This is one weird way to buy a phone

A 'carphone' 'warehouse'.

My iPhone 3G has been getting very slow recently. It has to think about every action, much like a sluggish PC. Installing the latest operating system didn’t help. In fact I think that was a ruse by Apple to get all iPhone 3 users to upgrade to the latest model. And it worked. That’s why, a few weeks ago,  I found myself stepping into the local Carphone Warehouse.

The last time I was there was to buy my current iPhone and to switch networks from T-Mobile to O2. I remember the process being very quick and simple, leaving the store after around an hour clutching my new phone. The phone was great, the network less so. From Canary Wharf to Soho to Clapham Junction, there seemed to be vast swathes of London where the signal was weak or intermittent and where the 3G network may as well not have existed.

Hopefully, the combination of a new phone and a new network would provide me with the service I sort of expect for £35 a month.

It didn’t start well. Vodafone wanted to see various documents so that they could carry out a credit check. I had my driver’s licence and credit cards and business cards, but they were never going to be enough. The Carphone Warehouse sales guy said I’d need to bring in a bank statement or utility bill. For reasons of expediency,  I could email them.

So I went home, scanned in my driver’s licence and a bank statement and emailed them to the guy at the address he’d given me. The following weekend I returned to the store, looking forward to start playing with my new phone. You know what’s coming, don’t you?

“Vodafone have mislaid the documents I sent,” said the assistant. Apparently he’d received my email, printed the attachments, faxed them to Vodafone who’d promptly lost them. (I’m writing this in 2011, by the way, just in case seeing the word ‘fax’ makes you think that this is a blog from 1998.)

Thing is, I don’t think that straight when I’m cross. Otherwise I’d have asked him why he didn’t email the documents himself. Why he’d used a fax machine. Why, when he learned they’d gone missing, he didn’t simply send them again. Why he didn’t warn me against making a futile trip back to the shop. And why he gave me his hotmail address rather than a ‘guy@carphonewarehouse’ email address.

Instead, I made noises about hoping to get a better deal on the rental or the upfront cost as some sort of recompense for all the inconvenience I’d endured, and said I’d return the following week. My third visit.

This time, I rang the store before making the schlepp into Kingston. Just to be certain. That was the idea, anyway. In the event it was an utterly pointless precaution as I never managed to get through. My call was important to them, a recorded announcement kept assuring me, though clearly not so important that it would actually be answered. So I got on my bike and headed into K-town.

The store was surprisingly devoid of customers. The staff were milling about, chatting to one another. No sign of my guy. The manager was there, though, and he told me that the person I’d been dealing with had the day off.

“Perhaps you can help me, then.”

“Well, no, not really,” explained the manager. “You’ve been dealing with him. I don’t know anything about it. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? Actually, I think ‘never’ works better for me.”

I must admit there was a swear before I walked out of the shop. But like I say, there were hardly any customers there to be offended.

So there we have it. A company engaged in the business of communications not answering phone calls. Not liaising with one another. Using fax machines. Encouraging their staff to give out personal email addresses. And one of Britain’s largest companies asking for private data to be transmitted via one of the most public platforms in existence.

I’ve packed letters off to both companies saying that they will be held jointly responsible if I become a victim of identity theft and I’ve also alerted the Information Commissioner’s Office. I’ve written this ranty blog. But I still don’t have a new phone, and now I’m not sure what to do  next.


Filed under Anecdotage, Modern life is rubbish, Stuff

6 responses to “This is one weird way to buy a phone

  1. You have my sympathies. I left Orange, about six years ago, due to them being rubbish. I’ve been with Vodafone since but my contract will be up soon and I may look around to see who can give me what. I’m viewing the whole exercise with some trepidation. *nods*

    • bravenewmalden

      You’re right to. I’d probably ditch the mobile completely if only I didn’t text, call people, tweet, check in to places, post facebook updates, share photographs, play games, listen to music and the radio, find my way about, access files, check ebay, read news media and hurl angry birds everywhere.

  2. I can’t go into phone shops any more. My pre-emptive rage and contempt incapacitate me before the staff even say anything. What I think is particularly annoying about your experience is that the manager probably won’t help you because they can’t steal each other’s sales and he won’t lift a finger for anything that won’t earn him commission. And he’s the manager!

    If you weren’t changing networks I’d suggest ordering online and switching it over yourself. Are you going to try your luck with a different shop? Incidentally, owning a mobile phone in the USA is about three times more expensive than it is in the UK, which surprised me.

    • bravenewmalden

      Is it still the case that the person receiving the call has to pay? That’s how it was originally, which IIRC was the reason cellphone usage was slower to take off in the US.

      I’ll probably just end up going into a different branch. I don’t know though. I’ve heard people say the experience is now up there with divorce, starting a new job and moving home as being amongst the most stressful.

      • Not sure about calls, but people texting you will cost you money unless you buy into an inclusive package. And the junk calls are awful here; I’ve stopped answering the phone on both landline and cell unless I know who it is. I think data protection falls under the heading of European-style Socialism here.

  3. Dom

    Sympathies. After my last round of rage with virgin mobile i decided to cut loose. I now have an i phone off ebay and a sim only deal. No phone shops no contract, works for me.

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