I just spent five hours trying to get a cell phone, and failed. I will secure my disgust safely behind a cut so as not to add unnecessarily to the general toxicity of the internet.
I went into the nearest Softbank store yesterday morning and asked a guy how much a pre-paid phone cost. He said that they only had one one model in stock – the Softbank 705Px/Panasonic 705Px – but it was 31000 yen, so I should probably try another store for a cheaper one.
So today I walked out to the farther-away Softbank store, where the woman told me immediately that they had no prepaid-compatible phones at all. The Bicycling American had told me there was yet a third Softbank store at the big fancy mall, so I went there to look for that one. It didn’t seem to exist. This was all about a two-hour trip.
(I did look at some purses while I was there, though – mine’s falling apart. This store with a name I forgot had some fairly nice ones, so I might go back. Muji’s purses, surprisingly, were kind of ugly. I’d thought everything they made was pretty. Also, the Sanrio store had Hello Kitty kimonos, but I think they were all child-sized. Sorry, siblings.)
So I went back to the first store. Because it was mid-afternoon and not morning this time, there was a huge line, so I ended up waiting another hour-and-a-half or so. This time, the woman I talked to told me they didn’t have any prepaid-compatible models in at all, but offered to order the one the guy had told me about yesterday, this time for 35000 yen. I said I just wanted to order the cheapest one available, and she acknowledged there was another that was only 30000. Or else she offered to cut the price of the first one to 30000 – she didn’t name a different model, anyway, and was kind of nervous and talking very fast at this point.
I’d done some research on the model the guy showed me online, so I knew that this particular phone was a 3G-network phone, and that Softbank offered non-3G prepaid service. It seemed like they would have to be selling the appropriate handsets for that. I pointed this out to the clerk, who muttered something unintelligible, and told me that the 705Px would be 25000 with a student discount. I said, “Are you absolutely sure I can’t get a non-3G phone through this store?”
She at this point said, “Well, but you want a phone you can use overseas.” It became clear that she only wanted to talk about 3G phones – I suspect that “phones you can use overseas” is what Softbank customer service reps are required to call 3G phones to foreign customers. I said, “No, it’s okay if I can’t use the phone overseas.” (Given that there aren’t any widespread 3G networks the US anyway? No. And can you even use a Japanese 3G phone in Europe? Aren’t they mostly hardware-locked?)
She repeated her assertion that I probably actually wanted a phone I could use overseas. I again denied this. At this point she got out some paper, and carefully wrote down (in Japanese) “Didn’t you want a phone you could use overseas?” (In the past tense, I don’t know why. I had never said anything even slightly like that.) “No. I only need a phone for use in Japan. It doesn’t have work overseas.” I helpfully emphasized this by making an “X” with my arms.
She looked deeply bereft. I said, “The website says Softbank still supports non-3G phones. Are that type any cheaper than that 3G one you showed me?” (I don’t know the specific vocab for “phone that is not 3G.”) Looking very unhappy, she took out her paper again and wrote down “20000 yen,” “convenience store,” and “Circle K.” She said, “Do you understand this?”
“If you go to this convenience store,” she said, her voice dripping with reluctance, “You might be able to buy a cheaper phone there. You might be able to. But it won’t be very good.”
“So the Circle K will probably have a phone compatible with your network?”
“Yes… Well, they might…”
You know, I’m sure the woman’s working on commission, but I think I’d made it pretty clear I wasn’t going to spend upwards of 25000 yen for what was basically a disposable phone, at least not on that particular visit. I feel like, when things reach that point, you should just say, “We don’t carry that here,” and move on to the next customer. I mean, there were people waiting. These just don’t strike me as optimal sales tactics.
So I went to the store and bought on-sale gyoza and chocolate soymilk to ease my grumpiness. My plans for tomorrow are:
1) Ask the teachers (and SuperShadow with her Osu-Kannon-istic ways) if they can suggest a place to get a cheap handset. It seems like there’s got to be a secondary market somewhere.
2) Call the main Nagoya Softbank store, which has an English-speaking staff and is supposed to be more used to foreign customers, and find out if their pricing’s any better.
3) Go to the au KDDI store and ask about their pricing.