The public, tear-stained diary of a T-Mobile customer

One of the marvellous things about having your own little corner of the internet is that it gives you the chance to “speak out” against people you feel have wronged you. Some choose to do this directly – “John Johnson, you are a shit!” – while others like to go down the passive aggressive route – “Some people who shall remain nameless are shits!” – which deludes the writer into believing that they are spitting feathers in a more civilised manner.

Neither tends to make for very interesting or dignified reading, which is why I generally avoid indulging in either. However, my recent experience with T-Mobile left me both dumbed and founded, so I’m going to break my own rule here.

Let me just say that this is pretty much for my own sanity, because it has been a lonely experience and if just one person can empathise with my pain then I shall feel that little bit more connected to the human race. T-Mobile won’t mind if I share this experience with you; “Life’s for Sharing”, remember.

(By the way, I agree with Louis CK when he rants about people’s phone moans. Obviously, mobile phones are not essential to life – but this is more about customer service and, like, the ability of huge, billion-pound companies to deliver what they say will. Um. OK, on with the whining.)

My diary begins, like so many before it, on Sunday 17th July 2011.

Sunday 17th July: am

It’s a week until I go away on holiday! I cannae wait! However, it’s clear that my poor old BlackBerry isn’t quite up to the task. It’s been turning itself on and off – often during calls – for months now.

I have delayed and delayed getting a new phone because a) it’s time to switch from pay-as-you-go to a contract, and the options are too numerous for my feeble mind, and b) I do not trust mobile phone networks, and I do not believe there’s any possible way the transaction will go smoothly. Look, I’m just that cynical, OK? It’s based on experience.

But with a week until my holiday I see that T-Mobile are offering to deliver my phone by Tuesday – which will leave plenty of time to get it set up before I nick off. And let’s face it, all I need to do is place the order, pay for it and wait. What can possibly go wrong? This is a multinational company we’re talking about here. This is what they do.

Sunday 17th July: pm

Well, that was painless. I thought I’d speak to one of those online chat operatives on the T-Mobile website. Her name was Emily. We got on great.

My order for a magical HTC Desire is now being processed!

She told me I’d just need to call up after the phone arrived if I wanted to keep my number. No problem! I’m doing my “I’ve got a new phone coming in a couple of days!” dance. It’s been too long since I have grooved this way.

Monday 18th July

While at work today I got a call from a T-Mobile online sales person who went by the name of “David”. He wanted to know which free flexible booster I wanted as part of my deal. I’m being called and given free stuff! This is the life!

Only, the booster I wanted – for calls made while abroad (handy when you’re on holiday) – required a £150 activation deposit. This deposit would be refunded the next month, but that’s a hefty whack to have going out of your account when you’re about to go on your holibags.

This deposit hadn’t been mentioned when I was placing my order, so I asked “David” where I could read more about it on T-Mobile’s website. He said that actually, there wasn’t anywhere I could read about it.

Huh.

Those cynical hackles of mine thus raised, I asked who I could speak to about this – as hitting a customer with a sudden £150 charge which is not mentioned when the order is placed sounds a bit illegal (even if it is refundable).

“David” eventually got bored of my whining, unsurprisingly, and said he’d give me the email address of the department that requested this deposit. This email address was retc@t-mobile.co.uk.

I frothed off an email to this address, attempted to stop grinding my teeth and went back to work.

A little while later, the email bounced back to me. retc@t-mobile.co.uk didn’t exist. I’ll be honest here: even one as cynical as I was surprised that T-Mobile staff invented imaginary email addresses to get tricksy customers off the line.

I decided to spend a little time swearing at my computer screen and the world in general, and after that I decided to “engage with” T-Mobile’s Twitter feed. After a suitably childish mention of their name to get their attention, we started a back-on-forth via direct message.

My main issue at this point wasn’t the deposit, but the fantasy email address I’d been given. The upshot of the conversation was:

“Hi Stuart, he may have had that email addy in his memory from when it was a valid email address, it no longer is and I only have a postal address for the credit dept, I’m not able to provide individuals contact details I’m afraid.”

So, to query this deposit I had to write – using pen, paper and stamps – to the credit department. Fluff that, thought I, as I was leaving the country for a couple of weeks in a few days. So it was back to the bog standard T-Mobile customer services email address (which I assume, unlike the address I’d previously been given, does actually exist).

I’ve just e-vented my virtual spleen, so let’s see what happens.

Chicken for dinner.

Tuesday 19th July

No reply to my email and I haven’t had time to call T-Mobile – well, I have, but I haven’t had time to sit on hold for 15 minutes, which is how that route tends to end up.

My phone was supposed to arrive at my home address today. I’d be at work of course – where, apparently, T-Mobile and their courier UK Mail are unable to deliver – but I expected to see a card from UK Mail so that I could rearrange and/or collect at a depot. No card received.

Wednesday 20th July

This afternoon I got a call from a concerned-sounding lady at T-Mobile. She’d read my email and seemed keen to discuss the matter. Unfortunately I was just about to go into a meeting at work, so she volunteered to call me back at about 6pm if this was more convenient. I said that would be great and thanks very much.

She didn’t call. Of course she didn’t call. What, you thought she’d call?? You rube!

Now I’m actually more worried about the whereabouts of my phone. I’m going away early on Monday so it needs to arrive by Friday. Still no card from UK Mail. I’ve been out tonight so didn’t get a chance to call up and ask what’s going on.

