Conniptions on Contraptions: The Geezer Smartphone Saga Drags On

Amos_iPhoneWell, it’s time for more conniptions about contraptions, specifically smartphones, since I happen to be shopping for one these days. One I guess I won’t be getting is the Walmart version:

So my wife, Sena and I spent several hours today doing just that, getting misdirected and mystified over the U.S. Cellular website. You’ll soon guess where this might be heading in a moment. Sena is an expert on coupons, but I should have seen one of them as some kind of omen right away.

us cell coupon bamboozle

What kind of a coupon gives the game away with a code like “Bamboozle?” Anyway we started, naturally as any rational person would assume, by trying to select a new phone. Of course, we found out immediately that we had to log in to our account, verifying our plan, and–start shopping, right?

Not so fast.

We could get as far as seeing the tantalizing selection of colorful phones. But just trying to select one of them led to a strange warning:

We’re Sorry, But The Selected Account Is Not Eligible To Perform This Transaction Online. For Assistance, Please Contact Customer Service…

If we tried to start with clicking on the icon “Buy a phone,” it would reply that it could not find any selected devices. Well no, that’s because we haven’t selected anything yet.

If we tried to choose “Select a device,” it would promptly apologize:

We’re Sorry, But The Selected Account Is Not Eligible To Perform This Transaction Online. For Assistance, Please Contact Customer Service…

What the…? We went around and around with this for a good while. We didn’t want to start shopping as a “New Customer,” which we thought might risk creating another account and a new plan for which we’d be obligated to pay as well in addition to our existing plan.

We’re not new. We’re old.

So we called the 800 number for customer service. Pardon me while a I shed a tear and complete a conniption fit, because I’m having horrible memories of the Clozapine REMS Program at the moment.

It’s another endless loop.

The representative politely suggested switching to another web browser. I have some facility with this maneuver and dutifully tried operations on Internet Explorer (although I guess I have to call it Microsoft Edge now), Google Chrome, and even Mozilla Firefox–with the same resultant shenanigans.

The representative helpfully recommended clearing cookies. I happen to know how to do that too and complied. The circle didn’t stop spinning. How could the FDA possibly be involved with my cell phone carrier? What sort of byzantine plot are they hatching and why?

Sena did all the talking–with both the first and the second representative. But I couldn’t help wondering what conversation might have occurred had I tried to negotiate with the Clozapine…excuse me…the U.S. Cellular representative:

et-phoneU.S. Cellular Representative: Hello, my name is E.T. Barnum with Ultra Superior Cellulite, we’re being recorded for quality and training purposes. How can I torture you?




Dr. Amos on phoneDr. Amos: What? Who did you say you are?





et-phoneE.T.: Whom do I have the pleasure of confusing today?




Dr. Amos on phoneDr. Amos: I’m Dr. Amos, and I have a few questions about buying a smartphone.





et-phoneE.T.: Sure thing, Dr. Amos. We have a large selection. You’re not going to be like one of those customers who walks into a bar which has a beverage menu the size of Stedman’s Medical Dictonary and says, “Gimme a beer” are you?




Dr. Amos on phone 6Dr. Amos: No.





et-phoneE.T.: Good! Let’s get started!




Dr. Amos on phoneDr. Amos: I’d like a new phone.





et-phoneE.T.: Great. We have about a scadzillion, just on your planet alone…




Dr. Amos on phone 2Dr. Amos: I want a smartphone.




et-phoneE.T.: Well that cuts it down to about a few billion. What’ll you have?




Dr. Amos on phone 3Dr. Amos: I can’t seem to make your website work. Every time I try to choose a phone, it tells me I’m out of luck.




et-phoneE.T.: We don’t have any messages like that; they usually go something like, “We’re sorry, you must list a planet to begin your search.”




Dr. Amos on phone 4Dr. Amos: Look, I can’t pick a phone because you guys say my account is not eligible or some nonsense like that.




et-phoneE.T.: Well, why didn’t you say so? Let me look up your account…OK, Dr. Amos, it looks like (this is hard to believe) your plan is old. In fact it’s so old it was retired years ago.



Dr. Amos on phone 5Dr. Amos: Are you kidding me? That’s unbelievable!





et-phoneE.T.: You just have to believe! What you’ll need to do first is select “Change Your Plan.” Then you can start shopping for your brand-spanking new smartphone, which will only cost you about $700!




Dr. Amos on phone 2Dr. Amos: What? Why didn’t you tell me that a half hour ago? Why can’t I just select “Change Your Phone” and let your website automatically redirect me to the site where I can change my plan, with a polite message saying this step is necessary because the plan is outdated?



et-phoneE.T.: Where’s the fun in that?




Dr. Amos on phone 1Dr. Amos: You sound awfully familiar. Did you formerly work for the Clozapine REMS Program?




et-phoneE.T.: Oh yeh, congratulate me…I was promoted. Boy am I glad I’m not working for those clowns anymore!




If you’re not sure which of the lines above reflect reality, I’ll help you. They’re in red type font. No kidding–our plan was actually retired years ago…and when we change it, we discover the current plan would cost us measurably less.  They’re not going to reach out to you about that feature, mind you. I told you, I’m old…but not retired…yet.

I still don’t have my new smartphone…but I’m closer.

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