I am about to tell a story that, for me, is simply surreal. If it hadn’t actually happened to me, I probably wouldn’t believe it. It’s about my recent attempt to acquire a microSIM card for my iPad, from Vodafone España.
Update 2010-09-01 — Vodafone call quality.
As I remain on hold for over 30 minutes, speaking with someone at a call center in Argentina trying to cancel (for the third time) this account, I thought I’d record the music they’ve been so gracious to play for me. If you listen to this MP3 clip, unedited, you can get an idea of the quality of telephone line a customer has to suffer when dealing with Vodafone. (Just imagine listening to that, looping over and over, for 30 minutes…)
When the attendant finally confirmed my request to cancel the account, I asked for a reference number corresponding to my request. (I have reference numbers for my past two cancellation attempts.) He said he couldn’t give it to me on the phone (why?), but promised to send it via SMS to my mobile phone.
Here’s the message that arrived (translated from Spanish):
Vodafone informs: Your request has been processed. Business service management.
Sigh. No reference number. Nothing at all to indicate what my “request” was, to which account it was applied. Nothing.
What I would give to have the opportunity to get in a room with a Vodafone executive, with the door locked and a video camera.
Update 2010-08-31 — It gets weirder.
A few days ago, a Vodafone representative called me, saying that she has noticed that my iPad card never shipped. I explained the whole situation to her (the same story as outlined in this article). Amazed, she said, “Well, the only thing I can do to help, is register another attempt to cancel this Vodafone service. Here is your new cancellation number XYZ, and I’ll call you back within two hours to confirm everything’s OK.”
Two hours later, no phone call.
Today, I received an SMS message from Vodafone that my iPad card — which I no longer want, and have canceled twice — has shipped. 🙁
Update 2010-08-11 — The nightmare continues.
Quick background (full story follows the updates): In May, I tried to order an iPad card from Vodafone in their Online Store. A data line was created and activated, but the iPad microSIM card never shipped. I spent days on the phone with Vodafone — with the Online Store saying it was Customer Service’s responsibility to send the card, and Customer Service saying it was the Online Store’s responsibility. I literally called each department probably 30 times.
After I received a first bank charge of 6 € in May, I said to myself, “Screw trying get this damn iPad card”, and called and asked for the account to simply be closed. I was told the 6 € couldn’t be refunded, but did receive a confirmation of account closure, and an “incidence number” for further reference. I thought the nightmare was over.
Well, yesterday, we noticed that Vodafone had charged 37 € in June! We called Customer Support, and they said we could only cancel this account in a physical Vodafone store. I visited the Marbella Vodafone store, and was told that we’d been misinformed — that Vodafone stores can’t do anything. (Furthermore, they noticed that I’m about to be charged another 37 € tomorrow!)
I got back to the office, and tried calling Customer Support an, again spent almost an hour on the phone, being passed from department to department, each finally concluding that they can do nothing.
So, here is the situation:
- Everybody at Vodafone — Customer Support, Online Store & Physical Shops — can see the account, and see that I requested its cancelation request back in May.
- The account hasn’t been canceled, and I am now getting charged 37 € per month!
- Each of these three areas of Vodafone tell me that one of the other areas is responsible for the problem, and that they can’t help.
- And nobody can give me the name of a person with a bit more authority in the company who might could help.
When I ask these drones, “What on earth would you do if you found yourself in my situation, which appears to have no possible resolution?”, they reply, “I’d call Vodafone.”
And when I ask, “How can I find somebody in this company who might care that this has happened to a customer, and be willing to do whatever’s needed to be done to help?”, they reply, “I’d call Vodafone.”
I’m pinching myself to prove that I’m not in the Twilight Zone!
Today, I got an alert from my bank, that Vodafone has charged my account for something. Grrrr. I called Vodafone, and after a round-trip between Customer Service, and Tienda Online, I finally found someone who claims to have cancelled my order. They can not, however, see the bank charge on their side, and therefore can not refund what’s been charged.
Hopefully this saga is now closed. I’ll consider the bank charge lost (since there’s no way I’m going to call Vodafone again), and will go tomorrow and get a microSIM from Orange.
Today, out of the blue, I received a phone call from a representative of Vodafone. The lady said she was calling about a new “data line,” that seemed to have been established in error.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I thought, somebody has noticed my problem and is calling to help!
But then, as my luck would have it, the bus I was riding in entered a tunnel, and the call was disconnected. Later, calling Vodafone back, I couldn’t reach anyone who knew anything about the situation.
— . — . — . — . — . — . —
I live in Spain, and have been a Vodafone España customer for more than five years. Recently, I purchased an iPad in the United States, and tried to order a Vodafone microSIM card and data plan.
Ordering the iPad SIM, and the document ID problem.
On May 28, 2010, I began process to order a microSIM at Vodafone.es’ “Online Store,” by clicking on the option: You already have an iPad, and need a microSIM card. (This is opposed to the option, “You bought an iPad with microSIM, and need to activate it.”)
I was asked whether I was an existing Vodafone customer, and clicked “Yes.” Later, I was a little concerned when, at no point during the order process, was I asked for any information that would associate me to my existing Vodafone account. (I was expecting an interaction like, “Oh you’re an existing customer? Then please first login before continuing.”)
