The story begins a while ago.

Your humble correspondant was a student in the sunny world of Sunderland University, happy in his new digs, and not yet the jaded disrespector of human existance that two years in the arsehole of nowhere turned him into. Bright was the day and sunny was my heart as I romped though the happy world of Sunderland City Centre in search of a new piece of geekary, a technological marvel that was to brighten my comunicatory future beyond measure, for this humble student was about to make a purchase of… A mobile phone. I spoke, at length, to one of the more helpful salespeople I’ve encountered ever. We discussed the various possibilities of differant networks, the phones I could get with each, and the details of my contract. I walked out of the shop several quid poorer, and without a phone nor a contract. When I went back the next week to collect my phone, it wasn’t there. Happy to wait a little while longer for it, I didn’t let it get to me. It got to my salesman though, because he spent the next twenty minutes on the phone to the shop’s head office, eventually getting me the new phone immediatly – from shop stock, though not the same colour as I’d ordered – and a month’s free usage. The shop was Phones4u, the phone was a Panasonic GD60something, and I was sold.

A while later, I suppose a few months, I lost the phone at a Canterbury AFP Meet. This would be September 2000, I went into the shop where I bought the original phone, and discussed upgrades. This time I knew which phone I wanted, which was the latest model of the type I had. This was the Panasonic GD92, and I loved it. It was big enough not to feel like I was holding a matchbox to my ear, and was light (less than 100g), did polyphonic ringtones, multicoloured backlights, and looked really cool. As I say, I loved it. My one year upgrade offer came and went and I didn’t notice. In December 2001, it broke in a most impressive way. The display started displaying upside-down. Then mirror-image, then upside-down *and* mirror-image. Then, on the first of January 2002, it broke completely, and wouldn’t turn on. I cashed in my upgrade for a Nokia 6210, which was tiny, irritating, and nasty. I still don’t like it, but lived with it.

Then, this September, my mobile broke, causing me to nearly miss getting the job I currently do because the people who wanted to see my CV couldn’t get hold of me. Argle. So I decided to buy a new phone, because I now have a job.

They wouldn’t let me.

I wasn’t allowed to buy (purchase, exchange money for, gain in return for credit) a phone from them, because I wasn’t due an upgrade. The conversation went sort of like this:
Me: I’d like to buy a phone.
Drone: Okay Sir, Could we have @DETAILS?
Me: @DETAILS
Drone: Great. *phones HQ*
HQ: *blurble*
Drone: I’m sorry, sir, you arn’t due an upgrade because you haven’t had your phone for a year.
Me: But I don’t want to upgrade it, I want to buy it, full, proper price.
Drone: You can’t until you can upgrade, Or you take out a new contract.
Me: If I take out a new contract, can I keep my old number?
Drone: No.
Me: So I can’t even *buy* a new phone until I renew my contract?
Drone: Exactly.
Me: *shoots drone in head*
Drone: Ow. Please don’t do that, Sir
Me: Sorry. *withdraws bullet* When can I get an upgrade, then?
Drone: *talks to HQ*
HQ: Flooble-wordle.
Drone: Your contract runs out in… January 2004.
Me: *blinks*
Drone: Um. There may be a mistake in the system somewhere.
Me: You’re telling me? Can you reset it, it was only a 12 month contract
Drone: Not without a copy of the contract.
Me: Don’t you have one?
Drone: You have to supply it.
Me: I don’t have it.
Drone: The branch that gave you the phone will.
Me: But that’s 300 miles away. Do you have the phone number of the Sunderland branch?
Drone: No, but it’s in Yellow Pages.
Me: *resists killing drone* *fails* *new drone appears*
Me: Right. I’ve had enough of this. How do I get out of this contract?
Drone: You can pay your line rental until the end of the contract.
Me: Until January 2004?
Drone: Correct.
Me: Sod that for a simulated wargame.
*dial tone*

With several itterations of drone, both in shops and on customer service ‘help’lines, I gave up. Then… Something happened.

I lost my phone.

It must have fell out of my pocket while I was on the bus, because I can’t find it, and I spend a week or so looking, report it as lost with the bus company, and finally resign myself (last friday) to telling Singlepoint (Phones4u’s owner) about it. I wasn’t looking forward to another conversation with them.

Drone: Singlepoint Customer Services, Can I help?
Me: I’ve lost my phone.
Drone: What’s the number?
Me: $number
Drone: *bars phone* Do you want a replacement?
Me: Yes.
Drone: You realise that will extend your contract by a further 12 months?
Me: *Hollow laughter* On top of the extra year I complained about last time?
Drone: Sorry?
Me: $explaination.
Drone: You contract is down here as ending in January next year.
Me: *blink* Cool. They told me they couldn’t do that.
Drone: Looks like they did.
Me: Great. Right, so I’ll have another year’s contract then
Drone: Hang on, are you aware you have insurance on the phone?
Me: Um, No. (Remembers vaugly signing up for it when he got the first phone, because he was in Sunderland, and it was Important)
Drone: If you talk to them, they’ll probably replace the phone free. Shall I give you the number?
Me: Please.
Drone: $inumber
Me: Thankyou. Bye
Drone: Bye

Me: $inumber
$number: Insurance Drones International, @DETAILS?
Me: @DETAILS
IDI: How can I help?
Me: I’ve lost my phone.
IDI: Number?
Me: $number
IDI: Is it blocked?
Me: Yes.
IDI: I’ll send the claim forms to you. You’ll need a reference number from the police for lost property.

…which I now have. So, when I wanted to buy a phone for actual *money*, I couldn’t. When I lose it out of moronity, I get one free. This is silly.

The grand result is, though, I don’t have a mobile at the moment, and haven’t for a few weeks, so if you’ve been trying to phone me, it doesn’t work.