Organizational Jurisdiction, or Apple’s iPhone Breast Problem

As a now-finished-with-breastfeeding friend noted to me, nobody knows what to do with breasts. What she means is that breasts – nursing breasts, actually – occupy a space in between OB/Gynecology and Pediatrics. This is immediately understood by any of the adult, childbearing, breastfeeding women in the contemporary Western world, and particularly by anyone who is diagnosed with thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection that moves back and forth between the baby’s mouth and the mother’s breast. Treat one, and it is re-infected by the other. So you need to treat both breast and baby simultaneously.

And this presents a problem. Show your OB your baby, and she’ll back away, nice and slowly, to prevent that crazy little thing from going off. Show your breasts to your pediatrician, and he’ll do the same.

Organizational jurisdiction is slightly different from the institutional jurisdiction that Carol Heimer talks about in her article on competing institutions (do yourself a favor and read that article some time. The chart on p. 35 is great).

I realized this most recently when I went to purchase an iPhone for my partner. I had bought one for myself a month back, and I wanted to add her phone (and her 847 area code) to my account. A family plan. Accomplishing this required: 1) a trip to the Apple retail store; 2) a call from Apple store to AT&T customer service; 3) a trip to the AT&T retail store; 4) a second trip to the AT&T retail store; 5) a second call to AT&T customer service; 6) a third trip to the AT&T retail store; 7) a second trip to the Apple retail store. Seriously, 7 different interactions, over the course of 3+ hours and 2 days.

Why? Because first of all, carrier and tech provider each do not know what the other does, and they compete for business. And second of all, because AT&T wireless has a system whereby individual accounts are linked to a geographic location. Trying to ‘combine’ two different geographic locations results in an error (e.g., linking two NYC and a Chicago area codes into one family plan).

As a result, the moron at the Apple store tells me that my wife has to change her cell number that she’s had for 10 years, because there is just nothing they can do. “And it happens to people every day.” He continues by telling me that the idiots at AT&T would do well to let Apple take over the whole business. Meanwhile, over at the AT&T store, the moron salesperson tells me that the idiots at Apple would be able to solve these kinds of problems if they would either learn the AT&T system or else just send customers directly to AT&T to begin with.

Interestingly, though, in this battle of morons, there are no winners, but AT&T actually is the bigger loser (Apple is close, because the smugness their employees exude when speaking about non-Apple stuff makes them a hair more insufferable than the always-defensive, never-experts at A&T).

Why is AT&T worse? Because their organizational jurisdiction is fractal – not only does the iPhone fall into the cracks, but their assignment of area codes across accounts also falls into the cracks. See, they have 2 breast problems.

I learned this when, finally, I realized that I needed to change my account type from a personal, geographic one, to a national business plan. Because national businesses can add whatever area codes they want to a single account. So really, I’m getting stuck over an internal, outdated dip switch internal to AT&T, that the people at Apple don’t know about. And that the people at AT&T also can’t figure out.

For those who like resolution, it went like this. Finally called the AT&T customer service number, explained my problem, and learned that I needed to speak to the NBI department (national business something). But there is no direct number to NBI. So you need to call Business Customer Care, and ask to be internally transferred to the NBI department. Once there, they can flip the dip switch on your account from MNY (geographic NYC) to NBI. And then, the people at the AT&T store can add two different area codes to the same family plan.

As a coda to this, when I asked the nice man in NBI why they didn’t just do away with geographic area code designations, in an era of mobile technology, he noted that this is indeed the direction AT&T wants to go. I then suggested as a starting point, that they make it possible for inbound calls to reach his department. He sheepishly replied that this might be a valid point.

The Apple store morons are still morons, because when I finally went back there to transfer my wife’s G1 Android phone contacts to her Apple iPhone, the supposed expert looked at the phone like he’d never seen any kind of Apple competitor phone in his life, and had no idea at all how to move the existing photos/files to the new phone. And no suggestions. It was something like, ‘huh, so that’s an Android phone. I don’t know how they work at all. All I have is this machine that transfers contacts, and I don’t really even know what cable to use. That G1 sure is poorly designed.’ Um, right.

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