The next time I see one of my many J-s, I’m going to punch him in the back of the head for working for such a ridiculous company.

I’ve been on a Vodafone pay-as-you-go plan since they first came out* and largely, the experience has been a good one.  I’ve always been able to get a signal – unless I’m in the Sunflower Garden Chinese take-away in Pitmedden – and until today, have only once needed to call customer support.

Back in the dark days before the internet was king, I remember dialing 191 from my spangly new Alcatel Brick – I swear that’s what the model was called –  to register my new phone and thus receive the princely sum of £2.50 in free calls and texts. The thing I remember most about the whole affair is the fact that the call-centre representative’s voice kept fluctuating throughout the length of the conversation, putting him at a similar age to me.

Now though, when you call Vodafone, nothing fluctuates because you’re talking to an incompetently programmed machine. Now ordinarily, I don’t mind dealing with a machine when I want to top up the credit on my phone – to have a real person on the other end at hideous o’clock in the morning, catering to the endless sobs of drunken folk who’ve just cheated on/broken up with/looked at** their other half and want to make things right, would be ludicrous.

However, when the debit card that I have been using over the past year is refused by the system as “unregistered”, I want to actually speak to someone – preferably someone who knows what they’re doing.  Instead of patching me through to an operator, the machine – which will be refered to as ‘Poo’ from now on – simply tells me to call a different number for ‘card related queries’.

So I called the other number, and guess what? Poo answered again. The same shrill voice told me to choose from a list of options, one of which offered the seemingly ellusive ‘help’ that I sought. So I did as I was told, I pressed buttons when prompted and lo-and-behold, I was transferred to yet another machine. Following ten minutes of entirely useless advice, I hung up and chose another option, trying to alter my card details through the ridiculous automated process. I presumed that as I’d just moved house, the change of address would be the culprit in making the payment process difficult. I was right, as it turns out, but apparently Poo can’t understand my half-Sheffield-half-Aberdonian accent so, rather than transfer me to an advisor, the machine hung up on me.

No, I’m not kidding, the machine hung up. At this point, I got a little mad and decided to try a tactic that I used to use when dealing with NTL – press any old button until you confuse the machine and are transferred to someone with a pulse. Only Poo hung up on me again. So, under the advice of J- my friend from uni, not J- that I will punch, I tried not doing anything, waiting to see if the system would transfer me. But Poo hung up for a third time.

I checked the Vodafone website and then tried dialing their helpline number from my mobile, only I didn’t have enough credit so the system patched me through to the top-up line, which as my reason for calling in the first place, wasn’t at all helpful. After much another internet search, I found the Vodafone numbers to call from a landline – all of which were 0870. And this is really where the company lost any good-grace I was willing to give. I find it unacceptable that when there is a fault in the system, the paying customer has to spend more money in order to sort it out. Essentially, we’re being charged for Vodafone’s short-comings. So, I decided to try out saynoto0870.com and, as the site promised, I got an 0808 number instead.

So finally, I get through to a living, breathing human being and yes, the fault in their top-up system was because I’d changed address. The woman on the other end of the line quickly and effectively changed the details and topped up my phone as well.

Time on phone to real person: Under two minutes.

Time on phone to Poo: Close to an hour.

The lesson in all of this? If you want something done right, look up phone numbers on the above mentioned website. If you want to waste time in a less stressful way than talking to Poo, go outside and talk to a rock.

I was in a pretty foul mood after all of that, as you can imagine, but then I got caught up on Bex’s blog and decided that really, in the grand scheme of things, life is pretty fabulous. I have a lot more than three things to be grateful for.  And just to cement all of that in my brain, I went for a trip to the ludicrously cheap farm shop and bought tonight’s dinner for three for the high price of £1. Then I sped home, listening to Bon Jovi. Life is good.

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* Unless, of course,  you count that brief fling with Orange which resulted in my Motorola Pebl,  the only mobile phone I’ve ever actively coveted. And the time I lived in Denmark and needed a CBB sim.

** Especially because no plastic surgeons are open at that hour {insert rimshot here}.

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