.  In fact, let’s go back a couple of months.  This is the quietest time in the Telco year.  The calm before the storm.  Our store is right in the middle of two of the busiest roads in the country, so we are always pretty chaotic.  The closer it got to September though, the more often I found myself looking around, expecting a customer to serve, and instead got nothing.  It was a nice change, but I also knew it wouldn’t last.  The one thing all Telco employees hate in this lead-up though is the customers who walk in, proclaiming they know all about the upcoming iPhone and when it will be released and what features it will have.  They believe that because they have mastered how to type “new iPhone” into Google, that they suddenly know more than anyone in the shop, and refuse point blank to believe that anything they read could be a rumour, or made up.  They don’t understand how secretive Apple are, and how very little Telco employees know – I can tell you we get told absolutely nothing.  As far as I’m aware, even Apple employees themselves don’t get told anything.  It’s all on a need-to-know basis with Apple, and as frontline staff, we definitely do not need to know.  So sorry, Mr Customer, if I take what you’re telling me with a very large grain of salt.

The calm goes right through until Apple’s Keynote announcement, which for Aussies, happens at 3am.  From then on, things start picking up again in store, if only for customers walking in, asking to see the phone, and getting frustrated and/or disappointed when we say “it isn’t out yet, it was just announced, come back in a week”.  Still, the storm is well and truely brewing.  The other reason people come in is for pre-orders, which I still find a fairly new concept, as Apple only allowed this for the last three launches.  Prior to that, it was line up or risk missing out.  I’m on the fence about pre-orders – on one hand it’s great as it means customers can get their new iToys quickly without having to take time off work, but on the other, it dampens the spirit of iPhone launch a little bit.  I still remember iPhone 4s launch clear as day, with lines snaking around the shopping complex as people eagerly waited for the chance to grab their own device.  The atmosphere is electric because the people in line knew they’d be the first in the world to get them, and rightly so, as they braved the elements camping out for it.  Now, with pre-orders, people can arrange a phone delivered to their home or office on launch day, all with a couple of clicks.  Not really the same vibe.

Anyway, launch day eve finally rolls around.  In this massive store, an incredible amount of planning has gone into the day, right down to where each staff member is sitting and when they’re going on lunch.  Nobody knows if there will be ten people or a thousand people waiting the next day.  Hell, we don’t even know for sure what stock we’ll have.  All we know is, the storm is about to bare down on us, and we need to be ready to ride it out, whether it’s gritting your teeth and fighting through it, or like me – grabbing a surfboard and enjoying the ride!

Safe to say I didn’t get much sleep the night before.  I was rostered to start at 7am, but got there well before 6.30.  I was buzzing with excitement, so much so I could barely contain myself.  There had been people camping out, but only a handful.  Still, that wasn’t much of an indication of how the day would go, as most of our customers work in the city and would no doubt come in closer to starting-time.

We all grabbed our laptops, food and caffeinated beverages, and listened to the managers give pep talks.  We were given a run down of the plans (again) and told where we’d be sitting.  We then headed downstairs, where they’d set up a red carpet, a DJ booth and bowls and bowls of candy for the customers.  The media were already out in force, with at least 3 different major news carriers there, waiting to film the first customer collecting his iPhone.  There were also famous footy players there to add to the hype.  We all got into a group behind them, where photos were taken, and video was captured that landed on several news stations.

As with all launches, we aren’t allowed to sell any of the phones until 8am.  God help you if you sell one before then!  Apple have ways to track this and you don’t want to piss off one of the largest companies in the world.

As 8am crept closer, we met with all the customers in the line, and then the countdown began.  I’m talking a literal countdown, like on NYE.  Then the doors opened, the the first customer came through the doors, with the media swarming him, asking what it was like to camp out overnight and what it felt like to be one of the first people in the world to get an iPhone 7.  We all got our own customers, and the day was off.

The media hung around for most of the morning, filming everything we were doing.  We had managers walking around, trying to feed us sugar, and our barista was handing out coffees by the trayful.  The music was pumping and all the customers seemed to enjoy the set up.  Despite being very early in the morning for someone like me, I was loving every second of it.

Keyword: was.

By midday, my excitement levels had dropped off a little.  There weren’t as many customers as we’d been hoping for (thanks mostly to our record number of pre-orders), and exhaustion had begun to set in.  By the last hour of my (very long) shift, I was a walking zombie.  I couldn’t even fain excitement any more.  My legs hurt, my eyes were drooping and even my crush couldn’t lift my spirits much.  I’ve never felt that exhausted that early on a launch day.  Usually, I can work through from 7am to 10pm at night and still be buzzing.  I think it came down to the fact that we wound up sitting around a lot instead of being constantly go-go-going, which gave me time to realize how wrecked I was.

