How “Happy to Help” Vodafone misled and lied to me

Vodafone has been my mobile phone service provider for almost 13 years.  It has not always been a smooth relationship, but I have never felt the need to shift to another service provider. Until recently.

It all began with my recent trip to Uzbekistan. This was a 10-day long trip and while I could have lived without a phone during that period, I knew that I would have to connect with my mother at least once a day by phone. They weren’t to be long chats, but just a quick hello to re-assure her that I was fine, and for me to know that she was fine as well.

I knew from prior research that all the hotels I would be staying in had WiFi and while I could use that to access the internet, they were not supportive of WhatsApp or Viber calls. My mother is not text savvy, so I could only stay in touch with her via phone calls.

Ideally, I should have used a local number for that. But my smartphone has a micro-SIM and it is a pain to remove it and put it on. Just the thought of changing the SIM was enough to make me decide on using my regular number with an international roaming pack provided by Vodafone. My brother, who is also a Vodafone customer, had used their international roaming packs and was quite happy with it.

Unfortunately, my experience turned out to be radically opposite to his. It turned out to be a saga of misleading information, lies and obfuscation from the moment I contacted Vodafone at around 11 am on the eve of my departure to Uzbekistan. The very “Happy To Help” Vodafone extended their customer service support in a way that didn’t do what they promise in the picture below.

Vodafone-customer-service-number
This image is from a Vodafone site. Click on it for the source.

Presenting the entire experience in the form of a timeline.

16 September
I call the Vodafone helpline and ask for information and assistance in international roaming facilities in Uzbekistan. The helpline executive does not know where Uzbekistan is and I do my best to explain its geographical location vis-a-vis India, over the phone. 😳 The executive then takes me through the packs that will best work for me. First, a Rs.149/- pack to enable international roaming, and second, a 10-day Rs.599/- international roaming pack with which I could make and receive calls at discounted rates.

I agree and I’m told how to activate the packs by sending a simple text message. I activate the Rs.149/- pack immediately and get a confirmation for the same.

17 September
Shortly after midnight and before boarding my flight from Delhi to Tashkent, I send a text message, as instructed earlier by Vodafone, to activate the 10-day, Rs.599/- international roaming pack, and get a confirmation message for the same from them.

Three hours later I’m in Tashkent and pleased to find that network is available. I text a message to mother about my safe arrival, and once I reach Nukus, my first halt in Uzbekistan, I make a short call to my mother to let her know that I’m fine. I also reassure her that I will be calling her at night every day.

23 September
It is a day of travel for me: from Bukhara to Shakhrisabz to Samarkand. While idly checking my phone during lunch at Shakhrisabz, I notice that the network is missing. I assume that I am in a no signal zone and don’t think too much of it. When I reach Samarkand and check my phone again, I find that the network signal is still missing. That’s when I get an inkling that something might be wrong.

I use the hotel’s WiFi to send a message via FB to my brother. He checks with Vodafone and messages back that (i) the Rs.599/- package I had been offered was not valid for Uzbekistan, and therefore, never got activated; (ii) I am being charged hefty rates for the brief calls I make or receive; and (iii) I have crossed the credit limit of Rs.9000/- set by Vodafone, and that’s the reason they have barred usage. He also tells me that he has paid Rs.2000/- to Vodafone, so that my phone gets activated.

To say I am furious is a bit of an understatement, but there is nothing that I can do from so many miles away. I decide to take up the issue with Vodafone on a priority basis once I’m back in Mumbai..

24 September
In spite of my brother having paid Rs.2000/- my phone remains without network. I remove the SIM card, switch it off and on, but nothing changes.

25 September
My phone continues to display the “No Service” message through the day. But that evening, when I arrive in Tashkent from Samarkand and switch on the phone, I’m surprised to get a signal. My phone is working ! But I don’t use it; instead, I send a message via Facebook using the hotel’s WiFi to let my brother know that the phone is functional.

26 September
I am bombarded with phone calls from an Indian number, which I do not accept. I later get to know that it is a Vodafone number.

27 September
Calls from the Vodafone number keep coming and I continue to ignore them. I arrive in Delhi shortly before midnight and start using the phone.

28 September
Back in Mumbai. I’m too tired deal with Vodafone and decide to take up the issue once I have settled.

1-5 October
I make repeated calls to Vodafone Customer Care via the helpline. Each time, I have to repeat the entire series of events to a new person, hear sympathetic noises and how sorry they are for my inconvenience, and am given differing and contradictory information. One executive said that the Rs.599 pack was activated only on 23 October, another said that it was never activated as Uzbekistan is not covered by this plan ! My requests to speak with someone senior is ignored.

