Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dear Olaf Swantee; a Formal EE/Orange Complaint

Ahhh, the joys of the mobile network provider. Remember the good old days where you'd top your phone up using a card down the cornershop on a Friday after school? 10p for a text and you'd have spent your tenner before the weekend was over? Those were good times.

10 years later, life is vastly different. I live a life of perpetual confusion, only broken by the occasional call to customer services to try to establish the outstanding balance on this elusive phone contract that I was conned into taking out in 2014.

You see, I was due an upgrade and I wanted an iPhone and Three had the best offers on. I let Orange know about this in the spirit of honesty and they suggested that I try out a new handset that they had that was "just as good as an iPhone but cheaper". I know what you're thinking. Yes, I fell for it. "Don't worry, you have a cooling off period, if you don't like the handset just phone up and we'll cancel the contract for you provided you return the phone", the 17 year old guy on work experience schmoozed. What they sent me was some sort of Samsung handset and it was rubbish. I took out a new iPhone contract with Three and phoned Orange to cancel my rubbish-phone contract.

"Oh no, you don't have a cooling off period with this handset as you got it on a promotional offer. The terms and conditions clearly state this, Miss Roberts". Let's not go into that part in too much more detail. I'm on Doctors' orders to keep my blood pressure stable and just thinking about that makes me more than a little angry.

I've been paying for this imaginary contract for years now. £17 per month for months and months and months. Yes it's only £17, but that is £17 that I would rather spend on a bottle of wine or two. I'd probably rather spend it on toilet brushes than with EE. The phone is long gone (it broke within 2 months) and the SIM card is nowhere to be found. I've never used the phone. I've never sent one text or one made one phonecall. I don't know what the phone number is and I never will because the CONtract (see what I did there?) doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned. This, however, was my first downfall when I called EE/Orange this morning to understand why they were still trying to collect money from my account 2 months after the contract ended. "PLEASE ENTER YOUR MOBILE PHONE NUMBER FOLLOWED BY THE HASH KEY" screamed Mr Shit Call Handler Robot. "Hmm", I pondered, "I don't have a phone number, I'll just press the hash key". This made Mr Shit Call Handler Robot angry: "WE REQUIRE YOUR PHONE NUMBER, GOODBYE". He hung up on me. The computer hung up on me. I tried this again and waited for it to present some other options. No such luck, it hung up on me again.

I tried phoning sales. Not just sales, but the sales number for NEW customers who would obviously have the biggest call operator assignment with the most eager of sales people. After 30 minutes I got through to a woman who I think was called Justine but could have been called something completely different. Justine was mega helpful. She found my mystery account without needing my phone number (what a middle finger to Mr Shit Call Handler Robot) and informed me that despite the fact I was advised my contract ends in August, I in fact had 2 months outstanding to pay for. Nothing about this surprised me. I wouldn't have been overly shocked if I were told that in order to end the contract I had to win the million on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, sleep with Chris Tarrant and then tweet the photo evidence to the EE Twitter account as proof. I gleefully paid the oustanding balance feeling overwhelmed with joy and calm like a still lake in the moonlight. Whilst I waited for the payment to go through I listened to Tara, the call operator in the background, bitch about the customer she just 'helped'. "Speak to a manager?! No you can't fucking speak to a manager love". I focused on channeling my inner moonlit lake. Justine clearly explained that I would just need to be passed through to the contract termination team who would take my 30 days notice and let me know what I needed to do next. Moonlit lake.

They. Cut. Me. Off.

They cut me off. They CUT ME OFF. My heart was filled with a mixture of dread, confusion and anger. All my childhood abandonment issues came rushing back. Who was I being passed to? What was the name of the lady who just helped me? Why didn't I write it down?! WHY DIDN'T I ASK FOR THE NUMBER OF THE DEPARTMENT I WAS BEING PASSED TO.

With a new resolute sense of determination I phoned the sales team again. I was not going to feel bad about my own performance here; that's exactly what they want. I mean, they did essentially take my money and hang up on me immediately, but I'm SURE it was just a technical error. While I was on hold the guys manning the EE Twitter account taunted me mercilessly. "Is there a reason you feel this way Sian? Maybe you didn't write your granny enough letters when you were growing up? She really missed those letters, Sian. It's a shame you didn't grow up to be successful, Sian".

Could I find Justine? No I could not. I was passed from team to team, I spoke to people around the globe. Some would say that the saga of the missing Justine was an adventure through time and new cultures. I learned things such as "Shouting at Mr Shit Call Handler Robot doesn't allow you to bypass the hold queue" and "That woman's name was probably not Justine, was it". I was hung up on twice more. I spoke to Jamie in sales at one point. "Ah, yes, I've hung up on 7 customers in a row now, the phone system must be playing up". Oh Jamie, you bantersaurus rex. Life's a joy isn't it.

An hour and 15 minutes later I decided that I had other things I needed to attend to. I mean, I do have a job. I have mundane tasks that I am required to complete; things like eating, sleeping, drinking water, doing some work, watching Devil Wears Prada. If I could have spared another hour for the lovely guys at EE/Orange/Kevin Bacon I would have, believe me, but selfishly I hung the phone up and went out to live life for a few hours.

So. Here I am. How do I give my 30 days notice? Some ponder the meaning of life. Others ponder the existence of a higher power. Me, I simply want to know how I give my 30 days notice to my old mobile phone provider. I still don't know the account number or the phone number. I don't know if it's an Orange contract or an EE one. I don't know the difference. I don't know who I spoke to or who I need to speak to. "There is no complaints department, we had to disband it" Jamie informed me. I can't say I'm surprised. Imagine doing that job?! There are probably sanitary bin cleaners that are happier than the complaints team at EE. "Okay", I asked the girl who answered my fourth call, "Can I just speak to the team that handle the contract termination stuff?".

"Well", she muttered, "they're not going to take your call without an account number or phone number". Ahh, of course. My bad.

"Maybe you should try", suggested Twitter. The irony? It doesn't sodding work. The page is mute. It doesn't render. Caches cleared, cookies eaten. The URL entitled "We Are Listening" doesn't work. What a time to be alive.

Whilst searching for a copy of a "Notice of Deadlock" letter online I stumbled across this interesting BBC article which explains how Ofcom fined EE £1m for handling complaints poorly. 1 MILLION POUNDS. I can't lie to you; in that moment of discovery I was happy. There are others out there like me. People lost in a phone system that proclaims to be handling "a very high number of calls" but offers no estimated wait time. People unfairly held by a company that would rather spend £1m with Ofcom than provide us with an efficient query & complaints process. There are others out there who have had their credit rating massively affected by the ridiculous inhumane mess that is EE and Orange.

I am now in the process of writing to their head office. I'll make sure to send the letter recorded delivery with a copy of my current list of complaints which I compiled whilst on hold this morning. Thank God I can multitask.

Moonlit lake.


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