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2006-05-07 Getting Splashed

I was one of the last hold-outs. For years I watched as my friends, my colleagues, my wife (then girlfriend), hell, even my mother got cellphones. More and more I was asked "why don't you have a cellphone?" Hmm, why would I want a cellphone? So my cow-orkers could harass me at any time of day and night? Not interested.

Well, ok. There have been a couple of times in the past year or two when I was wandering around Manhattan trying to meet up with people, jumping from payphone to payphone to call them on their cells, with no way for them to call me when I thought "yeah, a cellphone would be handy right now." But recently my Palm IIIx PDA has started showing its age, and in considering a replacement for it, I'd been thinking that it would really be useful to me to be able to access the web from anywhere.

So after considering my options for a while I decided to get a Treo 650. It interoperates well with linux, I can program it and it and has its own little web browser as well as supporting dial-up-networking over bluetooth (so I can get my laptop online while I'm on the train, w00t!)

I did some research, and the best offer I could find was from Splash Wireless, a reseller for Earthlink. I was a little suspicious of a company named "Splash Wireless", but I figured that they were reselling for Earthlink so in the worst case I could deal directly with Earthlink.

So I ordered from them in mid-April. After a day or two I checked order status and discovered that the Treo was on back-order with no estimated ship-date. Earthlink hadn't hestitated to start billing me for service, though. I was billed for service starting 4/17. Since I wasn't wild about the idea of paying for a service that I couldn't currently use, I questioned Splash about this and they assured me that I would be credited for the period prior to receiving my phone and also that the 30 day trial period would not begin until I received it. Fair enough.

But then after two weeks my order status still said that the phone was on back-order. I decided that these guys were useless and sent them an e-mail cancelling my order. Then I took a drive up to the Verizon store in Wappinger's Falls and (after about forty minutes of waiting around in this very busy store) I walked out with a shiny new Treo - at considerably greater cost than the Splash deal, but at least Verizon has a nearby physical presence that I can firebomb if they screw me.

I hadn't told Jenny about any of this. She's been after me to get a cellphone for years, and I love to surprise here. She was kind of wondering where I had got too on a Saturday afternoon, I told her that I had taken a drive up north (technically accurate). I decided I was going to show her the phone at my first opportunity to use it in front of her.

As it turns out, this first opportunity was somewhat contrived. The next day we were out together (looking at the proofs for our wedding album) and I said "I need to call Cherie to verify that we're getting together tonight" (Cherie is our friend and weekly meditation buddy). Then, casual as could be, I pulled the phone out of my jacket and proceeded to look up Cherie's phone number on the web.

"What's that??" Jenny asked. "It's my phone," I replied, totally dead-pan. She started giggling. It's fun to surprise Jenny.

So I've spent the past week playing around with this thing, making the occassional phone call but mostly using it to surf the web (unlimited data plan). I was unable to get my laptop's built-in bluetooth support working so I have a DBT-120 USB bluetooth dongle on order (it looks like you need special software to do dial-up-networking through the cable :-( ).

Now here's the kicker: Thursday morning, Jenny calls me up and tells me that I got a package from Earthlink Wireless. Fan-fricking-tastic. Now, like I said, I had cancelled with Splash last Saturday. They sent me an e-mail on Sunday saying that they had informed Earthlink of this. Then another on Monday saying that they had verified cancellation with Earthlink. In response, I asked them when I could expect to see a refund and they immediately replied "it should have been applied today." That was on Monday. The package had been sent overnight delivery and arrived on Thursday. What's wrong with this picture?

So I sent another e-mail to Splash yesterday, and followed it with a phone call to Earthlink's customer support line. The barely intelligible support guy that I spoke to told me that they had never received notice of cancellation and said that they could not cancel the order because the phone had already been shipped. Scuze me??? So after a few minutes of confusing discussion (I think) we agreed that I would return the phone and when they received it they would cancel service. I dropped it off at the UPS store in Fishkill that afternoon marked "refused". I called Earthlink again afterwards, talked to a much more coherent representative just to verify that I was going to get a full refund when they got the phone back and I sincerely hope that this will be the case. I also received an e-mail from Earthlink confirming the cancellation. What a pain in the ass. In fairness, I don't know whether the screw-up was Earthlink's or Splash's, but I'm highly suspicious of Splash.

So, in summary: got cellphone, wife happy, alway online, Verizon good, Splash bad. Life continues to suck. :-P