Breaking up with Vodafone, or…

…Why I am banging my head on a stone wall hoping to numb brain activity so as to make sense of this!

I was away in the US visiting my sister when I got a message from Vodafone that my mobile usage had exceeded my credit limit and that I should immediately pay up a certain amount. I forwarded the message to A who paid up immediately. The day after that payment, I got another message saying that twice the earlier amount was outstanding and that I should pay up immediately.

By that time I was in the middle of a mess caused by the volcano, busy rerouting my flight and making hotel bookings and so on for the return trip, so this was the last thing on my mind. Plus as it happened, after I got that message, my phone stopped receiving any network signals so I couldn’t make calls or send any messages from it.

I landed back last Thursday and at the airport when I tried to call A, I got a message saying that calls were disbarred. I told A but what with the extreme exhaustion after having flown for 24 hours straight and the jet lag, was too zoned out to focus for the next couple of days. Plus my driver was unwell and unable to come and I don’t drive, and since Gurgaon is apparently an American suburb with no public transportation, didn’t venture out anywhere.

We tried to make an online payment on Saturday but there was something wrong with the portal so the transaction couldn’t be completed. I tried to see my bill details online, but was unable to register. Sunday A went to make a credit card payment at the Vodafone service center but could not print out a copy of the bill because apparently the printing portion of the machine doesn’t work. Anyway, the machine showed my outstanding as negative! But given the sms I had got from Vodafone, he decided to make a part payment and hope their billing would sort it out. It apparently takes 24 working hours for them to reactivate a phone after payment, so I waited…and waited…and waited…

I thought it was really strange that I hadn’t got an acknowledgement of the payment made on Sunday till Tuesday evening, even if it was still going to take time for the service to get reactivated, so Tuesday evening we called the call center. An executive who seemed clueless answered. First he said my outstanding was negative. Then he said he was not allowed to tell us the outstanding amount. Finally he told us a huge outstanding amount and refused to divulge bill details or tell us how to resolve the matter. He also declined to call his superior, as is standard practice at all so-called service firms.

On 26th morning, A and I went to their service center, which by the way opens at 10:30 am, reminiscent of the timings of a kirana store. Once the center opened, we still had to hang around waiting while the system got started up. Finally we were called by the service executive. We went through the same rigmarole.
First, she said my outstanding was some paltry Rs. 2500. Then it turned out she was looking at the previous month’s bill. Then she looked at another page on her system and said I had a negative balance. Finally she came up with a bill page which showed a huge total and didn’t mention either of the two payments I had recently made. After I burst an artery speaking slowly and patiently enough so she’d understand what I was saying, she managed to open another page which shows the balance due – still a pretty whopping amount, and much more than indicated on the service message from Vodafone.

So why does my message from you say this? I ask. Because we add in other amounts like rental and roaming later, comes the reply. So once you had the total amount due, why did I not get a service message from you indicating the total? I ask. We did send you a message but we have disbarred all services to your phone including our own service messages, in a masterstroke of pursuit of customer delight, so you will not receive these messages from us.

Is that why I did not get an acknowledgement of the amounts I have paid thus far? Yes. Is that why I can’t register for your website and see my bill total? Yes. So…(speaking in words of one syllable and counting to 1 million between each word) how am I supposed to guess that I owe you more money and come pay you if you won’t send me service messages? Loong pause while I seek the nearest stone wall for that headbanging we talked about.

How can we resolve this? Can you please show me my itemized bill, since the amount is really large and I want to verify that the details are correct before I fork over half a month’s salary? Umm.. your bill date is in 11 working days from today, so after 11 working days, we will be generating the bill and couriering it to you and you can see the details for yourself. Meanwhile my phone won’t get reactivated? Yes. So you’ve already lost me a week and more of connectivity and now I have to wait another 11 working days (so in reality about 2.5 weeks) to check my bill and make the payment? Yes.

Otherwise I should make this whopping payment in blind faith that you guys have everything correct in your system and aren’t overcharging me? Yes. So later on, if I find a mistake, I can keep jumping through hoops trying for rectification? (Yes).

I don’t need a paper bill, can’t you send me an email or show my detailed bill on your system? No, your billing date is after 11 working days so after 11 working days we will be able to show you the bill on the system. But if you know that I have a certain outstanding now, you obviously have the details of all my calls and other usage so why can’t I just see it on your system, and then pay up? No, your billing date is after 11 working days so after 11 working days we will be able to show you the bill on the system.

Is there a supervisor or senior here I can talk to? As usual the supervisor/ senior is skulking in the employee loo and pretending not to have come in so he doesn’t have to face irate customers. So, the answer to that question would be..umm, no?

Basically, Vodafone assumes its customers have ESP and should be able to divine bill amounts all on their own, even if their own service messages and payment machines indicate different totals. To make sure the customer gets full delight and bang for the buck, they also stop their own service messages indicating the final outstanding and access to your bill on their website and call center, to give your ESP skills a real workout.
To sum it up, the company has the details of my transactions but refuses to give them to me because as per their timelines my bill isn’t due to be generated for 11 working days. Meanwhile I can take their word for it and cough up or live without connectivity, losing business and unable to call in an emergency, even. Well, judging from what I’ve seen the last few days, I wouldn’t place a naya paisa of faith in their systems being tickety boo so I guess I’ll just have to wait.

Meanwhile, I’ve been an Essar customer, then a Hutch one and now a Vodafone one since 1996. But you know what? Sometimes history just isn’t enough in a relationship. I think Vodafone has forgotten that they exist because of consumers, not the other way around, and that consumers do have alternatives. So long, little pug dog. So long, zoozoos. I’m going to sign up with a new service provider and have a completely transactional relationship with them, since I won’t have this history. And then, if the new service provider lets me down in terms of service, well, number portability is round the corner, you know!


dipali said…
What utter losers:(
Hope you are connected to the world now. SMS me your new number.
bird's eye view said…
Dipali - will send you my new details when i have them. Right now my driver is away and i don't drive at all, so totally housebound in Gurgaon :(
Hi, nice blog & good post. You have beautifully maintained it, you must try this website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!
Danielle said…
Interesting write-up. Along with is that I must agree with what you've said that Vodafone does exist because of the consumers existence not the other way around. Thanks so much for sharing this to us. Hoping for more interesting articles worth reading for. Good Luck!


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