Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Little Phoney

It’s approaching time for a new mobile phone handset. I really like the Nokia 3100. It’s dead simple to use and has an inordinately long battery life. There isn’t a camera, FM radio or MP3 player, it doesn’t make tea, tell jokes or do the ironing, but in the words of a parody advert that I now can’t find, “Get a life. It's only a f****** phone.” Unfortunately, it now seems impossible to buy “only a f****** phone”, and the 3100 is as obsolete as flared trousers, kipper ties and vinyl records.

What I really wanted was a new handset that accepted the same computer cable and charger as the 3100. I have no desire to throw away a load of house and car chargers and the hands-free kit. The Nokia 6020 appeared to fit the bill. It does have a crappy camera, but this now seems unavoidable. Cheaper phones aren’t tri-band; a ‘must have’ when travelling to the States.

Unsurprisingly, mobile phone handsets on sale in the UAE come configured to support Arabic text. It’s not only on the keypad. Having bought the new handset I got it home and switched it on, only to be confronted with Right to Left text. Whilst I can read Arabic, albeit extremely slowly, I had to rummage through both English and Arabic manuals for some time before I could find the language settings buried deep within the menu tree.

Ah, success! English.

Except that any form of text input always defaulted to Arabic. Sure, hitting the ‘#’ key twice to get Latin characters was easy enough, but remembering to do this each and every time I wanted to search for a contact name or write a text message started to be a right royal pain en al shams la laisa*.

Back to the shop. “Oh, no problem Mr Goat. It’ll take us half an hour because we have to reprogram the handset to disable Arabic text support.”

The duly-appointed half an hour later, this had turned into: “All electronic devices sold in this country support Arabic text, and in the case of your phone it’s impossible to switch it off.”

All electronic devices? Half the laptops in your shop don’t even have Arabic keyboards, and neither do my old phone handset or my own laptop purchased from this very emporium. With all due respect [i.e., no respect at all; the amount you actually deserve], what you have just told me is complete bollocks. Anyway,” I enquired, “Why do your staff say that it’s no problem when you, and presumably they, know that the task is impossible?”

“It’s company policy,” the manager replied. “We always tell the customer that we can do it.”

Well, this sums up Dubai customer service, doesn’t it? Company policy deliberately to lie to the customers.

“We’ll give you a refund, but you’ll obviously have to go home, pick up all the paperwork and packaging and come back here again. We’re open until midnight.”

Having obtained my refund, an almost unprecedented occurrence, I tried several other shops in the mall, but to no avail. Eventually, I discovered that the i2 booth, located about as far as it’s caprinally possible to get from the ski slope without going outside, had a pile of Nokia 6020 handsets. The salesman and I booted one of them up and were confronted with Arabic text. His Arabic was worse than mine (is this actually possible?) but I found the language menu and changed it to English. Miracle of miracles, all references to Arabic text disappeared from the display. Sold.

So “...it’s impossible to switch [the Arabic] off” has now proved to be “complete bollocks.”

I returned to the first shop. Having defaced the English manual with handwritten PINs and PUKs, it was only fair to give the shop the clean one out of the new phone’s box. How interesting to learn from a further staff member that the technician who couldn’t disable the Arabic was “an idiot.”

Now all that remains to be done is to ensure that the phone doesn’t have an annoying ringtone, but is still obtrusive enough that I can hear it.

* Where the sun shineth not

2 comments:

El Casareño Ingles said...

At least I don't have to struggle with the Arabic text; just the crummy service level. Perhaps there's a special school somewhere in the world just for mobile telephony sales personnel.

I've just bought 4 handsets (the junior Casaren@s are getting them for birthdays / Christmas) which has involved four separate vists and over three hours of my time, not to mention the follow-up trip to OMIC (Consumer's Office) to complain about the lack of service.

dubaibilly said...

Ah, Grumpy, I sympathise (or is it empathise) or perhaps both. I too recently bought a new nokia - I don't know what number it is, but it doesn't have a camera - it was configured in Arabic. Just before it hit the nearest wall Mrs Dubaibilly took it off me and took it to a shop that only sells phones - result: no Arabic, anywhere, at all! Amazing.

 

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