Your Number Does Not Exist

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve never been good at people watching. I’m a bit too much of an introvert, but this exercise was too much fun to pass up. In Minneapolis, they moved in packs of 2 – 4. They always knew what they were there to do: check out those shoes, lunch, buy whatever fancy outfits were on sale. This is all an assumption…I never really know what people do in malls. To me a mall is no different than Kohl’s or Target. I go in very casual, raggedy, even, always know exactly what I want to buy; buy it, then leave, and if what I want isn’t there, I channel my mom and go into best deal mode. Again, find what I need, then move on. There’s no time wasting.

What about Accra Mall? People don’t shop there, unless they’re expats, hipsters, or my dad, who I’ll scold later for buying something I could’ve gotten much cheaper elsewhere. What about the rest? Like I said, I’ve never been good at people watching, so I didn’t take enough time to figure it all out. But I would say one thing: going to this mall is an event. Here, they stroll in like mini troops all dressed up; you’d think they were all on a serious mission… to buy nothing. I’m always amused when I see people at this place. It’s smaller than Sam’s Club with mostly likely 1/1000th of the product volume and value, and no one dressed up for any Wal-Mart store. Here, the girls are totally hoochiefied, and very ghetto- I’m talking picture Brooklyn hood rats, Puerto Ricans from Harlem, and Jersey/Long Island guidos getting together. If you’re not familiar with this, google it. On second thought, don’t. There’s nothing fun about looking at pics of guidos.

I had fun, though. It was a bit of a mating dance. The girls dress to be seen, but pretend they can’t stand the attention. The boys are no different. Some are there to expat-watch, and it seems this place has become a sort of attraction for new visitors to Accra to see. I’m not big on police with Kalashnikovs at the entrances, but who am I to say anything about that? It’s been 23 minutes (I always count), and this exercise has turned from fun to painful. I’ve seen too many wigs, stripper shoes, fake nails, and bleached skins for a lifetime, and I think any more of this, and I’d throw up. I had this bright idea to ditch mtn and try airtel, something I was hesitant to do before porting began. I gave up on mtn after realizing call costs to US/UK and Nigeria was atrocious. But now I was beginning to wonder if I was leaving the devil I knew for the angel I didn’t know.

It needs to be said again: customer service is horrible in this country. I wonder how these people are hired in the first place. There are six people manning this booth. Guy 1 is talking to a friend on his phone and can’t be bothered. Guy 2 is hammering away on a notebook with a customer. Girl 1 takes a seat in front of me, only to reach below for her purse as she exits to who knows where. On the other side, Guy 3 is talking to an angry customer who doesn’t understand why their broadband service uses up his data faster than it should (I crossed them off my future choices after that). I love their standard answer for everything: there’s a problem with the network. And Guy 4 and Girl 2 are too preoccupied with their private conversation to be bothered with customers. I used to find nagging U.S. sales/customer service reps annoying, now I miss them.

Another 11 minutes later, someone gets to me to do what took less than 2 minutes to do! “It takes a day, and then you’ll get a text for you to switch sim cards.” That’s it? Some things are just too good to be true. This was early Saturday. Sunday came and I saw a message on my phone saying that porting failed. No biggie, if it failed I should still be on mtn, right? Wrong! I have no bars, no network signals. No network! I can’t make calls; I can’t receive calls. What about that number I didn’t want to change? “The number you have called does not exist.” That was the message each time I tried calling my number. Call 1 to airtel: it’s the network, wait 1 hour and try again. Call 2 and always with apologies: it’s the network; top up, restart phone and wait 5 minutes. Call 3 (at least they take calls and now knew my name before I said a word): enter this code to unblock calls from coming to your phone. We’ll note that you’re having problems. I now understand why Ghanaians keep more than one phone. I have no network; no ability to make calls, and best of all, my number no longer exists and I spent all of last week making business contacts who will be calling this week!

Today, I get the pleasure of visiting an airtel shop to be told “the network is down. We’re working on it. Wait 1 hour to use your phone.”

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