We went to see 'Alice in Wonderland' on Saturday evening, and after escaping from the hole we'd fallen into, my wife turned her five-month old Windows Mobile phone back on and it didn't work properly. I have the same model and we hardly ever turn them off - this is Korea, it's practically a social crime. Not answering within two rings annoys people, so mid-way through a sentence you can often find yourself talking to someone holding a suddenly produced phone to their ear; phone conversations have priority over face-to-face meetings. On a busy day, it's occurred to me that the best way to guarantee an uninterrupted talk with someone I'm with is actually to phone them up and stand next to them holding my phone to my ear.
Imagine the trauma then of a broken phone on Saturday evening, when the next day is a one-in-three week 'off Sunday' where the local wage-slaves are briefly released from their corporate chains and the local Samsung Service Centre is shut.
On Monday morning we travelled a mile to a large Samsung building where the elevator opened several floors up to reveal a large room buzzing with activity. One of the three young women with the kind of perma-smiles usually only seen amongst religious cults took my wife's details, assigned us a number and beckoned us to a seated waiting area, apologising that we might have to wait for fifteen minutes. Samsung had thoughtfully considered the dangers of keeping Koreans waiting in an enclosed space with no mobile phones to occupy them, and had provided a number of PCs with Internet access. And I found something new next to the PCs - phone sanitisers. Everyone knows, of course, that the original settlers on Earth - our ancestors - came from a planet that was suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone, so it's good to see that Samsung are doing their bit to ensure this tragedy isn't repeated.
Apparently, you put your phone in, close the door, and five minutes later, it's completely germ free. Well, until you put your hands on it anyway.
A few minutes later - not the fifteen advertised - we were called to the "Love Zone" - sadly not what you think - where beneath a large sign which read "감사합니다! 사랑함니다!" - "Thank you! We love you!", engineers sat implausibly behind their desks. The problem with my wife's Samsung SPH-4800's was that while it would boot up, all her data was missing and it couldn't even make or receive calls. We'd already tried everything we knew to fix the issue from fiddling around with the configuration, resetting, and anti-Microsoft incantations, so it was no surprise when our Love Zone liaison told us that it's love for her was dead and he would have to completely reinstall the software in a factory reset. He suggested it might have been caused by a virus, but the reset would cure it in a lucky escape for Earth. Her data and settings were lost, but it wasn't a complete disaster - she regularly synchronises it to her PC.
A mere five minutes later we were finished and I had to be impressed with that. When I once had a problem with a phone under warranty in the UK I had to send it to a repair company through the post, and it was two weeks before I got it back. In Korea, it was an hour's work. Perhaps Samsung really do love their customers.