Press 1 for top-up, press 2 if you have lost your phone, press 3 if you want to talk to a halfwit called Glen

Mobile phone sales people are, with frighteningly few exceptions, slipperier than an eel wearing banana skin shoes on an ice rink.

They regard the truth as one of those quaint, old-fashioned concepts which died out with the dinosaurs, replacing facts with a blizzard of startling and complex contracts which even Stephen Hawking and his research team of impossibly clever boffins would find impossible to decipher.

You walk into a mobile phone shop for a mobile phone, and you come out with a slice of technology with an 8 megapixel camera, internet connection, several trillion polyphonic ringtones, more applications than the Pop/American Idol auditions combined and a year’s subscription to Premiership goals sent direct to your handset.

Whether your new phone makes or receives calls is open to debate.

You will have also locked yourself into a contract which is only slightly less financially devastating than if you left your entire life savings in an empty room with a pyromaniac and a box of matches. Extricating yourself from a contract is technically possible, but only after the kind of blood pressure raising phone calls which shave decades off your life and yet more money off your bank account.

If you have been hoodwinked into paying for the highly-recommended extended warranty cover, your phone will work perfectly until you choose to upgrade it. If you haven’t bought the warranty, the phone will self-destruct in a matter of weeks.

Either way, you have sold your soul to Beelzebub which is, incidentally, an easier contract to wriggle out of than an 18-month lock-in with a network provider (Satan, are you listening? It’s time to recruit some salespeople from the mobile phone industry).

Vodafone and I had been together for 10 long years when we split.

At first, things were good between us – in fact it felt like the first honest relationship I’d had for years; in the past when I’d really needed to talk to a boyfriend it had cost me an unpleasant sexual favour, or a bottle of wine at the least: Vodafone simply charged me 12p a minute.

But over time, we began to take each other for granted.

They were spending more and more time with newer, younger customers and my eye was wandering to more attractive deals which didn’t require me to choose between paying my mobile phone bill or feeding my children.

I flirted with the idea of leaving them for another, more thoughtful phone provider, they started randomly charging me for services I’d never used and bombarding me with texts about how to ‘meet sexy singles in your neighbourhood by text!’

Things came to a head when my recently upgraded phone decided that it would receive calls but not make them. The final straw was when the phone’s screen remained resolutely blank, meaning that answering any calls I did receive became pot luck –  the very definition of cold calling.

I called Vodafone.

Me: The screen on my phone has gone completely blank. I’ve only had it for three months.

Vodafone: Did you take out an insurance policy?

Me: No. I naively assumed you were selling me a phone which might last more than 12 weeks. Isn’t it under warranty?

Vodafone: Technically, yes. Do you ever carry your phone in a bag, or in your pocket?

Me: Yes. Sometimes I even carry it in a pocket in a bag.

Vodafone: Ah. If you carry your phone in a bag, it can get damaged. Your warranty won’t cover that.

Me: But it’s supposed to be a mobile phone! What am I supposed to do? Have it carried around by bodyguards on an erskine cushion? Should I not be able to carry it around in a bag without it ceasing to work?

Vodafone: Perhaps you threw your bag on the floor and it got a bit bashed around. Maybe you sat on your bag or something. It’s easily done. We can send your phone off to our repair centre, but nine times out of 10 there’s nothing that can be done.

And so on and so forth. This idle banter continued for several light years, my rapier-like wit redundant in the shadow of a blank-faced automaton spitting out company policy like a corporate muck-spreader.

No, Vodafone would not replace my mobile. Yes, they would sell me a new phone but No they couldn’t give me a good deal. Yes, the new phone would involve taking out a second mortgage, No I couldn’t afford any of the nicest phones on my budget but Yes the one in my price range did come with its own free ermine-lined wheelbarrow to cart it about in.

Coming hot on the heels of our last major bust-up – when my phone had been sent away for repair, the engineers had identified ‘liquid damage’ and the salesman had suggested it might be due to having “quite sweaty ears” – it was the final straw.