Thursday 21st July

No card today either, so I called up T-Mobile. On hold for 15 minutes. I finally got through to a lady in the Phillipines who didn’t say “thanks for holding” or “sorry to keep you waiting”. She put me through to a guy in the UK. He said he’d go and check up on my order.

Why this took another 5 minutes I’m not sure – I’d have thought the details would all be there under my account. When he returned, he explained that delivery had been attempted twice at my home address. I replied that no card had been left, so I had no indication of this fact, or any way to reschedule/collect my order.

He kindly gave me the consignment number so I can call UK Mail and go and collect my order from a depot. Time is getting tight, so I’ll be calling them first thing in the morning and then trying to reach a depot after work tomorrow.

Dinner: I don’t know. My taste buds have broken. Everything tastes like boiled frustration.

Friday 22nd July

Called UK Mail first thing this morning while walking to the tube station. Oh dear.

It seems that when I placed my order, I was counting on T-Mobile’s ability to reproduce exactly what I’d written in the address field, and to pass this information to UK Mail. Sadly, while my flat number is “28a”, they decided to process it as “28”. The result is that the courier has been arriving at the building in which I live and not knowing which buzzer to press, or to whom the “While you were out” card should be addressed. UK Mail are unable to change address details, so I was told I’ll need to speak to T-Mobile about this.

I’ve checked to make sure I did in fact register my address as 28a, and that is indeed the case.

This afternoon I received a text from T-Mobile informing me that “there may be a slight delay” with my order. It’s not possible to strangle a text message, but I tried nonetheless.

The text also asked me to call a phone number where I could enter my consignment number and find out where exactly my order is.

I tried to do this twice, and neither time was the consignment number recognised.

I’ve been out tonight and I’m busy getting last minute stuff set up for my holiday tomorrow, so I’m not sure I’ll get a free half hour or so to spend going through phone menus and waiting on hold while their customer service line is open.

Dinner: a dog I’ve seen roaming the local streets recently. I’ve gone feral.

Saturday 23rd July

I did get time to call them but I just couldn’t face it. As of 7pm last night, I’m on holiday. I refuse to spend anymore time on this nonsense. I’ll have to sort it out then I’m back in two weeks.

Dinner: I am now powered by pure anger, so carbohydrates and protein and whatnot are no longer required. I am beyond nutrition. It’s a great way to save money.

Sunday 24th July

OK, I thought I’d try once more. After holding for 6 years I got through to a lady (no apology, no “thanks for holding”) who told me the UK staff don’t work on Sunday.

I briefly lapse into a fantasy of hundreds of T-Mobile directors lying by pools drinking cocktails and smoking cigars, setting fire to print-outs of angry customer emails and throwing them into the water, then indulging in a mass orgy in a pink bouncy castle.

Tuesday 26th July

I’m in France! Woo! The weather’s lovely, I’m eating nice things and visiting cool places.

Oh, one thing – I received a call from a UK Mail courier this morning. Obviously – like all calls I’ve so far made to T-Mobile – this costs me money. Anyway, the courier says he’s at my flat with my delicious new phone in his hand, but doesn’t know which buzzer to press.

Instantly, the relaxation of the last day or so disappears, my shoulders rise to my ears and I find myself explaining the situation through gritted teeth to this (actually rather helpful) chap on my doorstep in London. He says he’ll take the phone back to the depot and arrange for it to be delivered to me on the afternoon of Friday 5th August, when I’m back in the country.

I thank him kindly and wonder why none of the other couriers called me thuswise when I was still in London.

Wednesday 27th July – Thursday 4th August

I forget alllllll about this phone business and have a great time in Berlin and Paris.

Friday 5th August

Holiday over. I return to find no delivery or card from UK Mail.

Ah, but what there is is a bill from T-Mobile for the first month’s use of the phone which I am yet to receive. Looks like that part of the business is pretty efficient! Weird!

Saturday 6th August

This morning I steeled myself to enter the Kafkaesque T-Mobile customer services merry-go-round again. What do you know – after pressing a random selection of numbers while going through the phone menus, I ended up talking to a helpful human being called Emma. She’s Welsh. She’s very helpful, apologetic and sympathetic.

She says she can start a new order for me, with the correct address, 300 more free minutes than I had on my original order and she can have it delivered to my work address. So… apparently they can deliver to workplaces, but only if they handle the delivery to your home address with sufficient incompetence first.

I walk slowly to my HTC Sensation shrine and light the candles. I mutter a prayer to Android Marketplace and do my appy dance. “This time,” I whisper into my print-out of the HTC Sensation specifications. “This time you shall be mine.”

Tuesday 9th August

I took delivery of my new phone at work, and ran 18 laps of honour around the office. The emotion was such that things became a little undignified, and I was consequently encouraged to take an extra half an hour at lunch. I spent it in a quiet little street near the office, stroking the touchscreen of my HTC Sensation and sobbing softly.

I’m not going to go on about what could and should have been done better in this process, because it’s pretty obvious. All I’m going to say is that I will be sending this link to anyone who:

  • ever accuses me of being overly cynical regarding T-Mobile, or the process of ordering a new phone in general
  • says they are thinking of joining T-Mobile
  • likes the colour pink
  • ever speaks to me
  • ever passes me in the street.

1 Comment

  1. i want to cancel my contract but i got thru once and had the phone put down on me straight away so now ive phoned again and have been in the queue for 21 mins so far

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