The Tipping Point – or The Customer Strikes Back!

mobile phone cell phoneIt’s Ivan here.  Now, most folks who know me will probably tell you I’m a fairly mild-mannered sort of chap – the type who will go out of his way to avoid conflict, struggle or strife.  Some will tell you that it’s because I’m basically lazy and they may be right; I prefer to think it’s because I was brought up at a time when putting other folks’ interest first was seen as something positive.

That was until yesterday.  What follows, although not a verbatim account (oh, how I wish I had recorded the calls), is an accurate depiction of events as they unfolded during three phone conversations with my mobile phone (cell phone) service over the course of a couple of hours.

Before we go any further, it’s important you know that those character traits I’ve sketched out above can lead to a certain degree of inertia, which, on occasion can be useful but, more often works against me.  And it was inertia that had seen me stick with the same mobile phone service for 13 years – it certainly wasn’t their excellent service.


..let's call it 'lime green'

I shan’t name the company, let’s just say they’re synonymous with both a fruit and a colour – let’s call them ‘lime green’.

For the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve had a succession of phones from lime green which, curiously enough, also share a name with a fruit and have a colour as part of that name.  No, not apple – let’s call this raspberry.

The reason I got a raspberry in the first place was for work purposes, so I could access email and the internet when I was out visiting clients.  It’s just as well that I needed it for when I was out and about because the signal from lime green when I’m at home is at best poor and at times non-existent.

To be honest, the raspberries never worked that well, either.  I’d had my previous phone for 5 years, even though my contract allowed for annual upgrades – it worked well and I saw no reason to change.


...and let's call this a raspberry

I’m now on, I think, my fifth or sixth raspberry and none has been changed because of an upgrade – all changes were due to failure of the handset.  Yet that’s not the whole story. They regularly showed an error message declaring ‘SIM card not allowed’, which entailed a call to lime green and a wait of 3-5 days for a new card to be delivered.

It was such an event that occurred yesterday and I made my seemingly quarterly call to lime green (ok – that’s an exaggeration but it feels at least that frequent).  As I say, what follows is not verbatim but it’s all true.

Hey, and before I get started, is your mobile company like lime green?  By that I mean does it give you a service number to call that’s free from you handset but a premium call from your landline, knowing full well that the reason you’re calling is you can’t use your handset?!

I was put through the usual security checks

When I got through, I was put through the usual security checks by a charming young lady who began our conversation by congratulating me for being such a loyal customer – 13 years, really.  Did I mention that?  I’ve been paying this company enormous wads of cash every month for 13 years.  Go back much further than that and the closest you got to remote conversations when you were out and about was with two cans tied together with string!

She then went on to ask me what the problem was.  I told her.  Now, before we go any further, I should explain.  I’m an old hand at this game.  The rules are simple; I call lime green; I tell them about the problem; I wait 3 to 5 days; a new SIM card shows up.

This lady had obviously never played before.  “Have you tried taking the SIM out and putting it back in?” she asked.  I was ahead of her, though.  “Yes” I replied.  She tried to outwit me, though.  “Have you taken the battery out and replaced it?”  A lesser man might have crumbled at this point but it’s at times like these that my now-legendary inertia comes to the fore “Yes” I countered (knowing full well it’s impossible to take out the SIM card without first removing the battery.

She was quick-witted

But she was quick-witted, this young warrior.  “I need you to try the SIM card in another lime green phone”,


“I need you to try…”

“I heard you the first time – I haven’t got another lime green phone”.

I thought I had her at this point.  The thought that there may be a household with only one lime green phone in it had never presented itself to her before.

“I need you to try the SIM card in another lime green phone” she repeated “in order to complete my tests”.

“But I don’t have another lime green phone”.

“Then I need you to go to a lime green shop to get it tested there”.

“Are you serious?  The nearest lime green shop is 10 miles away!”

“I can’t do anything unless you do”

“Yes you can.  You can give me the details I need to take my number away from lime green”

“Thank you, Ivan.  I’ll just need to put you on hold while I get the relevant department.”

With that sentence, 13 years of ‘customer loyalty’ (inertia) was dismissed.

