Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

Maybe I'm just too old for a phone upgrade...
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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

I'm too old for this. No, no, really, it's kind of you to defend me, but I shouldn't be going into shops like this at my age. It's just an embarrassment.

As an intercontinental entrepreneur, I took a break from moving and shaking to get an upgrade on my phone. Something I could call China on. Something I could put on a boardroom table to shock and awe my suppliers. Fones 4 U - or whatever their stupid name is - had invited me into their retail experience, so I went along with my wad of documents. It is impossible to get the ID right first time for mobile-phone people. In my most heroic failure, I'd brought in a full briefcase but was repelled by a triumphant store manager: he wanted two sorts of ID that had to be represented by an item listed in Column A and an item in Column B. Six of my ID pieces were in column A and the seventh - the only one recognised by Column B - was out of date. He must still enjoy the sweet taste of victory as he sent me home for the third time (I certainly remember the taste of that).

But you will be pleased to know that Phones R Us set a new standard in customer service. My utility bill was four months old, so obviously that was no use. And the bank statement - from the Woolwich, that part of it was "spot on" - had a nil balance. The account had been opened - spot on - but hadn't been used. Box left blank. Reject. I trod the path to and from the shop and returned with a vengeful pack including all my credit-card bills, bank statements, driving licence, passport and House of Commons pass. Positive vetting by MI5. One of the most powerful pieces of ID in the country: unauthorised viewing will cause your eyeballs to melt and roll down your face.

It was received very coolly. Some of it was spot on. The Commons ID was useless (no address). The passport itself was spot on in that the photo was clearly me, but there was a problem with the signature. There was a squiggle now where there wasn't one before. "It was issued seven years ago, my signature has changed slightly."

"That's right, it's a very slight difference, most of the signature is spot on, except for this part. Can't you change it back so it doesn't have the squiggle?"

Actually, I couldn't. So, even though they knew I was the person identified by the ID (three picture passes), they were able to send me away, never to return. Total victory.

We middle aged don't belong here, among these gelled-up young blades with their assassins' suits. Someone should start a chain of mobile-phone shops for the mature customer, staffed by a plump, pleasant fellow with an apron and a pencil behind his ear. I'd do it myself. But I have my gadget to nurture. If there's any time left after I've managed to get my phone upgraded.