The Fun Continues

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2005-03-02 Print this article Print

The phone arrived, and it was as wonderful as the demo unit I had studied weeks earlier. Given all the high-tech powers of this marvel, its noteworthy that the most impressive feature is the ability to turn off the audio instantly by sliding a switch atop the unit. The beautiful simplicity and downright elegance of that switch must have seen a lot of resistance from the PalmOne programmers, but its close to a work of art functionality- and efficiency-wise. It worked fabulously as a PDA, and then I decided to configure the data services. It immediately asked for a data password, which, of course, I didnt have. I was therefore forced to call tech support. Tech support delivered the needed password, and soon Web access materialized. Web access on the Treo 650 is great fun as long as you limit yourself to those few sites that are optimized for the Treos Lilliputian screen. The download speed is indeed fast, but thats of little comfort when looking at a tiny corner of your favorite Web site (, of course!).
But data completion wasnt getting anywhere with tech support. After several more holds and supervisor conversations, a rep said that there was a data group, but that its hold times were especially long. I thought little of that, but when one hold session topped 72 minutes, I was impressed.
Many grocery executives have been impressed with recent advances in smart-cart technology, such as the latest entry from Fujitsu. To read more, click here. My favorite part was when two different reps insisted that the data group had no outside dialable phone number for the public, so the only way to get there was to dial into regular tech support, wait on hold, get a rep, explain the situation, ask to be transferred and then wait on hold for an even longer time. When I did reach the data people, they were indeed quite helpful. They did scare me, though, when they mentioned that there is a known major flaw within the Treo 650 sync software but that it was a PalmOne problem and that PalmOne isnt doing much about it. Such news just makes my head spin worse. Having been told some of my tale of woe, one data person kindly gave a toll-free number to get the data group directly, and a backup number, just in case. When I tried those numbers later that day, a recorded message said that those toll-free numbers wouldnt work from my area code. *sigh* When Blasi was asked about this, he said that Treo questions are supposed to be handled by the business customer care group. When I told him that no rep had ever suggested talking with that group, it was his turn to sigh. (For the record, that number is 1-888-DATA-288, if that helps you avoid the same nightmare.) There were other disconnects about the phone, its sales and support, but these were the key ones. It truly is a shame because the Treo 650 is a wonderful device and Cingulars version of it is wonderfully designed and deployed. I guess Cingular wants to make sure that not anyone is permitted to simply buy one. To paraphrase the late John Housemans classic commercial line for Smith Barney, "Cingular customers dont just buy a Treo 650. They earn it." Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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