“Thanks, but I don’t want a free one, I think I’d rather report on the purchasing experience as a consumer”. These words haunted me for most of yesterday and I don’t think I’ll find myself saying them again soon.
As you saw from my live videos (powered by the excellent Qik) I spent yesterday morning embedded in the Carphone Warhouse store on Oxford Street to report on the purchasing experience of the new iPhone 3G. Thanks to the Carphone Warehouse PR folks I was able to get in early and rush about getting videos and asking questions without losing my place in queue as they’d reserved me a black 16GB iPhone 3G.
So that I did, and once I was done poncing around in a new meedja fashion I sat down to go through the purchasing process. By this time O2′s credit checking facility had long since failed and was probably a smouldering pile of plastic and silicon in the corner of a datacentre somewhere. Carphone Warehouse, being “Europe’s leading independent retailer of mobile phones and services” had their own credit checking system and had switched over to using that instead. Excellent, I thought, that’s just the sort of dynamic flexibility we love to hear about on SMS Text News. As I sat down with Chaz, the sales assistant, his store manager, Imran, came over and carefully placed a shrinkwrapped 16GB iPhone down on the desk, “This is the last one“.
I gave all my details over to Chaz and he tapped them into the 1980′s looking interface on his screen and told me that before we could begin we need to do a security check. Chaz explained that this security check works using my chip and pin credit or debit card to confirm my address by taking, then refunding a Â£1 charge. Sure, I said as I popped my debit card into the machine, waited, and then tapped my PIN in.
Then there was a nervous pause.
- PIN OK
- Please remove card
A sigh of relief!, I’d successfully proved where I lived! I wasn’t a lying and I really am…. BZZZZT! Up on Chaz’s screen an ominous error message appeared:
- Customer failed security check
“But… but it said authorised!” I whimpered, imagining the last remaining 16GB iPhone being slowly taken away from me. “Yes, but you failed the security check, this happens sometimes, maybe it’s formatted differently on the bank’s systems. Let’s try some variations” Chaz helpfully suggested.
We tried every variation of my address possible, even some very unlikely ones. Each time the message eventually came back “Customer failed security check”.
I rang my bank and after explaining the problem was told “Oh, yes Mr Lane, we can see multiple charges going through for Â£1 and we’re authorising them, none have been declined.”. The helpful man from my bank also read my address out for me with the exact formatting so we could try it again – “Customer failed security check”.
Finally, I remembered my emergency credit card!, it’s with a different bank who might have my address formatted differently. In slid the card…
- PIN OK
- Please remove card
- “Customer failed security check”.
Out came my first generation iPhone and I angrily tapped in the 0845 number written on the back of my card. After some delay and further explanation I was told “No sir, we can’t see any requests coming in but I can set a flag so we can authorise them if they do”.
It was at this point I was starting to think that their system was somewhat flawed. I mean, it wasn’t a total failure because all around me there were people slowly buying iPhones and walking out with them. Just not me.
I made a desperate “help me” face at Ruth from Carphone Warehouse’s PR dept and she came over right away to ask what the problem was. I explained, Chaz explained and she flipped open her phone and made some calls to Carphone’s central processing dept who did something and suggested we try the last card again… BZZT “Customer failed security check”. The chap from central processing eventually called back and said it was the banks declining the request. A stalemate had occurred with Carphone blaming the banks and the banks blaming Carphone.
By now we’d been trying to get their system to confirm my address for over an hour, in that time I could have rounded up Chaz, Imran and Ruth in a cab and taken them to see where I live and had a nice cup of tea. Imran informed me that he was unable to override the security check system and furthermore he couldn’t hold on the the 16GB iPhone much longer and that they’d need to sell it.
Imran and Ruth said they would escalate it and I gave them my card before leaving the store and heading over to SMS Text News Towers.
To be continued with part two, “Apple succeeds in selling me an iPhone, eventually!” in which our intrepid iPhone hunter queues for eight and a half hours in the Apple Store.