Clamming Up

It must be nearly half a year since I wrote a Story A Week episode about cell phones, or more specifically, that I was finally giving in and buying one. With the opening of our Asakusa shop, it was clearly going to be necessary for me to be much more accessible to all our staff members, as I would be travelling back and forth constantly.

At one point in that episode, I suggested that I would be getting an iPhone. I have been using Apple products from almost the very beginning of that company's history, finding the elegance of their designs and the general attention to detail very much in line with my own work ethics.

So it was that last September one day when I scheduled an appointment with our Asakusa shop manager Ishikawa-san to head out together and arrange the purchase of the phones we would need for our expanding business, she was surprised when I told her that we would be heading to the sales outlet of a generic cellphone provider.

We needed three phones - one to live in the shop and be the business phone, one for myself, and one for her (she of course has her own phone, but I want to keep our costs and charges separate from her private affairs.) When we got to the shop and the salesmen started their spiel I cut them off straight away: "No iPhone. No smartphone of any kind. I want your most basic clamshell model - basic call functions, good large buttons for easy entry, good battery life, and no email."

It took quite a while to get them to agree to this (I suppose their sales commission was trivial on these low-cost models), and I had an extremely difficult time convincing them to disable the email functions, but we did eventually get what I wanted, I signed the contract, and out we went, the new phone folded and nestled in my shirt pocket.

Ishikawa-san herself wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing, as she has become quite dependent on all the functions of her own modern phone, but I was adamant. I told her that I was determined not to become like the people I see all around me on the train, and in restaurants, and walking down the street ... all with their gaze fixed on a glass screen, swiping away with one of their thumbs, checking email, sending messages, always always always in touch. We were getting these phones for one single purpose only, so that our staff members would be able to communicate with her and I during those times when we were not physically present, and when there was an important need for it.

Even with these ground rules in place, things got off to a bad start. Right from the very beginning I began to get around a half-dozen calls a day from members of our team. I would be doing some work, or talking to somebody, and 'ring ring', in would come a call. And always ... always ... it would be for some non-essential thing. They could easily have waited until next time they saw me, but because I now had a phone in my pocket, nobody thought of waiting. Just call Dave ...

Well, I can report that we did eventually get this sorted out. Or perhaps more honestly, I can say that I now have them 'trained'. They now understand that they can call me if they can't continue the work at hand without guidance or advice. Otherwise wait until we next meet, or send me an email. I see my mail (guaranteed) at my desk computer every morning and evening, and usually plenty of times in between as well.

And it's working. At least as far as reducing the number of incoming calls from our team it's working. Now I have to figure out how to train the rest of the world ...



Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Carole

Dave, you were lucky to find the clamshell phones. The battery on mine, PAYG and over ten years old, died last month and I had to search for a replacement.
I tried to buy a new battery without success and luckily Samsung still make a tiny clamshell phone which I bought.
If only we could get people to give themselves a break from the constant chatter and actually look around them.They might see something beautiful.
Thank you for the stories which I enjoy reading every week.

Posted by: Jennifer

Google voice is helpful for this. You can set very particular filters for who gets through to you and when. And, it can turn voicemails into emails. (It works quite well for English, at least-- not sure about Japanese)

Posted by: Jakub Makalowski

I'm quite happy with my "dumb" phone and feel I probably won't switch to smart phones until there is no alternative.Though without a business I currently average making only one or two calls every couple months. Sadly even though its only about three years old already getting replacement sim card for it is impossible.

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