Overall, it was a fun day, but I was extremely glad to be told I could leave half an hour early.  The second I got home, I flicked on the TV and counted how many times I was on it – multiple times over three different stations.  Once the news ended, I went straight to bed and slept like the dead.

And if you think that iPhone launch ending also brings the end to the storm, you are dead wrong.  It has been, and will continue to be, absolutely crazy busy for the next several months.  Some days this is great as it makes the shift fly by, and other times, it’s like walking straight into hell.  You are constantly surrounded by masses of people, and when stock is out (which is 90% of the time right now), the only question on everyone’s lips is “when is it back in?”, which we never have an answer for.

Regardless of any of this, next September will leave me counting down until launch again.  It’s addictive and electric and if there comes a day when I’m not in Telco, I’m going to sorely miss it.

How many of you have gotten the new iPhone?

J x

Telco Horror Stories – Part Two

Welcome to my second instalment of Telco Horror Stories!  To read my first one, click here.  As I said previously, while telco can be a challenging industry, these stories are ones that stuck with me purely because they don’t happen all the time.  Telco isn’t a horrible career.  In fact, overall, I enjoyed it, but regular customers don’t make for interesting stories!

“You’re all scammers!” Bill Issue Guy

This was a customer I had to deal with personally.  He’d come in about four months prior and signed up for a home phone and internet package, which all went smoothly (I didn’t serve him but the girl who did said they’d been no issues).  Anyway, the transaction started off okay, he came in wanting to pay his bill.  No big deal.  I process it and grab his receipt and expect that to be the end of it.  Instead, he asks nicely, “I just want to know why my bill is this much?”.  This is a question we get at least once a shift from bill payment customers, so I didn’t think much of it.  I glance at the bill, and look at him.  “Well, because that’s the plan you’re on.  See here?  $100 plan, and that’s what they’ve charged you”.  I didn’t understand why he was asking me that.  Seemed pretty logical.  But oh boy, had I started something.  He stated that he’d been promised that it was actually $80 per month, not $100, the girl who signed him up told him so.  I was very confused – we can’t offer random discounts in store, and we didn’t have a plan at all for the price he’s describing.  When I tell him that, he blows up, saying we’re all out to get his money and he wasn’t advised that the plan he was signing was $100 (despite all the paperwork stating that was the plan he was going on) and that’s it’s too much for him to pay each month.  Trying not to escalate the situation, I ask him if he has the paperwork at home, to which he says he does.  I advise him that if the rep has written anywhere on the paperwork that there was supposed to be a discount, that I can investigate it for him, but unless he can bring that in, I can’t help him.  Honestly, I didn’t believe him, but I would have looked into it further with paperwork.  He says he absolutely does not have time to come back and he wants it fixed right then and there because “the girl who served me is a scam artist and lied to me!”.  The argument went on for a long time, going around in circles.  I couldn’t just take his word for it, the girl wasn’t working and he refused to bring the paperwork in.  He wound up leaving, saying I was in on it too and we’re all just dirty liars who want his money.  I thought that was the end of it – I’d caught him out in a lie and he’d stop trying.

Nope.

A couple of months later he comes in again and I wind up serving him.  I didn’t recognise him straight away because it had been so long.  Once again, he processes his bill payment before starting up again about how the store is ripping him off.  I recognised him then.  I cut him off before he could start on his rant, and asked if he’d bought his paperwork in.  He said that he hadn’t, but that I he shouldn’t have to prove anything to me anyway and I should help him.  I gave him a big smile, told him I’m not going to argue with him again and that I’ll see him when he brings in the paperwork like he was asked to, and moved onto the next customer.  He never came back.

“Prove You’re a Manager!”

This guy will haunt my telco nightmares forever.  I knew it was going to be bad the second I laid eyes on him, though I’d never have guessed how bad at the time.  In telco, you know when someone is coming back into the store with one of our bags that there’s going to be a problem.  Nobody comes back with the bag for no reason.  Add to that he’d arrived right on the dot of 9am when we open, and shuffled impatiently back and forth until the door was opened.  As it was a weekday morning, there was only myself and one other person working.  Despite not being a morning person and feeling like death, I plastered a smile on my face and asked how I can help him.

“Can we sit down and talk?”

