Summary: My wife Rachel has been awaiting the iPhone 3G for several months. Even though I am wedded to my beloved BlackBerry, she wanted to be able to carry a single device to play her music, act as a phone, and to be able to check her email.


ifail.jpgMy wife Rachel has been awaiting the iPhone 3G for several months. Even though I am wedded to my beloved BlackBerry, she wanted to be able to carry a single device to play her music, act as a phone, and to be able to check her email. At the $199 price AT&T was advertising it at, it seemed like a no-brainer. So despite my usual reservations against buying Apple products, we headed to the AT&T Wireless store today on my lunch hour to see if we could pick one up for her. Click on the image above for video.

I was fairly sure we weren't going to walk out with an iPhone 3G today, because the hardcore lunatics that slept outside the store overnight surely would have cleaned the store out long before we got there at 12:15, but at the very least, we could reserve one to pick up later. Rachel needed to go to the AT&T store anyways, because she needed to transfer her phone numbers from her old T-Mobile handset into her new Samsung 3G phone, and since her old Motorola V60 unit had no Bluetooth capability, we had no way to do it at home. So we were going to the store one way or another.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

epicifail.jpgBoy was I wrong thinking we would go home happy. When we arrived at the Fort Lee, NJ store, there was naturally a long line -- and it was filled with angry people who had been standing outside for hours in the 90 degree plus summer weather. One ten year old girl and her family member waited since 7am, a total of five hours when I walked to the front of the line to speak to people. AT&T was managing the crowd in pure Soviet form, locking the doors and queuing people in only a few at a time. An entire half hour went by where nobody was let inside and no further information was released. But then, the news emerged as a few disappointed customers exited the store -- all the phones were gone, and you couldn't even reserve one at the $199.00 price because no phones were in the store. Additionally, not everyone can qualify for that special price -- they're only doing it for new AT&T contracts and for customers that are upgrade-eligible. Otherwise, you have to pay full retail. How do you know if you are upgrade eligible? Call the customer service number.

Also listen to: Jason Perlow interviews customers on the iPhone 3G Line in New Jersey (podcast)

The real annoying part of the whole thing was that if you WEREN'T there to buy an iPhone -- say you were there for a regular customer service issue, like my wife, you had to wait in the same line as the iPhone people.  The entire operation was badly managed, and I'm quite sure some of their existing customers walked off in pure disgust considering moving to a new carrier as a result.

Did you iFAIL as well as badly as we did today? Talk Back and let me know. 

Topics: AT&T, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Telcos


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Oh common

    OK, it's embarassing, but everyone had a bad moment, Blackberry servers DO fail too, you know...

    Well since you have a T-Mobile phone and it also has a SIM
    card you can copy all your contacts to your SIM card and
    Then all you have to do is have someone use a SIM copy
    machine to copy it and I am SURE that T-Mobile would be
    more then happy to do this for you. By the way that is like
    the AT&T stores here in the DFW area but that is everyday
    that they are unfriendly and unhelpful I waited in the store
    for over an hour just to to a change on my account and it
    was on a everyday tuesday afternoon, seems that i was an
    bother because they have to actually do something that is
    why I left them.
    Charlie McGuire
    • hmmm 2.0

      iPhone software 2.0 can import all your contacts from your SIM card. JUST FYI.
      • Yah... But Can it...

        ...Import your contacts from a FOREIGN SIM chip? Or does it just pop up a note asking you to put your AT&T SIM in the phone...?
        • I don't know why not

          I can't see any reason why not.
  • Hardcore Lunatics

    Sounds like the hardcore lunatics got one but those who
    are definitely not hardcore lunatics did not. The difference
    is clear and obvious. Wing-nuts camp out. Sanity comes 4
    hours into the release day with a camera and low

    The verdict? It's a massive failure. It usually is a failure
    when lunatics get the things that reasonable people want.
    While passing judgement on hardcore lunatics, reasonable
    people might recall the last iPhone release. Yes, there
    actually is a precedent for this. The lineups were the same,
    the inconveniences of waiting happened then as well. Then
    a few days later, it was a piece of cake to get an iPhone.

