Vodafone and their Magic Pen

We got this in from Helen who blogs over at

Several dramatic events happened to me this summer. The main one was moving house, during which all the usual attendant stresses were complicated by the fact that it’s a new property with no phone line connected, so getting broadband installed is non-trivial.

Halfway through trying to sort this out, my Sony Eriksson W810i was stolen. On a bus. From a friend’s bag. While she was on her way to return it to me after I left it at her place the night before. Not good.

Distraught as I was at losing my beloved W810i, it did provide me with the incentive to drop my expired contract with Orange, and shop for a new mobile tariff at the same time as hunting for a broadband service provider. I also established that BT, bless their useless little socks, were unable to send an engineer to install a landline in my new flat until a month after I’d moved in, so I was also on the lookout for a temporary mobile broadband solution to tide me over in the meantime.

I should note a couple of things at this point:

  1. The BT solution is one I only reluctantly accepted after Virgin told me they couldn’t connect cable to my property. I have learned from bitter experience not to give BT my custom if I can possibly help it. Sadly they have something of a monopoly on this corner of the market.
  2. Mobile broadband is not an option for the entire tenancy. as I work from home, and my normal usage outweighs most of the affordable data packages by a factor of ten. I am only managing to stay under 3GB/month by keeping a notepad file of “THINGS TO UPLOAD/DOWNLOAD WHEN I HAVE ADSL BROADBAND” in a prominent position on my desktop. And getting my boyfriend to download any particularly huge files I need urgently for work and bring them round for me on a pen drive. Neither option is very sustainable.

A quick bit of Googling revealed that O2, Vodafone and Three offered short-term mobile broadband contracts. Since I’d already been considering O2 or Vodafone for a new mobile contract, I wondered if I could win some sort of magic discount by signing up to three of their services at once? I’m not an expert at this haggling business, but I had a vague impression that if I pitted them against each other and sat back, they would be falling over themselves to offer me exclusive deals. Or so I hoped.

So it was with a light heart and a full wallet that I found myself on Upper Street in Islington one Friday morning. I was carrying several heavy bags, so was gratified to note that O2 and Vodafone had shops right next door to each other. Hopefully, this also meant that they were already in stiff competition, and if they played hard to get I could dash between the shops and start telling tales about the amazing discounts the other was offering.

I walked into the O2 shop, plonked all my bags down and tried to make the speech I had been preparing on the tube, which went something like “Hello! I am in the market for ALL YOUR PRODUCTS. Do your best, salespeople!” Unfortunately there was no-one there to hear it. One staff member were talking to a customer at a little desk, but there was no-one behind the reception desk. Eventually a young man with an O2 t-shirt appeared from the back and dithered for another minute before I went up to him and started talking. He didn’t seem to know how to approach me or to lead the conversation, and when I repeated my little speech it confused the hell out of him. He finally latched onto the fact that I was interested in broadband, and led me over to one of the little desks. Aha! Now we were getting somewhere.

He got out the O2 leaflet and started explaining all the stuff I had already read online. I tried to steer him in the direction of my brave idea that Multiple Contracts might lead to Exciting Discounts, but he floundered at the first hurdle, which was understanding that I was interested in anything other than mobile broadband.

By this point I was feeling rather disgruntled at his lack of interest in my potential custom, so I started testing him with difficult questions, like “What is the usage allowance for this mobile broadband package?” He didn’t know. Nor, when consulted, did his colleague. And they didn’t offer me any free stuff. So I stood up, and told him thankyou very much, but I was going to go and talk to Vodafone in the hopes of finding someone who knew what they were talking about.

I’m not normally rude to shop assistants, so I was still slightly flushed from all the excitement (and from carrying the heavy bags) when I walked into the Vodafone shop. I plumped the bags down in front of the reception desk, which was extravagantly staffed with two whole sales assistants as well as one already talking to a customer at the side of the room. They were winning already.

“HELLO”” I said, doing quite a good impression of an eccentric bag lady. “I have just come out of the O2 shop, where I was distinctly unimpressed. I am in the market for all your products! Salespeople, do your best!”

At this point the two young blokes behind the counter, who were all dynamic and best-matey and laughing a lot, looked at each other and did a quick wordless whose turn is it decision, and I got the incredibly lively, well-informed salesman with a trainee badge who was all patter and charm and knew his stuff. Which is as you’d expect, but was a pleasant surprise after my recent experiences in the O2 shop.

“Right ON!” he crowed, grabbing up the August catalogue, “MAGIC PEN time! Where is my magic pen!” Then he vaulted over the sales desk, flipped the catalogue open on the mobile broadband page and started doing entertaining breakdowns on the various deals. I mean, this guy had serious flair. He instantly got what I was after, did not patronise me in the slightest, took the time to listen to me but was quick to race onto the important business of saving me money. And he did this really cute thing where he crossed out lots of the prices in the catalogue and wrote cheaper ones underneath them – or FREE, which was even more exciting. All salespeople should learn this trick. I approve of this trick wholeheartedly. Of course it was blatant sales pitch, and he was excellent at it. He treated me like an intelligent human being, made me laugh, and I was sold.

