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Carphone Warehouse FAILS to sell me an iPhone

Carphone Warehouse

“Thanks, but I don’t want a free one, I think I’d rather report on the purchasing experience as a consumer”. These words haunted me for most of yesterday and I don’t think I’ll find myself saying them again soon.

As you saw from my live videos (powered by the excellent Qik) I spent yesterday morning embedded in the Carphone Warhouse store on Oxford Street to report on the purchasing experience of the new iPhone 3G. Thanks to the Carphone Warehouse PR folks I was able to get in early and rush about getting videos and asking questions without losing my place in queue as they’d reserved me a black 16GB iPhone 3G.

So that I did, and once I was done poncing around in a new meedja fashion I sat down to go through the purchasing process. By this time O2’s credit checking facility had long since failed and was probably a smouldering pile of plastic and silicon in the corner of a datacentre somewhere. Carphone Warehouse, being “Europe’s leading independent retailer of mobile phones and services” had their own credit checking system and had switched over to using that instead. Excellent, I thought, that’s just the sort of dynamic flexibility we love to hear about on SMS Text News. As I sat down with Chaz, the sales assistant, his store manager, Imran, came over and carefully placed a shrinkwrapped 16GB iPhone down on the desk, “This is the last one“.

I gave all my details over to Chaz and he tapped them into the 1980’s looking interface on his screen and told me that before we could begin we need to do a security check. Chaz explained that this security check works using my chip and pin credit or debit card to confirm my address by taking, then refunding a £1 charge. Sure, I said as I popped my debit card into the machine, waited, and then tapped my PIN in.

Then there was a nervous pause.

  • PIN OK
  • Authorising
  • Authorised
  • Please remove card

A sigh of relief!, I’d successfully proved where I lived! I wasn’t a lying and I really am…. BZZZZT! Up on Chaz’s screen an ominous error message appeared:

  • Customer failed security check

“But… but it said authorised!” I whimpered, imagining the last remaining 16GB iPhone being slowly taken away from me. “Yes, but you failed the security check, this happens sometimes, maybe it’s formatted differently on the bank’s systems. Let’s try some variations” Chaz helpfully suggested.

We tried every variation of my address possible, even some very unlikely ones. Each time the message eventually came back “Customer failed security check”.

I rang my bank and after explaining the problem was told “Oh, yes Mr Lane, we can see multiple charges going through for £1 and we’re authorising them, none have been declined.”. The helpful man from my bank also read my address out for me with the exact formatting so we could try it again – “Customer failed security check”.

Finally, I remembered my emergency credit card!, it’s with a different bank who might have my address formatted differently. In slid the card…

  • PIN OK
  • Authorising
  • Declined
  • Please remove card
  • “Customer failed security check”.

Out came my first generation iPhone and I angrily tapped in the 0845 number written on the back of my card. After some delay and further explanation I was told “No sir, we can’t see any requests coming in but I can set a flag so we can authorise them if they do”.

It was at this point I was starting to think that their system was somewhat flawed. I mean, it wasn’t a total failure because all around me there were people slowly buying iPhones and walking out with them. Just not me.

I made a desperate “help me” face at Ruth from Carphone Warehouse’s PR dept and she came over right away to ask what the problem was. I explained, Chaz explained and she flipped open her phone and made some calls to Carphone’s central processing dept who did something and suggested we try the last card again… BZZT “Customer failed security check”. The chap from central processing eventually called back and said it was the banks declining the request. A stalemate had occurred with Carphone blaming the banks and the banks blaming Carphone.

By now we’d been trying to get their system to confirm my address for over an hour, in that time I could have rounded up Chaz, Imran and Ruth in a cab and taken them to see where I live and had a nice cup of tea. Imran informed me that he was unable to override the security check system and furthermore he couldn’t hold on the the 16GB iPhone much longer and that they’d need to sell it.

Imran and Ruth said they would escalate it and I gave them my card before leaving the store and heading over to SMS Text News Towers.

To be continued with part two, “Apple succeeds in selling me an iPhone, eventually!” in which our intrepid iPhone hunter queues for eight and a half hours in the Apple Store.

18 replies on “Carphone Warehouse FAILS to sell me an iPhone”

Oddly I had the reverse problem.

I waited five minutes in the queue, the person in front wanted a Vodafone contract for her son. CPW don't do Voda so she left with the promise of the same deal on Orange. Good sales move.

The very nice sales manager (CPW Hertford – giver her a bonus) filled out all the credit reference details on screen (CPW version of course). I had brought along passport and two utility bills which were waved aside as all I needed was my credit card. Great, apart from I can never ever remember the number. Half an hour later and back with the code I waited expectantly for the

Why am I suddenly thinking of “Computer says noooo…” woman from Little Britain?

That's the “service” industry of modern GB for you. Absolutely bloody hopeless. The second anything happens that varies one micron from their procedure book, they're utterly lost. That's the real benefit of doing all your shopping online: Better prices? Nice. More choice? Gotcha. Delivered to my door? Love it. NOT having to deal with people one rung up from burger flipping at Maccy D's? The angels are singing in heaven…

That's exactly what happened to me! One trip to the Apple Store and a 40minute wait later and I'm typing this on my new White 16 gigger. CPW have upset a lot of people with their ridiculous security system.

Don't worry, it's not only GB. Every time I walk in a real-world store I am reminded why I shoudn't have bothered. Same procedural BS, plus asking anything is pointelss, since in most cases I end up explaining to the sales chap what he's selling.

What's the latency like for the SMSTN page? Is viewing / commenting a realistic proposition?

I had the same problem multiple times both on the website earlier in the week. Then failing to get one in store because of staff incompetence and system meltdown, I phoned up the call centre. The bank said the charges went through, but CPW's system said no. The guy on the phone said it may be something to with my postcode being blocked, not the card. I'm an existing CPW customer as well, they provide my service on o2. So if I'm a security risk, why are they still taking my money for that? CPW have been the worst of the three companies throughout all of this, but they've been under the radar as everyone has a go at o2.

Well, in part two (now posted on this site) I manage to buy a phone from Apple. O2 did the same chip and pin security check which went through first time without any fuss… it must therefore have been CPW's fault!

The O2 customer forums have lots of people complaining about similar issues with the chip and pin security check via carphone warehouse.

I've been through variations of this merchant <-> clearing <-> bank stupidity more times than I care to count. Everyone blaming everyone else, etc. etc. These $1 / £1 charges are especially problematic. Worse is when they put a security hold on your card and don't bother to let you know. Had that happen to me last week.

I've been through variations of this merchant <-> clearing <-> bank stupidity more times than I care to count. Everyone blaming everyone else, etc. etc. These $1 / £1 charges are especially problematic. Worse is when they put a security hold on your card and don't bother to let you know. Had that happen to me last week.

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never had a problem and I worked for them for 18months

most times if it did fail it’s due to a IT issue . 99% of the time the authorisation wasn’t a problem.

Amazing how times have changed

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