Roll of Shame

Created on 25/3/2008

What do Vodafone, the Tesco store credit card, United Airlines Mileage Plus have in common? They all cost me time, blood pressure readings that were off the scale and tested my hard won patience. I am confident that the same kinds of things happen to all of you.

In no order of priority my stories are as follows. Last month United Airlines were running a promotion in which they stated that there were special bonuses for their Mileage Plus members if they were to purchase some long distance tickets before a certain date. I telephone and received confirmation of this from them. I purchased the tickets on the understanding that I would receive these benefits, which included maintaining my Executive Gold membership. I took the details of the call, including the time and date and accepted this assurance. You know what comes next don’t you. My new membership card arrived at the end of last week, and United had not delivered on their promise to maintain my Executive Gold membership. I telephoned the same number and was told, very politely, that I must have misunderstood what I had been told. As their answering system always states that they record your conversations for training purposes I asked them to play our previous conversation back. If I were wrong there would be an end to it. If I was right they should honour their representative’s word. Strangely enough, although they would not deny there might be a recording, they couldn’t or wouldn’t play it. Eventually, and I am cutting this very short, the charming young lady, clearly in the Indian sub-continent, agreed that I might speak to her manager. He came into our conversation and was equally polite, and useless. He now informed me that after checking, there had indeed been a special promotion as I had stated, but I hadn’t paid the $400 for it. As I had never been informed about any such charge I could not have paid it. I asked him if he could simply play back the call in question but he confirmed that this was not possible. What followed was even more Kafkaesque. The manager implied that he could well understand and sympathize with my view, and to that end he would e-mail United International in the States for their view. When he received a response in two days I could call them and they would tell me their decision. I asked him why they couldn’t call me, but apparently this was also not permitted. I also asked him to simply copy me in on the exchange of e-mails, but again, this was not permitted. I shall call United later today, and will be amazed if this airline, (on which I have flown more than 140,000 miles, including current travel in the last couple of years) will honour its commitments. What a shame and what a waste of time. I don’t think it even occurred to them even to care, or to pretend that they care. I can’t do anything more about it than to share their behaviour with you.

Vodafone was perhaps even more bizarre. They sent me a letter stating that as I had not paid an overdue amount and therefore my service was terminated. There were a couple of points at issue. My service was normal and I didn’t owe them a penny. I telephoned and eventually was connected to another charming young lady. I told her my tale and she agreed that I didn’t owe them anything and that my phone service was normal. I asked why I had been sent the letter. It was because several months ago I had changed the bank through which I was making my payments. But, I said, you had received the payments hadn’t you?” to which she responded, “yes, you don’t owe us anything at all.” I leave it to you to imagine why their letter had been sent in the first place, as I still do not understand.

Then came the Tesco Store Credit Card. In fact it belongs to my wife. We pay this card off in total each month, and therefore know that there should not be a problem with it. However recently when my wife had used the card it was registering that she wasn’t using the correct pin number, although it had not been changed. This got worse until the point that it wouldn’t work. My wife rang Tesco, and was greeted by a third very charming young lady. The Tesco lady told my wife that she must have been inputting the wrong Pin number. My wife assured her that this wasn’t the case. The Tesco lady said that they would throughput a de-locking instruction to the card and that then, after a 3 hour wait she could make rest assured her Pin number would now work. I went to the ATM for my wife and of course it didn’t work even after I had followed instructions precisely. Whilst I was attempting this, my wife was on the telephone with a fourth charming young lady who was informing her that I was inputting the incorrect Pin number that my wife was sharing with me on my mobile phone. I will not go into yet more painstaking detail enumerating the methods we are pursuing for a fallback position. We figure this will take at least another week or two to get straight, and it is all yet another dumb waste of time.

I have been accused of being a real Larry David figure, but you have to admit that this kind of time wasting nonsense is happening to many, if not all of you. I want to say that you should keep a careful record of your calls, names, times, dates and details of what has been agreed, but here we have some perfect examples of my doing all of this, and still landing up to your neck in the brown stuff. No, the secret is to not be part of the system at all, but then you wouldn’t be considered a real person would you, so I guess we’re stuck dealing with a system that makes no sense at all.