Anyway, on the “Enter your Personal Information” screen, I was asked to enter an identifying document number. I tried to enter my passport number, which is the document associated with my existing Vodafone account. I had hoped this would establish the account association, but that failed; the web form would only accept one of two Spanish ID types,— “NIE” or “NIF”. With no other alternative, I entered my NIE number, and then finished the order process.
A day or so later, I received a “Your order has been successfully processed” email.
Please download your contract. Sorry, we can’t find your contract.
Today, June 7, I received an email within a link to download my new data contract. I clicked the link, arrived at the Vodafone website, and entered my NIE, and was told, “We can’t find any order associated with that number.”
And that’s where the ordeal begins…
Calling the Online Store and Customer Support.
This morning I called the Vodafone Online Store. After asking for my NIE number, they immediately found my order, and reported that it had been processed, was now out of their hands, and that for further status information, I’d need to call “Customer Service”.
I then called Customer Service, who (as they do) recognized my Vodafone account from the mobile number I was calling from. They checked, said they could find no order associated with my passport number nor my NIE number. Furthermore, they said they have nothing to do with iPad microSIM orders, and recommended I call the Online Store again But when I called the Online Store back, I was again told to call Customer Support.
I repeated this back-and-fourth literally three times — each time, the Online Store would claim that the order was complete, and now in the hands of Customer Support, and Customer Support would say they have no knowledge of the order and have nothing to do with the process in the first place.
(During one of these circular trips, a girl at the Online Store said that Vodafone do not sell micoSIMs for the iPad. I asked if she’s ever seen the Vodafone website, and she hung up on me.)
The identification document problem again.
Finally, a girl with Customer Support said that the problem might be related to the fact that I used my NIE, and not passport number, during the order process.
I told her that the order form only accepted NIE and NIF; not passport, and she replied that if I first login to my Vodafone account and then start the order for an iPad SIM, I would be offered the “passport” option (since my account is already associated with my passport), and then the order would be associated with my Vodafone account and correctly processed.
Placing a second order, this time “logged in”.
OK, back to the online store I went, ready to place a new order. This time, I first logged in, and then started the process.
My hopes began to sink a bit when, once again, I was asked whether I was an existing customer. (I’m logged in and my name is printed on the top of the screen; isn’t it obvious?) I clicked “Yes”, and my hopes began to rise again, when on the next screen, “Personal Information”, I saw that all the fields were pre-filled with my account details. At this point, I was optimistic.
But then, I noticed the error message.
There was a red flag next to the “Identifying Document” field, where my passport number was pre-filled. The error message read, “This is not a NIE or NIF number.” The drop-down type menu only contained options for NIE and NIF. My existing ID number — pre-filled from my own existing Vodafone account — was considered invalid.
So I was stuck. The Vodafone Online Store will not allow an iPad microSIM order to be placed from an existing account associated with a passport number.
Try canceling your order.
Once again, I called Customer Support, and tried to explain the increasingly complicated situation. (Can you imagine an unskilled first-line support person trying to understand this? I’m lucky if you, one of my brilliant blog-readers, have gotten this far and can still make sense of it all.)
The girl suggested that, at this point, I immediately call the Online Store, and cancel my original order.
Calling the Online Store, and trying to cancel my order, I was told, “Your order with us is complete, and activated. It can’t be canceled by us now. Only Customer Support can cancel it now.”
I insisted, almost desperately: “As I’ve told you, they don’t have record of my order, and will simply tell me to call you back!” Like a mechanical robot, the guy replied, “Sorry, please call Customer Support.”
I’m not authorized to let you speak with a supervisor.
Pointing out things have obviously gotten complex and, evidently, unresolvable, I asked to please speak to a supervisor, and was told, “I’m not authorized to do that.” I asked if one was even there, and was told, “Of course there’s a supervisor here, but I can’t let you speak with him.”
“So what should I do?” I asked. “Call Customer Support.” I repeated (for the fifth time) that Customer Support have no information and will tell me to call them right back. “Call Customer Support”. I asked again, “Can I please speak with someone, like a supervisor, who can act outside the protocol manual?” “Sorry, I’m not authorized.”
Try calling Apple?
In final desperation, I did call Customer Support one last time. After I explained everything (and after being told that Customer Support are also not authorized to pass me to a supervisor) the girl suggested, “Why don’t you visit apple.com/ipad, and see if they can help?”
- I’ve got an email confirming an order for an iPad SIM that the Online Store believe is complete (and that I’ll soon be charged for). Customer Support, however, report having no record of this order.
- The Online Store tell me that, at this point, my only option for additional information is Customer Support.
- Customer Support tell me that my only option, is to call the Online Store (and that, furthermore, they have nothing to do with iPad microSIM orders.)
- I can not order a microSIM from my existing Vodafone account, because the personal information web form won’t accept a passport number — even one Vodafone already have associated with my account.
- Neither Online Store, nor Customer Support will allow me to speak with a supervisor, nor will they suggest any other means to resolve the situation.
- Customer Support’s final recommendation is that I call Apple, to see if they can help.
What’s particularly horrible is that the Vodafone process allows a customer to find themselves in an unresolvable situation without any recourse. I can understand that organizations this large must operate call centers with unskilled workers operating from protocol manuals — but it seems inexcusable to me that if a customer finds themselves in a situation like mine, that these call center workers are not allowed to communicate some procedure for escalation.