My eldest son has a mobile phone, which he uses only for contacting us in emergencies. Happily, he hasn’t needed to use it for for more than six months. Then yesterday he was delayed getting home from school and tried to call us. His phone didn’t work.
At the same time, we were trying to call him. The call didn’t go through, and we were told that the number was invalid.
(He got home safely not long after this, so that’s all right. That’s not the point of the story.)
My wife called Vodafone, the service provider, to ask what had happened. The rep explained that when a Vodafone mobile phone is unused for six months they shut down the account, effectively bricking it, and reassign the number to someone else. (That last bit is evidently untrue, since the number is now invalid rather than going to a different phone.) Shortly before the six months expired, they apparently warned us that this was going to happen: by a text sent to the very phone that wasn’t being used, rather then for example an email or a call to our land line or a letter or frankly any method of communication that didn’t involve the very phone whose lack of use was the reason for the message.
This was a pay-as-you-go phone. I am sure no-one will be too surprised when I tell you that when they closed down the phone they kept the balance in the account.
So what can we do from here? Apparently if our son wants to start using the phone again, he has to get a new SIM card, which of course means that he loses his address book (and anyone who had his number will no longer be able to use it).
So my feeling is that Vodafone should have (A) not bricked the phone at all; or failing that, (B) informed us by some sane method that they were going to do that; or both (C1) not stolen our money, and (C2) not junked the old SIM. In short, is it really too much to ask that they not behave like turds?
You know, the market for service companies that simply aren’t horrible is wide open. It’s not going to hard to win customers’ loyalty when this sort of craptacular behaviour is routine among their competitors.