Thursday, 21 January 2010

Special offer: Nothing for the price of something


After being discharged from hospital following a particularly nasty kidney infection I am disgruntled to find that some hospital bright spark has managed to put my phone and my brand new blazer in a puddle of bleach.

Now, not only has my only means of communication been snatched from me but it basically looks as though a baby has vomited over my left shoulder.

After mourning the loss of my new favourite, twice-worn jacket and spending a few more days in bed recovering, I decide it’s about time to reconnect with the outside world. Off I trundle to the local phone shop. Swarovski-encrusted BlackBerry covers glimmer and wink at me through the window, and a sign outside proclaims: “We can fix anything!!!” I’m feeling pretty optimistic. With hindsight this is probably due to prescription painkillers.

I explain my predicament to a fast-talking guy with the most precise facial hair I have ever witnessed, who assures me that for a “mere” 30 pounds I can expect a fully-functioning phone within 24 hours. If they are unable to repair it, my money will be refunded, no fuss. Excellent, I think. I hand over three crisp 10-pound-notes without baulking at their request for a cash-only payment (due, apparently, to their card machine being broken).

Two days later I return, still high on painkillers and excited by the prospect of discussing that afternoon’s Ricki Lake marathon over text with whoever will listen. Goatee’s halfway through an impressive sales patter but acknowledges my presence with a nod and a smile, so I wait patiently. A few minutes later he reunites me with my baby who is now sporting a masking tape bandage with “WATER DAMAGE – FIXED” written across it. At last! I scamper home and settle myself in for an afternoon of “Girlfriend, if your butt wasn’t flat, you’d be all that” ... Or something.

An hour later and in true Ricki spirit I pick up my phone and begin to type: “Dump that zero and get yourself a h –”. Bollocks. It’s died on me. No matter. I switch it back on and try again. This time I don’t even get as far as typing “zero”. I think it’s broken. I feel deflated. I can’t concentrate on Ricki anymore. The phone thing’s burst my bubble; I think about ringing someone for a moan – and then remember I can’t.

“Goatee hands it over with what looks suspiciously like the same piece of masking tape on the back. He’s trying to make me pay for providing me with precisely no service.”

The next day I make my third trip to the shop. Goatee is trying to surreptitiously eat a chicken thigh below the counter and the smell of grease is permeating the entire establishment. He attempts justification – “late lunch” – then grins inanely before taking another bite and wiping his hands on his trousers. I give him the phone back, telling him it doesn’t appear to be working. He looks shocked, declaring “this never usually happens”, but agrees to have another look, free of charge of course. I make a hasty exit and fleetingly contemplate KFC.

A new day dawns and another trip beckons. I have started to feel somewhat apathetic towards my phone but still want it back on principle. On cue, Goatee hands it over with what looks suspiciously like the same piece of masking tape on the back. I decide to try it out there and then and insert the SIM card and turn it on. Nada.

“I thought you said it was fixed.”

“Maybe it’s your battery. I can get you a new one for £9.99,” he tries.

“You see the label on the back?” I ask. “It clearly says my phone is fixed. Why are you trying to sell me a battery?”

He looks thoughtful for a moment. “Well, sometimes it’s just that the battery’s broken so ...I’ll go get you one now.” He heads to the back wall where the batteries hang on racks.

“Can I just get my 30 quid back instead, please?”

He stops. “Well you see, darling, I’ve had costs. I don’t get these things looked at for free innit.” He’s trying to make me pay for providing me with precisely no service. He’s trying to make me pay twice for no service. I articulate this to him in no uncertain terms and cause such a scene he is forced to give me my money back.

I feel quite self-satisfied as he glowers at me; I’ve won this one. I leave with a spring in my step and my friend’s kindly-donated brick of a phone in my pocket. Never again will I step foot in a phone shop. Particularly not when on statutory sick pay. Read more by Chess.