Fed up, I take to Twitter. Here are some screen shots of the ‘tweetversation’ I had with Vodafone.

Vodafone TweetsVodafone, Complaint, Twitter, Social Media7 October
There is no response or calls from Vodafone and I decide to take the chance and call them up once again. I am lucky to get a customer care executive who actually listens to me. Really listens to me. It is a long call and after some back and forth and some checking, and some insistence on my part I get to speak to the Floor Manager, Sagar Dikshit.

Once again, I narrate the whole story. Sagar listens and admits that there is a problem. He requests me to wait till my bill is generated (on the 12th of that month and 5 days away) and then sort it out in the case of any disputes. He tells me that when I call, I should specifically ask for him or leave a message for him if he is unavailable. He would then call me.

Stupid me, I believe him.

12 October
I get the monthly statement and find that I have been billed for Rs.12,219/-. I also notice that I have been charged for the Rs.599 pack.

13 October
I call the Vodafone helpline and the whole process starts all over again. In spite of my referring to the conversation I had with Sagar Dikshit, I am told that I cannot talk with him that day. The helpline executive says that he will put in my request to talk with Sagar in the system.

14-15 October
No calls from Sagar or anybody else from Vodafone. Instead, automated calls from Vodafone begins asking me to pay up, or else… After 2-3 such calls, I start ignoring them. In the meantime I get a direct message from Vodafone.

Vodafone DM16 October
Vodafone bars outgoing calls and text messages on my phone; incoming calls and texts are, however, allowed. I call up Vodafone customer care once again and go through the whole story and am assured that someone will call me in the next 24 hours.

Vodafone Tweets 317 October
Vodafone does not contact me. 😦

19 October
I wait till evening to get a call from Vodafone. When I call Vodafone and remind them of the call they were supposed make based on my request, the helpline executive says that there is no such request registered with them !!!

I am shocked and ask to speak with the Floor Manager immediately. After a long wait, the call is transferred to one Abhijit, who has the distinction of being the rudest customer care executive I have interacted with. Abhijit is uninterested in what I have to say and tells me to pay up first and then talk if I want the issue resolved before disconnecting the phone.

I decide not to contact Vodafone again and instead prepare to file a complaint of cheating in the Consumer Court.

22 October
Out of the blue, I get a call from Vodafone from someone called Zaheer. He is polite and says that he is be handling my complaint. He quickly goes through the issue and says the recordings of the conversations I had on the 16th will be checked and then revert to me.

I don’t believe him.

23 October
I get a call from Zaheer saying that there was indeed a mistake on their part and they have reversed charges worth Rs.8,816 and that I now have to pay only Rs.3,403. And also that Vodafone was very sorry for the inconvenience caused.

I don’t say anything, except for asking when the phone connection will be restored. Zaheer says 3 hours, though it is restored almost immediately.

Thereafter, I get calls from 3 different people from Vodafone asking if my issue is resolved and if they can do anything for me. Yes, I say. I want to know what happened and why it happened. I’m sorry, they say, we cannot share what happened, but that action was being taken against those who gave wrong information. That is all they are willing to say.


With the issue “resolved”, and my connection restored, I paid the bill last week. And yet, my anger towards Vodafone has not subsided for two reasons. First, they have not offered any explanation for what happened, and second, there has been no word of apology from them. And that is what got me to write this post, and the fact they said that they’d love to hear from me.

After days of not responding or sending me meaningless tweets, Vodafone sent this one after my connection got restored.

Vodafone, Complaint, Twitter, Social MediaDear Vodafone, I believe in returning favours. Just as you are “happy to help”, I’m happy to give my feedback. 🙂


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26 thoughts on “How “Happy to Help” Vodafone misled and lied to me

  1. Ha ha – yeh to door ki baat hai. Come to Chembur to see the best of Vodafone. Every call turns into 4 calls. Nice business model, eh? When I complained online, I’m sent a form to fill that makes Tax guys smell roses. I just ignored it. They depend on guys like me who have not changed yet despite terrible quality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I work in Chembur, TSK, so I know exactly what you mean. That is if I get the call in the first place. I have to keep my phone near the window sill and if I do manage to get call, rush out of the office room to talk, where it turns into the aforesaid 4 calls. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, happy to learn you’re a Chemburite at least for part of the day!

