Modern Problems - Not Having A Phone Is A Bigger Deal Than I Thought

A while back, I made it all the way to the office before discovering that I'd left my wallet at home. After thinking about it for a moment, I was surprised to realize that it wasn't really that big a deal. Sure, I didn't have ID or credit cards, but I didn't really need them at the office. My train tickets were on my phone, and I could always use the phone to pay for lunch if I needed it. Leaving the wallet at home? No big deal!

Last Thursday, I woke up late because my alarm didn't go off. That silence was the sound of the other shoe dropping. My phone was stuck on the boot screen and was burning through the battery fast enough to make it double as a space heater. It turns out that, while not having a wallet is not a big problem, not having my phone is kind of crippling. Not only could I not access my train tickets, but I couldn't make calls (duh), receive messages, or, and this is the critical bit, authenticate my login for any of the more secure systems at work. I literally could not do my job without my phone.

My carrier didn't do a lot to help, either. A chat with their tech support confirmed that the phone had a "known issue" and would need to be replaced. I was informed that I could replace it any of their retail outlets, and that there would be a note on my account indicating that the troubleshooting had already been completed. The folks at the retail location were not on board with this process. They wanted to take a stab at fixing it and told me to come back in two hours. When I did, I was told that I did, in fact, have the "known issue" with my phone and would need to get a replacement.

The replacement would arrive in 3-5 days.

Someone else had the same issue I did, went to the same location, but managed to get better results. 

Someone else had the same issue I did, went to the same location, but managed to get better results. 

Did I mention that I literally could not do my job without my phone? I mentioned this to the people at the store. The options I was offered were to add another line to my account, or to buy out my current contract and start a new one. These were not especially attractive alternatives. They had my phone in stock, but I was told that I couldn't exchange mine with their existing stock because mine had a blue cover and these had black covers and "the serial numbers wouldn't match." I asked if any other local location had my phone, but I was informed that they couldn't check or even call other locations. I tried calling their central ordering line, the people who theoretically would have access to the inventory at all of their retail locations, but they were unable to help. 

I tried Best Buy next, and they busted their butts trying to find options that would work for me. They spent no less than two hours on the phone with my carrier trying to find some loophole that would allow me to have a working phone by the end of the day. They even offered me the option of "buying" an unlocked phone with a winking understanding that I'd return it when my replacement arrived. I declined, but that reminded me that I had an older phone in a drawer at home that might still work. I went home, brought it back to Best Buy, and they activated it. It wasn't pretty, but at least I was working again.

So, now that the dust has settled, there are two key takeaways from this experience:

  • Keep your last phone as a backup instead of recycling it or trading it in. Phones are now critical for work. Find out what the replacement policy is before signing the contract. 3-5 days is unacceptable and any carrier with this policy that doesn't at least offer a loaner should be ashamed.
  • For authentication that send you text messages, use your Google Voice number or some other virtual phone number. That way, even if your phone is dead, you'll receive the texts as emails or be able to access them online.