My cell phone, an original Google Pixel, has been slowly dying for almost a year. It started last September when I noticed the battery seemed to drain quickly. I’m sure the battery isn’t its best after all these years, but later I came to suspect some kind of software issue too, because the charge would jump from something like 72% to 59% in just a few minutes of sitting around unused.

The thing is, I really like that phone, and I hate having to replace electronics. I reluctantly researched new phone options, but kept babying my Pixel along, delaying the inevitable. Recently, though, it started dying on my long bike rides and refusing to turn on until I plugged it in. That isn’t just inconvenient; I rely on a working phone in case of serious emergencies out on the road.

After my phone made a habit of dying on my rides, I finally bit the bullet and decided to order a Pixel 4a. The price was right, it got decent reviews, and it isn’t too big. (My greatest cell phone irritation is devices designed for big guy hands.) Except when I looked, in mid-July, they were completely unavailable in the Google Store. Couldn’t buy a Pixel 5, either.

I compromised. I found a third-party seller online offering a new, in-the-box Pixel 3 for $150 and I decided that would be good enough. I don’t care much about having the latest, coolest thing; I just want something that will work reliably. So I ordered the Pixel 3.

It arrived on July 23. Or, rather, a package from that company arrived. Instead of containing my phone, I opened the box to find camera film (!) and various random art supplies, along with a packing slip addressed to a guy in Colorado.


I contacted the company, but it was the weekend, so they eventually replied early the following week. They sent me a return label. I asked when I’d get my phone. They said: Mail the package back to us. We’ll take two days to review the contents. Then we’ll take up to three days to send your phone. And we aren’t rushing the shipping, either.

Needless to say, I didn’t find this customer service experience particularly satisfying, but they had me over a barrel. I mailed the box back to them and waited. Silence. My Pixel declined more and more rapidly. Time passed. Silence. More time passed. More silence.

Then my Pixel died for good. It shut off and declined to turn on, despite being plugged in. Nothing we did would resurrect it; any pictures I hadn’t backed up, or any other files or such, are gone. It’s truly dead. And, despite having ordered a replacement weeks before, it still hadn’t arrived.

Finally, on August 7, I emailed them: Where’s my phone? I really need it. At the same time, the night we determined that my Pixel had given up the ghost, I checked the Google Store. Lo and behold, I could acquire a new Pixel 4a there now! I immediately pounced on that opportunity and ordered one.

In the meantime, I resurrected my 2013 Moto X (still one of my favorite phones ever) and it actually came back surprisingly well — at least, well enough for me to make an emergency phone call. Which is really the ultimate point.

The next day, the Pixel 3 arrived. The company had never sent a tracking number or anything. It just appeared.

Then, yesterday, my Pixel 4a arrived. I immediately set it up while allegedly attending a work meeting.

So now I have an embarrassment of riches in the “slightly older model cell phone” department. I’m not sure what to do with the Pixel 3, but I guarantee whatever I do won’t involve the original seller. That was the worst customer experience I’ve had in years.

At least I now have a working phone, which I hope will last a good long time.

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