Vodafone: The Technical Cyborg and the Reef of Anguish

Ben de Loup has been having a bit of bother with his phone.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, Vodafone suddenly sent him a bill for £195…   

Dear Customer Relations,

I have had a new contract with Vodafone (an upgrade) since April 22nd 2014. 

I persevered with the faulty phone you sent me until it finally passed away, refusing to even turn on. With sadness in my heart I proceeded at a stately pace to Burnley1 Vodafone Shop with the corpse of my personal device cradled gently in my arms.

I patiently waited 45mins for some Spotty Oik2 with an almost unintelligible Burnley accent3 to tell me what I already knew; my phone was an ex-phone. He was so sensitive that during our conversation he kindly gave me two breaks to console myself, each lasting about 5 minutes in which he served 2 other people. The other two assistants must have been busy doing terribly important work as neither looked up from their PC’s in the whole time I was there despite the impending threat of an entire can of whoop ass being spilled in the shop at any moment – loss can do terrible things to people. 

Anyway, eventually the Burnley Oik took my phone and put it in it’s tiny body bag and told me it needed to go away to mobile phone heaven where Vodafone angels will try their best to resurrect it. Mr S. Oik then informed me with a watery smile that the shop would call me when it was returned…

The days passed slowly with me anxiously waiting by the phone, and no phone call….

Eventually the allotted time had elapsed by a few days so I made a tentative phone call to Vodafone to find out what had happened to my beloved tech. After traversing various departments I eventually found out that you had sent a replacement to the shop a few days earlier, but I’m guessing with the vital computer watching being done at Burnley Vodafone shop they had not had time to contact me.

I headed over there with a spring in my step and picked up my new phone. Over a few days we rekindled our relationship and I came to love it like my old phone, taking time to slowly restore all my apps and stuff on there. 

For a time we were happy together, but soon everything started to take a familiar path of doom to the first phone, the front camera is now not working, the internet is intermittent and the bluetooth makes funny noises when I play music through my car stereo. Because I have a life, I put off doing anything about it thinking that maybe the next software upgrade might make my phone work.

However when I returned from my holidays I received a £195.004 phone bill…

After my wife had revived me, and I had dealt with the various cuts and bruises I’d received from hitting several pieces of furniture on my direct route to the front room floor, I thought it prudent to call Vodafone. 

I was informed that while my phone was away for repair I had come to the end of my free data trial and it was my fault that I didn’t know this. I think this is a fair argument, but in my defence my brain is not quite advanced enough yet to pick up and read a text message without a phone. I apologised for my lack of a personal telecommunications sensory system. I was then told that I shouldn’t be relying on the text messages anyway, because although you have reliably sent me them for the last few years and I have successfully relied on them to inform me when I am close to using up my data. I should be paying closer attention to the small print on a document I didn’t know existed, and have never seen let alone signed, which apparently is my contract. 

I also pointed out that the reason I used so much data was only because I was restoring the phone that had replaced a faulty one. At this point the helpful young android I was speaking to started looping her standard responses. I thought it best not at this stage to mention the fact that the replacement phone is also faulty, as I didn’t want to be responsible for your advanced call centre robot exploding – After all it might be something I could be charged for that was also in the small print. To be safe I asked to speak to a real human being and was told that a manager would call me back within 72 hours.

…I waited…

…and waited

…and waited

Finally, this morning after 5 days of radio silence I called again to navigate the treacherous reef of anguish that is Vodafone’s automated phone system. 

At 10:50 this morning I waited on the ‘problem with your bill’ line for 26mins and 25secs (I think everyone must have been busy looking at computers) before I was cut off. 

I then called again and this time requested a call back. The automated system informed me in a lovely sunny voice that I would be called back within 10 to 20 mins. 

At 13:06 the will to live was just slipping out of my grasp because I had still not been called back, so at 13:07 I called again and this time I negotiated my way through to the ‘if you’re thinking of leaving Vodafone’ line…

Lo and behold5 the phone rang for all of a nanosecond before a very enthusiastic individual picked up the receiver to help! Obviously, he couldn’t help so he transferred me to someone else. I reiterated the story again to a new robot who repeated what the first android said, promised me a human being would call me back and then transferred me to cancellations. 

I asked the cancellation mechanoid if I could just send this second faulty phone back and return to my old contract and he said no but kindly offered to cancel my contract totally for the small amount of £813. I politely declined as I was currently all out of small change and advised that I would look down the back of my sofa for this paltry amount when I got home.

The cancellation mechanoid then transferred me to the technical dept. The technical cyborg offered to send me a body bag for my 2nd faulty phone, but in the process of me reiterating my story (yet again) to find out what other options I had, I was cut off (yet again).

At this point I resigned myself to writing a letter.

However, a chink of light suddenly appeared! Through the quagmire of confusion and anger that was clouding my day, at 13:44 the following text message appeared on my phone like a hero from the tales of old, riding on it’s trusty steed to save a fair maiden (or in this case a middle aged bloke) – ‘Dear Customer, We’re sorry that the call has dropped, we’re trying to reach you‘. 

Unfortunately, it is now 16:31 and I’ve had no contact.  So, although I live in hope that there is an actual hero on an actual steed riding to me from Banbury6 to solve my problems, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not holding my breath.

On a serious note, my wife and I have been Vodafone customers for many years, and you have the opportunity to keep us for many more years. All I am asking is that someone looks at this pragmatically and deals with the many problems I have encountered in my dealings with Vodafone over the last few months.

I shall look forward to your response.


Ben is still looking forward to a response.  Come on Vodafone, pull your finger out!

This isn’t the first time that Vodafone has featured on Dear Customer Relations. To see the famous ‘Best Ever Complaint’ to Vodafone from 2008, click here


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  1. For American readers: Burnley is a British town of 75,000 souls located roughly 21 miles North of Manchester and it is famous for absolutely nothing at all.  HM the Queen has been there twice, in 1955 and again in 1961 which is notable because very few people have been there on more than one occasion 

  2. For American readers: Oik is 20thC British slang of questionable etymology meaning an obnoxious or unpleasant person. A spotty oik therefore is a particularly obnoxious person with serious skin issues 

  3. There isn’t any other kind of Burnley accent 

  4. For American readers: $317 

  5. Lo is thought to be a shortened form of the old Middle English word loke, this being the old imperative form of look. So, lo and behold literally meant look and you will see but it is now used to draw attention to a surprising event – in this case the very surprising event that someone promptly answered the phone 

  6. For American readers: Probably a reference to the ‘Ride a Cock Horse from Banbury Cross’, a British nursery rhyme dating from the 18thC.  A Cock Horse, by the way, was an additional horse harnessed to help pull carts up steep hills and has nothing to do with the horse’s sexual equipment, impressive though it often is.  As it happens, Vodafone’s UK headquarters are at Newbury, not Banbury but there aren’t any nursery rhymes about Newbury 

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