My New iPhone!!! And Learning to Navigate the Chaos that is Spanish Cell Service.

You are probably looking at the title of this entry and thinking, “has she been functioning without a cell phone for the last 8 1/2 months??”.   The answer to that is no, I have a cell phone.  A Blackberry if you must know.  However, my cell phone is a US Blackberry with a Spanish SIM card.  It is a marriage that has not been working and after 8 months of having to shut down my phone several times a week (if not per day) in order to receive messages, a ringer that never seems to ring and an internet connection that won’t work because for some reason it sends mixed messages about whether it is a Spanish or US phone, it was time to make the leap.  A leap to a new phone and a new carrier.

Why a new carrier?  Well when we moved here and Josh was getting our apartment ready for the arrival of myself and the kids, he was in charge of getting my cell phone.  Now he did nothing wrong so my change is not because of him – he did exactly what I would have done.  He went to the 3rd party vendor that does EVERYTHING in English.  Yup, I would have done that too.  In addition to them speaking English, the contract was a nice short one, 3 months and then month by month from there.  So it would give us time to determine who we want to be with and to adjust to our new Spanish life without having to deal with a phone.

So now 8 1/2 months into things I’ve decided I cannot bear this phone any more.  I was going to just suck it up but when Josh pointed out that both Orange and Vodafone (the two primary carriers here) were having deals on the iPhone I decided what the hell, might as well jump on the iPhone bandwagon.

But who here has ever gone to a cell phone store and enjoyed the transaction that takes place when going thru all the options of plans, data, number of minutes, who can you call (same carrier or does it cost to call a different carrier), when can you call, etc etc etc.  Ok think about how torturous that is for you.  Ok, now do it in Spanish.  Yeah, your getting it.  NOT FUN.

I had done some research prior to going to Vodafone, my new choice of carrier known to have a much better network than my current carrier, Orange.  I knew both were having deals on the iPhone 4 though I have to say the deals were much clearer (or so I think) on the Orange website.  Regardless, I wanted the iPhone 4, 32GB.

I take my Irish passport, a copy of my NIE information (this is the Spanish equivilant to a social security number), a printout of the iPhone 4 and my banking information and head off to Vodafone which is about 3 blocks from our apartment.  I will say that I practically ran there because it was already after 2 and siesta starts anywhere from 2 – 2:30 for most businesses and on Saturday many do not reopen again til Monday morning.

Whew!  They were open!  I go in and confidently (ok maybe not super confident but confident enough) and tell them in Spanish that I want a new iPhone.  Does she have the 32GB one?  No she does not, but she has the 16GB.  I ask in Spanish if I can get the 32GB at another location.  She shows me a listed of locations and yet she said ningun (none) have the 32GB one.  Hmmmm…interesting.  Part of me feels like I should go to some of these locations and exhibit some patience about getting my new phone – do some more research.  But no, that means I have to get up the courage to pursue this at each and every store not to mention get myself to each and every store which is just a pain in the ass.  Ok, I’ll just take the 16GB, it’s still going to be 1000x better than the phone I have now.

She asks me if I am currently a Vodafone customer.  No, I’m not.  My carrier is Orange but my contract is thru Bright.  Bright???  Ah yes, that’s in English so I write it out for them and she understands now (apparently my pronounciation of the word in English was not good, maybe I should have put it with a Spanish accent) – they call it Brillante apparently.  Why they would change the company name for themselves when the company is based in Barcelona is beyond me.

Regardless we go back and forth for a few minutes on if I should transport my number and if I can or cannot do so without a penalty.  I call Josh to confirm my 3 month contract with Bright / Orange because this seems to have caused confusion that there would be a 3 month contract out there.  I really want to transport my number because in the 8 1/2 months that I’ve lived here I’ve only known my phone number for weeks.  Yes, it took me 8 months to remember my phone number.  But now that I know it, I’ll be damned if I’m switching it!!!  They look up Bright’s website to see about the contracts, etc.

We’ve looked over my NIE information and my passport (because our NIE is a European one we don’t have ID cards with our pictures therefore we need to use our passport in some places such as when getting a contract or going to some of the local stores such as FNAC and Al Campo – why they give the US citizens ones with pictures and yet the European ones don’t is again, beyond me).  My NIE caused some confusion because it said that I was from the United States but that my nationality was Irish.  I was holding an Irish passport so I’m not 100% clear on why this was confusing but it was.  I had to explain that I had 2 passports.  Apparently that made things all better and we moved on… to picking a plan!!

At this point, we have done almost all we can do using my limited Spanish.  It was at the point when I asked about the data plan that we had to move to google translate (I love google translate).  I said datos which means data, but apparently she thought I said tetas (again poor Spanish accent on my behalf).  For those who are not in the know tetas is Spanish for boobs…not breasts, but boobs.  She’s pointing at her boobs and we all got a good chuckle out of that one!!!

After much back and forth regarding the plans, we chose 2.  The first was for voice and this required a lot of my friend google – mainly because 2 of the plans were the same price and yet they offered different things.  One offered 24 hours of calling but only on your network and the other offered 18 and 8 (don’t know what that means) on any network but you couldn’t use it 24 hours a day.  I don’t have that many people to call here (yet) but I do like the ability to call them at any time without having to worry about being nickle and dimed.  Ahhh but this is 1000 minutes.  I have maybe 4 or 5 friends here and I mostly email with them and I have a landline… I don’t need 1000 minutes (just for point of reference – we had no landline at home and I lived on my phone, 1000 minutes a months would have been a joke – Josh and I shared a 3000 minute plan).  So we go with the 500 minutes for 59 euros.  But alas, wait… just like in the US there’s more.  You mean it’s not really 59 euros???  Ah we have to add in the IVA (tax) which they include in the plan (so it’s the same every month) so now we jump to just over 70 euros for my 500 minutes.  Seems like a little bit of a rip off for such few minutes (the 1000 minutes was 99 euros just so you know).

