Irrational Encounters With The Modern World


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.”


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.