Saturday 16 November 2013

Something odd has happened this week: I contacted o2 to say I want to leave them because their deals aren’t as good as other phone companies….and I didn’t end up renewing my contract anyway. I had a long online chat (how 2013!) with someone last night and despite his tenacity I ended the call by asking for the code to keep my number because I was still leaving.

I had asked for this at the beginning of the chat but it took 30 minutes for me to ask for it again. I made it pretty clear that I knew I could get a deal with Three that I needed matching for me to stay. He offered me a deal where I paid more upfront AND more per month. I found that unappealing. So we had a to-and-fro. Then he offered me a deal where I paid a LOT more upfront and same each month. He seemed a little offended that I didn’t go for that one.

Today, therefore, saw me doing something I haven’t done for about ten years. I was off to find a new communications partner.

First up was an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar; I have to get my current phone repaired so I can sell it. Life eh? Apple are the dons of customer care in my eyes. I do find it slightly sinister that EVERY person who I have spoken to is in the process of buying an Apple product or has just bought one. It all seems a bit sales-shite. But I am constantly in the process of wanting/acquiring Apple products. and I don’t have their staff discounts.

My Genius was very helpful (currently preparing to buy an iPad Mini, he told me after I told him I had my eye on one or an iPad Air; he’s got an iPad 4 so doesn’t see the point of getting an iPad Air) but I am an easy lay: I’m completely theirs. The person next to him wasn’t having such an easy ride though. A middle-aged couple were trying to make the Apple employee admit there was a design fault with the iPhone because their daughter’s had water damage. But she SWORE she definitely hadn’t got it wet. She definitely got it wet.

I have never really liked the generic phone shops but I thought they would be worth a go. I tried Phones4U. The names are part of the reason I don’t like them. The girl who helped me was East European. Manchester is very international now isn’t it? Don’t mistake this as a xenophobic observation, I like it, it’s just different. I don’t ever remember Russian tourists but now if I don’t see about 30 every hour I start to think something is amiss.

Phone4U clearly has some kind of modern approach to getting what the customer wants. Rather than take notes on a lined pad the woman wrote lots of notes on a large piece of paper with circles all over it – asking me questions as she flitted about the paper. After writing extensive notes she ended up looking through a book of prices to see if she could match/better the Three deal, which made all the notes instantly irrelevant.

They seemed to be having some kind of contest in there. Not odd in a sales driven environment I suppose. But it couldn’t just be about who sold the most contracts. It had some ridiculous sun tan theme. The East European girl serving me seemed to look at the people organising it with disgust, so at least I respected her.

She was assisted by the Manager who came over to say she could modify a deal for me so I was matching the Three deal. She offered me something which didn’t match the Three deal for slightly more a month. I pointed out this price difference and then she offered me the same deal with £10 off the upfront cost of the phone to offset this extra monthly cost. I pointed out that the monthly cost amounted to more than £10. She then offered me the same price as Three but I asked for a bit of time to think about it. I then walked out with no intention of ever returning.

Next up was EE (Orange). This was a less drawn out process and a much more relaxed environment. I told the guy who served me the Three deal. His eyes widened and he said, “that’s a good deal.” He double-checked and confirmed he couldn’t match it and that was that. Short and sweet. In a way I wish we could have talked a little more and become friends. I need a black friend in case I say something that is misinterpreted as racist at some point in the future. Perhaps I should just not do that.

I don’t like something about Vodafone so I didn’t bother with them. Last up was Carphone Warehouse (again I don’t like the name). Oddly for such a salesperson type environment there was just one person working at 11am on a Saturday a month before Christmas.  I hovered near the iPhone display waiting to be approached. But he stayed at the desk as there was a stream of one person at a time coming in and waiting while he finished with the next person. Fucking losers. GOING TO the salesman. Yes, I was the winner waiting to be chased as person after person got to speak to him and I stood looking at a cardboard iPhone.

Eventually what I assumed was the technical support person behind the repairs desk asked if he could help. He seemed a pleasant enough chap and he didn’t seem to be too bothered about selling me a deal, I assume he was on a flat rate. He said he could tell me the best deal available when I mentioned the Three deal. He told me a couple of deals that were not as good as that one but were with Three. I said I would probably go to Three and get the deal that was better than the ones he said were the best deals available.

All shopping around had done was confirm the best deal I had found on the internet was the best deal available. Why do people even go to the real shops anymore? Certainly of the other stores that don’t do the best deals.

Reassuringly Three’s shop was the warmest, in both senses, and had very good customer service. The guy who dealt with me was from the North-East so I warmed to him instantly. Logic dictates that I shouldn’t take advice on technological matters from someone from an era coming to terms with the end of the 1970s but I found Tom, as he said he was called, a lovely chap and within 20 minutes I was walking out of the shop with my new phone.

In the end those Kevin Bacon ads weren’t enough for me and I just ended up going with the option that cost me the least money.

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