Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Mobile Phone

T-Mobile, Truly Mannerless.

I wrote a letter of complaint to T-Mobile, and was then given conflicting information about how to send it to them. Eventually, when my email bounced back and they confirmed that they have no public email address, I printed my letter and sent it via Royal Mail. I also posted it on here, and linked them to it via Twitter. I disputed the amount they requested from me to settle my account, and listed the errors they had made along the way.

T-Mob DMs

They must have read both entries as published here, because they then “direct messaged” me again, this time asking that I confirm a few personal details. I did so, and they linked me to a generic page on their website, here.

T-Mob help

I had already submitted my complaint, using the address that had been provided during one of many phone calls. This information was too little, too late, and I had also taken the time to write a separate and serious missive to the company’s CEO. His name was easy to find, firstly by using a well-known search engine, and verified by calling their head office on 01707 315000. The girl on the switchboard helpfully spelled his name for me too, and you can read about Olaf Swantee’s career on their site.

Two weeks passed, largely without incident. I enquired why they had checked my identity prior to supplying a publicly-accessible link, and they apologised for wasting my time. That is genuinely what they said. I have taken a fair few screen-grabs of all this back-and-forth chat with them. In the words of Chris Morris, here is “proof, if proof be need be.”

T-Mob dealt with

I decided against picking them up on their use of the words “dealt with”, and how that could be easily misconstrued if I was in the mood to prolong the fight. The implication of that phrase is that I am some sort of pest, Perhaps I was.

Today, it is a full two weeks since we last conversed on Twitter. It is four weeks since I spoke to anybody on the phone. According to my Twitter messages, it is seventy-five days since I queried whether or not they had correctly terminated my contract, without charge. This afternoon, somebody with a north-east English accent phoned me. He asked my name, and began discussing details of my complaint. No further identity checks were undertaken, a breach in protocol that would not be tolerated in any of the call centres where I have worked.

His tone was insincere, as he offered an apology that was as empty as the rest of his conversation. He was willing to waive the small charge that had been applied, for issuing my PAC code that let me leave them. I told him he could waive the rest as well, and that I had written to the CEO. He wanted to know if I had addressed my letter to just “The CEO” or if I had put his name. I told him that I had addressed it personally, although what difference it makes was not clear to me. In truth, I forgot Olaf Swantee’s name at this point, and even his nationality, mistakenly referring to him as “the Danish guy.”

The man on the phone pursued his scripted line of defence. It seemed to centre around the outstanding balance, of about twenty pounds, being “such a small sum” that it “seems a shame to mark your credit file with it.” The implication appeared to be that I should have saved myself some hassle by just paying a fee that I do not believe I am liable for, Frankly, my credit file is already marked, and twenty quid and the involvement of T-Mobile’s appointed debt collectors is unlikely to change much either way. I have bigger creditors to contend with.

To him, repeating himself in the absence of any meaningful debate, it was still “a shame” to have that on my credit file. As for it being “such a small sum”, it certainly is a small sum when your company took in revenue of nearly six-billion pounds last year. I would almost suggest that they should take the hit, rather than me. In fact, I did suggest that. I demanded it and refused to pay.

He persevered with his rebuttal. I suddenly remembered an article that I had been sent last week, from somebody who had read these blogs. He wrote of his own experience, and somewhere in there or on some other social media site, I had noticed that EE was being investigated by the BBC’s consumer affairs programme. I brought this into play.

“I heard you were featured on Watchdog this week.”

His answer astounded me. “Every big company is on Watchdog at some point.”

“Aye, fair play. Don’t let it bother you.”

That ended our discussion. As a “gesture of goodwill”, my remaining balance was wiped clean. Given the seventy-five days of mistakes, phone calls, letters, misinformation, and poor communication, I could have asked for more and maybe should have. They got off pretty damned lightly, for all of the inconvenience they have caused. Thinking about it now, they referred me to a debt collector, smeared my credit history, and then instantly wrote the debt off when I asked them to – while simultaneously implying that it was my fault for not paying them directly.  If I really owed them that money then they put up very little resistance, all told.

