Buying an iPhone in Italy

Call it bad timing. Actually, call it awful timing. Or even better, call it sfiga (horrible luck). The story started even before leaving for Italy, when I diligently (?) checked my technological arsenal. iPad? Checked. Laptop? Checked. Adapters? Checked. Chargers? Checked. iPhone? Checked. At least so I thought…

The truth is that… iForgot. I totally forgot that the iPhone Paolo passed on to me last October was purchased as a locked device.

To make it short, when I realized it and reacted pretty much like this

Scream

I ended up with these choices:

1. Unlocking my iPhone 5 (but in Italy it is illegal).
2. Opening a new contract hoping for a good promotion, such as a 2 year contract in exchange of a free phone (nope, no luck there).
3. Renting one locally or borrowing one from someone (no luck there either).
4. Buying a new iPhone (last choice).

As you can imagine from the title, #4 was eventually what I ended up doing and this is where the story gets interesting…

I started inquiring about buying a new iPhone that I decided I would have given to my Mom as a gift, since Paolo and I talked about it many times. I went to the only authorized Apple reseller that we have in town to check it out (with that I mean the only store that sells exclusively Apple products). They informed me that the iPhone 4s (I wasn’t even considering the new models) was on sale: €399 instead of €429. After feeling a light stomach contraction, I left with the promise to think about it. And so I kept looking around for a better deal but with no success.

Left with no other choice (keep in mind that this was already my fifth day in Italy), I returned back the store, where, with some tears of pain, I paid €399 for my new 4s. I immediately went to my cell phone provider to get a new SIM with my old number. The moment I explained my situation and showed my latest purchase, I heard: “Did you know that in Slovenia (which is 15 minutes away) they can unlock your iPhone legally?” Whaaaat? And… here I am again, only this time amplified by 50:

Scream

Feeling beaten up deep inside, I started dragging myself home thinking about what I just heard while cursing here and there (Italian cursing is quite melodic, you should have heard me).

Once I got home I received a phone call from a dear friend of mine. “Cool” I thought “someone to talk to to cheer me up”. And that was true… up until she said: “Did you know that they sell the same iPhone at the Mall for €299?”. Whaaaaat?

Scream

Yup, that is me. Again. Amplified by 100 this time. Yes, 100, exactly like the Euros I could have saved if only the timing was right.

The day after I went back to the store fully aware that they wouldn’t have accepted a return. In Italy you can exchange the item you have purchased with some other merchandise of equal or higher value. But you can forget about getting your money back.

And with this, the story ends. Needless to say that for the next days iFelt pretty much like this:

poop

Using my iPhone in Italy

Since in the States I was able to fulfill a two year contract for my iPhone, when it was time to come to Italy I was allowed to unlock it. This was a huge deal for me, because I could keep using Charlie without changing anything, just the SIM card.

Once in Italy I browsed around looking for the best deal and inquired within three different phone companies. Even though all of them were offering reasonably priced contracts (compared to what we pay in the States at least), I eventually decided to go with Wind, which at the time was running a promotion; a 5 year contract for €9 per month with these specifics:

  • 150 minutes of outgoing calls per month (incoming calls are free);
  • 150 outgoing texts per month (incoming texts are free);
  • Unlimited Internet.

I signed up almost three months ago, and have been very happy since… until my trip to Paris last week. I wanted to be able to navigate the Internet while there (you know, for maps, info, Whatsapp, etc.), so I paid €9 Euros for a service that would have allowed me to use up to 100MB for a week. I signed up by sending a text message, got a confirmation, again, trough text message, and off I went. Pretty easy and smooth.

But when I got to Paris and tried to make it work, nothing happened. I tried for the first three days, then gave up. Once back home, I called the company on a Tuesday, which was the last day of the service. I called once and an automatic voice said to call back later, because no operator was available at the time (I mean, they didn’t even put me on hold, just said to call back). I called twice. Same thing. I went to a Wind store in the afternoon. The assistant called the call center from the store itself, apparently he didn’t have the power to do anything. And, he got the same message. The day went by and with it went the chance for me to call again (kids, homework, dinner…).

I did it the day after. Finally I was able to talk to an operator. I explained my situation. She checked and confirmed that I didn’t use any data while abroad. BUT since I called the day after the week had passed, I wasn’t entitled to request any refund. So I told her that I did call, three times, but there was no way I could talk to anyone because I kept getting the message to call back later. Well, she said, I’m sorry, but if the call didn’t go thru, there’s nothing I can do.

I stressed the fact that the call didn’t go thru not because of me, but because of them. Still. No refund for me. I asked to talk to her manager. You can’t, she said, I’m the one in charge of the call.

Finally, I asked her to give me an address where I could send a complain to (FYI, that would be some extra $3, because it has to be registered mail). She did.

As you can imagine, I was fuming at the end of the call, you could almost see black smoke coming out from my nostrils and ears. Now I wonder, am I just too used to the excellent American customer service or am I overreacting?

The iPhone has arrived


I’ve been playing with my iPhone for over a week now, and I’ve to say that I like it a lot.
I spent some time brainstorming new interesting ways to use this device in preparation for a trip to Italy.
Here are a few ideas that came to my mind:
– Listen to Italian music (get into the Dolce Vita mood)
– Watch an Italian movie converted from a DVD
– Practice your Italian with a language podcast (for your kids there is my daughter Silvia)
– Watch a travel podcast from Rick Steves’ (or one of ours)
– Browse pictures of Italy and dream about your next trip
– Store a photo of your passport (just in case)
– Use the Google mapping feature to study your itinerary (even point to point directions)
– Write some last minute ideas using the note taking feature
Take our eBook with you (yes, the iPhone can view PDF files)
– Store useful contact information of restaurants, hotels, friends, etc.
– Download some audio guides for the key attractions
– Use it as an alarm clock
– Take some pictures of your trip
– Find out what’s the weather like in Rome
– Calculate the conversion rate from Euros in Dollars
– Make your friends jelous by sending them an email / SMS from the airport
– Use the calendar to plan your days
– Browse the internet to find out about the latest train strike
– or just use it as a phone (careful about those international charges!)

Unlike my video iPod, the iPhone doesn’t work as a backup storage for my digital pictures. Oh well…
Did I forget anything else in my list?