Hello! It’s Louise here, with a different sort of blogpost. Please indulge me while I get this off my chest. The below is a transcript of my complaint to Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO of Vodafone, which I emailed to him today after months of inept and infuriating customer service. I’ve written it as a (very) short two-act play, mostly for my own amusement. And to help me cope with the trauma.
Do you reckon I’ll get a reply?
VODAFONE: A TRAGI‐COMEDY.
October 2015. The Vodafone shop in the Bentall Centre, Kingston on Thames.
Is there some way to cap my daughter’s data usage so that she doesn’t keep going over and incurring large bills that I have to pay? I am happy to switch to Vodafone from O2 if there is some kind of family data share scheme we can use? My daughter has been a loyal customer of Vodafone since 2009.
Nice Ginger Salesman:(without hesitation)
Yes! You need our Red+ Family Bundle. This will cap her data. She will get a text when she has used 80% of data for that month, and then another saying her data is all used up.
And there’s no way she can go over?
Nice Ginger Salesman:
There is NO WAY she can go over.
OK then, great, I’ll switch to Vodafone since my O2 contract is up.
Nice Ginger Salesman:
Unfortunately, because your daughter had the contract first, she needs to be the leader of the account.
Oh. That’s weird. Even though I pay the bills?
Nice Ginger Salesman:
Yes. But don’t worry, her portion of the data will be capped. It will cost you about £90 per month for you to have 8GB of data between you, 6GB for her (WHICH WILL BE CAPPED IF SHE GOES OVER) and 2GB for you. That also includes one year of free Spotify, a free Signal Booster because of the poor signal in your house, worth £60.
Excellent. Expensive, but I’ve got the free Spotify and she has more data THAT SHE CANNOT GO OVER.
I take out the contract, but for some reason (which I’ve forgotten), Nice Ginger Salesman was unable to do it in store so I had to do it by phone. Half an hour on hold, Coldplay song sears itself gradually into my brain, at least another 45 minutes speaking to Cheery Northern Lady. New iPhone 6 ordered for me, to arrive three days later. Free Spotify, data cap, 8GB data, free Signal Booster. Bish bash bosh.
Three days later – No phone.
Five days later – No phone. I call 191 again. On hold for half an hour. I now know all the lyrics to the annoying Coldplay song. I am eventually connected to:
Understanding Young Scottish Man:
I’m afraid the reason your phone hasn’t arrived is because the order didn’t go through. But don’t worry, let’s just run through it all again….
Over one hour later, the phone is ordered. 8GB data between us, silver iPhone 6, data cap, free signal booster worth £60, bish bash bosh. I have stiff drink.
Phone arrives two days later, Signal Booster also arrives and doesn’t work, and I don’t receive the promised Entertainment Code for the free Spotify.
I pour another stiff drink and ring 191 again. On hold for twenty minutes, I can now sing the Coldplay song backwards.
Sorry to keep you waiting. Ah, free Spotify? Yes, of course. What you need to do is [XYZ]
(‘XYZ’ = I can’t remember and it’s too boring to do so anyway).
And that definitely gives me a year? Because whenever I try and do [XYZ] it indicates that I will only get one month free and then it’s £9.99 per month.
No, it will see that you’re on the Red + Family Bundle and it won’t charge you.
OK. I’ll do that then. And my Signal Booster doesn’t work.
Ah, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. You need to speak to our Signal Booster Technical Department. I’ll just put you through.
On hold for another twenty minutes, Coldplay, fantasies about gagging Chris Martin, etc. etc.
Signal Booster Technician:
Sorry to keep you waiting. Let me run through some diagnostic tests of your Signal Booster…..
[Coldplay for a further ten minutes].
Ah, I see that it’s not working.
(pours another stiff drink and makes mental note to get a liver test).
Yes I know that.
Signal Booster Technician:
What I’m going to need to do is ring you back tomorrow.
OK! Thanks. You promise you will call me back, though?
Signal Booster Technician:
I promise! Speak to you tomorrow! You have a lovely evening now!
Signal Booster Technician does not ring me back tomorrow. I call 191 again. More Coldplay.
My Signal Booster doesn’t work. Someone was meant to call me back yesterday…..
Etc etc. Signal Booster finally fixed. All fine for the next three weeks until….
I check my first bill of the new contract. It’s £220.
Call 191. 40 minutes on hold while I invent interesting methods of torturing poor Chris Martin. Can’t remember who I spoke to except that it took over an hour and eventually I was given a £90 credit. (I’d been charged for some data that was supposed to be a free addition to our bundle, and £60 for the ‘free’ Signal Booster).
