Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 September 2012 -- Journal Log

Scooter's Journal Log
Earth Date Sunday, 30 September 2012

first Pay Day! • beginning of vacation time • put together week-long schedule of activities for people staying in town and distributed it • went to Joy City in Xidan to get iPhone 4S • so, finally, I would have two much needed items: a camera and a phone – not having both of these items has served as a constant issue for me for the past month • arrived at the Apple store at Joy City – one of two official stores in Beijing – to find it literally swarming with people just like every other Apple Store in the world, and no one even knows when the iPhone 5 will be available here • I am elated to be able to purchase an iPhone 4S as I have been wanting an iPhone since the first one was released and this is five generations in • I am prepared to pay a princely sum of 4488 CN 元 ($714.65) for it – which isn't too bad for an unlocked iPhone • little do I realize however, that there is a deal to be had at the Apple Store or so I am told by Aries, my friendly, English-speaking, Mac Specialist • I didn't know there were 'deals' at the Apple Store, ever!

How to Get a Deal on an Unlocked iPhone 4S from the Genuine Apple Store in Beijing without Really Trying - or - How Reverse Credit Works in 中國 / Zhōngguó

Aries, my friendly Mac Specialist, takes me and my passport down to the second level of the gigantic Joy City, Xidan Apple Store. On the way, he helpfully explains to me that I can get the iPhone 4S 16GB for 999 CN 元 ($159) with a two-year contract from China Telecom. Naturally, I have no idea how this is possible or how I would be able to get a two-year cell phone contract in 中國 / Zhōngguó. Therefore, I am very suspicious. Then, however, it dawns on me how it works. It works like every other significant purchase I have made in 中國 / Zhōngguó of any lately. Of course, then Aries explains that you just pay the contract up front. I call it reverse credit; and frankly, I don't know why this idea hasn't been exported to America, or maybe I do. Anyway, the way it works is that you given China Telecom the money for two years of service, and they sell you the iPhone 4S discounted down to a quarter of its original price. Then you get 600 minutes of talk, unlimited text, and 1 GB of data service per month. The iPhone 4S is smart enough to use your own wi-fi whenever possible, even for phone calls. So, unless you have to download movies on the road away from wi-fi, 1GB a month is really pretty good. The cost of this whole package is about a 1000 CN 元 less than the normal price for just the iPhone 4S without any service. You would have to be really silly not to see the beauty of this deal. Yet, you also would have to have 3600 CN 元 of available cash to even enter into the deal which is probably why most people in 中國 / Zhōngguó cannot manage to swing the deal. I, however, was up for it, but after two hours of trying, Aries and three other helping specialists could not get my information from my passport and person to activate the phone. So, sadly, they sent me up the street to the China Telecom building to get my iPhone. They gave me a couple of cards that would ensure (a) I got the same price as they were offering and (b) the person would know what I was there to purchase.

Once at the China Telecom office, I got a young woman to help me set up the entire thing. In under 35 minutes, I walked out with the new iPhone 4S and a sim card to activate it once I got home. More importantly I had a phone number!!!!!! I had a camera!!!! I had a way to text and communicate with my local pals!!!!!!

What's in a Telephone Number in 中國 / Zhōngguó
Most telephone numbers in 中國 / Zhōngguó are 8 digits with a 3-digit number like our area code. Cell phones are a little different here in that they have 8 digits after a 3-digit cell phone area code that can be anywhere in the country. It was kind of a smarter way to do it than we did it in the USA where cell phones were crammed into existing area codes quickly wiping them all out for the people with local landlines. Clearly, the telephone companies here learned from our mistakes. Just like in the USA, I was given a long list of phone number from which to choose. I picked my favorite one only to find out that it would cost an arm and a leg as it was a so-called special number. So, I asked the agent to tell me which ones were "not special" which left me a choice between two equally non-descriptor numbers. I picked the one that ended in 0875 because, for some reason, I thought I would be able to easily remember that much of it.

hopped back on the train and headed home • lost so much time at the Apple Store that I was running about 10 minutes late • just barely met up with Katie and Derick who showed up for the first day of our week-long activity list with today being to go to see the movie Looper and have dinner at Wanda Plaza • took the 308 bus up to Wanda and waited about 35 seconds before deciding no one else was showing up – people waiting were supposed to be in front of Pizza Hut by 2:30 pm • went up, picked a show time and seats, and ate dinner at a very nice restaurant • Katie and Derick and I each enjoyed our meals •  had a very nice open face grilled chicken • did not have my iPhone ready, or I would have taken a picture for this blog • we went to the movie • after the movie, we went to Carrefour for shopping • I purchased milk, cereal, and Xiong Mao snack cakes • we rode the 308 home • I spent the rest of the evening testing out my new phone! • texted almost everyone I know in China and gave them my number • had an hour-long phone conversation with Lena about our plans for the week • I texted back and forth with 大 Jarrod and found that I had just missed him, Niall, and XJ who were waiting at Wanda to go to the movies with me for an hour • I felt very sad about that indeed as I knew I wasn't going to seem them during the break as they were all traveling to various far away places from Xi'an to Shanghai • finally, fell asleep after missing countless Skype opportunities with my family to talk during the weekend

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