Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

I was awoken this morning at 6:50 a.m. by a call from my friend, Degan.  She was heading to a 7 a.m. meeting, but was calling me to get me out of bed so I could head to my own important appointment.  I have to thank her, for a “mere” 9 hours later, that call resulted in my purchase of a brand new iPhone!

But—and of course, those of you who know Rogers won’t be surprised by this—the intervening time was a cascade of errors and irritation. Rogers took every possible opportunity to make good PR, and overlooked it.  They screwed up, plain and simple.

The store that Rogers chose in Vancouver to stage their big launch was at the corner of Broadway and Arbutus.  I rode my bike over and arrived at about 7:40.  I got in line about 100 or 110 people back.  Others were arriving after me.  The store was supposed to open at 8, so I was cutting it a little close.

I assumed that I’d either a) get a phone within about two hours, or b) be too late to get a phone and leave within two hours.  But neither happened.  Instead, here’s some of the mistakes I spotted.

Problem 1: Rogers put out a press release that promised an early bird breakfast.  But as far as I heard, there was none.  The only food was granola bars at about 10 or 11 a.m., but only enough for about one bar for every three people.  The giveaways were: Rogers umbrellas, bottled water, and a few concert tickets and a few $15 gift cards—again, not for everyone.  Everyone in line felt ripped off by this—don’t promise what you don’t deliver.

Problem 2: The doors opened at 8 a.m., and the first person went in.  A few minutes later ... nothing happened. And then still nothing.  The line didn’t move.  No information was shared with the people who were supervising the line about why nothing was happening.  And still we waited.  Finally, around 9 a.m., the first purchaser made it out.

It turns out that Rogers’ Web-based authorization (for new customers) and hardware upgrade (for existing customers) was down.  So the folks in the store had to call in the upgrades, and the call centers were overloaded. So it turned out that they could only process about 5-10 people an hour.  This despite having 8 or 9 staff people inside the store.  Rogers systems across Canada could not handle the load—and it’s not like they didn’t have enough time to prepare.

Problem 3: No one would tell the people in line how many iPhones were available.  Even after several hours, the Rogers staff wouldn’t say how many phones were inside.  So people in line had to wait and wait even if it was impossible for them to get a phone.  And the Rogers staff never took a proper count of how many people in line wanted how many phones until about 2 p.m., so you couldn’t assess whether it was worth your while to leave because some people were going to get two and others would be getting one.

Problem 4: We did eventually get told that the store received “more than 50, less than 100” phones, of which about 15 were 16Gb models, the rest being 8Gb models.  If this was one of the 6 most important stores in Canada for Rogers, you’d think they could make sure they had enough iPhones on hand for the line up.  As it was, I think there were probably more than 150 frustrated people who were turned away because this store didn’t have the phone in stock.

Problem 5: Finally, some Rogers staff people came out and started asking if people wanted to leave their information and leave the line.  The employees would keep trying to call in the upgrade, and once they succeeded, later in the day or on Saturday, then they’d call the person back and they could come get their phone.  I’d say about 40 people took this option, not all at once, but as time passed and the line moved slower and slower, more and more people did.

The line dwindled and dwindled, and the people leaving names grew, until finally there were about 5 people left outside, including me.  It was now around 3 p.m.  Then one of the Rogers people who was coming out to check on us (as the shadows shrunk and the sun rose overhead), told me something INSANELY STUPID.  They said that they were putting through the orders for the people who LEFT the line, at the same time or even BEFORE the people who were still waiting to buy phones.

That’s INCREDIBLY INSULTING to the people who were waiting and who had been for HOURS at that point.  And, considering that some of the people who left their names and then left were BEHIND me, that means that they got to go home, sit on the balcony and sip ice tea, and STILL get their iPhone activated before me.  Totally insane.

When I raised this—to several different staff members—none of them seemed to think this was a problem.

Problem 6: Even as the stock dwindled, there was no firm count of how many phones were left.  I apparently got one of the three last phones—except for one that I spotted while doing my paperwork, that was sitting on the counter between two tills, obviously set down and misplaced by some employee. I never did see what happened to it.

And lest you think I was just being picky—if I hadn’t been there watching my own iPhone from the time it was associated with my paperwork until the time it was FINALLY activated, about 100 minutes later, there were two occasions when the box would have gotten mis-associated.

Problem 7: They had a security guard at the front door to keep people from barging in ahead of the line.  But he spoke almost no English.  People would come up to try to rent a video, and he would block the door and not let them in, and he didn’t speak enough English to understand why they were there or explain why he wasn’t letting them in.  It was truly crazy—this guard actively clocking the entrance and unable to explain why.

Problem 8: No bathrooms.  We were told to use the restroom at the gas station across the road.

Problem 9: Contradictory information about the plans, the available phones, who was eligible for an upgrade, the length of time that people would be on hold, the rate of the line, the number of people in line, the amount of time you’d have to wait if you left your name until you were called back, whether other stores had any phones, when they were getting another shipment in—basically, any fact you might expect the people in charge to have.

Problem 10: Did I mention that they didn’t have enough iPhones?

So yeah, basically, from the biggest, most important factors, to the smallest details, they were simply unprepared—which is bad enough—but they were also dumb about process and shoddy and careless.

My friend Raul interviewed me, you can watch it on YouTube.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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