3rd February 2016. I get a text saying ‘From Vodafone: Just a quick reminder your Red+ group has 200MB left of its maximum data limit. Think you’ll need more data this month? Speak to your group’s leader.’ My daughter gets a similar text, but hers invites her to purchase another 1GB for £6. She promises me she hadn’t replied, but her data doesn’t run out. I check my bill for January. I have been charged for the ‘free’ Spotify and also for an additional 1GB of data. Bill is £113.00.
Nice Man at the Vodafone shop in Richmond:
Oh, I don’t know who would have allowed your daughter to be the leader of the account. We don’t recommend that at all!
I’m afraid you’re going to have to ring them up again. I can’t authorize a refund.
9th Feb. 7.50pm . I ring 191.
(At this point, I’d just like to add that I am having a Very Bad Day. My mum is slowly dying. My agent had rung me to tell me that she hates the book I’ve just spent the last nine months writing. There are various other very stressful things going on in my life that I don’t want to talk about to the CEO of Vodafone, but rest assured, it was not a good day.)
Am on hold for 34 minutes, listening to the Coldplay track. The first five times it’s not too bad. The sixth time makes me consider self-‐harm. Phone finally answered by Muffled African Voice in a Call Centre Far Far Away. I explain the situation and ask why the extra £6 was put on my bill even though neither I nor my daughter (the account leader) asked for it and when my daughter’s data usage is capped SO THAT SHE CANNOT GO OVER.
Muffled African Voice:
Oh no, madam, we never cap data.
I beg your pardon?
No, it’s not something we’ve ever offered.
Me: BUT I ONLY TOOK OUT THE CONTRACT BECAUSE I WAS PROMISED THAT MY DAUGHTER’S DATA WOULD BE CAPPED!
No, it’s not something we offer.
I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR PLEASE.
Ten more minutes of Coldplay (and I feel slightly bad because I know the hold music is only 50% Coldplay and 50% another really boring song, but I don’t know the name of the other boring song, so I’m blaming Coldplay for the whole 100% of torture. Sorry, Chris Martin, I hope you understand. I do actually think you’re OK, when your music isn’t distorted and tinny and WITH THE SAME SONG ON REPEAT FOR HOURS.
The supervisor finally comes on. She is South African and called Nelly. The following conversation has been summarised so that we don’t all lose the will to live, but I explained the situation and also that I had been charged for the Spotify.
As my colleague explained, we never offer data caps.
But….but…as I explained, that’s the only reason I took out the contract!
(cries a couple of actual tears of frustration –
well I did say I was already having a really bad day)
We never offer data caps.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?
(I know, I know, I’m not proud of myself and I know it wasn’t Nelly’s fault, but when you hear what happened next I now actually don’t care that I shouted at her and nor should you)
I tell you what I’ll do for you. I’ll go back and listen to all your previous phone conversations and if it says you were promised a data cap, then I will put you in touch with our Resolutions Department and they will sort you out some compensation.
Thank you Nelly. I’m sorry I shouted at you. I know it’s not your fault. And what about the Spotify?
I see that you have been charged for the last two months of Spotify so I will refund you two times £9.99, ie. £19.98.
And I won’t be charged again for Spotify after this until the year is up?
You won’t be charged again until the year is up.
And why did the extra £6 of data get added to my bill, if neither my daughter nor I requested it?
Ah, that’s because as soon as she ran out of data and tried to use more, it was automatically applied to your bill.
Despite the data cap?
We don’t do data caps. Anyway, I will listen to your calls and ring you back tomorrow at 4pm so that I can transfer you to our Resolutions Department.
(thinking: I don’t want compensation, I want my daughter’s data to be capped but this is better than nothing).
And you promise you will ring me back?
I promise. I’m on duty tomorrow at four so I can definitely ring you back.
She hangs up and I sob for about fifteen minutes. Vodafone has become a metaphor for everything that is shit about my life. But hey, at least she’ll ring me back tomorrow!
Nelly does not ring me back, not the next day, not ever.
Four days later, once I’m feeling slightly more robust, I ring 191. Again.
Sat. 13th Feb. 4.30pm .
On hold for 45 minutes. I could probably play the Coldplay song on a piano with my nose whilst singing along with it in Cantonese.
Finally, Russell answers. Russell! He’s LOVELY. He understands, he sympathizes, he gives me sensible, practical advice. I’m amazed – I’ve been on the phone for well over an hour, and yet I’m still calm! Russell and I are being so nice to one another! I develop a bit of a crush on Russell, sort of Stockholm Syndrome, probably.
…So, Nelly said she’d ring me back on Wednesday at 4pm after she’d listened back to the phone conversations….
Really? Actually, we aren’t allowed to listen back to the phone conversations customers have had regarding their accounts. They’re for training purposes only.
And she told me that there was no such thing as a data cap, but that’s the only reason I took out the contract!
