Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Phone Home

I realize that what I am about to say will target me for (accurately) being judged a spoiled and self-righteous hag -BUT- I'm going to make this public service announcement anyway:  obtaining a mobile phone in Italy has been the most onerous thing I've ever had to do in my life. EVER.

There, I said it. And you know what? I feel better. This process has been so inimical that not even my closet alcoholism could ameliorate my strife- I've been forced to the pen for catharsis. In the event you're sadistic or planning your own transcontinental mass movement, read on for bureaucratic escapade #237: Getting a mobile phone in Italy.

I moved to Milan on May 21 with a delicious American iphone, gluttonously thinking I could just pop in a new sim card and be on my way toward interpersonal relationship heaven. wrong.

Giules and I began investigating mobile phone contracts within the first few days of my arrival, both online and via several  pilgrimages down the sweaty streets of Corso Buenos Aires. After some pontification, we determined Tre to categorically be the most affordable, and so, made our move. This meant entering the shop, taking a number, and waiting one and a half hours behind a gaggle of salty plebeians desperately salivating for a new touch screen something or other to boost their dirty egos.

In our moment of glory, we were summoned to the helpdesk- a place of inefficiency explained. The blonde, overly tanned clerk was obviously on some sort of sedative or ecstasy or adult libation or cocktail of all the aforementioned such that she could not articulate a cohesive sentence without laughing in a manner that expelled rapid puffs of air through her sinuses (while she compulsively glanced over her left shoulder to see if her silver-chain-adorned male counterpart was watching her have *so* much fun). To her credit, she was still savvy enough to replace my sim card with that of the Italian order, after which she cocked her head to the left, made a pouty face, and defeatedly announced: "non funziona". In her final effort to please, she suggested we unlock the phone at home and reinstall the new sim ourselves; so we exited- graced with a dichotomy of hope and failure.

The following day we studied hard. We watched youtube video after youtube video detailing the steps  necessary to infiltrate the apple jungle, and after nearly twenty four hours of geeking-out (including the enlisted help from select friends and family), the barricades were finally brought down. I nervously opened the sim gate, replaced the AT&T sim with an Italian card, and (prematurely) bounced in my chair as I realized I was no longer receiving the "invalid sim" message.  In my excitement, I immediately tried to place a call.


tried to send a text.


Tried mucking around with general settings, switching airplane mode on and off, powering the phone on and off, reconnecting to itunes, banging my head on the table, etc.


Begrudgingly took phone back to Tre. Explained situation. Paid dude 10 euros to take it along with my computer to his house to "properly" hack into it (yes this business practice is considered kosher here). Returned the following morning to him saying he had FAILED. Dude recommends I try a sim from a different mobile phone provider. Giulio and I walk down road, try Wind. FAIL. Return once again to Tre, are instructed to contact an Apple distributor/repair store. Meanwhile, flustered, we acquire a temporary pay-as-you-go phone so I can "handle" Florence alone. I exit the city. I return to the city. Post Florence, we learn from Apple distributor/repair store that currently, there is no hacking software available to enable an American iPhone 4 to function in Italy.


Our options at this point were laid out for us: 1) wait in vain for proper hacking software to be designed/released, or 2) sign a new contract and choose from a new phone (200 euro for iphone or zero euro for a samsung smartphone). We deliberate for a few days and eventually decide to bite the bullet and pay the extra soldi for the iphone (and eventually try to sell the American one).

Excited to be getting somewhere, we head back to Tre and eagerly fill out all obligatory contractual paperwork. Giulio must sign on my behalf as I have not yet obtained my codice fiscale (see impending gripey post).  We reach what is meant to be the terminal end of the process- payment.  Giulio pulls out his credit card and the clerk shakes his head, arms crossed.  This particular card is apparently not acceptable. FAIL. Our emotions plummet, then soar as I recall having ordered a credit card with Giulio's name linked to my account. They run the card.


Salesman gets on phone with Tre customer service. Twenty minutes pass before we are informed that American credit cards are not acceptable for cell phone contracts in Italy. FAIL. We inquire into our options and are suggested to get a new credit card OR  sign up using direct withdrawal from a bank account. 

The next day we drive to the countryside to visit Giulio's parents and stop by the local Tre to enroll for automatic withdrawal. Pleased to have so brilliantly navigated traffic such that we could arrive minutes prior to closing, we take one step inside the shop when Giulio looks at me and says:  "I don't know my bank routing number." FAIL.

The next morning, we drive into town and Giulio stops by his bank to collect the appropriate information. We arrive at Tre again, happy that this procedure is imminently over. We complete all appropriate paperwork again and when the clerk asks how we will pay, we say direct withdrawal. He says "ok" and we sigh, relieved to be one step closer. He then looks at Giulio and says "che lavoro fai?" (what do you do for work?) and Giulio stares back at him blankly, as if he were anticipating the consequential destruction brought by his imminent answer. "Niente, sono studente." 

"Mi dispiace" and a head shaking sideways to signify "NO" is all I can understand. We exit. Apparently one is only entitled to automatic withdrawal  IF he has a verifiable income.  FAIL. 

We walk back to the bank. Giulio orders a credit card. We are told we must wait one week.

Credit card arrives. It's been five weeks since we initiated the process. We take a deep breath and enter Tre.  Paperwork is already on file, completed. We nervously hand over Giulio's sparkly new card to the cashier. 


Finally, after more than fifteen failed attempts, I am now the proud owner of a white italian iphone and corresponding number. call me. 

white is the new black


Kirsten said...

Oh holy hell.

Mad Dog said...

Tenacity is the mother of invention, or something...!

Natalie said...

Benvenuto! Isn't getting settled into life in Italy a joy? If you ever manage to set up a bank account or find an internet provider that doesn't require a 2 year contract, please do share. I gave up on those months ago.

The Schumanator said...

Dear Italy, Why you gotta be so difficult? luv, Liv's friend.

Liv said...

fails in efficiency, excels in lifestyle.

Cathi said...