Giving up the phone number I had cherished for a decade, and which it had taken me nine years and 11 months to learn off by heart, was a wrench, but it was time for Vodafone and I to go our separate ways.

I now have a new phone and am therefore able to ignore 99 per cent of my calls like in the good old days. My new number includes the figure ‘666’ (no, really). There is a prize for anyone that can guess the remaining eight numbers in the correct order. All you need to do is call me before midnight on April 30. I won’t answer, of course. But you will have won a moral victory, and that, I am sure you will agree, is worth its weight in gold.


18 Responses to “Press 1 for top-up, press 2 if you have lost your phone, press 3 if you want to talk to a halfwit called Glen”

  1. April 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I’m no expert on mobile phones, but can’t you avoid signing a contract by getting a simian card?

  2. April 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    The agony is the hilarity! I suggest you keep that ball-peen hammer in your purse at all times – in case you have any problems with your new phone company… As for moral victories… While morality has never been my strong suit, I do enjoy playing games. Your remaining eight numbers are (and you can quote me on this) 28101604. Either that or something more symbolic, such as *&!%$#?/

  3. April 7, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Ahhh… vodafone! – such wonderful people to deal with.

    Next time my contract is up, I’m off to talk to those helpful orangey coloured people instead (and no, not the local chavettes emerging from the tanning salon).

    At least they stumped up a new phone for my wife when hers was damaged beyond reasonable repair. Maybe they were impressed by my sterling efforts at keeping a straight face while explaining that the damage had been caused by our horse trying to eat the damn thing.

  4. April 7, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    I’m on pay-as-you-go. No contract, no arsey sales people, and when the phone dies, I just buy a new one from Argos, and slap the old SIM card in. (My current phone claims to be a T-mobile one, but I use it for a different network)

  5. April 8, 2009 at 5:27 am

    Bang on WIB. I have now completely switched over to carrier pigeons. They work great and I can get multiple messages because I have pigeon waiting. I am also training them to crap on the cars of AT&T employees.

  6. April 8, 2009 at 6:23 am

    haha. your posts make me crack up.

    really though? you’re not supposed to carry it in a bag? WTF? what about up his ass? would that be acceptable?

  7. April 8, 2009 at 11:31 am

    You can’t transfer your mobile number to a new carrier where you live??

    I’ve noticed my new phone has trouble with the volume so half the time I can’t hear what people are saying. That or I am going deaf.

  8. 8 Ram Venkatararam
    April 8, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Woman in Black,

    While the comment regarding your excessively sweaty ears was undoubtedly rude, it may end up being a life saver. I remember reading a scholarly article in the Readers Digest some years back which indicated that profuse ear sweating can be an early sign of alcohol-induced hypertension, hyacinth bean poisoning or (perhaps most alarmingly) black widow spider envenomation. I would suggest that you pick up the phone and call for medical attention at once.

    You may end up owing your life to Vodaphone.


  9. 9 talk by talk
    April 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    You must be joking, right!!!
    Try another carrier, sometimes it works, for God’s sake!!!

  10. April 8, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    For the record, I had to deal with that “liquid in the phone” thing once. At random, my screen starting showing a message that said (if memory serves) “CAR KIT.” I was told over and over again that I’d gotten the phone wet (I hadn’t), and then someone from the company finally admitted that maybe it had just been in a very humid area…like pretty much anywhere along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in the summer. Finally, I got it replaced but, man, does it smart to get a new phone when you feel like they almost program these things to conk out on you.

  11. April 8, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    A bunch of tin cans and some very long pieces of string.
    No contract, no fuss.

    Can be carried in your handbag or in anal cavities and will not break.

    I’ve been using them for years.
    never failed me yet, Woman in Black.

  12. 12 G
    April 8, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I used to have the same customer service problems with Sprint. Nothing like spending an hour on the phone to solve a one minute problem.