Well, I’ve got to be honest, I’ve just attended a top‐up training session, and they also said that we don’t offer data caps, so it’s very odd you’ve been offered one…
Let me look into it for you, to double check. Sorry, I’m going to have to put you on hold…
I’m still calm. He’s so lovely. He understands. He wants to help. I am soothed. He goes away (MORE COLDPLAY)
Russell: (ten minutes later)
So sorry for the delay, Louise – may I call you Louise?
(simpers a bit. Would hide behind my fan, if I had one)
That’s fine, Russell, of course you can.
Well, Louise, it’s very strange, but I’ve just checked your account and there are no notes from your conversations with my colleagues last Tuesday! I can see that you called in, but all the details have been left blank!
You’re kidding. So I spent an hour and ten minutes on the phone for nothing? And what about the £19.98 credit that Nelly promised to apply to my account for the Spotify-that-was-meant-to-be-free?
Er… nope. Not there. Although it might just be that it hasn’t gone through yet.
Has it been requested?
Not that I can see, no.
Me: (pours large drink)
Right, so what happens now?
I’ll check with my supervisor. I’m afraid I’m going to have to put you on hold.
I play along with the Coldplay song on a Mongolian nose flute whilst simultaneously grinding my teeth.
Russell: (ten minutes later)
Hi Louise! I’ve talked with my supervisor and, guess what, it turns out we DID offer data caps on Red + Family bundles after all! Isn’t that funny?
Hilarious, Russell, but I’m glad it’s been established that, despite the last three people I’ve spoken to insisting that you don’t, I now know I’m not going insane.
(well, not unless I have to listen to that Coldplay song one more time)
So, now we know the data cap does exist, can you explain why it isn’t working? Why my daughter still keeps going over her – capped -‐ data when the only reason I took out the contract was so that she wouldn’t be able to?
Russell: (Laughs flirtatiously)
Well, looking at your notes, I see what’s happened. It turns out that because your daughter is the leader of the account – although we never recommend that the child is the account leader – it’s YOUR data that has been capped!
Me: (stony silence for a minute).
You’re kidding me.
No! Oh dear. However, don’t worry, now we can see the whole picture, we can fix it. All we have to do is to pop you through to the Upgrades Department and they will switch it around so the cap is now on your daughter’s data and not yours!
Okay…..Can’t you do it?
(not wanting to say goodbye to lovely Russell).
Afraid not. But what I will do, is ring through – if you can bear to be on hold again – explain the whole situation to them, and you won’t have to go through security again.
Me: (resigned to yet more Coldplay)
All right then. Thank you Russell, you’ve been so helpful.
You’re very welcome, Louise. So glad we got to the bottom of it! So sorry for any inconvenience! Bye!
I can now burp the Coldplay song whilst standing on my head. But miraculously I’m still calm. The end is in sight. All will be well. The nightmare is almost over. Etc etc. Several more Coldplay minutes later I’m through to Dour Matt, who has a very strong Yorkshire accent. We go through the usual pleasantries and then he says,
So how can I help you today?
Am slightly flummoxed. Lovely Russell said he’d explained to Dour Matt already while I was on hold.
The man I just spoke to – Russell –
(I just manage to not prefix it with ‘Lovely’)
said you were going to switch the data cap from my account to my daughter’s, because she’s the one who keeps going over, not me.
Well I don’t know why he gave you that information. I already explained to him that we wouldn’t be able to do that. The system won’t allow it. But he put you through to me anyway. I don’t know why. The system won’t allow it.
MY WORLD COLLAPSES. RUSSELL HAS BETRAYED ME!!!
HOW COULD HE DO THAT? HE LIED TO ME! I am bereft. And, frankly, LIVID.
No, no, no, no no. I’m sorry, but that is just Not Acceptable. What sort of customer service IS this? Every single person I’ve spoken to – and we’re up to about nine of you by now – has told me something completely different! What is going on? Vodafone have made a mistake. Russell admitted this. So you need to fix it!
The system won’t allow it.
Me: (quoting Little Britain)
“Compu-er says no’?
The system won’t allow it.
(starting to losing the plot, getting fairly close to doing what a girl on my degree course did during her Finals when the stress got too much, ie. take off all her clothes, curl into a ball and roll around on the floor shouting ‘I am an orange’. )
“Compu-‐er says no!”.
Thankfully, at this point, my boyfriend comes home. He knows how many hours I have already spent trying to sort out these various issues.
Me: (to him)
So, guess what? They’ve changed their minds about data caps not existing. Like dinosaurs. Apparently they DID once roam the earth. But now they are saying they have put the cap on the wrong account, but they also say they can’t change it. Because ‘the compu’er says no’.
That’s a load of BOLLOCKS!
