Armed with that tidbit of information, Alice overheard people saying how Verizon offered a good product and good service. She doubted that, because she had her phone service from Verizon once and cancelled it. But that was years ago; perhaps the company was better now. She spotted the Verizon Store in Burlington, WA ... right next to FedEx, which has the nice rest room. A good omen.
When Alice walked into the busy store, a friendly "older" (as in not in her 20s or 30s like the rest of them) woman, Jan, asked for her name and told her someone would be with her shortly. Before taking a seat, like the others, Alice asked Jan what kind of phone she used. Jan whipped something out of her pocket that looked big enough for older fingers and said there was even an app that was a flashlight.
That's what sealed the deal for Alice ... when she saw that Jan was able to use one of those silly things that kids had velcroed to their bodies at all times. Plus it had a flashlight.
When it was Alice's turn, she said to the salesperson, "I want what Jan has." Which turned out not to be available ... so Alice ended up buying the one she thought was the closest to what Jan had, had a touch screen like the Granddaughter told her to get, and had a longer-lasting battery ... which was apparently a good thing.
All Alice really wanted was a phone. What she left the store with was a Magnavox Droid Maxx -- a smart phone! It was all so foreign and strange, and the person talked fast, and before she knew what was happening Alice -- now feeling very much like Gram -- left the store with this "thing" that had so much stuff on it that it was scary.
Thankfully there was a class in two days at the un-Godly hour of 7:30 am. But the class was a must, since it took Gram 15 minutes to get the damn thing out of the box. Obviously it had been packed by some person or machine that had no concept of how older fingers worked or did not work.
Then her car blew the head gasket, so she missed the class and the one after that. So she left the thing in the Verizon bag with the shredded box as an example of why she hated Verizon and just forgot about it. Alice didn't even know what her phone number was. She felt blessed because she remembered her ATM password, her home phone, and her social security number. There were no neurons available to deal with a second phone number.
After Alice was marooned at home for almost two weeks, a good Samaritan in town, Mike Blade of Blade Chevrolet, let her borrow a loaner car while her car sat on his lot waiting for the two divorce attorneys to decide the fate of her 10 year old car with the blown head gasket. Thank the Goddess! Alice could now attend the class.
OMG! There were six people there; each had something different.
Alice brought the original bag with the shredded box, which she emptied on the floor in front of the instructor and let it be known that on a scale of 1-10 ... Verizon was hovering slightly above one. And the only reason it was that high is she liked the pretty purple case and the picture of the field of lupines that was displayed when they showed her how to turn the thing on.
She asked to meet the manager (always go to the top), who turned out to be the assistant manager, a very attractive young man with some kind of strange gel on his nice blond-ish hair. He was cute, young enough to be her grandson, and was a triplet ... plus he had the surfer hair thing goin' on.
So she pointed to the shredded pieces of box on the floor, told him she was a writer, and was going to write about her experience with this Droid Maxx thing. So, if he wanted "his" store to move from its place near zero, he needed to understand that she was part of a HUGE segment of the population who didn't tweet or text or take their cell phones to bed. And he'd be wise to practice on her to expand his market.
That's when things started to get better. Alice was served coffee, just the way she liked it. Then it seemed as if she had her own person, Paul, to speak simply to her while Santos was rattling off instructions that everyone else seemed to understand. Paul finally "got it" that all Alice wanted to do with the thing -- at that point in time -- is to make and receive phone calls. That was it. So he showed her how to do that AND how to use the camera. (It had a camera! Who knew that?!)
After an hour and a half of being treated very special by all the sweet young men in the store, Alice went to her car and called the granddaughter who told her to get the touch screen. She was surprised when Gram told her what she actually bought. But pleased that Gram could actually make a call on the phone that was ever so much smarter than she was.
During the two months since Alice bought the R2D2 phone, she has become part of the Burlington Verizon Family. Probably because she's been to the store at least three times a week. Now she takes cookies for them because all those "kids" work so hard and such long hours that they need something sweet to perk them up in the afternoon.
And when she walks in the front door, Jan or someone will get her a chair so she can sit in "her" place and wait for her favorite guy, the fast talking Santos who speaks as slow as he can when dealing with the customer from hell.
She still likes Stephen the Asst Manager and Paul and Ren and a bunch of the others, but Santos is her main man. He has taught her how to do amazing things with the phone she originally couldn't get out of the box. He showed her how to stop taking videos of her feet and how to take pictures and then send them to her home email so she could post them or whatever.
And he even showed her how to play all kinds of music and then set her up with a different kind of account, since the music she listened to at the Westin Hotel cost her $45.
And then ... her man Santos did the most amazing thing! He healed her foot that has not worked right for at least 5 years. Alice had not been able to walk barefooted without her foot catching on the carpet. She fell three times and one time the pain was so bad she was sure she broke her foot. It was black and blue for days, and she reluctantly accepted that she would no longer feel the sand beneath her bare feet when she walked on beaches. Or on cool grassy lawns. It was part of getting older.
But after Santos heard her sad story, he reached down and touched her foot with his hand and said "Jesus, please heal Dorothy's foot." Normally Alice would have written him off as one of those Evangelical Healer Wackos except it actually worked!
On the way to he car, she could tell her gait, which had been screwed up also, was so much better. So, when she got home, she asked The Husband to watch her walk across the room. He was amazed, asking "Did you get that brace you were supposed to get last November?"
"Nope." She responded happily. "The guy at Verizon healed it." The Husband rolled his eyes and drifted downstairs. But Alice knew it was healed -- even if she she didn't get the how or why.
The bottom line here in our tale of Gram vs the Smart Phone is that Gram has a ways to go before learning about all the cool stuff she can do. But, because of the infinite patience and caring of the people at the Burlington Verizon Store, she knows that she will continue to learn. And may even master it all by the time it has been declared archaic and no longer supported.
People who care about the customer -- even an annoying, pain in the butt one like Alice -- make all the difference. Alice loves her smart phone; loves her little adopted Verizon family; wishes Stephen would leave the gel off his surfer dude hair; will be forever grateful to Santos who is her friend for life; and on a scale of 1-10, she awards Burlington Verizon an 11.
It's always about the people. From sweet Jan as the greeter who made Alice believe that maybe she, too, could learn. To all those young, smart, technical whizzes who will work for hours to solve a customer's problem. So, unlike the other cell phone companies in Skagit County where the occasional customer will wander in ... Burlington Verizon is busy all the time. And all the customers leave with smiles on their faces because of those special people who care enough to help us all through the fast-paced, complex maze of technology ... to attain the level where we feel good about what we can do with the product we bought.
Alice is going to take her new smart phone to San Francisco this weekend, and knows she will "do the town" as a vibrant semi-technically savvy woman. Plus she can always call Santos if she runs into any technical snags.