Friday, July 31, 2009

More reports on softbank sucking

Joe Jones at Mutantfrog Travelogue posted his experience buying an iPhone from softbank and came to the conclusion that Softbank hates foreigners, a fact that the softbank sucks team (me) is already well aware of. Joe was also well aware of this inescapable fact, as he points out, because Debito Arudo had blogged about it here and here.

As it is also well known that Softbank has (or perhaps had) special policies for Zainichi, and the founder, Masayoshi Son is Korean-Japanese, so maybe Softbank just hates non-Korean foreigners.

After the launch of the original 3G in Japan, masonmark.com posted a funny, fuck-filled rant about softbank sucking entitled "My Japanese iPhone Sucks, wah", in which the the poster concluded that:

In the USA, AT&T kinda sucks. SoftBank, the Japanese carrier, sucks substantially more.
This post also contains sweet jems like:

The implementation of メール (mobile-to-mobile mail, extremely widely-used in Japan, kind of like SMS on steroids) is literally jaw-droppingly, staggeringly fucktarded and is the deal-breaker in Japan. No fucking wonder SoftBank has a “no-returns-even-if-it-doesn’t-work” policy here. Because it fucking doesn’t work, by any Japanese standard.
and
Its suck-level is such that SoftBank had to send out a text message to all iPhone users a couple days after the release, which basically said “Notice: The iPhone kludge for メール is tremendously awful. We humbly and deeply regret this inconvenience.”
Use of bold in the quotes is that of the OP. Read and enjoy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Applying for an iPhone (Attempt 2)

After thinking about it, I decided that perhaps having Softbank as my carrier wouldn't be so bad. I called the Softbank store on the first floor of Yodabashi Camera Akiba and they had the 32 GB in stock. Now this is where I really started getting my time wasted.

After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, I was up. I produced my gas bill, health card, and ATM card. Turns out the gas bill I randomly grabbed was more than 3 months old and couldn't be used. But, having throughly prepared, I also had a copy of my water bill, electric bill, Yahoo BB bill (which I pay by conbini-barai even though Yahoo BB is Softbank).

I have now proved to the satisfaction of Softbank that I do indeed live where I say I do.

After all the explanations, photo copies, signatures, and whatnot comes the point of no return. The transmission of my application to Softbank for approval. After this, I cannot cancel the contract.

They guy tells me it normally takes 5 minutes. It takes longer. Finally it come back rejected:

分割りはクレジットカード払い。あるいは一括買い取り。

A credit card is required or upfront payment.

OK. Now I'm getting that nagging feeling that Softbank really isn't worth it. I mean if I am having this much trouble with them just getting a contract, what kind of customer (dis)service can I expect?

But I decide, screw it. I'll register with the credit card and then promptly switch the payment method to my bank account, which I am assured is possible and there is not chance that the switch would be rejected.

So I use my credit card to reapply. Rejected.

分割りは運転免許必須。あるいは一括買い取り。
A driver's license is required or upfront payment
WTF? I was just told I needed a credit card. But that is not enough. Now I need to produce a driver's license? I was told trying a different card would not matter.

Here is the thing, I was never asked for my passport with my visa. Maybe that is the problem? So I call Softbank:

0088-21-2000 > 3 > 6 > 1 is the number and the correct buttons to hit to speak to the correct department (new contracts).

This is where it gets really strange. I am told that it doesn't matter what I show, that even if I produce a driver's license I would still be declined. I ask why. I am told they can't share that information. I ask if it is because I am foreign. I am told they decline Japanese people too.

I ask what they actually examine in the application process. I am told they can't share that information.

I ask what they do not examine in the application process. I am told they can't share that information.

I ask if they research nationality. I am told they don't check nationality. I counter with, but you said you couldn't tell me what you don't examine.

You get the picture. By now I just started having a bit of sadistic fun with the person on the other end. You see, I originally called, but they called me back (on my cell phone). So, since they were paying for the call, I figured I'd just ask a few more meaningless questions and we continued in the same vein for the better part of 30 minutes. I almost felt sorry of the hapless woman on the other end... almost.

It took about 10 minutes, but I finally got her to admit that the examinations process is all fucked up. I'd say, "But isn't it strange that I would be told to reapply, twice, with different documentation but still be rejected? Wouldn't it make more sense to reject me the first time?"

She'd say "We can't discuss the examination procedure."

I'd say, "I'm sorry, but my Japanese is not very good. I thought I asked you if it was strange, but you seem to be providing an answer to a completely different question."

Repeat x 3.

Finally, after a long pause, she says "はい、おかしいんです。" (Yes, it is strange.) This was actually the first time I've ever got such a concession out of a customer service rep in Japan, and frankly, I was shocked.