I was left on hold…

I was then left on hold for approximately 10 minutes (premium rate, remember) before she came back and offered to take my number and call me back.

When she called back, she put me through to another, even more charming young lady with a warm Irish accent – the sort I’d have happily paid premium rate all afternoon to listen to.  Sadly, my time with her was limited as, having taken all the details of the problem I was having, she put me through to Tom, whose job it was to give out the PAC code I needed to take to whichever new service provider I choose.

Tom seemed overworked

Oddly, Tom, while still charming, seemed extremely overworked and he certainly knew the script he had to deliver about the validity of the PAC code and other intricacies of the transfer process off by heart.  Draw your own conclusions!  It’s clear lime green’s other customers are made of weaker stuff than me – no inertia, no loyalty.

He told me the PAC code would be sent by text to me.  I reminded him that the afternoon’s events had kicked off with me reporting my phone as not working.  He then asked if I had a pen and paper.  “Could you email it to me?” I asked.  Tom said he couldn’t.  I didn’t ask why.  Soon it would no longer be my concern.

I then asked Tom if he could provide the unlock code I’d need for when I got my raspberry onto the new network.  Tom couldn’t do that either – but he’d put me through to someone who could.

text message

...the unlock code would be bent to me by text

I then had a long conversation with another young man who, judging by the quality of the line, was probably half way round the world.  After a lengthy conversation, he told me that the unlock code would be sent to me by text and that there’s be a charge of £20.42 (about $30) for it and that I could expect it in 3-4 weeks.

“Let me get this straight” I said, “for the next 3-4 weeks I’m going to be paying your company for a service I can’t use and then I get to pay an extra £20.42 just to get away?  Only I won’t be able to get away because you’re going to send me a text I won’t be able to receive”

“What do you mean, you won’t be able to receive a text?”

“I refer you back to the start of this conversation, 4 people ago.  I won’t be able to receive the text because my SIM card doesn’t work”.

“Oh, that’s ok.  I’ll get a SIM card sent out to you straight away”.

I’ll leave you to fill in the rest for yourself – I was 2 hours in by this time and could barely contain myself.

“Why are you paying £20?”

There is a coda, though.  Having put down the phone, I reported what had happened to my son and with that level of clarity that is so sickeningly evident in other people, he asked “Why are you paying £20 for that piece of s*@t that doesn’t work anyway?  You can get a new phone from your new supplier”

So, back on the phone I got to cancel the unlock code I’d requested.  And I spoke with – guess what – another absolutely charming person who arranged the cancellation of the unlock code.

At the end of our conversation, she asked me if I would do her a favour.  “I’ll try” I replied.

“My supervisor would like to send you a questionnaire asking how you feel about the way I’ve dealt with you.  Is that ok?”

“Sure” I said

“Ok, she’ll send it out in a text straight away…”

There is a moral to this story – in fact there are several.  You’re smart people.  You can work them out for yourself.

We’ll be back soon,

Carole and Ivan Signature


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Tipping Point – or The Customer Strikes Back!

  1. Ivan

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with my mobile provider this week, but on this occasion they rang me to advise me I was eligible to upgrade my contract.
    When I said I thought my existing contract still had a while to run, there was a pause and then he said ‘oh we’ve made a mistake My information is out of date!’.

    So I then said ‘while you’re on can you tell me how to cancel my contract for my mobile USB, I can’t find the information on your website’. He asked why I wanted to cancel it and I said ‘I only use it when I’m away a couple of times a year and the reception is rubbish. I can now get a connection (still not good) though my mobile phone, so I don’t need it.’

    His response ‘we can offer you cashback of £50.00 if you keep it another 2 years. Now this only costs £3.00 per month so he said I would only have to pay £22.00 for the 2 years as I would get £50.00 back! But I said, I don’t want it so what’s the point of paying to keep it? Are you sure you don’t want it, he said!

    I finally got a contact number out of him!!

    • Carole and Ivan says:

      Hi Valerie,
      It’s almost as though we’re talking to someone with a totally different understanding of how language works at times, isn’t it! Well done for persisting 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *