Televisions and Telephones — when do we get Teleportation?

I guess I have to admit it — even though we don’t watch much TV, I’m addicted to the idea of having a TV around. So, even though I had to pack last night for a trip today, I decided I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the rest of the family TV-less while I was gone.

First step: take the old TV in to the service place offering the slow but free estimate so that we can get it fixed if possible. Other than letting me see how much working out at the Y has increased my strength, this wasn’t a problem — but next time, I will accept the proprietor’s offer to help get the TV in from the car!

Second step: do some research on the Web to figure out what to buy as an interim set. This didn’t take too long, either, and I quickly narrowed my choice to the JVC AV20120 and the Sony KV20FV12. The Sony had better reviews and more features, but it cost $150 more, and Diane reminded me that this was an interim set, which we might even donate to charity when we’re done with it, so I reluctantly agreed on the JVC.

Third step: figure out where to buy it. None of the local shops were answering their phones (one claimed they were closed; the other one’s automated attendant worked, but no one on the store floor would pick up the phone), so I couldn’t get prices directly, but I thought I’d comparison-shop the Web and then go out. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Circuit City would let me buy on the Web and pick the set up at the store the same day — this seemed to be a good mix of on-line and off-line technology, since I wouldn’t have to waste time with a salesdroid and I could still install the TV before leaving.

Fourth step: register for the Circuit City site, give them my credit card data, and make the purchase. All easy, until I got to the screen saying “we are finalizing your purchase; this may take 30 seconds or so”. 20 minutes later, I decided to go to the store anyway, figuring that I could always just buy the set as if the Web hadn’t existed.

Fifth step: check at the pickup counter at the store; they did have my order, and the TV was ready. And it was $30 less than the price on the Web site.

When I got home, my session with Circuit City had timed out; I checked my e-mail, and there was a confirmation note about the purchase, dated roughly 30 seconds after I’d pushed the “Buy” button. I guess I should’ve checked e-mail while I was waiting, but I’d call this a successful hybrid e-commerce experience anyway.

So I installed the TV, finished packing, and went to bed, since I had to get up at 5am to make my flight.

At 3:40am, the phone rings. It’s American Airlines. They’ve cancelled my flight due to a mechanical problem (I guess it was the same plane that had to make an emergency landing in San Jose yesterday), and want to know if I can take an earlier flight via Chicago. Or a flight out of San Francisco. I can’t do either of those, so they rebook me on the 1pm nonstop to Boston, and I try to go back to sleep, with limited success.

Eventually, I get up so I can tell the taxi driver not to pick me up early, and while I’m up, I look at American’s web site. They had a flight via Dallas which left only a few minutes later than the one I was originally going to take, and which would have gotten me to Boston two hours earlier than the one I’m now taking. But I was so tired I didn’t call American to get them to put me on that connection; I figured there was some reason they didn’t offer it.

This morning, after I got up again, I took another look at the site; it was too late to take the Dallas connection, but it was, indeed, operating. So I called American customer service (not toll-free, of course) and asked what had happened. They couldn’t explain it, but after talking with several agents, they eventually offered to give me a couple of thousand miles as an apology. This was better than nothing, but I was hoping that they’d give me a gratis upgrade. I may still follow up with a letter and see what happens.