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China Daily英文微信 2018-12-28 17:40


Because my wife was working in Tianjin a few years ago, I naively thought it would be a convenient place to sign up for phone service.

What I didn't realize was that my colleagues in Beijing would ignore my calls because they thought a scammer was targeting them from another city.

In the end, however, this wasn't the biggest problem. That honor goes to canceling the number at the end of the contract.

I'll say here that my provider, China Unicom, delivered terrific monthly service.

I could acquire a cell signal from just about anywhere, the internet service was fast, the price was low.

I was in no hurry to drop the number. After all, it appeared on my business cards.

But my wife kept finding better deals. She has an uncanny ability to spot a bargain. On Taobao she's like a heat-seeking missile, and I'd swear I've seen her iPad smoking after she's done with it.

It was no surprise, then, that one day she found a great phone deal here in Beijing — and with China Unicom, no less, which I already liked.

So my first order of business was to cancel the old number. Easy, I thought.

Guess again. I was shocked to learn that to accomplish this I would have to travel to Tianjin and appear IN PERSON at the company's office with my photo ID.

It seems in a developing country that you cannot make such arrangements by telephone or internet.

Worse, if you have a refund coming, there's more pain in store for your posterior.

To collect your money, you must make a second trip to the office to appear IN PERSON after the contract expires.

That you simply want a different number from the same company matters not.

China Unicom in Beijing is a separate division from China Unicom in Tianjin, and they're not integrated. Accounts are not fungible.

Look, I understand about developing countries. Business systems may not be as polished as they are where I come from.

In the United States, for example, I would simply call my phone provider, identify myself with the last four digits of the credit card I used when I signed up, and that's it. Ta-da! Voila! Bingo! No more phone number. Alternatively, I could do the deed online.

Not here.

And so, for the better part of a day last weekend, I trekked glumly to Tianjin and back via train and taxi for a transaction that should have been easy to fulfill without leaving home: "Please cancel."

Getting a new number from China Unicom in Beijing was a snap.

The office is located near home, so showing up in person was no problem.

But I was curious about the cancellation policy. Surprise! The same rules apply. If you ever want to cancel, you must show up in person again, even if you live in sub-Saharan Africa.

The final step in getting the Beijing number was the most interesting. I was asked to gaze into a camera, like you do at the bank.

But the agent didn't just snap a picture: He asked me to bob my head up and down a few times. And then again. And again.

That's weird, I thought. Suddenly it dawned on me: He's capturing facial recognition information for a database.

You'd think a telecommunications giant capable of handling technology like that ought to be able to do a little thing like change a customer's phone number without forcing him to travel in person to Timbuktu — or Tianjin. Maybe customer service is just one of those things that's developing.



英文来源:“CHINA DAILY”微信公众号
编审:丹妮 董静
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About the author & broadcaster

Randy Wright joined China Daily as an editor in 2013. His career spans 36 years and 10 newspapers in the United States in senior management, editorial writing and reporting roles. He served as adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona and has consulted for many publications, including the California Bar Journal for lawyers and judges. He is a licensed pilot in the US.