        My friend calls it as Oda phone. If you know Tamizh, Oda means something that does not run/work.

        I’m told the fault is ours. We dont let them build those towers freely. That’s why…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The reality is that Customer Care is an outsourced service in most organizations. The staff handling the front-end are poorly trained, poorer communication skills and unmotivated. I can share my experiences with my service providers. Without exception, Customer Care actually means ‘We Don’t Care for our Customers’. And these are the very companies that spend hundreds of crores on celebrity endorsements, and sponsoring events.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Of course ! After spending so much on celebrity endorsements, these companies would not have anything left to train their own staff. That’s the reason why customer service is so uniformly bad everywhere !

      Like

    1. I don’t think any service provider is better than the others. My colleague had Tata Docomo and had an equally bad time with them. He is now with Idea and still has problems with them.

      Like

  3. It’s so unprofessional on the part of Vodafone. I’ve been their loyal customer in India and had few issues such when I am out of network, money was deduced for every call and missed call. Their customer care was quite clueless. High time for mobile companies to put some order and value customers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Vodafone’s telephone helpline is the pits; their walk-in customer care centres are much better. There are other issues to be sorted out and I will have to pay a visit to the nearest one soon. Not looking forward to it at all. 😦

      Like

  4. I raised a complain for poor network with them in August 2014 and have followed up so many times. Even taking or receiving the phone call is difficult and we had to take a land line in order to speak to people from home. After more than an year of hollow promises, have decided that I will switch to another provider as soon as am back. Done with them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good riddance to Vodafone and good luck.

      I’m sure you would have weighed the pros and cons before arriving at this decision but I have to ask this: Is it a problem only with Vodafone or do other service providers also face a similar issue in your area? The reason I ask is that in my office, regardless of the service provider, we just cannot get any cell phone signal.

      Like

  5. Try calling my sister (Vodafone customer) and invariably the recorded msg is relayed almost immediately that the phone is busy. Try the second time and she cannot hear you. Try the third time, you will be lucky if you can talk to her, but the person calling her has wasted three calls.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome to “My Favourite Things”, Destination Infinity. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      I have noy yet faced any problems with regard to data plans, and unlike many people I know have not faced any problems yet. Calls and text messages are another story, though.

      Glad you have a plan and service provider that works for you.

      Like

  6. Dont worry not just in india , Vodafone are pathetic in UK too, I had two contracts with them, both have been cancelled now and I am with O2 now.. 🙂

    They say calls are recorded but when asked for a copy they suddently cant provide it .. I dont think they actually bother doing anything you were persistant hence got a result but many people would just give up ..

    glad it got solved though in the end ..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oho, so this is a world-wide problem ! It doesn’t make me feel any better though ! 😦

      During my year in London, I didn’t opt for Vodafone. I got a Talk Mobile sim thanks to their tie-up with the bank I had an account in. It worked pretty well for me.

      Like

    1. Outrageous and unbelievable are very kind words for Vodafone. They are shameless as well. There is another issue that I’m facing with them – I don’t get text messages all the time – and in spite of so many complaints, they claim that they are still working on it. Just imagine, I don’t get any text details of banking transactions !

      I will have to pay a visit to the customer care centre. I hate going there as it is always crowded and the wait is long.

      Like

      1. To some extent, the frustrations you faced with Vodafone are similar to Malaysian customer service especially in government departments or agencies. The private sector is improving but there are times I get so frustrated with their poor proficiency in English that it’s difficult to explain the situation. Sigh…

        Like

  7. Hmmmm…I have had a fairly similar experience with Airtel once on a trip to South Africa. At the end of the day ‘Shitty Service’ is in the DNA of every mobile service provider, especially for international Roaming !!!

    Like

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Madhu. Going by the range of experiences shared here and the people I have spoken to, I don’t think any service provider is really good. One has to be lucky or really unlucky depending on the situation. 😦

      Like

  8. Our experience with Vodafone is not different. They provided a 3G dongle which never worked outside of Mumbai. We couldn’t even use 1MB data in 3 months offer plan. The entire offer was wasted. 3G Dongle is a dead plastic piece. After coming back to Mumbai we went to register this issue with Vodafone centres and followed with them like you on social media. They are now numb to such conversations. Clearly their “happy to help” is false identity.

    Like

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