To recap, T-Mobile’s shop staff admitted that their coverage is very poor in the Greater Glasgow area. Their customer service department agreed that this lack of service provision was a breach of the contract I have with them. Due to this, they released me from my contract approximately ten months early, and without financial penalty. Having then taken two goes to supply the correct PAC code, they billed me for it – a charge which was not mentioned when I asked for the full terms and conditions to be explained to me in advance. This was the charge that I disputed.

it took me two-and-a-half-months, several hours of phone calls and even more hours of writing letters, but I finally got there. If you can be bothered persevering, persevere. If you have the option to not sign up to an EE contract, take it. Sign up to almost anyone else instead.

Big Olaf has not replied to me yet. I was far more formal when I addressed him, which makes for less entertaining reading. Therefore, I have not posted that letter here. However, if he sends me any kind of reply, I will be sure to publish it for all to see. In the meantime, you can write to him too. If everyone tells him how awful his company is, he will have to take note.

T-mobile envelope

His address is: Olaf Swantee (CEO), EE Head Office, Hatfield Business Park, Hatfield Avenue, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL10 9BW.

T-Mobile, Terminally Misinformed.

I recently wrote a lengthy letter of complaint to T-Mobile, regarding their inability to be of any use whatsoever.

About ten days ago, having finally spoken to one of their call-centre staff, I was informed that they do not and cannot accept complaints by email. She gave me an address to post it to instead. I queried this on their website immediately, giving my name as “Sir”, and within minutes I was provided with an email address – as can be seen in the screen-grab below. If it is too small to read, click on it.

t-mob chat

Once I composed and sent my email, published on here yesterday, I was surprised when I did not receive an automatic response saying that my communication would be replied to in due course. For my own peace of mind, I asked for confirmation via their Twitter page – a screen-grab follows.

t-mob tweet

Today, I received a direct message from them which said – guess? – that no, I cannot email them.

t-mob dm

Those of you who read my letter of complaint will know that there is no easy way to condense it to Twitter’s limit of 140 characters. While I amend it to include my postal address and details of this development, prior to mailing it to them in the old-fashioned way, I am putting this here to deter any would-be customers from suffering at the hands of this backward, contradictory company.  As the idiom has it, “they couldn’t agree on the colour of shite.”


Helping Those Who Help Themselves

I have recently joined a new mobile network, my third this year. They offered cheap and unlimited internet access for my laptop, for a reasonable price. As ever with these things, though, there were a few teething issues.

I have put my new SIM card into my old phone, which is now permanently connected to the computer. I use it as a modem, sharing my signal with the laptop through a process known as “tethering.” I did this before, but having now unlocked my phone and joined another network, I am finally permitted to. Being acceptable under the terms of my contract, I phoned the company’s technical support line to get some help understanding why it was giving me problems. To her credit, the girl I spoke to was able to guide me through the process, and she sent me a text for future reference.

As I read it, this message tells me that to get help using my phone as a modem, I need to go online using my phone as a modem. A lovely paradox, and a fittingly absurd entry for this blog.

three tetheringAbove: “To get help with tethering, tether your phone to your computer.”



Drunken Text Menaces

This is one of my favourite stories to tell, despite the fact I come across as a bit of a dick in it. I will blame that partly on being drunk, partly on being in cahoots with a good friend, and partly on the insistence of the eventual victim that I should do something a bit dickish. I am not sure that he likes me regaling people with this tale, but it was just so damned funny that it still makes me laugh a year or more later.

Two of my friends are involved and, to protect their identities outwith our immediate social circle, I shall refer to them here as “Steven” and “Alice.” This serves to differentiate the male friend from the female friend and, if you do not immediately get the reason for the choice of names, please see the video at the very bottom of this post.