I can conclude the following:
  1. Softbank sucks
  2. Softbank has the most ridiculous requirements for payment and address verification
  3. The process for applying for a phone without having to pay upfront is opaque
  4. If you meet all the criteria for paying for the phone in installments, you may still be decline for no particular reason
  5. The information of what is needed to apply is not complete on the website in Japanese and just plain wrong in English
  6. Softbank sucks
I am also fairly confident that there is some sort of foreign discrimination going on here as well. But I could be wrong about that. Who knows.

Applying for an iPhone (Attempt 1)

Attempt one didn't take so long. I Called a few of what I though would be the larger Softbank stores and found that the one in Omotesando had the 32 GB model in stock and available to those who did not preorder. I checked the softbank site for what I needed to bring, and headed over to Omotesando.

At the time, I had yet to realize exactly how much Softbank sucks.

I also had no idea that if I used my passport and foreign registration card as identification, only credit card payment would be accepted. The kid at the counter produced a document that told me as much. You'd think they'd want to put that kind of information on their website to, um... I dunno, save people from making wasted trips, getting generally annoyed, and deciding to NOT sign up with Softbank (because softbank sucks, by the way).

I thought about going home and getting a recent gas or water bill and coming back, but just decided to forget the whole thing. An English-speaking foreign employee asked me "Don't you have a Japanese driver's license?" Show of hands. How many foreign residents in Tokyo actually have a need for a Japanese driver's license?

So having concluded that softbank sucks for not allowing conbini-barai, and not allowing me to pay with my bank account unless I produced a gas bill (WTF? The address on my foreign registration card is not good enough for softbank?), I quit, went home, and decided even though I am a long time Mac user, having an iPhone is not worth dealing with softbank, who sucks more than AT&T (used to be a customer - er, still am a customer).

But if that was all the time I had wasted on softbank, then you wouldn't be reading this because I would not be wasting more time writing it. Oh no, I decided to go back for more, this time at Yodobasi Akiba.

Requirements for purchasing an iPhone 3G S without spending 70,000 yen upfront

A year ago, Japan Probe noted the severe restrictions placed on foreigners by Softbank for users wanting to purchase the iPhone 3G.
Live in Japan and want an iPhone? If you’re a foreigner, you’ll probably have to pay a huge sum of money.
This is because of the difficulty in qualifying to spread the price of the phone over the life of the 2-year contract, which has not changed with the release of the iPhone 3G S. In fact, the process appears to have gotten even more convoluted.

There is a large list of options for personal identification (listed in both English and Japanese) when starting a new contract. One of the following is required
  1. Japanese driver's license
  2. Japanese passport
  3. National health insurance card + address verification by a utility service bill
  4. National health insurance card + credit card
  5. National health insurance card + student picture ID
  6. Foreign registration + passport
  7. Disability certificate
So A foreign registration card and passport are not necessarily required, though without showing this, there is no way to verify that your period of stay is greater than 28 months and you will be required to pay for the phone with up front. and this apparently doesn't matter, making the visa requirement all the more bizarre.

Softbank accepts only two forms of payment:
  1. Credit card (obviously preferred by softbank)
  2. Electronic bank draft
Softbank is the only of the big three phone companies to not offer the ability to pay at a convenience store (conbini-barai). Docomo also does not allow conbini-barai for new contracts. As of December 2008, AU did allow it.

What is not listed anywhere on the softbank site in English or Japanese:

If you provide a passport and foreign registration card as identification you WILL NOT be allowed to pay your monthly bill by bank draft you will be required to pay by credit card. (I found this out on my first trip to the softbank store.)

Quoting directly from the Softbank Japanese page:
iPhone 3Gご利用料金のお支払い方法は、口座振替(ゆうちょ銀行含む)もしくはクレジットカードであることが必須条件となります。
  • 申込受付時には支払口座番号等が確認できるもの(通帳またはキャッシュカード)および口座届出印、またはクレジットカードが必要となります。申込受付時に店頭確認できない場合は申込受付はできません。
My translation of the first part:

Monthly payment is by bank draft (including the Postal Bank), or under certain circumstances, a credit card is required.

Softbank's translation of this on their English page:
Monthly payments may be made by bank transfer or credit card
  • Please present account details (number, passbook/cash card, seal/signature for account), or credit card. Application cannot be completed without payment document verification.
Perhaps my English Japanese is rusty, but these don't exactly say the same thing. I commend softbank for at least trying to put together an English page, but if it doesn't contain correct information, what is the point?

It would be nice if softbank just clearly explained when a credit card is and is not necessary.