To recap: iPhone iFell to the iCement, screen smashed, time to replace phone lest shards of glass eat their way into my eardrums. I take myself to the Etisalat kiosk to buy a new phone.
I am pleasantly surprised that there is no line. The nice woman at the counter nods as I say I want a new phone and she types in my phone number.
No ma’am, that is a business number. We cannot give you a new phone.
But I’ve been paying the bills on this phone for a year and I bought this phone, right here at this counter. So can’t I just buy a new phone, with the same number?
No ma’am, so sorry, this phone is registered to the business, so we cannot sell to you without authorization from them.
Okay, what if I got a new number and just paid for it myself, without the business.
Ma’am you are already having a land-line or Etisalat account in your own name for six months?
Well, no, but you can see that I’ve been paying the bills on this current number for a year.
No ma’am, that will not work. You need to have an account in your name already for six months, ma’am. Is the new rules for the 5, ma’am.
Okay, okay, so fine, I won’t get a 5 right now, but I need to replace this phone. I’ll just get the 4s and replace this broken phone.
No, ma’am we don’t have the 4s in stock ma’am. Only the 5. You need a letter, ma’am, from your employer, saying that it is okay for you to switch this number to your own name and then we can give you the 5, ma’am.
[Please note that I have not yet raised my voice, throttled anyone, or thrown anything. I am telling myself that it is not the counter-person's fault that I can't just BUY.A.GODDAMN.PHONE]
I left the kiosk, emailed two different people in business services and human resources to explain that I needed a permission slip to buy a new phone. When we first arrived in Abu Dhabi, lo these many months ago, we got little Nokia phones that were already switched on and ready to use, a fact that I appreciate way more now than I did then. That phone number migrated with me to the 4s that I bought (with no permission slips) last year.
Approximately fourteen emails later, a wonderful woman in HR issued a stamped, signed, very official letter giving me permission to have full control over “my” phone.
The next day I went back to the kiosk, official letter in hand, sure that I would be leaving the mall with my new phone. Two different people were working at the kiosk, but hey, that shouldn’t be a problem, right? I mean, I had an official letter, stamped and on letterhead, with signatures and serial numbers. What could go wrong?
See earlier on bwhahahahaha…what could go wrong, indeed?
Ma’am you want to switch this number to your own name? You have been having an Etisalat account already in your name, a land-line or TV or something?
No, I say, but I have a letter here saying that I can switch this phone to my name.
No, ma’am, not without a pre-existing account, ma’am. I will verify with my supervisor, just a moment ma’am.
I decide there are few things more frustrating than confronting a bureaucracy where many of the decisions are conducted in a language you don’t know. The man returns to the counter, deeply saddened, I can tell, by the news he is about to deliver.
No, ma’am, we cannot switch this phone to your name. You could maybe have a new number but only with the pre-existing account, ma’am.
Okay. Fine. Let’s just keep this number in the company name and I’ll get a new phone.
You need a letter to buy the new phone ma’am. From your employer.
You have a letter right here, saying I can switch this number to my name. Isn’t that pretty much the same thing? It’s what I was told yesterday. And a year ago, I bought this phone right here, at this counter, with no permission from my employer [it's possible I may have shaken my smashed phone just the eensiest bit in his direction].
The man frowns, types something into the computer, looks up at me. No, ma’am that is impossible, a mistake. You should not have bought that phone here.
Yes but I did buy this phone here and now I want to replace it.
No, ma’am, I am sorry but you need a letter saying that it is all right for you to buy the new phone. And with that letter ma’am, then you can buy the new phone and keep your number.
You’re saying there’s really no way to migrate this number to my own account?
The man looks devastated, truly regretting what he is about to say. No, ma’am. There is no way. You need a letter to get the new phone with this number.
So if I come back here with a letter saying I can get a new phone, then we can just take care of this upgrade?
No ma’am, I’m so sorry. You will need to go to the main office. We cannot do any of these sorts of business transactions here. Only personal mobile service here, ma’am. Yours is a business number.