On Vodafone and how to live off a brand name and nothing else

Calvin Ltd. has had a small business account with Vodafone for a few years now. We tried first with Virgin, then T-Mobile but they proved pretty deficient in terms of service and signal coverage, so in the classical crowd wisdom, we signed up with Vodafone. Surely a mammoth of telecommunications would know how to do business and treat its customers, surely…

Few years have gone by, and the amount of problems we have had to deal with has been so extensive and bizarre (from having to challenge a £17,000 charge that wasn’t ours to four new 8310 BlackBerry Curves in 2 months), that  I finally decided to write another diary, similar to the one I have been keeping on my BB Bold.

So please, enjoy and do not doubt to join in, as no matter how much time, effort and money I waste dealing with them, they never call back, apologise or explain what happened. We are playing the better the devil you know that the devil you don’t, but quite frankly, we are really tired of sending complaints to Vodafone.

Enjoy our misery:

(38) September 1, 2009
It has been a while since I had to spent longer on the phone to Vodafone than with my wife, mother and old friends together. But today I received the bills for July and September. For some unknown reason, they stopped (again) to send the call breakdown. We have been down this road before, so if I can gather enough strength tomorrow morning, I will call them before going to work.

(37) April 16th, 2009 at 9:34am
I finally got the patience to personally deal with Vodafone’s incompetence. I called customer services and it took me 13′ to get to speak to a human being (the usual “lines are busy”, I wonder how bad it is for normal customers, not business customers). I explained to Tracy, from Team 18 the situation with the USB Modem invoice and that I had been told last month that it wouldn’t happen again, but that it HAD happened again. She disappeared again for 3 minutes.

When she came back she said that she didn’t know what had happened, she apologised for the inconvenience and blamed the “brand new system”.

It was then, 18′ down the phone call when I asked her whether sending the invoice had been a mistake and the £14.15 were still outstanding. Silence. She rushed to say that the £14.15 were still outstanding (and due on March 31, by the way) but rushed to say that “as a goodwill gesture” they would credit our account with that amount.

“It won’t happen again”, she said, and I requested written confirmation. She asked for our email (what type of business doesn’t keep the email of their business customers?) and said that she would email it. I hope nothing. Continue reading

On working for the NIGAZ. Another marketing blunder

nigaz I know I might wake up a bit late, but after thinking that Microsoft Poland’s advertising savvy was one of the worse ever, I just heard of Russia’s Gazprom and Nigeria’s NNPC joint venture. The baby’s name? NIGAZ.

Unbelievable, you may say, but thinking heads of two continents couldn’t even get this straight.

I just finished James Dyson’s great autobiography (Against the Odds), and he moans and bitches about the advertising, PR and marketing community all along. He may have a point… I remember choosing marketing as major out of not knowing what to do with my life. I even got a Masters degree in market research and despised the idea of “creating needs to the customers” (what translated to me as selling people things that they don’t need by making them think that they do.)

It was interesting to learn how they trick us, but the NIGAZ thing is at least, hilarious. Did anyone get paid to come up with the name? I bet so. I have no doubt that Russia’s far right would have loved to do the prank, but I don’t think of them as a cheeky comedians who kill journalist for a laugh.

In any case, Nigger is nothing but a derivation of the Latin word niger, meaning colour black. Instead of finding the term offensive, black people could call us Albus, the Latin word for white. Both true and ingenious, but I am pretty sure that some Caucasians would be offended by that too.

After all, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

.calvin

On Spain looking down the tunnel, is that the exit or just a train coming?

I am sorry, I know I am a voluntary expat, but Spain is just the land of the joke. Yesterday three things happened that made me corroborate as a right idea leaving the Peninsula.

1. The financial health
The FT informs us that “Spain acts to help lenders”. Is this the same Spain that a few weeks ago was still bragging about the soundness of her financial system? The same Spain that was so proud that the rest of Europe was turning towards the “Spanish way” of dealing with bank reserves? (all coming from the Banesto/Mario Conde disaster of the early 90s). And I am still watching Banco Santander with a pinch of salt…

2. The moral and legal health
On a different note, again the FT tell us of how to do business in Spain. As a Dubai friend told me once, if you are not from Dubai [Spain], don’t try to do business without a local in Dubai [Spain]. And if you do, you will probably get ripped off and the court will not rule in your favour.

