iMac 24″: not an impulse buy (at least in Paris)

My gf and I have been talking for a while about buying a 24″ iMac. There are several reasonable arguments in favour of this:

  • integrated isight (you free one firewire port, always a good thing)
  • remote control & front row (it seems gadget at first, but when you use your mac to watch movies from the bed, it’s a huge selling point)
  • faster, better processor (real-time dvd rip just feels slow these days)
  • nearly-silent (the G5 is not exceptionnally noisy, but less noise == always better)
  • DVD burner
  • and… of course, this fricking huge screen. 1900 pixels wide.

Of course, all these arguments are some kind of after-the-fact justification – we want one by pure lust. The G5 is still a fine machine in itself that is already perfect for our use. We want one — for fun.

So today we were drinking coffee and we just agreed “let’s do it – let’s buy one”. We’ve been arguing back and forth since the price tag is pretty high – 2000 euros. We have the money, BUT in a U.S.-based bank, somewhere in Virginia over the Atlantic. We made sure the checking account was filled up, and left for the FNAC (a big electronic store in Paris that sells Apple products). We didn’t know the nightmare we were getting into…

First we had to wait 20 minutes for a sales guy to show up. We wanted to subscribe to the FNAC card at the same time, so we would get the 5% rebate (which translates to 100 euros, better in my pocket than in theirs). We then had to wait another 20 minutes for an OTHER sales person to process our subscription, which involved lots of facts-checking and personal questions… THEN we were finally allowed to go through the actual payment. But wait — what is this weird american credit card with no electronic chip? This is extremely suspicious – let me call a random security guy with a tie, that will take you aside, call a mysterious person on his corporate cellphone and give him or her your credit card number out loud. And to think people worry about information security on the internet — while nobody cares if this guy says my credit card number out loud! After 5 minutes or so, this big human security hole then told us that he couldn’t authorize us to pay with this card, do you have other means of payment?

At this point my wife was ready to leave the store right away, but I tried to convince her that since we already paid for the (of course, not free) FNAC card, we might as well go all the way, and try to pay by check. The guy took the check and left to a dark backroom, where, uberknownst to us, all kind of demonic activity seems to be going on.

FIFTEEN good minutes later, another guy was back and told us that the check didn’t go through. OF COURSE we don’t have this kind of money on our checking account RIGHT NOW – but there is enough on our savings, so we figured we might be able to balance everything during the weekend.

At this point one hour had passed, and we were getting tired by the whole affair. We have the damn money, but nobody wants to take it from us! What is the world coming to? Please come take my money! Anybody! …nope. So we cancelled the whole sale, (which involved more round-trip interaction with the first guy) and the FNAC card as well (which went surprisingly fast). All in all, we’d lost one hour and a half to achieve… nothing. At least we didn’t lose any money.

Later on, we tried in another Apple reseller in Paris – only to hear basically the same thing, that we couldn’t use the US card for payment. Apparently we have a spending limit on this card, and 2000 euros is above the limit. I can believe that. Fortunately, this time the experience went much faster and smoother. OK, plan B – let’s transfer enough money from our french savings account to our checking, and THEN use our french credit card! This can’t go wrong! Right?

Wrong. Money transfer through the web takes a few days to process. OK, let’s call the bank. Small miracle: it is still opened at 4 PM on a saturday. Problem: they can’t transfer money from our savings – we have to call a special number, the transfer will be done instantly. We call. Hello sir, what’s the problem? Of course we can transfer the money… wait a sec… done! It will be available on your checking account tuesday morning! Yay! Exactly what we didn’t need! Perfect! Pain.

Now what?

Short summary: we have the damn money, either on our US checking account or our french savings, but there’s no way for us to use it. Cards don’t work, checks don’t work, transfers don’t work. Bummer.

So where does this leave us? Well, we’ll have to wait tuesday to buy our ridiculously expensive gadget. Oh, I know, it’s not actually torture – there are worst things in life. I shouldn’t be complaining. But still, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want access to your own money — I’m pretty sure meanwhile the money is not sitting ildly twisting its thumbs. Somebody is making money from it somewhere. Oh well. Don’t pay attention to me. On tuesday, all will be good.

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