Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Character Frustrations

First, a few reminders:

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One of the points I made in my blog at the Guide to Literary Agents, which was about characters, was that you should kick them out of their comfort zone. I wonder how my characters might have dealt with what should have been a very simple problem, easily fixed.

I've had issues with the cell phone I bought when we moved here. Given our remote location, there's only one provider, so choices were limited (not to mention the cell reception up here is terrible anyway), so even with this provider, there's no point in using a cell phone at home. But it's something I like to have when I'm away.

So, about two weeks ago, I noticed that the external button that's supposed to control the volume wasn't working. And, if I wanted to text someone and turned the phone sideways to get the larger touch screen keyboard, it wouldn't display what I'd typed. I stopped in at the closest store, and the clerk agreed the phone (actually this was phone #4 in less than a year) needed to be replaced. But, of course, they can't do that at the store, so I could either drive an hour down to the Springs and hang around there (speaking from experience—first and last trip took over 3 hours), or call customer service. She documented the problem in my file, and told me to request a different phone entirely.

First call (not going into the phone tree craziness trying to get to the right person) gets me to someone who understands what I want, but only has the authority to exchange for an identical phone. However, she would ask her supervisor. Who, of course, is away from her desk. Rep swears she will get the answer and call me back in an hour. Right.

The next day, I call again. Same phone tree issues, but this clerk does have the authority, apparently, to find a phone I might like that fits the "comparable" rule. I go on line and check out the one she suggests, and it looks fine. She tells me that because it's a 'like new' and not a 'new', I can expect two separate packages; one with back and battery, and another with the phone itself. She also tells me how lucky I am that all the cords, chargers, etc., are the same as for my old phone, so I'll have everything I need. (Red flags going up?)

Even before I get anything, I get an email telling me my order has shipped, and a tracking number. Also a reminder that if I don't send my old equipment back immediately, I'll be charged full price.

Within 2 days, the FedEx lady rings the bell and hands me a box. It's (of course) only one box; the battery and back. This is Friday. I get another "send your equipment back NOW" email. Another call to the provider. I explain I'm not sending anything back until I have the entire phone. I also point out that the tracking number they gave me doesn't work at the FedEx website. Well, of course not. They've given me a FedEx website and a USPS tracking number. She promises to note in my file that I don't have part 2 yet, so I won't be charged, and that I can track the phone by going to the USPS site.

So, on Monday, I get the phone. Guess what? The cord from the old phone is NOT the right size to charge the new one. Another phone call. This time, the rep is very nice, and promises to overnight the right charger. And, for my trouble, will toss in a car charger as well.

Very good. Charger arrives (of course, I'm down in the Springs at the car dealership and have the phone with me in case of emergency, even though there's not much battery life). Hubster says he's sure it's the right one, since it IS smaller than the old one.

So, I get home, plug in the phone, (not going to mention how the unit is put in the box with those twisty wire things that you can't get at unless you rip the box apart) and things are looking good. However (you were expecting that), the charger is hard-wired into the plugger-in-thingie. No USB on the other end like my other devices have. So, how can I plug the phone into my computer to sync it? Dunno. There's no instruction manual with a replacement (although I can find one on line.) And, just to frost the cake, our land line is dead, so I can't call the provider to ask about that one.

Bottom line. Lots of wasted time. Lots of frustration. And I don't really need the cell phone. But what if it happened to one of my characters who lives and breathes being able to communicate? (And, another question—would a reader believe the story?)


Mike Faricy Author said...

Terry, While this method may be speedy, convenient and efficient for my publisher it really slowed down this neandertahl. Where are my color crayons? I want to write a letter! It worked eventually, but the term chore springs to mind.

Terry Odell said...

Mike - sometimes technology is NOT an efficient solutions. Thanks for stopping by.

Elijana said...

See me raising my hand... I would believe the story. Because it's happened. Actually, it happened on Monday and way longer than it should have with me on the phone with several different departments at a company that was handling some paperwork for me... and by the time I made it to the last person who said... "Yes, I know the answer to this." And then I say, "Great! So what's the answer?" The phone rep says, "The answer to what?" "The answer to my question." (Hear me repeat the question.) "Oh," the rep says, "I don't know the answer to that. But I can transfer you to someone who does."
*see me head desk thud*
I never did get that answer. Honestly, I'm building up my reservoir of patience to make a second attempt at getting the info. So, LOL, yeah I could totally see a more extreme situation like this playing havoc with your characters. ;o)

Terry Odell said...

Elijana - we could probably write our own book about the ups and downs (mostly downs) of customer service!

Maryann Miller said...

Good points, Terry. One thing we need to be careful of is not to let our characters react to a situation exactly like we would. Make sure they are reacting out of their characterization.

Grace said...

I recently re-edited a book written when cell phones were few & far between, and yes, I had to update it. In another book the villain was protesting the Tex-Mex wall. Oops, a bit late for that. Yes, I had to update that. As for pay phones, there are now scarce as hen's teeth, so they probably need to go. But as for social networking, there's no need to include it unless it's important to your hero's or heroine's character development. Most people are more interested in good writing than gadget-tossing. And, after all, it's your book!