Stuff I Say

SoftBank is Bullshit But I’m Paying Them Anyway

Posted in Apple, Japan, Mobile Computing, Mobile Telephony by 51future on July 12, 2008

Foreigners treated like criminals; not surprising

So have you ever heard of those foreigners who buy cell phone contracts and skip out of the country without paying them? No? That’s weird because I hear it happens all the time. Constantly. Japan’s phones are just so fucking amazing that people come to Japan specifically to buy phones and then skip the country. In fact, you’d be surprised to learn that most foreigners are also criminals and/or terrorists.

What makes all this even worse is that the iPhone is only available in Japan! It’s such an awesome phone that anyone who wants one must come to Japan to buy one. That’s why there are so many foreign criminals paying thousands of dollars for a flight over here just to sign up for a phone they don’t plan on paying for.

Whew. Enough sarcasm.

But yeah, SoftBank is a shitty company that treated me like a criminal and I’m not happy. This is the story I posted on iPhone in Japan:

I got my iPhone today and honestly, it was a pain in the ass.

I went down to the store about an hour after they started selling them, since I only had a half-day off work and started the setup then. About 30 minutes later, after working out my new phone number, getting the contract details and everything else, they told me to go home and come back before 8PM to pick it up since the “foreign registration checking system” was “crowded” today.

About an hour later, I get a call saying that there was a problem with my visa and they told me that I’d have to pay 80,000 yen in full if I wanted to get the phone. (This is a visa with 25 months left on it.) I asked them what the problem was and they said they didn’t know. The head office just called and told them that I’d have to pay the full amount if I wanted to walk away with the phone today. So I went back (without my passport and whatall, since I like to keep that in a safe place at home) and realized that what I should have inferred from the “problem” was that we’d have to start everything all over again from square one.

So I went *back* home and got my passport and whatnot, went to the bank, got my wad and then went and sat down for another 45 minutes where I coached them on how to utilize the iPhone keyboard to type in web addresses to help me (haha) change my email address. After that, I had to choose a new number (yep, the other new number I had chosen was now locked out, lawl) and new details, of which I’m not even sure anymore. After that, they told me to confirm I lived in Gunma-ken??? They claimed my passport said I lived in Gunma-ken (even though we could find no mention of a Japanese address anywhere on my passport or visas, whatever) and when they couldn’t really figure out how to read my foreign card (yes, it’s in Japanese, I don’t know what sort of brain rot was spreading at the SB store today) I just gave them my Japanese license and from there things went smoothly.

Eventually, I walked out of there less 80,000 yen with a new iPhone and a contract that I can end for free at any time which will eventually pay back something like 20,000 yen to me over the one year.

The upside to all this is that my monthly bill is going to be something like 5,300 yen a month, which I can’t really complain about. But yeah, today was hell.

Wish you all luck.

There was a point (after I had come and gone three times to the store) that I thought about vocally complaining rather loudly in Japanese about foreign discrimination, but then I watched another guy, a Japanese security guard who looked like he was just coming off his shift fork out the same 80,000 yen to get the phone as I did. After that, I didn’t feel so bad about paying, even though my unhappiness remained.

There’s plenty of comments in the linked story that point to the same sorts of problems. It makes me glad I’m not a Japanese person or a citizen of Japan. And it makes me sad that I’ve spent all this time learning this language.

Meanwhile, there’s this analysis of the iPhone: “It’s like a foreigner who speaks excellent Japanese!”

Everybody’s covered the contract bit, but about the dodgy Nikkei Trendy headline – it’s perhaps based on stuff like this:

ただ、日本に上陸して間もないせいか、どうしても日本の文化になじめないところがあるのも事実。絵文字を受信すると、SMSだと「□」、メールは「〓」になってしまう。知らない言葉は理解しようともしてくれない。日本語が上手いからと、気軽に接していると、意外なところで、「育った環境が違うんだねぇ」と驚くこともしばしば。

Basically it understands the language, but without knowing the culture it screws up here and there, with the example being moji-bake-ing emoji – that will mean it will sell approximately zero to any woman under 35…

Then, to track shares you need to use the four-letter code, these’s no way to search names in Japanese.

Then there’s no One Seg or Osaifu Keitai, no 5MP camera, YouTube is too slow over 3G and there’s the lack of public WiFi here.

The conclusion seems to be picturing the iPhone as an American “Cool Beauty” – do you ditch the reliable Japanese model for a bit of foreign adventure?

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4 Responses

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  1. Curt said, on July 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I think you should have stood your ground and demanded that they give you the phone as agreed. There are benefits from the deal you got, as you say.

    But the more people tolerate bullshit in this country, the longer this crap sticks around.

    Please write a letter of complaint to Apple so that they know people are fed up about this. Maybe they’ll choose a carrier that is less racist.

  2. James Bruce said, on November 21, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    No offence, but it serves you right for being an early adopter. Obviously, when the thing first comes out its going to be hard to get one.

    In addition, the trouble you went through was not specifically related to the iPhone, it was because you were starting a new contract with them (I’m guessing). All foreigners go through that the first time.

    Personally, I got my iphone here a few months ago, and it took around 15 minutes. And thats despite the fact that I only had 1 month left on my Visa! Why? Because I’ve been a customer of Softbank for around 5 years now. I went through all that bullshit a long time ago. They didnt even ask about my Visa. I didnt have to pay a thing upfront either, they just gave me the phone.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of bullshit here in pretty much everything you try to do as a foreigner – believe me, I’ve had my fair share of complete bullshit in the five years I’ve been here – but in this case, you’re piling all the bullshit on unfair circumstances. Your experience was not specific to softbank, nor was it specific to the iphone, and I hardly think a letter of complaint to Apple or to Softbank will help anything.

  3. Mr. Miagi said, on July 27, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Why does the English version of the Softbank website say that payments can be made from my Japanese bank account but when I go to the store they say I need a credit card to get the phone on the payment plan. Is this bullshit? I can find no mention in the English literature of needing a credit card to get an Iphone. I can get a Blackberry at Docomo with just my Gaikokujin Card and a bank account. What gives?

    • 51future said, on July 27, 2009 at 11:52 pm

      You can pay out of a bank account but you’ll have to pay for the iPhone in advance. Luckily with Softbank what this does is allow you to be non-contractual but still get the monthly bonus discount anyway. You’ll pay somewhere around $800 and then over 2 years eventually get something like $400 off your monthly fees due to the discount without having to worry about canceling later.

      Sucks if you’re strapped for cash, and yeah, it’s bullshit, but it sort of works out in the end.


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