Oh God.  Not one of these people.  Whenever anyone uses that line, you know you’re in for a long “chat”.  I agree and we sit down.  The customer starts off nicely (surprisingly so, considering he’s bought back something in one of our bags) and explains that he signed up the previous night with Ashleigh and she’s made a big mistake.  I kept my pokerface, but instantly I become sceptical – I know Ashleigh and she doesn’t make stupid mistakes.  Some of the staff do (from lack of experience or from not doing well under pressure) but Ashleigh is rarely one of them.  Anyway, he states that he asked for a 64GB phone, not the 16GB he’d been issued.  I just couldn’t believe that Ash would have made that kind of rookie mistake.  Firstly, I had a look at his paperwork from the previous night, to make sure she’d chosen 16GB in the system – the easiest way to see if the rep has messed up is if the paperwork says 64GB, because it means she probably just grabbed a phone from the wrong pile.  Nope, it says 16GB.  I check the paperwork is signed, which it is.  Then I start asking questions.

“So, when Ash went through this with you, did she quote this price per month?”

He said that she did.  I then advised that if he were to get a bigger model, he’d be paying more each month.  Well, that did it.  He went from Mr Nice Guy to Mr Asshat just like that.

“What do you mean, pay more?  That’s ridiculous.  I came in and gave her this and told her this is what I wanted!”

He shoves a scrap of paper in my face.  I glance at it.  It literally had 4 words scribbled on it.  “iPhone 6 $69 monthly”.  I point out that he’s been given exactly that – his plan is coming to $69 per month, and he got an iPhone 6.  For that price, he gets a 16GB.  If he got 64GB it would be more than that per month.

“No no no!  Look at the paper!  The memory size isn’t big enough!”

I try to stay calm in the face of his irrationalism.  I point out that nowhere on that slip of paper does it state a memory size.  “Did you tell Ashleigh that you wanted 64GB?”

“No, I didn’t know I needed that at the time.  My daughter wrote this out.  I got home and she told me they’d given me the wrong one!”

Gotcha.

“So you’re telling me that you didn’t know that you needed 64GB, and you handed this over to Ashleigh with the 16GB price on it, and she was expected to know you needed a bigger memory size?” That probably sounds like I was being patronising.  Maybe I was, but I was doing my best to sound professional.  He didn’t appreciate the question.  He completely flipped out, demanding to speak to the manager.  The manager – right then – was me.  He really didn’t like that.

“So you’re saying you’re the manager but you won’t let me swap my phone over for a bigger memory size?  Even though your girl messed up?”

“Firstly, you’ve opened the phone, so I can’t take that back.  Secondly, even if I did swap it over, you’d be paying more for the 64GB model.  Lastly, like I’ve already explained to you, Ashleigh didn’t mess up.”

“But before I came in I looked online and the 64GB price was $69 per month!” he was yelling in my face now.

“The website has the same prices as us.  If Ashleigh could have given you the 64GB at that price, she would have.  The 16GB and 64GB are never the same price.”

“THAT’S RUBBISH!  YOU’RE TRYING TO RIP ME OFF!  I HAVE THE WEBSITE PRINTED OUT AT HOME!”

I tried to stay calm, but was quickly losing my patience.  “Well if you do, then bring it in and we can discuss it further.” I knew damn well he was bluffing.  The website would never have had the 64GB at that price.

“I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER!”

“Sir, I’ve already told you, you’re speaking to her.”

“I want a business card.  I want proof!”

I legitimately had run out of business cards.  We rarely order them because for the most part, we rarely give them out.  When I advised him of this, he raged harder, demanding again and again I produce a business card for him.  I offered several times to write my name and store number out for him, but that wasn’t good enough.  He then demanded I call my regional manager or the head of Optus or someone else who could change the situation.  I told him in no uncertain terms that it’s up to me and unfortunately, as the store has done nothing wrong, I wasn’t going to swap it (I wasn’t able to even if I wanted to since the box was opened, and I definitely couldn’t give him a bigger model for the same price).  Finally, I cracked.  By then there were other customers waiting and the other rep was already busy.

“Sir, we’re going around in circles and I’ve already told you many times I don’t have a business card for you and I can’t help you.  I’m going to serve someone else now.”

He kept raging.  Suddenly, the old lady who had been waiting patiently for at least ten minutes piped up.  “Leave her alone!  She’s trying to help you and you aren’t listening!” He didn’t like being called out on his rudeness, and finally stormed out.  I assumed that was the end of it.

I started serving the lovely old lady.  She knew I was upset from the previous customer and told me not to worry about him.  Customers like that are the reason why I like telco so much.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the guy has come back with someone else in tow.  I sighed and tried to keep my cool.  The lady smiled at me and told me to serve him, she’d wait.

I got up and realized who he’d dragged along with him.  Someone from the shopping centre’s helpdesk.  I couldn’t even hide my surprise.  What was he doing?

