Not so bad

Friday afternoon I was having lunch with a friend when I remembered I needed to go to the AT&T store and move my iPad from a standalone plan to my family plan. Oh the dread.

Fortified with a meatball sub I made the short drive. On the way I thought “going to the cellular store is about as much fun as going to the dentist.” But then in the next minute how unfair that comparison was. My dentist is nice and my visits to her office are often reasonably enjoyable. So no this was nothing like going to the dentist.

It doesn’t matter where you go cellular stores for the carriers like AT&T and Verizon are much the same. You go in and talk to the “greeter” who is more of the list-maker. Adding you to the seemingly endless list of people waiting to be seen.

After a few dozen circuits of the store playing with the phones that are out and reading every scrap of information you find some uncomfortable corner of the floor to crowd into and hope that you have enough battery to keep yourself entertained while you wait. And wait. And wait.

Eventually somebody calls your name and you explain what you need. Another couple people are called upon to help you as the overloaded help tries to juggle several people and then if you’re lucky you end up at the register. Oh the register. There are at least four employees trying to process customers to get them out. There are more ID’s going back and forth than at a TSA checkpoint. The arms of all the employees and customers trying to accomplish simple things dancing like Medusa’s snakes.

If you have been exceedingly good in your past three lives and the stars shine on you after only a couple hours you’ll walk out with a light wallet, something like what you wanted and a receipt tape long tall enough to drape the Washington Monument.

It turns out it doesn’t have to be this way.

And my visit on Friday showed that AT&T has made great strides in making the experience better. I don’t have comparisons with other vendors so they may not be alone.

Walking into the store everyone was with customers. Including the woman who walked in right in front of me and was helped right away. Within a couple of minutes Nick came to help me, having just seen his previous customer to the door.

I explained what I needed and waited to be told I’d have to come back when a regional manager was present, but that was not to be. Instead Nick said they could handle it and we sat down at a table, he grabbed a sim and he proceeded to process the order on an iPad as we talked. Meanwhile around the store the same thing was happening for other customers.

After we were done and verified that my iPad was working properly, he printed out my receipt. It wasn’t the long ribbon of fine print I’d gotten in the past. In fact it was 4 pages, printed double-sided on standard paper. The information was clear and concise. Nick asked if I understood how the billing was shown. “Yes,” came out of my mouth but my face must have shown the “I think” that was lurking in my mind. He took just a minute to explain how the numbers worked and made sure it was clear.

All and all I was in and out of the store in under twenty minutes and left with exactly what I wanted as well as easy to understand information. If this is indeed an industry-wide change one is left to wonder what’s next? Friendly air-travel? Well let’s not go too far…