Anyway, the story is that of César Alierta, the chairman of Telefónica, the telecom monopoly (let’s call things what they are) that skins Spaniards alive with the most expensive mobile, landline and internet prices of any Western country (claim denied by the Spanish government, though). This fella, just set up a company to oversee his insider trader deals. In the best interest of the few, the court just cleared him of accusations of insider trading because “too much time had elapsed between the alleged offence and the start of judicial proceedings”.

3. The job market health
We heard drums of record unemployment in Spain (near 20% doubling the rate 12 months ago and near my own prediction of 22-25%). Also that the heat wave has brought American cockroaches to Barcelona. Inspired by G.W. Bush, I decided to launch a preventive attack on the little fellas and spent this morning ringing insect exterminators for my flat in El Born.

Conclusions:

a) Unemployment in Spain is partly out of laziness or deeply stupid laws and regulations. I only found two companies who worked on weekends but none did on Sunday. With unemployment over the roof, one would think that the government would relax the law and that people would be willing to work whenever.

b) The country is a rip-off. For a Roach Killer Gel I can get in a drugstore in USA for $6, they wanted €80-180 including spraying (and a 6-month guarantee when the gel producers promise 12 months).

c) All the companies I contacted quoted me the cost of the roach-raid with and without VAT, for my convenience. “In any case”, one lady told me without even thinking I might be a tax inspector, “you will get your 6 month guarantee”.

Sunlight might be the best of disinfectants, but surely rottens your spirit.

.calvin

On what you cannot do in a public park, is general public madness taking over or what?

Remember when you use to through stones to each other in the fields and hope that “the enemy” wouldn’t catch you? Well, remember no more, I was peacefully strolling Hyde Park when I got to the Knightsbridge side and so this “peculiar” but serious poster:

HydePark

Oh, Come on! What else? Is that what the Home Secretary is being paid for? Perhaps I had a violent infancy, but no one got ever (seriously) hurt.

But I guess I was overreacting after reading the news on the Daily Mail where more than 270 pupils from four local primaries took part in the East Beds School Sports Partnership Athletics Day at Sandy Upper School in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire but (and here comes the interesting part) parents were banned from attending an inter-school sports day to protect pupils from kidnappers and paedophiles (and parents you morons!). Ridiculous or we should throw the towel in?

.calvin

On the end of the rule of law in the West, another case study: MPs expenses

I am growing more and more worried about the raising populist anger spiralling out of control.

First, it was the “outrageous” (but legally binding by contract) golden parachutes of failed investment banking executives.

It followed the popular clamour against sky-high (but legally binding by contracts) executive pay.

Then it came poor Sir Fred Goodwin and his pension (legally binding by contract), and his public grilling by the British government and puppets who have nothing else to do sadly reminding me of Dr David Kelly and the alleged sexed-up report on Iraq’s WMDs.

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On what not to do with your customers: Post Office and sales pushing

Hobbes, I just came back from the post office. Like an American supermarket, an English Post Office is a cathedral to human nature, although in this case, a cathedral to lack of custumer service and savvie.

Have you notice they sell travel insurance, phone cards, credit cards and many other things? Well, they do. Nothing wrong with it, other than the fact that you should have seen the face of the lady who just wanted to send a letter 2nd class, special delivery… that’s what she wanted, but due to some bizzarre twist of fate, she ended up being pushed to hear everything he had and wanted to offer her. Continue reading

On observations on the weirdness of human behaviour: the spitting street cleaner

You can call me old fashioned, you are probably right, age is starting to take its toll, but I saw something yesterday that got me thinking…

I was in Belgrave Square, the embassy capital of the British capital where countries like Germany, Austria, Turkey, Syria, Norway, Brunei, Portugal, Ghana, Spain, Belgium, Serbia and many more have made their or their ambassador’s home in London. It is true that Westminster keeps an eye on the place and perhaps because of special care, perhaps because fewer residents and businesses, the place is kept nice and tidy.

Continue reading