At the end of a night out, all three of us came back to my flat and continued drinking, Unable to drink our mixers straight, we diluted them with the better part of a litre of rum, consumed by the pint. Whatever sobriety remained in the room diminished rapidly.

At one point, somewhere in the wee small hours, Steven picked up Alice’s phone, and began composing a text. She became vaguely aware of this action, and eventually seized it from him. He had addressed it to her ex, and written something both silly and provocative – “What are you wearing?” She rapidly deleted it, admonishing Steven with mock outrage and underlying good humour.


Minutes later, Steven left the room to answer a call of nature. Drinking anything by the pint is going to have that effect after a while. However, given the mischief he had just concocted, he made the rookie error of leaving his phone within the sight – and reach – of Alice. She wasted no time in drunkenly lunging for it, scrolling through the address book to locate an appropriate recipient. She managed to select the contact stored as “Mum.”

Unfamiliarity with predictive text and an overindulgence in alcohol served to render useless her attempts to construct anything meaningful, and she engaged my help. It is possible that I offered to help, the upshot being that I wrote the offending message. It was indeed offending. I based it on what I remembered of a Jimmy Carr line, yet somehow managed to lower the tone of it and make it even more vulgar.

carr bath joke

In my outstretched left hand, I held Steven’s phone aloft. It was primed and ready to send a text to, by all reasonable guesses, his mum – a text which read “Thinking of you. I’ve just come.”

I am not proud of myself.

With my right hand, I was trying to fend off my friend Alice, as she fought vigorously to regain possession of our friend’s phone. It was this scene of amused panic and physical interaction which greeted Steven on his return. As he registered what was unfolding before him, and thinking I had followed his lead in winding up Alice, I asked if I should send the text. That was to prove his undoing.

“Yes!” he shouted enthusiastically, “Send, send send!”

I did not have to be told twice. I duly hit the “send” button and then – as Alice relaxed her grip on my arm and retreated back to her seat – I offered him the hardware that I held and said “Okay. There’s your phone back.”

His face fell, confusion registering as he asked “What?”

carr bath joke 2

There was little that Alice or I could do, save for descending into helpless laughter at his predicament. He laughed too, eventually, although he still gets a bit annoyed about it periodically – usually when we are together and I ask whoever we are in the company of “Do you want to hear a story about Steven?” He tells me that his mum still believes me to be a bad influence – she is probably right – and not a very nice person (which I would disagree with.)

In my defence, Steven was entirely complicit in the rascality wrought – when he thought it was somebody else’s phone, he was extremely happy for me to issue a mischievous communication. It was only when it became apparent that the joke was on him that he found it less funny.

It was funny though. Primarily for the high contrast between his delighted goading and befuddled despair.

I occasionally worry that karma will catch up with me for this one, despite Steven’s eagerness for me to noise someone up. However, as it is always my story to tell, I suspect that it informs people’s opinions of me as much as it says anything about him. I blame it on being drunk and playing the game he initiated and Alice continued, during a memorable night of much hilarity, as I would not normally involve myself with prank texts or calls.

That said, I am naturally a wind-up merchant, and this is something about which I can easily wind him up. I am sorry that his mum had to read that text, but otherwise I have no regrets.

I did at least change his name.


Good Ways To Make A Bad Impression.

I lived in ten flats in the space of three years – where I define “living in” as “staying there at least a month or more, during which time I paid rent”. I do not recommend it, it was hellish, and the result of a quite unprecedented run of bad luck, bad decisions, bad flatmates, and owners selling up.

I took a room in Maryhill for a few months, a room too small for unpacking in, and more just a base from which to find somewhere else. I was living with two other guys, one a student from Ireland and the other owned the property as well as having a room in it. He was studying property development or something similar, and since this job entails being a reprehensible cunt he was getting some practice in. At the time, though, he seemed like a decent guy, and I have no doubt he mostly meant well. I left that flat after he impulsively bought another, realised he’d better sell the one he was in, and gave us ten days to get out. Maybe that’s not cuntish, but it was certainly inconsiderate and inconvenient. Here’s another example, and you can form your own opinion.

