Is there any store that cares less about you as a customer than a phone service provider store? It's not that the workers there are openly hostile. But they know how desperate you are. They know you need them so much more than they need you -- not least because they have staffed their store with about half the number of people needed to handle the traffic. The whole experience is Kafkaesque.

First, you can, if you choose, go to the company's website and make "an appointment." When you go to the store, you realize the "appointment" is meaningless. Everyone who walks in the door is treated in the same way. No one asks about your "appointment."

When I went today to the store, there was a collection of employees helping customers at the clean, white merchandise stands around the center of the space. There were several forlorn-looking customers on benches next to the windows. No one was at the reception counter, but I went and stood by it and a woman materialized, carrying a complicated-looking device that she glanced up from for less than a second. She asked me for my cell phone number, then told me my name, then told me to wait. 

I sat down on one of the benches next to a woman who was texting.

"How long have you been here?" I asked after a couple of minutes.

"Fifteen minutes," she said.

"Are these people ahead of you?" I gestured at the others in purgatory.

"Yes," she said.

I walked back up to the counter, where two employees were standing now, making jokes, I assume, about their pathetic customers.

"I'm leaving," I said.

They started in surprise, but their stares soon slid into pity. They knew I'd be back.

Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at will@poststar.com and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at

@trafficstatic.

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