Friday, March 09, 2007

So Much For Finding Essentials Online...

Sometimes it's the strangest little events that show you all the gaps in our supposedly online world.

I'm on a trip this week. Last night, my mobile phone died. I'd noticed that the battery didn't seem to be holding a charge as well as it used to, and made a mental note to see about getting a replacement. Well, last night the battery died and now will not even take a charge... which means I can't even turn my phone on.

I'm like so many of us - when the mobile dies, I feel like I've been tossed into the bottom of well and nobody knows I'm there. But I have some time before catching my flight today, so I went to Cingular's web site to see if there was a store nearby - figuring I could pick up a replacement battery, and hopefully find a convenient electrical outlet at the airport to charge it up a bit.

This should be easy, right? Find a Cingular store near my hotel in an office-park-type location in an upstate New York city.

Ha! The Cingular store locator is fascinating; it produces different results at different times, giving you a feeling like you're at a table in Vegas, not at your laptop looking up a business. I also tried Google, which gives you an entirely different set of places.

I managed to find some nearby locations, jotted down the phone numbers, and started calling to see if they had the right battery in the store. Some of these locations aren't stores at all; they're corporate sales offices.

All of which left me wondering, why can't the Cingular web site tell me the nearest place where I can buy a battery for my phone?

Another fascinating feature: when you get a map of the store search results, you can't zoom in or out on the map. Not helpful.

This is such basic stuff; for a business that has retail outlets, like Cingular, it should be an absolute baseline requirement that their web site tells a person how to get to the nearest store.  Very nice, but slightly more complicated, would be a way to find out what's available for sale at that store.

Even better, for a customer with a contract who spends a good bit of money each month with them, would be a way to buy the battery on the web site and have it waiting at that store.

And something I'd actually pay a premium for right now would be for someone to deliver that battery from the store to my hotel (a distance of about 3 miles). (I don't have a rental car so I'm depending on the kindness of fellow Opinionated Marketer Maureen to give me a lift there en route to the airport later this morning, if they indeed have what I need).

Mobile phones are a necessity for business travelers. Cingular could make a nice profit off of me today - and I'd thank them for it!

Sadly, no. Meanwhile, though, here's something I'm adding to my list of tech travel essentials, along with the iGo charger, a phone cord in case that's the only way to get online, and the like: a spare battery for the mobile.

No comments: