The curious case of the mobile store that doesn't sell mobiles
Here's a cracking post by English (now residing in the US) author Neil Gaiman, concerning a spectacular failure in the world of public-facing corporations. Because if you own thousands of retail outlets, they all have to chant the company mantra, even if it makes no sense whatsoever:
I opened the Google window and found myself looking at an advert for a G1 phone. A couple of clicks later I was on the T-mobile website, checking prices and thinking, "Well, I do need a new phone..."
But randomly buying a phone I haven't even held seemed like, well, something that I couldn't imagine myself doing. I wanted to hold it. I wanted to know the specs and such, so I put dog in the back of the car and drove to the local T-Mobile shop.
I knew I was in the right place because there were huge posters everywhere, some bigger than I was, all advertising the new t-Mobile G1.
"Hello," I said, like a man entering a cheeseshop. "I'd like to play with a G1, please."
There was a man and a woman behind the counter. They said they were sorry but they didn't have a G1 for me to play with.
"When will you get them in?"
"We won't get them in."
"Look, are we talking about the same thing? G1 phone. The one on that poster. And that poster. And that one..." The posters were staring at me from the counter. They were all around me.
"No. We won't sell it. We're out of the range and the Google and things that the phone comes with, they won't work on it."
I pulled out my phone, a Nokia N 73, with a T-Mobile SIM card, that happily spends much too much time on the internet doing, er, Google and things. "But this works here..."
"The G1 won't work. It won't do the Google here. So we aren't allowed to sell it."
"But...." I tried to think with this. then I said, "But you have posters." I gestured at them. All pictures of the phone in question, extolling its virtues and explaining that you could only get it here.
"We're a T-Mobile franchise. They send them to us. That's what we have to put up. The posters they send."
"Well, can we talk about the G1 specs?"
"We don't know them." The man and the woman behind the counter seemed very sad about this. The man added, wistfully,"We don't even know the price."
I knew the price, from the website earlier, and I felt guilty about this.
"They have them in the Twin Cities," said the woman. "You could buy one there."
"But if I buy it there, it still won't work here?"
"No," she said, with sadness and with, I suspect envy in her voice. "but they sell it."
There was a bit of a pause. I think I may have said, "Sorry about the posters," as I went out, or I may have just thought it very loudly. They all had pretty pictures of the G1 on them, a phone I don't think I'm going to bother getting.