Why now?Anita has had a very old (non-smart) mobile phone for a while, on a pay-as-you-go contract from Carrefour, a supermarket chain. She never used it much; it was mostly for emergencies, and, if I'm honest, it was often out of earshot, or had a flat battery, or was left at home, or there was some other reason why just at that particular moment, it wasn't actually useful for anything. However, it had "minutes" available to spend, if needs be.
Recently, Anita found that her spare minutes of credit had disappeared. On going to the Carrefour website, she learned that the contract had been taken over by Orange, and in doing so, her accumulated credits had been zeroed. Not happy; no text messages of warning, no announcement, or letter received, nothing. But, with a 70 euro voucher if she bought a Galaxy Note before 1st December, perhaps now was the time to indulge.
Why Orange lost the deal.Orange operate the network for my mobile phone, and they also provide the internet ADSL line to the house, so they are well-placed for additional business. Also, when I bought the phone a couple of years ago, I walked into the Orange shop in Laval, and walked out a while later, somewhat poorer, but with a fully-working phone. This might sound trivial, but it can be hard to achieve in France.
The bottom line for Orange is that they didn't do any low-usage, low-cost mobile phone deals. Nor did they offer any kind of all-in-one internet-plus-two-phones deal that might have made them attractive. They do do a complicated business package that, since we run a gîte, we could have gone for, but I run the WiFi service for gîte customers down the same line, I manage the firewall and security, and these require some specific settings in the ADSL router. I have encountered Orange tech support before, and I simply don't trust that shower to install a new "Livebox" (internet router, Ethernet switch, and generally useful gadget) to my satisfaction, and to get it running without at least a week of stress and probably no internet connection for at least the same period of time.
In the end, I tend to hold that if they can't be bothered to meet the needs of their existing customers, I can't be bothered to deal with them.
Why Free didn't get the dealWe therefore walked into the Free shop in Laval when they opened after lunch on Tuesday afternoon. We only had to wait until 2:30. Now I like Free as an outfit. I read somewhere that France is the most profitable country in all of Europe for mobile phone operators. I wonder how that happens? Free is the upstart, the newcomer, and you could tell that they were offering something the public wanted and that the cozy cartel didn't like, by they way the mainstream media attacked them when they had some teething troubles arising from the enormous takeup when they launched.
Free has also been attacking the "all-in-one" phone-plus-connection deals offered by the other operators, on the basis that it includes a hidden phone hire-purchase agreement, and should therefore publish interest rates, etc. An interesting argument; they have a point, it will be interesting to see how that pans out. In the mean time, Free will do you a credit deal on a Galaxy Note, and then sell you the data+voice connection that you want.
A notice on the door advertising an urgently-needed sales assistant didn't promise a speedy service, but we were second in the shop so we only had to hang about for about 15 minutes to get served.
Anita had been to the Free website, according to which, to keep her old phone number she needed something called a “relevé d'identité d'operateur” or RIO. She called the appropriate number and got this code from Carrefour. So, armed with credit card, old phone, RIO code and personal ID (French driver's licence), we were hoping for a "one-stop" transaction.
Well, Free didn't have the Galaxy Note in stock, but you can order one. To order one, you must have a Free mobile phone contract. Well, OK. But the sales guy couldn't make the RIO work, and therefore wanted to charge 10€ to to open a new line. At this point, since everything (SIM and phone) was going to be sent by post anyway, and the phone was not particularly cheap from Free, she decided to just buy it all over the internet.
We walk out of the Free shop without a phone. The queue behind us waiting to be served was, by this time, enormous.
****Interlude***** Getting the RIO to work.
The RIO was apparently not valid because Carrefour's mobile operation had been transferred to Orange, which meant that the RIO number had been changed. Guided by the Carrefour website, Anita sent an email to to request a valid RIO. After no response in 24 hrs, she eventually she found a phone number to call, who referred her to another Orange service that she then called, who gave her a new RIO that worked. One email, 2 website visits, two phone calls. Then two different RIOs arrived two days later by text and email, only one of which corresponded to the one given over the phone.
