Saturday, 22 May 2010

American pay phones are rubbish

America is awesome, right? If you want to keep believing that I suggest you never use a pay phone here, and particularly not one operated by Qwest. From my previous post, you'll know that I'm in Yellowstone National Park. There is no connectivity here – no mobile reception (well, there is if you're American, but O2 have no roaming), and no wi-fi. Whilst I highly approve of keeping things this way and leaving the parks as a retreat, I wasn't expecting quite such a kerfuffle from trying to phone home.

Armed with $6 of quarters, we approached the payphone and followed the printed advice: “For an international call, dial 0 for the operator”. Alas, there was no operator, just a machine requesting an area code and number. FAIL #1. Next I tried the standard international dialling pattern in the US of 011-, this took ages to connect and eventually just said “error 16”. FAIL#2. Next, I tried calling the Qwest number on the phone and got through to Danny who said he'd be happy to connect my call for me. I gave Danny my credit card details and everything was going well until he asked for my zip code. “Is this an international card?” asked Danny quizzically, “Oh, I'm sorry we only accept US cards sir”. Way to go Qwest, make it impossible to accept card payments for the calls which will make you the most money. FAIL #4.

I was reaching boiling point by now, so we went back to the hotel and sought some advice. “Get a calling card” was the tip, so we headed over to the store and exchanged our quarters for a said item, which was pleasingly Yellowstone branded. This went a little smoother, although on the first call I made, the recipient could hear me, but I couldn't hear a thing; and of course I got charged for it. FAIL #5. Finally I was able to successfully make the call, but man did it take a lot longer and involve way more complexity than I was expecting. Lesson learned, America is the land of the brave, and the home of the free, unless of course you want to dial internationally from a pay phone.

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