We agreed on a 1 month mobile broadband contract, 3GB usage allowance, which costs me £20 and includes a free USB modem, as opposed to O2 who tried to charge me £99 (the Vodafone one was £49 before the Magic Pen did its fine, fine work). I am also getting a £30/month talk and text plan including 600 free minutes and unlimited text, plus optional insurance for £6/month, which I think I’ll get, as I am totally in love with my new handset and do not want it to be stolen on a bus.

My new handset is a Sony Ericsson C902. I’d had the W810i for two years, which converted me after seven years of Nokia loyalty. They don’t offer the W810i any more, so I was half-looking at the W910i as the next one up, but I hadn’t committed myself yet because the only one I could find on the Vodafone website was brown, and I am a shallow creature when it comes to phone aesthetics. I told the sales guy that I want to stay with Sony Ericsson, that I don’t really use the walkman function as I have an mp3 player, and that long battery life and good camera are essential. He picked out the C902 (black, obviously) and I fell instantly in love.

We filled out forms, chatted, ran a credit check that was hindered by my being completely unable to remember the last half of my previous postcode (luckily, my ever-helpful boyfriend was able to text it to me when I asked). I’ll admit I was relieved when the credit check went through okay. When I first moved to London to seek my fortune, my Orange contract had to be in my boyfriend’s name because I was a filthy self-employed bohemian with no credit rating who hadn’t yet filled out a tax return. That caused no end of problems. The latest of which made its presence felt a moment later: I needed to sign up as a Vodafone mobile customer before they could do me the deal with the free USB modem … and if I wanted to transfer my old number from Orange, which I did, I needed a PAC from Orange before I could sign the Vodafone contract.

I had no phone, so SalesGuy let me borrow his – also a C902, which is presumably why he’s pimping it so hard – to call my boyfriend. Orange, you see, persist in their belief that my boyfriend is still the account holder. Never mind that once I was a registered tax payer with a good credit rating we asked Orange to change the account into my name, and they said they had done so. Twice. It somehow never went through on the system, and my boyfriend still needs to call them to sort anything out. So now I asked him to call Orange, get them to give him the PAC, and text it to me so I could take my shiny shiny new C902 home with me that morning.

My ever-patient boyfriend sat on hold to Orange for 45 minutes, during which I was snug in the Vodafone shop, stroking the C902 and chatting to SalesGuy. Eventually my boyfriend called back to tell me that Orange refused to give him a PAC on the phone, and they would post it to him in three working days.

So I came home from the Vodafone shop that day with no shiny shiny C902. However, I my details were all saved on their system, the handset was boxed and waiting for me behind the counter, and as soon as I had the PAC I could return and claim my prize.

The PAC arrived in the post the following Wednesday, as promised, and I went back to the Vodafone shop at the end of the day on my way to the pub. It was 6pm; they closed at 6.30pm, but surely it wouldn’t take long to wrap things up.

Sadly, I was wrong. SalesGuy (wearing an Assistant Manager name badge this time, with a different name) had trouble loading my saved details, couldn’t create a new account with the same details, and then the system freezed up and he couldn’t get the relevant service team on the phone because they’d gone home for the day. After half an hour of swearing at the computer they had to close the store, so he gave up, apologised profusely, and said he’d get it sorted and call me to let me know when my phone was ready to collect.

I felt disappointed as I walked away. Everything was up in the air – the reputation of Vodafone, the identity of SalesGuy, the question of whether I would ever be able to take home my beloved C902. But more was hanging on this than a shiny handset. I’d had the keys to my new house for a couple of weeks now, and all I was waiting for was my mobile broadband connection before I could move and settle into my new place. And I still had no phone, which is a tad inconvenient when you’re freelancing.

On Friday morning, on my way to an appointment with a client, I got a call from Salesguy, who introducted himself with a name that I couldn’t quite hear, but which wasn’t either of the names on either of his nametags. I quickly caught onto the important point, however, which was that he’d made it all happen and my C902 was ready to collect.

So I walked into the Vodafone shop for the third time in a week, hoping beyond hope that this time it was it. I wasn’t disappointed. SalesGuy (wearing the trainee nametag again, although my receipt informed me that I’d been served by Marlon) fetched me the C902 they’d been saving for me. Semra, the charismatic store manager (if that was really her name) confided to me that actually I was lucky, they’d sold my C902 this morning when they ran out, but they’d had a delivery since then so there was still one for me. I was a bit miffed that they’d sold my phone, but stroking the C902’s sleek facia quickly restored my good humour.