Dour Matt: (dourly and huffily)
If you’re going to swear at me, I’m going to have to terminate the call.
I did not swear at you. My partner swore. He is as frustrated as I am at Vodafone’s ongoing ridiculously crap customer service….
If you’re going to swear at me….
I said ‘crap’! That’s not swearing!
Is there anything else I can help you with?
Anything else? Anything ELSE? You haven’t helped me with anything at all! Can I speak to your supervisor please? But only if he’s going to actually help me. If he’s going to say ‘the system won’t allow it’, I don’t think I can be responsible for my actions.
I’ll put you on hold and explain it to him.
He puts me on hold. And guess what? I hear the Coldplay song three more times! Hurrah!
He won’t talk to you. He says he’ll only say what I’ve already told you.
I want to speak to Russell again then.
I don’t know which call centre he is in. I don’t know what his surname is.
Do you not have ANY sort of customer accountability? I want to cancel my contract and take my business elsewhere.
You can’t do that. It’s after the 14 days.
BUT VODAFONE HAVE MADE A MISTAKE AND IF THEY CAN’T FIX IT, I WANT TO TAKE MY BUSINESS ELSEWHERE.
You can cancel if you want, but you’ll have to pay the full price of the contract.
IF YOU THINK I’M GOING TO DO THAT, THEN YOU….
Mercifully I restrain myself at the last minute.
So, to summarise -‐ there is absolutely nothing you can do to help me? I won’t get the compensation I was promised by Nelly in South Africa on Tuesday, Russell has told me that my Spotify refund that Nelly also promised me hasn’t been put through, he has confirmed that Vodafone applied the data cap (the one that several previous employees insisted didn’t exist) to the wrong account, he promised you would put that right, he put me through to you despite you already telling him you couldn’t do anything about it, and you are telling me there is nothing anyone can do to fix it? I’m paying over £90 a month MINIMUM for two phone accounts that are not what I asked for in the first place, and which Vodafone is refusing to change?
That is correct.
I see. Well, thank you Matt. I’m sorry for getting cross with you, as I know it’s not personally your fault.
I can see how frustrating it is for you.
Yes. Who can I call to complain to? In fact, can you put me through to your press department so I can tell them I’m going to the press.
We don’t have a press department I can put you through to.
The complaints department then.
You can only complain on line.
Then please give me the name of the CEO of Vodafone. I want to complain directly to him.
I’ll have to put you on hold….
I calculate that – at a conservative estimate, totting up the times on a piece of paper while I’m on hold – I have spent roughly 300 minutes on hold since last October – that’s five hours. Not five hours of speaking to Vodafone employees, but five hours of WAITING to speak to Vodafone employees, not one of whom has done their job with the requisite knowledge or expertise. You can probably add a third to that that once you factor in the total call times – and that doesn’t even count the several hours spent in store trying to get answers to my queries, nor the three hours this complaint has taken me to write.
So, half of those five hours on hold have been spent listening to the Coldplay song – which I discover, is called Adventure of a Lifetime – oh, the irony! This means that as it’s about five minutes in length, I have heard that song, tinny and distorted through the phone, THIRTY TIMES. It has put me off Coldplay for life.
Eventually Dour Matt returns.
I have the CEO’s name for you. It’s Jeroen Hoencamp.
Could you spell that for me please?
Dour Matt obviously thinks I’m the world’s slowest speller, because he leaves a good six seconds between each letter:
Etc. etc. You get the picture. We got there in the end but it took a while. I’ve now been on this particular phonecall for 1 hour and 24 minutes. I thank him (being a nice well-brought up girl), hang up, drink half a bottle of red wine and cry tears of rage and frustration for the next fifteen minutes.
POSTSCRIPT (19th Feb) :
Well, for anyone who is interested, a depressing update: The lady from Vodafone who rang me to sort it all out yesterday gave me a number that she said would get straight through to her without having to be on hold. She said my new tariff would start today and if I had any questions I should call her back or email. I did have a couple of questions (including why I’m suddenly unable to send or receive texts) so I emailed her yesterday. No reply. I rang just now thinking it was a direct number, but no! It went through a call-centre!! I was listening to the Coldplay song again!!!!
However, a mere 7 minutes later I do get through the lady. She puts me hold again to check my account and comes back to announce that ‘it seems that someone has put a bar on your texts’ .
It was done on the 9th which was when I blew a gasket with them on the phone. Revenge? Spite? Nice work, Vodafone, so when your customers get upset you BAR THEIR TEXTS instead of helping them.
And it can’t be sorted out until Monday because the order for my new tariff is still open and if they put another order in to cancel the bar, ‘the orders will get confused’ (they aren’t the only ones) and it might delay my new tariff.
I think my play is going to turn into a three-act one!