    But for truly bad customer service, AT&T wins hands down. Whenever I gotta talk to them about the home phone/computer/cable, I always get the perpetual runaround.

  13. April 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I’ve been extremely lucky with cell phones for some reason. I recall a trip to the ladies room after a motorcycle ride in 40 degree weather, when my numbed fingers lost grip of the phone. I’ll spare you the gorey details. Suffice it to say, to my horror (frozen brain as well) I went toilet diving during the flush. After a thorough sterilization and blow dry, it worked like a charm though!. Good luck!

  14. 14 brucehood
    April 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I was given my first mobile phone as a present and was delighted to discover it had a magical 30000 in the number as well as my birth year… easier to figure out than yours I reckon. But the problem was that I could not change contracts as it had been bought by my wife and technically she was the owner but I did not want to lose my magical number by going for a new service provider. I tried various ploys… my wife and I are divorced and cannot even speak to each other, she died in a tragic accident… she was abducted by aliens. Somehow trying to change contracts is tantamount to granny abuse. Eventually there was a simple way around it which required buying another phone card, sacrificing a small pet and dancing naked in the moonlight on some auspicious evening… I got the new contract with the new provider with my magical number but it wasn’t easy.

  15. 15 okathleen
    April 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Having a mobile phone is akin to being tagged. There is no escape. Ever.

    And for some unfathomable reason my daughter’s father thought it appropriate to gift her an iphone.

    Yesterday it came into its own as I was dragged around RiverNewLookTopShopIsland, she photographed various items which were then downloaded onto mini coat hangers so ‘I can mix and match my outfits when I get home’.

    Hhow have we managed thus far without help like that..


  16. April 15, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Being a Man in Black, as opposed to a Woman in Black (MIB IAM), I rarely get phone calls and will do almost anything to avoid making one; my text messages, for example, have been know to be bullet-pointed, and I’d rather cross town to see someone face-to-face than face the prospect of calling them.
    Not surprisingly, with so little use for the contraptions, I a definitely a ‘pay-as-you-go mobile user’, which sounds rather like a junkie with a cash-flow problem, but I have never run out of credit, and am amazed that some people have to top up more than once every full moon. You would think some people actually enjoy using the wretched things.
    However, I have, on occasions, had to deal with Internet Service Providers by phone, so I know the beast of which woman in black speaks. In fact, who knows how many contracts I’ve inadvertently locked myself into! Eek!

  17. April 20, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I work in the customer service call center industry for cell phone’s for a company that is basically a subcontractor for an unnamed (for my own protection) major cell phone service provider. It rather frightens me that our center is rated higher in customer satisfaction than even the “official” centers directly owned by the mobile phone company. Especially when I know the competence levels of a lot of my co-workers (sorry guys). Everyday I get several calls where I end up fixing people accounts, bills, and features on their phones because they were not properly educated about charges or what their features included and did not include. And store reps are the absolute worst and every time I get someone arguing with me about how they were told they had X ability on their phone for free or some ridiculous request that makes no sense (if I get a new sim card my phone will work better and not have a poor signal when I’m relaxing 20 feet underground in my nuclear bomb shelter) I immediately ask if they have been talking to a store rep recently and sigh when they always say yes. Although I also have a lot of “fixes” and “educating” due to agents poor explanations and lack of setting expectations for the customers when they request changes to their rate plans/features. And considering that I am one girl out of thousands (or more) of agents and that I consistently have to fix screw ups and mistakes and do damage control and calm customers down because the last person they spoke with stabbed them in the back with misinformation, I don’t know whether to feel sad for them because it seems like customer service is infested with basement level competence or to at least feel a bit of happiness for their luck in randomly reaching one of the rare good people (um, that meant me). A lot of my calls are 30-60 minutes but I generally get showered with praise from the customer when we are finished.

    The two points I was trying to make is that cell phone reps generally do suck but that hurts the other reps who are actually good almost as much as it hurts y’all.

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