Wednesday, 11 December 2013

T-Mobile: a tale of how not to do it.

Mobile phones: a necessary evil. Well, actually usually rather useful and enjoyable. I've had one for something like twenty years, and as a geek-queen have always enjoyed making the most of new technology. I keep an eye out for the best deals, ensure I don't need to pay much to upgrade, sell on phones in good condition after such upgrades, and so on. I have two numbers on my account: one each for my husband and myself.

Back in the summer, one of our phones had its upgrade, and with the shuffling around of handsets in the household, we ended up with a spare, excellent condition, iPhone 4, still locked to T-Mobile. I obviously recognised that it would be easier to sell the phone if it was unlocked. Here's the saga.

19th July: I phoned, and requested the unlocking code. I was told it would take 20 days. Fine.

I was on holiday in the summer, and realised at the end of August that I'd heard nothing.

9th September: I called again. T-Mobile denied all knowledge of the previous call. I was told it would take 20 days.

18th October: having heard nothing, I called again. This time I had the presence of mind to ask for a name. 'Jenny' on 'x731' listened carefully, told me she would escalate the matter to a 72 hour timeframe, promised faithfully to call me back on Tuesday 22nd October. Are you surprised that I heard nothing?

28th October: having heard nothing, I spoke to 'Jamie O'Hanlon' and went through the saga again. I was told it would be sorted by Thursday 31st October. And that he would call me.

1st November: hooray! A text message from T-Mobile! Unfortunately, it informed me that the IMEI number they had was incorrect, so they couldn't complete the process.

Monday 4th November: I called again. After explaining the whole sorry story (bearing in mind that I was in serious need of the money for the phone at this point) I was told explicitly by the person I spoke to (whose name I sadly didn't get on this occasion) that it would be quicker and easier to go to 'any branch of Carphone Warehouse', and pay a fee to them to unlock it. At this point, we checked the IMEI, which proved to be entirely incorrect on the T-Mobile records, and I gave them the correct one.

This being the case, well, I figured it would be simpler to sell the phone, as locked to T-Mobile, but letting the purchaser unlock the phone themselves if they needed to do so. (As such, I charged less than I would have done had it been unlocked.)  I quickly found a buyer via my contacts on Facebook, arranged to meet, and the sale went through on Wednesday 27th November. The purchaser took the phone off to Carphone Warehouse after meeting me, and also tried T-Mobile. Both told the buyer that the unlocking couldn't be done by them (despite what I'd been explicitly told before).

29th November: having ascertained that the buyer of my phone, having given me the money in good faith, could not unlock the phone to use it, I called again. I explained in great detail to 'Winnie', and pointed out that I had had no customer service to speak of, no callbacks, no help. She said that she would have the matter escalated and solved within 72 hours (have you heard this before?) To give her her due, she did phone me over the next couple of days - to let me know that she'd made no progress. Eventually, she failed to call me as promised on 6th December...

6th December: I called again, and went through the whole business with 'Ann-Marie'. She agreed it was unacceptable, and that she would make absolutely sure it went through in 72 hours (what?), and that she would call me back on Saturday 7th to touch base. Are you surprised that I heard nothing?

9th December: I called again, and went through the whole business yet again with 'Bernard White' (ostensibly on x54652). He promised faithfully that he would call me back on Wednesday 11th December as he was (guess what) ensuring that this was processed manually and 'should be done by the 10th'.

I am typing this as I wait on 'hold' (nearly 30 minutes so far, and this is on my third attempt this afternoon) to speak to the mysterious Bernard White. I am listening to exceptionally annoying music, and have done for at least 15 minutes of that time, with nobody returning to the call to reassure me that they are trying to put me through.

The purchaser of my phone still can't use it. I told them what I had been told by T-Mobile about the unlocking process, which proved to be entirely false. I feel a responsibility to my purchaser (unlike T-Mobile). She has so far had the phone for two weeks and has been unable to use it. 

Had the phone unlocking happened back in the summer, when this laborious process began, I could have sold it for more money as it would have been ready for any network; it would have been worth more at that stage, too. As it is, I have spent countless, fruitless hours on the phone to an assortment of incompetent idiots, each spinning me a different line; and it's not just me that is involved, but the poor lass who has bought my phone in good faith.

And still I wait. And wait. And wait.

PS: as I concluded typing, the call disconnected itself. Today's calls have been (a) a failed attempt to get through, (b) 10 minutes followed by (c) 27 minutes. And no conclusions.

Update : 11th December 18:15: after a total of 53 minutes on the phone, across three separate calls this evening, I spoke to 'Karl Fitzgerald', who tells me that 'Bernard White' had left the office at 6pm (if my first call had got through to him he would still have been there). 'Bernard' has not left notes on my records for the matter to be escalated as he promised. 'Karl' assures me that he will 'escalate' the matter and he will ensure that 'Bernard' will call me back on Thursday morning.

Are you going to give me odds on whether I receive a call, never mind an unlocking code?

Update: 12th December: So, we finally got there. Two phone calls from Bernard and one from Paul (the latter being from the Social Media team), and - just after midday - email confirmation that the phone had been unlocked. (No code required, simply instructions for rebooting the phone.) Email forwarded to purchaser, and a grateful reply from her later in the day - using said phone.

So what do we learn from this?

  • Keep a note of every single call you make and message you send, with all the details. Make sure you know the facts.
  • If your initial attempt doesn't work, make it public. Blog the story as I have done. Stick to your facts as recorded above.
  • If you have problems with a mobile phone company, don't bother using the phone to contact them. (Ironic, huh?)
  • Instead: use social media. Somehow it appears that responses are far better (this isn't the first time I've experienced this: the Twitter and Facebook teams are much more on-the-ball than the call centre versions).

It may simply be that the staff of the Social Media team are better at their job. Or maybe it's because the public nature of the complaint makes it rather more important that they perform said job. Call me cynical.

Final, ironic, PS: 13th December: As I complete typing this blog post, a text has just this minute arrived from TMobile. Is it an apology? An offer of some compensation? No. The text reads:

Thanks for submitting you request to unlock your phone. Please allow 20 days to receive your email detailing the code and instructions to unlock your phone.