Ok, well let’s just go with that… that includes my data right?  Um, not that does not include data.  What???  Are you freaking kidding me??  Right now we pay around 70 euros for my blackberry and it includes data (I have no idea how much) and voice (no idea how many of those either).  So she offers me for another 25 euros a 250MB data plan.  I spend a lot of time working on my blackberry – I was without my data plan when I went home to the States this summer and I had no idea how much work I actually accomplish on this thing until I didn’t have it.  So I need a good data plan.  For another 49 euros I can get my 1GB of data – whew!!!  So my new plan is going to cost me a bit more than my old plan but here’s the bonus.  For my 18 month contract I’ll be getting my new iPhone for just 29 euros!!  Beat that AT & T!!!

But alas, here I sit with no phone.  Why you ask??  Because apparently it takes 10 days to transfer my phone number.  And even if they didn’t transfer my number it still takes 10 days.  And no, they don’t let you take the phone with you until that time.  I asked her how I will know when to get my phone.  She said she will call me.  But riddle me this… if my cell phone is no longer going to be thru Orange in 10 days, then how is she going to call me?  Will the SIM suddenly become a Vodafone chip?  Apparently not – apparently she will receive a Vodafone chip with my number on it in 7 to 10 days.  I’m still confused on how she’s going to call me if they are transferring my number.  I’m not sure if I need to call and cancel my contract with Orange / Bright either (I’m thinking I don’t since I saw her put an x on the box for Orange but who knows).  But my hope is that within 7-10 days I will be the proud owner of a new iPhone!!  Whew!!!

I have to say that when all is said and done, these girls at Vodafone are my heros.  They made me laugh, they had tons of patience and my hope is that at the end of the day (or 10) I will have a new phone.  Once again, a lesson learned here – if this were the States I can guarantee you that if someone went into Sprint or Verizon or AT &T speaking Spanish and looking for help buying a cell phone, they would not be as patient as these women were with me.  I could be wrong, but I still think the culture and people here are much more tolerant of differences than we are back home in the States.  And I, for one, am thankful for that patience!!

Julie

10/1/2010 – Post update.  I went in today to see if my phone was ready since it had been more like 12 days since I ordered the phone.  She recognized me right away and became apologetic.  Apparently the bank info (there are no checks here – everything is done via transfer or your credit card) I gave her was not enough.  She needed my actual bank book (yes they still use them here) with the balance in order to move forward.  If I could have asked I would have said, “why didn’t you call me for this info within the last 12 days and what if I had never come in would it still be sitting out there in la la land?” – but no, I can’t ask her that because my Spanish sucks like that.  So I asked her to write down what I needed and headed off to my local bank branch 2 blocks away, waited in line for 15 mins to find out that I don’t have a bank book on my account (I didn’t think so but then when we set up the account we had so much info that I was on overload so who knows) but he printed out a bank balance that he said should suffice. Off I go back to Vodafone, fingers crossed.  In and out in 30 seconds.  Yes this is enough info and in another 7 days I should have my phone.  Oy vey!!!

10/7/2010 – Another update.  I rec’d a text today saying that the number could not be transferred due to an invalid NIE (social security) number.  I took the kids and went back to the store AGAIN.  Realized on my way that the reason it was invalid was because the original phone with that number is actually in Josh’s name and NIE number even though it is my phone.  Had to ask what the process would be to get the phone number in my name.  Josh had to go in after work and sign some papers.  Supposedly it will be yet another 7 days to get my phone.  Fingers crossed!

10/13/2010 It’s like the neverending story.  I went in again this afternoon to see if the phone was ready and was thrilled when I saw her pull out an actual iphone!!  Whew!  But my relief was short lived – apparently they can no longer transfer my number because they cannot prove that Josh or I owned it (odd because we pay the bill!) and so now it will be another 5 days for them to get me a new number.  Ugh!

10/20/2010 Finally I received my phone!!  But not without the warning that it would not be activiated until the following day. Try as I might, I could not get off of the emergency screen.  I went to the States the following day and was actively trying to get this thing to work.  Ugh!

10/24/2010 I went to the Apple Store on Boylston Street and lo and behold, they activated my phone!!  yes!!!  After all of that, I finally could use the phone…but wait, I’m in the States so no, I can’t use it without costing me an arm and a leg.  But I downloaded a few apps to play with on the phone so it was something…

11/11/2010 Just when I thought all had gone well somthing had to happen right?  I’ve barely had the phone for 3 weeks and only been using it for 2.  And on the metro today it was stolen.  Yes folks, you read that right.  I waited a month plus for this phone and it was stolen right out of my pocket.  In the pickpockets defense, I made it easy for him because I had it in my pocket, exactly where it should not have been.  After trying several different Vodafone stores to try to get them to shut off my phone and replace it, we finally had to call in a friend to call them to shut it off.  And in the end, Vodafone would not replace it and so I had to do it out of my own pocket – I won’t tell you how much but let’s just say, it wasn’t cheaper than a bread box… now, if only I could get service on this one (it’s now 11/12 and I’m still waiting for the SIM card to activate 24 hrs later).  Let’s hope this is the end of the phone saga!

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