    There is another tier of even more reasonable people, who
    took this into account and decided that iPhone release was
    not going to be the right time to buy if one valued one's
    time. Fortunately, that even more reasonable tier of people
    is less inclined to pass judgement to quickly or harshly.
    Harry Bardal

    I was at the Southlake Texas Apple store for 5 1/2 hours.
    I was approx 125 in line. If the product wasn't so good I
    never never buy from Apple again. No updates only water
    as we waited outside in 90+. The local asst mgrs Dave
    and Billy were very rude. Told me that I was the only one
    in the 370+ line that was made and to get back in line or
    go home.
    Only until a regional mgr Ginger came did they start to
    move the line and only sell the phone with a home
    activation option --- 5 hours later!!!!!!!!

    Today Apple was arrogant and had a much too high regard
    for themselves.
  • Stop whining....

    It is the same way with iPhones, video game consoles, video games, etc. People do this, line up all night. Cause havoc. Then it goes over and business returns to normal. Hell, even Microsoft had a moment in 1995. Only a total imbecile would go to an AT&T store today and NOT expect lines and chaos.
    Mike Cox
    • Can't wait to see the article the day after Thanksgiving

      ... You know, the one about how they just happened to have to make a visit to Best Buy at like, 6 in the morning, to have Geek Squad look over their computer or maybe upgrade the hard drive. Let me even give you a title for that article: EPIC iDouche. Finally, some truth in advertising.

    I arrived an hour and a half prior to opening with a friend to wait in line. Soon the AT&T "auditor" lady walked by, took our numbers and informed us that we did not "qualify" for the $199 offer. I told her I believed she was mistaken, as an AT&T employee that I could see on the other side of the glass wall had told me not two weeks prior that I WAS qualified. She conceded that her Blackberry didn't have all the information, and could infact be wrong.
    Finally a little after 8:30 I got in the door an asked for my 8 GB black iPhone. The sales person politely replied "$399 plus tax." I informed her that her coworker not twenty feet away had informed me that I WAS infact eligible. She responded with a smile that she would check with her manager.
    A few minutes later I start to get uneasy as three managers hover around her screen. As suddenly as they all appeared, instantly they were gone, save one standing over the saleperson's shoulder. She kindly apologized and said that infact I did not qualify for the upgrade.
    I contain my frustration, however my resolve is in good order. I inform her that if that's the case - at which point I pause to let her change her mind - then I will indeed pay full price for the gadget my heart so desires. After all, I had sold my original iPhone for $330 just a couple of weeks ago to fund my upgrade addiction, so what's $70 for the premiere gadget of it's time?
    She sadly shakes her head and replies, "No, I mean you don't qualify for the iPhone."
    My mouth slowly opens, as disbelief hits me like a tidal wave. "She must have misunderstood me," I thought to myself.
    I reiterate to her "No, I understand that I can't get the $199 deal. I'll just have to pay the full $399."
    In steps the manager who was lurking behind the sweet young sales lady. He informs me that for some reason my account has an "upgrade" button that is not selected, and he has zero authority to push said button. I implore him to try something, anything. He replies:
    "I'm sorry sir, there's nothing I can do. You have to call customer service. I'm sorry, but you must leave the building now."
    Wait, have I lost my mind? I haven't been kicked out of anything since Dairy Queen in highschool for dumpster diving! - someone threw my keys in there, what was I supposed to do??
    Stunned I walk out the building, empty handed, as other lucky souls file in to fill my void.
    Now I'll do my best to summarize the next three hours into as few words as possible.
    After 20 minutes with customer support I learn that indeed the $199 price is for new customers and customers renewing a contract with less than a year remaining. The $399 price tag is reserved for those who *almost* have had their service a year - and as such qualify for an "early upgrade." Anyone who doesn't fall into one of these categories is simply up a creek without a paddle. Poor fools.
    But alas! I am not one of those, my contract meets its one year aniversary in just over two months! Just as I thought, I qualify! Not for the $199 mind you, but for the $399. Fine and dandy, I'll still take it. Customer support notates my account that I can indeed purchase an iphone.
    I travel back to the store, which is ofcourse now sold out of iPhones. I'm calm and collected and decide that I will simply order one and wait patiently for 3 - 5 business days.
    Not so fast. Shoulder lurking manager is back. I inform him of the conversation I've just had, with the slight smirk of victory on my face.
    His face may as well have been stone, as he slowly shakes his head back and forth and tells me that I still cannot purchase a phone from them. Not even order a phone.
    Another call to customer service.
    This time I speak to a "manager" - who strangely sounded about 15 years younger than both the previous support personel, but who am I to judge age.
    She puts me on hold, and after half an hour of pure torture listening to AT&T propaganda while waiting - if any of you want to know the new "Hot summer deals" I can certainly help you out - she returns. Apparently she can't even get ahold of my local AT&T shop, however she's called the next closest one - a mere 25 miles away - and arranged for me to purchase one there. However they too are now out of stock.
    At this point I'm pretty fed up. I kindly ask her what the fee is to terminate my account. She informs me that it is $175.
    "So what if I cancel my account, pay $175, then get a new account... do I qualify for the $199 price point?"
    ... *pause* ...
    "... yes." comes the reply.
    Quick mental math: $175 + $199 = $374. Yes, that's right, $25 cheaper than just paying full price for the cursed phone. Plus the added glory of getting to cancel my service, though be it for only a few moments.
    I thank her for her help and head off to the AT&T store, yet again.
    At this point they have my favorite espresso drink waiting - we're old friends, we go back.
    Everything looks great for me to order in a new iPhone, with a new account.
    But wait.
    They won't take the $300 cash that I have in my hand. They need a credit card. The one that I drained by $300 so that I would have the money for the iPhone. Leaving me with $200 in my account.
    $200 is not $374. I can't have my iPhone.
    Not yet.
    I will get it, doubt me not.
    The demons of the iPhone - or perhaps more accurately AT&T - shall not prevail.
    • SOMEONE can't see the writing on the wall...

