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Shop around? Be warned!

We are constantly advised by consumer gurus to shop around for goods and services and make a switch when we get a better deal.

That’s all well and good until you try and change suppliers. In fairness to the electricity providers they have reduced the process to a dawdle, however, many of the others turn it into a nightmare.

After Christmas we decided to change our TV, broadband and phone suppliers opting for a single bundle from Vodafone. After negotiations were complete and the required forms filled in, an engineer arrived at the house on January 18 to do the technical bits. The broadband change was instant but he told us the landline and the TV could take 24 hours or so to change over.

After 48 hours there was no sign of either landline or TV going live and so our saga began. We spent hours upon hours sitting on the phone to Vodafone, pressing button after button, listening to interminable lift music and losing the will to live. Eventually we got to a human being who went through a list of security questions you wouldn’t be asked if you were seeking admittance to the Oval Office.

After much to-ing and fro-ing the person told us that it would take four to five working days for the switch to happen. We were not made aware of any such delay when we made our enquiries, even the 24 hours mentioned by the technician was news to us. At this point, four days had elapsed since the engineer did his stuff so we thought we should have phone and TV on the morrow, but the person on the other end of the line corrected us and said it would take four to five days from the current phone call for the switch to happen.

After a lively exchange the woman agreed to ‘elevate’ our case and promised to call back with an update the following day. She didn’t call back, so the current consort togged out again, faced the puck-out and phoned, putting the phone receiver on speaker and on the table while we ate our lunch. Eventually a human being answered and proceeded to take us through another menu of security questions after which she innocently asked, “and how can I help you today?” We nearly choked on the ham sandwiches.

Sweet God is there no end to it? Not only did this latest Vodafone person not help, in fact she made things worse telling us the switch would take place four to five working days from that conversation, but she too would ‘elevate’ our case. At this stage our case was so elevated it must have been in danger of colliding with the International Space Station. Meanwhile, every time we spoke to Vodafone our waiting period was extended by four to five days.

After nine days, the TV suddenly leaped into life and the phone came back, but with a different number, not our original number. It has an 076 prefix and most people don’t answer when we ring. They probably think the call is coming from a chancer in some obscure kingdom looking for a bank account to accommodate $25m belonging to the deposed king.

Again we phoned Vodafone, and having negotiated the verbal security labyrinth we were told our old phone number no longer existed. They promised to try and retrieve it, gave us a case number and, yet again, told us they were ‘elevating’ our issue. By now we must be nearing Mars; when Elon Musk gets there he will find our case number waiting for him.

That was Vodafone and we still don’t have our number back.

We then had to get Sky TV disconnected. We again had to go through a series of verbal and digital hoops, including a four-hour, online conversation with a robot that told us our case would only be progressed when we got talking to a human being. It assured us it was doing its best to find one.

At 8pm on Thursday night, after four hours of promising, the robot clocked off, assuring us that someone would ring us in the morning. Surprise, surprise, no -one did. Having battled Vodafone to standstill the current consort prepared to do battle with Sky. She managed to get a number and called them on February 1, only to encounter an answering service explaining that, because of the festive season, the processing of customer issues could take longer than usual. It finished by wishing everyone a Happy Christmas. Aren’t we lucky Santa Claus is not using a Sky TV calendar.

Eventually we made contact with a human being who told us how disappointed he was we were leaving and how he could have given us a better deal. As a parting gift he told us that since we were five days over the required one month notice, he would have to charge us for those days. We tried to explain that we had spent the five days trying to get a human being to talk to and now he wanted to charge us for the privilege. We told him he was having no more of our money and wished him a Happy Christmas.

If you are thinking of making a switch, be prepared to be ‘elevated’ to the outer edges of sanity.

First published in the Farming Independent on Tuesday, February 9th 2021

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