Vile Vodacom and a hapless consumer

Vile Vodacom against a hapless customer

Customer care, customer care, customer care. What has become of it?

This week, Vodacom suspended my line. And wi-fi. Wrongfully. All my manner of attempts to try to get them to rectify their folly. Several calls to their call centre and the subsequent big runaround, I did not find joy. In spite of their agent promising me on Day 1 that their Escalations department would call me back by 5pm.

On Day 2, after my first-thing-in-the-morning call, things got worse. As the day wore on, the call centre was not accepting my calls. The rebuff went: “You have tried to call several times, one of our agents will call you back. Thank you. Bye.” At the time of publishing, it’s Day 3, but I have still not received the long-awaited call.

This  inconvenience has meant that I can’t make calls, send messages, and send and e-mails. Worse, it means I can’t do a day’s work and chase up unpaid invoices.

My biggest sin to deserve this shabby treatment? My account is in arrears because of Covid-19 financial distress. But in the space of a week, I made two payments towards settling the owing balance, one on 17 and the other on 24 July with an agent’s undertaking that my line would not be suspended. (The call was recorded)

I, like millions of South Africans, have been affected adversely by the consequences of Covid-19. I am a small business owner, a glorified way of saying I’m a freelancer.

Despite filing applications for small business relief and UIF TERS benefit in the past couple of months, I have not been successful. Having been at it, running a small business for the past six years, it’s something I expected. The onerous, cumbersome but fruitless applications when tendering for business have become commonplace.

On the call with the agent, I asked: “Ma’am, what would it take for my line not be suspended?”

Her: “Don’t worry, Sir, your line won’t be suspended. Just make the payments and I’ll capture it on the system.”

“Ma’am, are you sure my service won’t be cut off?” I asked.

Her: “Yes, Sir. Your service won’t be suspended.”

Five day later my line was suspended.

The following day, first thing in the morning, I called their call centre and asked to be put through to Escalations. The courteous agent insisted on helping me. “May I help you, Sir.”

Me: “Ma’am, I called yesterday about my problem, but an agent said no agent can help because it’s a matter that can be resolved only by Escalations. She said Escalations would call me back by 5pm yesterday. Escalations have not called me back; that’s why I’m asking to be put through to them.”

Her: “I see, Sir. Please hold the line.”

Looong wait. Dreary music.

Her: “Hi, Sir. I’m sorry for the long wait. From what I can see here, it says you asked to be put on UTC.”

Me: (peeved, but restraining myself from blurting out an expletive) “Ma’am, in simple terms, what does that mean?”

“Sir, it means you asked to be put on pre-paid. You need to wait for an SMS confirming that before you are able to make calls,” she answered.

“No, Ma’am, I did not ask to be put on pre-paid. I do not need an SMS. All I need is my line to be restored. Yesterday, the agent I spoke to said the same thing. I told her I did not ask to be put on pre-paid. I told her she could listen to the recorded call. That’s when she said she would get Escalations to call me. But they haven’t. It means I can’t work; make calls, send and receive messages, and send and receive messages.”

Her: “I’m sorry about this, Sir. Unfortunately, I can’t put you through to Escalations. Our lines can’t transfer to Escalations. You need to wait for them to call you back.”

Me: “Thank you for nothing, Ma’am.”

And oh, if you are wondering how I’ve managed to post this, it was done courtesy of my adorable missus who’s been generous to lend me her wi-fi router. Ever true to her wedding vow: “for better, for worse”.

But vile Vodacom is the worst. They weren’t done screwing Nkosana Makate (he of Please Call me litigation fame) yesterday. Today, it’s me. Tomorrow, it will be you. Aargh, somebody tell vile Vodacom that the word ‘escalations’ comes from “escalate”!

Editor’s note: Vodacom is not the only ‘service’ provider that does not understand the notion of ‘service’. Consumer watchdogs will tell you that, despite have the highest call charges in the world, all mobile telephony companies in South Africa have appalling service, as shown by the number of consumer complaints that far outnumber any other entity. We are still waiting for a ‘service provider’ that actually provides a service. When that company arrives on the scene, it will wipe the floor with its competitors.

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