How Bouygues won itThe buying process has been reset to zero at this point, so she might as well look around to make sure she is going for the best offer. Amazon were doing the best price on the Galaxy Note (50€ cheaper than Free), so she ordered it from them, paying a bit extra for fast delivery to be sure that the 70€ discount voucher would still be valid.
Bouygues telecom are advertising heavily their "B&You" services. Their website is friendly and the offers are competitive. So they get the deal. SIM and phone are now ordered, SIM scheduled to arrive by the 4th December.
Getting it to workIt so happened that both the SIM and the phone arrived on Friday 30th November. Top marks to Bouygues for exceeding customer expectations, and a "satisfactory" rating to Amazon for meeting them. It's also all here in time for getting the 70€ discount from Samsung. Things are looking up.
You can't use the phone until the battery is charged, which is a frustrating wait, but unavoidable. Meanwhile she visits the Bouygues website to "unlock" the SIM. They promise to send an SMS with the code. (Where to??) Bouygues say the old number can't be transferred until Monday but a few hours later send an email giving a temporary number to use until then. It works! Test calls are made to and from the shiny new device.
Now to connect it to the home WiFi. Problem. Once the WiFi security is set up, the phone fails to connect to it. It just sits in an endless loop: Scan for networks-->request IP address--> turn off WiFi-->turn on WiFi-->scan for networks. An internet search tells me that other people have experienced this problem, and it's not just something wrong with our network. Besides we have four other devices using the WiFi without a problem.
Samsung tech supportTelephone call to Samsung tech support. I happen to have the number to hand following a problem with my galaxy SII a while back. Top marks to Samsung tech support for being available at 4PM on a Saturday, despite having a complicated automatic call routing system to navigate before reaching a live person. Once Anita has persuaded the girl that the problem is not our network, the proposed action is to install Kies on her computer and use this to bring the phone's firmware up to date.
Kies is Samsungs's software for managing synchronisation of files with your home PC, and it also serves to update the firmware of your devices. Anita downloads the Kies software and installs it (A few hours). Once installed, however, it fails to achieve a connection between her PC and the Note, even though we leave it connected for a couple of hours while we go out. When we get back later that evening, I try the same thing with my more poweful laptop. A connection is eventually achieved and I leave the firmware update running overnight.
The next morning, the firmware is updated, but the phone still does the same thing. At last, after looking around on the net a bit more, I solve the problem by changing the WiFi channel used by the router from 6 to 5 (a random choice after a couple of posts suggested trying changing the channel, or using one numbered less than 11). I really shouldn't have to do that. How many people know how to change their router's WiFi channel?
The Samsung discount
So now to the Samsung website to register the voucher and claim the discount. The November offer has been superseded by an equivalent December one, so it takes a while to find the right website page but, as promised, this can still be done until 15/12. But clicking on the link to fill in the online form, takes you to an account setup page first, then you have to wait for an email with a confirmation link to click. This takes about an hour to arrive.
Now the online form can be completed, which offers 5 unexplained versions of the grey phone - is it a Galaxy Note II BOG, or XEP, or SFR, etc? We chose BOG since it's a bog-standard phone. I hope Samsung are not hoping for good results from a detailed sales analysis.
When it comes to entering the company we bought it from, the site does not accept the 4 digit Luxembourg postcode of Amazon EU, the holding company for Amazon.fr, who sent us the bill. We fudge this by adding a zero so the form can be printed and sent off, together with a RIB bank form for the reimbursement to the bank, a copy of the bill AND the product bar code sticker. This sticker does not come off without tearing - why not if they want it back? Not a satisfactory experience. Fingers crossed for the discount.
SummaryAs of Sunday morning, Anita is venting her frustrations by bombing the crap out of some green pigs, (Star Wars version - fun, and with a great sense of humour) and it seems that, barring actually getting her old number back, and the inevitable hassles of setting up new apps for Facebook, Kindle, etc. everything is finally as it should be.
But this was way too hard.