I’ve been with Vodafone since I got my first mobile phone in July of 1999, it was a Siemens C25 – the one with the dingly ringtones you could make yourself – remember? After that I had a Siemens C35, then a Nokia 3210, a Motorola Razr next, a Nokia 5800 Music Xpress after that and finally a Nokia X6. There are two phones on my contract, mine and the Grumpy Gobshite’s. My first contract back in those days was about £12 a month each and I don’t think either of us have ever used all of our inclusive minutes in all that time. Over the years the tariff prices increased slightly and the inclusive minutes reduced but still I stayed with them because I’d never had major problems with them. In January 2007 they refused to give me Vodafone Passport for a weekend visiting a friend in Sweden, meaning I had to pay a phenomenal charge when I rang the spawn to say we got there OK. They refused it because I didn’t pay enough on my tariff, so I paid about fifteen quid for a five minute call home, but I stayed with them. In September 2011 they forced me onto another tariff and internet billing instead of paper bills and still I stayed with them.
My Vodafone mobile contract ran out in September of this year so I’d been checking the website for an upgrade phone but the only ones they were offering for my tariff (just over £15 a month each for two phones) were utter shite. One day last week I got a text message from Vodafone saying that this tariff I’m on was going and the price of the new one they were putting me on was more expensive. Feeling quite pissed off about it I decided to bite the bullet and see what else was out there with other companies. As we have our landline, TV and broadband with Virgin Media I tried there first and discovered that we could get brand spanking new Sony Xperia L phones with 200 minutes a month, unlimited texts and 500meg of data for £16 a month. On the Vodafone one we get 300 minutes and unlimited texts with no data so I’m swapping 100 minutes I don’t use a month for 500 megs of interweb. Anyway, to find the Vodafone “I’m leaving” number I went into my last internet bill, which I never look at unless the bill amount was different or unusually hefty, which it never was. I discovered that Vodafone were still charging £1.50 including VAT for itemised billing on GG’s phone every month. So I thought that while I was on to them I’d query that too and get a refund.
So I bit the bullet, dialled 191 and chose the “if you’re thinking of leaving us” option. There’s a stand-up comedian (can’t remember who) who says in one of his shows that if you just ring customer services you get some foreign person with English as a second language, if you ring the complaints line you get a lovely Geordie lady and if you ring the I’m leaving line you get the chirpy Irishman. I got a lovely lady called Barbara, lilting irish accent and friendly as you could ever want. Barbara did her absolute damndest to try and get me an Xperia L phone on my tariff but it wasn’t to be, sadly. I’d have loved to avoid all the faff of PAC codes and waiting for the new phone delivery bloke and had Barbara been able to come up with a reasonably similar deal I’d have happily stayed. I then asked her about the itemised billing but she couldn’t deal with that so we parted ways, Vodafone Barbara with her lovely, helpful demeanour and accent and me with my two PAC codes, needing to ring the billing department. Before I rang billing I rang Virgin Mobile, again speaking to a most helpful lady whose name I didn’t catch. She was foreign but her English was very good and she could even understand my lovely Boltonian twang. She sorted me two phones out, explained what would happen in easy steps and told me exactly what to do when the new phones arrived on Friday. So I ended that phonecall feeling elated – I’d spoken to two very helpful people and didn’t feel like I’d been bent over and unceremoniously arse-raped which is usually how I feel after dealing with call centres. I should have known that feeling couldn’t last. So I dialled 191 again and chose the option for billing. This time I was answered by a lady whose command of the English language was on a par with my three-year-old nephew. I didn’t get her name either because her accent was very difficult to understand. I explained that I’d noticed itemised billing on GG’s breakdown and queried why I’d been charged it when I hadn’t received paper bills for over two years. She put me on hold and then came back and said I shouldn’t be paying it so she’d processed a refund for £1.54 to my account and it wouldn’t be on again. I told her that I’d just cancelled with Vodafone and would she please refund all of it from when they made me go onto internet billing. That’s when the conversation got ridiculously frustrating, her with her broken English and me trying to understand what she was saying and get my point across. Sadly, her crib-sheet of responses appeared to be lacking in any kind of customer satisfaction service.
Vodafone: I don’t know when you went to internet billing and can only refund from when you make complaint.
Me: But it’s been well over two years since I went on internet billing. Surely your system can confirm the date?
Vodafone: I don’t know when you went on internet billing.
Me: I’ve just told you, September 2011, check on your computer.
Vodafone: I can’t check that, how do you know that you haven’t been getting paper statements?
Me: Because I’m on internet billing. I haven’t had paper bills for years!
Vodafone: Maybe they sent out a paper bill for the other phone with itemised billing so you can check what your other person using the phone has been doing.
Me: I don’t get any paper bills! I haven’t had paper bills for years!
*WARNING – MOST RIDICULOUS QUESTION YET COMING UP*
Vodafone: Can you prove that you haven’t had paper bills?
(I resisted the urge to call Royal Mail for a contact list of all our delivery people who have delivered mail here in the past twenty-six months so I could ask them to sign a document stating that they hadn’t delivered a Vodafone bill)
Me: I. DON’T. GET. PAPER. BILLS. So what you’re actually telling me is that you aren’t going to refund the £36 that you’ve fraudulently billed me for?
Vodafone: There has been no fraud.
Me: You’ve been charging me for a service you haven’t been providing. That’s fraud.
Vodafone: You should check your bill every month and ring if something’s wrong.
Me: When you changed me to internet billing that charge should’ve removed from the bill automatically, surely? You removed it automatically from my part of the bill, why not that part?
Vodafone: It’s up to you to check your bill every month.
Me: So I’m not getting my £36 back that you’ve stolen?
Vodafone: I can only refund from when a complaint is made, I’ve refunded £1.54 to your account.
Me (having completely lost it now): It’s absolutely bloody disgraceful, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, I’m going to suck up that £36 you stole and be thankful I don’t have to deal with your company again. I’m going now, bye.
And with that I put the phone down. To give you an idea of how bad her English was, the phonecall above took 15 minutes and 43 seconds, how long did it take you to read it? Moments?
So ladies and gentlemen, I give you Vodafone, a company that not only avoids paying tax to the treasury http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/vodafones-84bn-tax-avoidance-bonanza-nothing-for-taxpayers-in-verizon-deal-while-bankers-share-500m-in-fees-8794169.html but is only too happy to screw over the little people too. A loyal customer who, over the last fourteen years, has paid them well in excess of five thousand pounds. Like GG put it though, they’ve lost out on the future twelve grand they would’ve got from us over the next thirty years.
So fuck you and the horse you rode in on Vodafone! Like I said on Twitter, I wouldn’t recommend you to paedophiles and axe-murderers much less my friends and family. Maybe you should change the name of customer services to customer screw-overs then at least everybody would be clear what they’d get when they ring.