I had just gone to bed at 3am one night, when the front door opened and a few people came into the flat. There was a knock on my door, and I got up to answer it. Adam was standing there, and explained the situation – he had been at a nightclub, and outside in the taxi queue he’d met two girls. He had convinced them to come back to his flat where, he told them, he was having a party. The problem was, now they were here it was pretty fucking obvious there was no party. I was invited through to join them, as he confided that he really like the dark-haired one, and that I should “take the blonde.” I was naturally sceptical, but threw some clothes on and joined them in the living room.

The girls were good company, and remarkably good-humoured given the false pretences under which they’d been lured. We sat and drank for a couple of hours, the first and only time Adam and I socialised, and it became quickly apparent to everyone except him that 75% of the people in the room thought he was an idiot. The only part of the conversation I remember was his loud assertion that Oasis pissed all over Blur (in 2007, this was hardly relevant anyway), which the three of us disagreed with – Blur were far more musically diverse, for a start. He continued with further dull observations, while it came out that the dark-haired girl had been in a few theatre groups that I’d had a passing acquaintance with. So we spoke about that, and had a really good night despite the numpty in the corner.

Eventually, it came time for them to leave. They decided to phone a taxi, but Adam insisted on calling it for them. He took their mobile phone, dialled, and requested one, giving his address. After forty-five minutes or so, while looking at her phone, the girl he liked announced that the taxi was outside. They got up, and we walked them to the door. He tried to give each of them a goodnight kiss, but they were having none of it. I exchanged nice-to-meet-yous with them, and they left. Returning to the living room, Adam beckoned me to the window – where we watched them walk down the street and turn the corner, gone forever, and with no taxi in sight. He started laughing, and I was confused. So he explained.

He hadn’t phoned them a taxi, just gone through the motions and pretended. She’d obviously looked at the last number dialled, and – being already demonstrably smarter than him – deduced this, then claimed the taxi that they both knew wasn’t coming had arrived. I laughed too, big bellylaughs, at how casually and brilliantly she had played him at his own game. It was also funny that he’d thought his ruse would work. And that’s my abiding memory of Maryhill, that evening.

About a week later, I was in the living room with the door shut. Adam was down the hallway at his bedroom, having a conversation on the phone. I could hear it clearly, and that’s when it dawned on me that, when Adam had knocked my door and told me which one he fancied and which one I should “take”, they must have heard every word. Which makes it all the more incredible that they stayed as long as they did, unless you consider that they were just humouring him for their own amusement. Well played, girls, well played.

T-Mobile And Their One Competent Staff Member.

My phone had become like the disillusioned partner in a long-term relationship, and no longer responded to being touched.

This was the second time it had done this, and it had already been sent off for “repair” once. I managed to find a way around most of the basic functions, aided by lots of aggressive swearing, but eventually conceded defeat and took it in to a shop to gauge their reaction. It was recommended that I upgrade, and then – as my phone was still under warranty – send the existing one away for repair once the new one arrived. I was wary of committing to another two years with T-Mobile, as they have the worst signal coverage I have ever encountered. It frequently dips in and out while in the centre of Glasgow, and sitting at home I can watch the bars of the signal and the 3G flash in and out from full, to nothing, and everything in between, with such frequency that it’s in danger of triggering epilepsy. I’m not even epileptic.

Once home, I phoned up and on the third attempt managed to coerce the unresponsive touch screen into allowing me to press for one of the numbered options. After twenty minutes waiting in a queue that would (it told me) keep me waiting ten, I finally spoke to a relatively helpful chap, who guided me through the upgrade process (this being my first upgrade – I had my first contract from 2001 until 2010 inclusive). It was arranged that the phone would come on Monday, delivered by their “preferred courier.”

