Updated: Jan 23, 2021
More than twenty years ago my daughter insisted I get a mobile phone. I wasn’t averse: I just hadn’t got around to it. She came with me. I bought the then fashionable small Nokia and signed up to a plan with Vodafone. Several phones later, Vodafone still provides me with an adequate mobile service at what seems to be a reasonable cost. How much longer will it last?
About three months ago, a Vodafone salesman rang me and invited me to shift my Broadband and land line across to Vodafone as well. I’m not usually a sucker for phone salesmen but this guy seemed to make sense. First, I’d have all my phone business with the one provider. Second, I’d get free toll calls around New Zealand. Third, the connection could be done seamlessly. A modem would be sent to me and an agent would visit to ensure I had fibre and then connect the relevant bits of wire. Fourth, I would find that my bills were slightly cheaper than Spark was charging.
To my eternal shame, I agreed to sign up. I provided the guy with my Spark account number so that when the new system was ready I could be disconnected from them. It took an age for the modem to arrive, but eventually it did. But, no follow up from Vodafone. Eventually, I emailed the agent to find out when was connection day. He gave me a date. So far, so good.
Ten days before the projected connection date, our phones and incoming emails died. In its infinite wisdom, Vodafone had disconnected us from Spark ten days before they planned to connect us to their service. So much for the “seamless” transition! When the day came for the new connection, no word from Vodafone. So, I rang the person who had sold me the idea of a seamless transition. I was told that I had my modem and it was over to me to connect it to the phone system in the house. When I protested that that wasn’t part of what I’d signed up to, I was told to get in touch with someone who, for a fee, would connect me. I further protested and received not one, but two messages telling me that as far as Vodafone was concerned, they’d performed their part of the deal.
Meanwhile, Spark had helpfully allowed us to keep our existing emails. By now, of course, I was wishing I’d told Vodafone’s snake-oil salesman to jump in the lake when he first rang. But, after a lengthy and combative political life I wasn’t going to let dishonesty win. My land line still wasn’t operational, so I rang Vodafone’s emergency service on my mobile, only to be put through to an amiable, but useless functionary located in Mumbai. He took my details and promised someone would get in touch. No one did.
So, I decided I’d write a stiff letter of protest to the CEO of Vodafone, a fellow called Jason Paris, outlining what had been promised by his agent, and telling him of his company’s dereliction of duty. I posted the letter to him on 8 December 2020. By then I had been without a landline, and dependent on my cell phone, for nearly three weeks. I faced a dilemma: did I try to retreat from this appalling encounter with the sleazy Vodafone and return to Spark? Or was it easier just to find someone to do the connections for me? I decided the latter was easier and more likely to produce results. If I waited for Jason Paris to intervene, I might well find I had no landline over Christmas.
Lucky me. As it turned out, I might just as well have posted my anguished note to Jason Paris to the Dead-Letter Office. Maybe he is still sunning his bum somewhere, because as of 20 January, six weeks later, there’s been no call, no letter, and no sign of anyone from Vodafone to ensure their customer’s problem has been fixed. I hadn’t realised that major phone services took holidays.
There are messages in this:
First: NEVER SUCCUMB TO ANY PHONE SALESMAN.
Second: STEER CLEAR OF VODAFONE’s BROADBAND/LANDLINE SERVICES, ESPECIALLY ANY PROPOSED DEAL RELIANT ON VERBAL PROMISES.
Third: DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH VODAFONE’S CEO. HE TOO IS A WASTE OF SPACE.
Four: BUT, START THINKING ABOUT YOUR MOBILE PROVIDER. I SEE VODAFONE HAS RECENTLY BEEN SOLD. WHAT DOES THAT AUGUR FOR THOSE OF US WITH 021 NUMBERS? INCOMPETENCE, OR WORSE, CHARLATANS IN ONE AREA, CAN CROP UP IN OTHER PARTS OF ANY EMPIRE TOO.