As did the contract. Semra ran me through the package, and I was surprised to discover that my £30 tariff (reduced from £35 thanks to the power of the Magic Pen) included not only 600 minutes and unlimited texts, but also unlimited mobile internet. I’d been chewing over whether to pay the extra tenner or so for a data package, and getting it for free was an unexpected bonus. Being somewhat cynical I made her call the service centre to confirm, and yes, somehow I’d managed to blag mobile internet on top of everything else. Win.

Phone sorted, we turned to mobile broadband. Vodafone didn’t have any tempting ADSL deals to offer so I’d decided to leave that question to another day; the pressing issue was a temporary mobile broadband to tide me over until BT connected my new landline.

Being a new Vodafone customer, my free USB modem was contingent on giving them a £100 deposit, returnable 30 days after I cancelled my monthly mobile broadband contract. I wasn’t giving them any other money up front, so that seemed fair enough. £20/month gets me a 3.5G mobile broadband connection with a 3GB data cap, and I had a nice chat with Semra while we ran a second credit check and filled out a second lot of forms (I remembered my postcode this time).

That was a couple of weeks ago, and in the last fortnight my C902 has stood me in good stead, particularly the 5 megapixel camera. I’m getting addicted to the wonders of mobile internet, including checking my blog for comments in bed before I’ve even got up to make tea, and updating my Facebook status from my phone, which gives me the momentary disconcerting impression that I was born after 1990. The mobile broadband works like a dream, and I cannot tell you how delicious it was to unpack my desktop in the new house and enjoy an instant high-speed broadband connection. The data cap is inconvenient, but it’s fast, and at that price you can’t have everything.

I got a courtesy call from Vodafone this morning, asking how I was getting on with the phone, whether I was having any problems, and telling me useful things like when to expect my first bill and how much it would be. I expressed my ongoing paranoia that all the mobile internet I’d been using wasn’t included in my tariff after all and I was going to get a hefty whack on my bill when they realised the mistake, but he double-checked for me and reassured me that yes, I was getting a bloody good deal for my £30/month. We had a nice little chat and it confirmed my overall impression that Vodafone offer a good product and are staffed by real and competent human beings.

A further note on BT, who were meant to be installing my landline between 1-6pm this afternoon. The engineer never showed up. Instead, a courier woke me up first thing this morning to deliver a BT broadband hub, which I didn’t order, and have no intention of paying for. If only one could get an ADSL connection without going through BT. If only.

When – if – my BT line is ever installed, I was considering getting O2 home broadband, since I can get an existing customer discount through my boyfriend’s mobile account (although not if my broadband account has to be in his name, I’m not making that mistake again). However, the encounter in the Islington shop have kind of put me off O2. Semra from Vodafone told me that the O2 broadband is cheap because it’s slow and unreliable, but impressed as I am by Vodafone, I’m not inclined to take this as gospel.

So I’m still in the market for an ADSL service provider. If any of the home broadband providers would like to charm me with their Magic Pen, now’s their chance.

21 replies on “Vodafone and their Magic Pen”

The level of service in mobile shops is confusingly variable considering that (I assume) they’re all working mostly on commission. I spent 45 minutes standing in the Virgin Mobile shop on Tottenham Court Road a few weeks ago, purchase decision made and credit card in hand, before finally giving up and leaving. I wasn’t the only person to walk out of there empty handed in those 45 minutes either.

Sounds very good – now that O2 are taking the proverbial by abolishing 12 month contracts and not even offering decent handset subsidies on the 18 month contract I may very well move to Voda – if I don't get an iPhone.

O2 broadband are actually supposed to be quite good – I will be moving soon myself and will have to go through the same cr@p with BT sending an engineer and charging me

I love the Magic Pen idea. I need a Magic Pen……Its good to be served by sales people who know what they are talking about and can do their job.

A friend of mine have to wait 3 weeks to get her BT line installed…I wish they could polish up their act and get a hold of a magic pen!

Thats great good to know that they are Ok in some parts of the Globe. I trust that you haven't been put through to BT call centre outside the UK, I spent 2 hours on the phone just trying to get a service.

This story made my day and restored my faith in sales assistants. how wonderful when one gets to deal with some one who obviously enjoys their job and do it well. hope Vodafone take note and keep this young man with the magic pen on. I have to go a vodafone store tomorrow i hope i get the same service.

This story made my day and restored my faith in sales assistants. how wonderful when one gets to deal with some one who obviously enjoys their job and do it well. hope Vodafone take note and keep this young man with the magic pen on. I have to go a vodafone store tomorrow i hope i get the same service.

This story made my day and restored my faith in sales assistants. how wonderful when one gets to deal with some one who obviously enjoys their job and do it well. hope Vodafone take note and keep this young man with the magic pen on. I have to go a vodafone store tomorrow i hope i get the same service.

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