Monday came and went, I sat in all day. No phone. On Tuesday I phoned up, and was given the Royal Mail tracking number for the package, and an empty apology for the inconvenience. I phoned Royal Mail’s voice recognition service, which can’t detect the difference between F and S when read aloud, and certainly couldn’t process the loud and aggrieved “FFS” that I gave it on my fourth call. On the Thursday, T-Mobile told me that it was unheard of for a phone to have taken this long to be delivered, and that they’d look into it and definitely call me back to let me know what was happening. They never have. Having spent three full days in the house, and with important errands I could put off no longer, I gave up and went out. On the Friday, I decided I’d had enough, and went into their Argyle Street branch, ready to pick a fight and determined not to leave without a new phone.

I was served by someone who had just emerged from the stockroom, and asked immediately to speak to the manager. “Speaking,” he said, and a glance down at his store ID badge confirmed this. He quickly dialled customer services from the store phone, my mobile now being unable or unwilling to offer up push-button options, and after hanging up and redialling several times and with exasperated sighs, he eventually handed me the cordless handset and told me I’d get to speak to someone. I waited, and waited, and waited, listening to the fading-in and -out of whatever pop tunes they’ve licensed, replayed in the manner of a dodgy FM reception. Eventually, a real human woman came on, and I patiently explained the situation.

Her response was predictable: they couldn’t stop the phone because it was in transit; they couldn’t track it beyond what I’d already discovered (on their website, it was revealed that it entered Royal Mail’s system on the Sunday); they couldn’t allow me to take a phone out the store that day, as the other phone may yet come; Royal Mail wouldn’t acknowledge it was lost until 16 days had passed, so I had ten days to wait before they’d even consider investigating; and, if they let me have a phone from the store then if the original phone turned up then I’d “have two phones.” I said I didn’t want two phones, I just wanted one, that worked, and if the other arrived they could have it back – and if they didn’t get it back, they know where I live to come knocking.

If it arrived while I was out, I’d have to wait forty-eight hours before making the fifty-minute round-trip on foot to pick it up from the local Delivery Office. Instead, I told her she could liaise with Royal Mail in her own time, could arrange to drive and pick up the missing phone from them at her leisure if she wanted, I didn’t care – I just wanted to leave the store with the new phone I’d wasted days waiting in for. After being put on hold for the third time, she finally came back and agreed to my polite but firm demand: I could take a phone from the store that day.

The manager, whose name I wish I could remember, but who has a bald/shaved head and a Northern English accent, was extremely helpful, finding the phone in stock and setting it all up (as far as I requested). he checked some system details with his colleague, who jokingly told me “He’s just the cleaner.” “I might be the cleaner, but I do the rotas,” retorted the manager with tongue in cheek, eliciting a humble apology. I asked him if he’d just found that “Manager” badge while sweeping up, and as I was leaving (after forty minutes in-store) told him that – for a cleaner – he was good enough that he should be manager.

As he advised me, never upgrade your phone by post – the box has a big picture on the front of it to let the unscrupulous mail worker know exactly what he can expect should he choose to pocket it. And, having worked for Royal Mail in a temporary capacity, it does seem very much like they are doing away with long-term staff in favour of short-term, unchecked agency temps. This might help facilitate privatisation, but it also seems like the Mail is a lot less secure these days.

The signal on my new phone is equally ropey, and non-existent in the hallway between my bedroom and living room, but at least – in a world of callcentres, press-button options, “please hold”s, empty promises to phone you back, “company policies”, and faceless Customer Care Assistants – I’ve encountered the most friendly, helpful, good-humoured, and unpatronising staff member working in any mobile phone shop I’ve been in. And the missing phone never did turn up at my door.

[Update:] There’s a helpful girl in their Sauchiehall Street branch too – she looked at my unresponsive phone and said “I don’t know how to put this politely, but your phone is goosed.” I told her that was quite polite. It’s away for repair now. I just wish this cheery, but unforced, open helpfulness was more prevalent, both throughout their company, and in society as a whole.