I awkwardly said hi to her, then looked at him.  He started out on his tirade again, telling the poor lady that I was ripping him off and I couldn’t prove I was the manager and he had proof (at home) that the 64GB model was $69 a month.  I felt awful for her.  This isn’t her job.

I calmly turned to her (and completely ignored him) and explained – again – the whole situation.  She turned to him and said “look, this isn’t my job, but what she’s saying makes sense.  Why don’t you just let her write down her details and if you want to make a complaint, call the company directly?”

If looks could kill, we’d both be dead.  He huffed and puffed by finally agreed that I could write down my name and store number.  “You’re getting fired for this, mark my words!” he called after him as he left.  I quickly apologised to the girl, who shrugged it off.  The old lady who’d been watching the whole thing piped up “she did nothing wrong, he’s just a bully!”.  The girl couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything from him – or anything about his complaint through customer service – again…well, except in my nightmares.

Faulty Accessory Kid

This wasn’t one of my customers – thankfully.  A kid, maybe 16, walks into the store and hangs around awkwardly at the back.  We at first aren’t sure if he wants service or whether he’s waiting for someone. Eventually we work out he does want help, and Lisa goes and serves him. He takes a seat, pulls out his dirty iPhone 5 in a protective case and tells her he wants a refund on the case.  Lisa looks at the grimy, dusty case and asks what’s wrong with it. “It’s supposed to be a tough case but it’s broken”. He points to a slight crack on the edge of it. “It says there’s a two year warranty so I want my money back.”

Lisa looks awkwardly at him. It was pretty obvious he’d given the case quite a beating and therefore it would fall under wear and tear. Being nice though, she decides to ask more questions to be sure. She finds out he’s had the case well over a year, doesn’t have the original packaging, doesn’t know which store it was purchased from and – best of all – doesn’t know if his mum kept the receipt.

“I’m sorry but without a receipt we can’t refund it.” Lisa tells him.  He doesn’t take it well, and despite being only young, asks to speak to the manager.

The manager Kye comes out and the kid once again demands a refund. Kye tells the kid the same thing as Lisa, adding that if he doesn’t even know where he got it, there’s really nothing the store can do.

“But why is there a warranty on it then?!” He asked.

Kye – in his typical patient fashion – explained what warranty covered and how he needs a receipt to claim it and he also needs to go back to the store he got it to refund it as our systems aren’t linked. The kid wasn’t buying it, assuming we just didn’t want to help him. After reinteratimg once more there’s nothing we can do right now, Kye goes back to what he was doing. Instead of leaving, the kid decides to randomly hang around for an awkwardly long period of time, I guess hoping if he did someone would cave and refund it to get him out of the store. If only it were actually as simple as that. He finally left after about twenty minutes and we thought the drama was over.

The next day Kye gets an angry phone call from the kid’s mother, demanding to know why he wasn’t issued a refund. He explained the whole policy again, adding that if she can’t supply a receipt, she might want to contact the case manufacturer directly. Again, we all thought that it was over.

Telco lesson: it’s never over.

The following morning a lady with a double pram and two young kids is waiting impatiently out the front before we’ve even opened the shop.  When the shop does open, she marches in and asks to speak to Kye. He comes out and is faced with the lady on the phone from yesterday, waving around the damaged case and saying things like “I know my rights!”.  Kye was at a loss as she still didn’t have her receipt. He also found out the case wasn’t purchased from our store, so he couldn’t refund it even if he wanted to.  She didn’t like that answer and yelled and screamed about how unfair it was and how she didn’t want to go back to the the other store. Once again Kye told her to contact the manufacturer directly.  She left in a huff.

The following week Kye received several more calls from the upset woman, with her demanding her money back each time.  She came back into the store again, telling him that she’d spoken to the manufacturer and they couldn’t help her either (without a receipt that’s hardly a surprise).  Being the nice guy he is, he tells her he’ll speak to the people we buy the cases off and see if they can recommend anything.

Unfortunately, the rep was away for a whole week (terrible timing) and the calls came in daily asking what we were going to do. Finally Kye managed to get onto the rep who said as a once off, we could swap it for her without a receipt.  When Kye told the lady that, she was upset at first, saying she didn’t want it swapped because it will just break again, but finally agreeing to it when she realized it was her only real option.

She came in again and the swap was about to be done when we realized we only had white in stock and not black like she’d originally purchased. We couldn’t even order in any black ones as they were on backorder with no ETA of when they’d be available again. Once again, Kye was screamed at and once again, he told her if she isn’t happy then she’d have to deal directly with the manufacturer.  She begrudgingly accepted the swap and finally the saga was over, almost 3 weeks later.

Stay tuned, there are plenty more stories to come!

-JD