      From reading your post, my impression is that karma has been trying and trying and trying to step in and save you from yourself and Apple. Yet, no matter how many obstacles it throws in your way to get you to see the light, you're determined to find frustration any which way you can find it.

      Please keep us updated. Some horror novel sequels are as good as the original story.
    • My suggestion...

      ...is that you get 2 dixie cups and a very long string.
    • Priorities

      If you have just $500 available to you on a credit (or debit?)
      card of any kind you can't afford to have a $400 phone. Or a
      $374 phone. If you don't have AT LEAST enough money to
      support yourself for six months if you suddenly couldn't work
      (without government assistance) you can barely afford to
      have cellular service. You should be using whatever the
      current $0.01 phone is.
  • The only reason I can see for standing in line so long...

    is the great social networking opportunities apple is providing you. Why else would so many people go out looking for an iPhone only to find the iRate?
    Mac Hosehead
  • advice for next time:

    1. don't go to at&t
    2. go to the apple store
    3. go the day after launch day--they WILL still have phones and there won't be a line.

    that is all.
    • looks like i was wrong.

      the lines are still there today, due (i assume) to the server issues. bummer.

    I wondered where all the sadistic bureaucrats went when the former soviet union fell & local governments trimmed the "fat". ...and I thought it was just health insurance companies :)
    Thanks for making me feel better for my decision to eschew an iPhone. Nothing against the hardware, I just want nothing to do with the deathstar or it's minions. ;)

    Apple and AT&T do it again. This time it's worse than the first failure. Some companies never learn.

    Complain about it and share your horror stories here: http://www.ifail3g.com/
  • More iPhone bluescreens of death

    Well, the equivalent anyway.
    [url=http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1601461&tstart=0] Constant iPhone 3G crashes [/url]

    [i]I have found that when starting up some apps on my new iPhone (important: doesn't matter which apps) that they fail to start up and crash back to the iPhone 'desktop'. When this happens, try as I might, they almost ALL seem to do this, until finally the iPhone takes it upon itself to restart (which takes longer than a normal restart.[/i]

    I'd rather own a phone that people joked about crashing all the time than one that actually did. :)
    • You were one of those kids...

      who thought that when your gerbil died, all gerbils in town died simultaneously, weren't you?