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Just cancelled the 3 account I’ve had for 7 years (but there’s good news too)

Screen Shot 2011 09 07 at 17 32 28

You know the offending account I’m referring to? The one where I was stupid, STUPID enough to run up a £120 bill based on 58 megabytes of overage? (Read: An expensive example of Three’s stupid data policies)

I’ve been rather annoyed at how stupid I’ve been.

I paid £5 for the ‘internet max’ option years ago when I took out the contract — that gave me 2GB usage every month. I obviously ended up using 2,058 megabytes before 3’s billing system stepped in and stopped the spiralling costs.

Which reminded me — why am I even bothering? I’ve been paying £37/month for ages, which, I’m told by the chap I called in retentions, makes me a very valuable customer.

Ordinarily I’d think he was flattering me. But when you look at the amount of 16 pence ARPU customers that 3 is continually chasing, perhaps the guy had a point.

All told I think I spend about £100-150 a month with 3. I’ve got a broadband dongle account. I’ve also got an iPhone 4 account.

So I definitely don’t need to pay £37 a month for the SIM that I put in the MiFi unit — which ended up costing me a stupid amount of money.

It’s a fundamentally emotional response. It’s also steeped in fiscal logic. What’s the point in paying more than I need to?

The point was to be insured against this kind of aberration. For some reason — and I know it’s stupid — I was expecting the 3 billing system to do the equivalent of that stormtrooper in Star Wars and just wave me on. Come on, I’ve been paying you lots of money, for ages!

Of course it’s silly. The systems don’t work like that.

Humans do.

So here’s what I did: I phoned up Three and got put through to the cancellations team. The chap who answered was impressed that I’ve had the line since 2004.

I did my best to avoid mentioning the £120 charge. Yes it’s my fault. Yes it was stupid of me to not have monitored the billing. Yes it’s supremely annoying 3’s system didn’t suspend my usage a lot earlier to avoid the extra costs. Yes it’s highly emotional.

Eventually upon questioning — the chap was very good — I revealed that, really, I was cancelling primarily as an emotional response. I was embarrassed that I ended up paying three times my standard line rental on Sunday because of the 58 megabytes of overage. Schoolboy error. Of course, I’m also reminded that I don’t really need the line either. I’ve got my iPhone 4 line — which has proper unlimited data.

I pointed out that I was rather frustrated to have run up a stupid additional bill on Sunday and that this had reminded me I didn’t need the line.

“But if you cancel, you’ll need to pay one more month,” the chap said.

“Yeah,” I replied.

That confused the chap.

“Cancel it please, I don’t need it.”

The guy went through a series of special offers. I listened politely and then declined. Three or four times he did this. He was very thorough. Then I confirmed I wanted him to cancel the line.

I could hear the poor chap deflate.

My biggest worry — strange word, that, but it was a worry in this particular context — was that he’d seize on the £120 charge and waive it, then offer me an HTC Sensation for free with a gazillion minutes (etc) on some contract. I’d have found that really difficult to ignore. I was adamant that when I phoned up, I’d just asked to cancel and not explain the motivations.

The chap didn’t pick up on this. I believe he mentioned it was unfortunate and then offered me another tenner-a-month-deal. It’s a strange one though — I think the £120 overages are highly, highly unfair. Yet I also understand I shouldn’t have allowed the additional overage. I think what I needed was some kind of recognition that it was a little unfortunate. For example, a credit of £60, plus a new phone (on some crazily long contract). Or something else to help erase my frustration. OR, more accurately, something cheap that I could latch on to that would allow me to do the forgetting myself.

I declined the tenner-a-month deal politely, but firmly.

Eventually the chap cancelled the account: It’s dead on the 7th of October.

“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?” he asked.

“Yes, I’d like to cancel my mobile broadband account too,” I said. I was on a roll. He couldn’t help me with this and transferred me to a nice lady called Seha in the mobile broadband team.

Seha was astonished at the length of time I’d been a 3 customer. We went through the same process, why do I want to cancel.

“It’s more or less an emotional response,” I explained — backed by a good dose of financial sensibility.

“I don’t need the line,” I said, “I can just use a pay-as-you-go SIM.”

Seha was appalled. Why would I do that, when she could make me a phenomenal offer?

She did her best.

I was firm, “No thanks,” I said. I complimented her on her professionalism. She was really good. She spoke of me being a valued customer, of 3 really, really appreciating by business. Combined with the ultra-special offer they were making, she pummelled home the deal.

“No thank you,” I said, “I’ll probably go ahead and pick up the new MiFi, but I’m fine. I’ll just use pay-as-you-go.”

She wasn’t giving up.

“The cancellation button is right here on my screen, sir,” she explained, “But let me just put you on hold for two minutes.”

She did so.

She’d noted a chink in the armour and went to confer with her supervisor.

Moments later she was back.

“We’d like to offer you a free MiFi 586, sir” — and she also went through a pretty good broadband data price plan.

“We really don’t offer this to anyone,” she said, “but you’ve been with us for so long and I really want to keep you as a customer.”

I could feel resistance crumbling.

All of a sudden I started making reasons up in my mind as to why I should agree. It makes sense. It’s a good deal. I won’t have to arse about with top-ups. Oh, and I don’t have to go to the 3 shop and buy the new MiFi either.

Seha then explained that she’d like to give me two days to think about it.

“I’m not working tomorrow or Friday, sir, so how about I call you on Saturday — and if you still like the offer, we could proceed, otherwise I can cancel you then?”

“Don’t bother,” I replied, “Go ahead and give me that deal then, you’ve won me over.”

She was delighted. I realised I was responding to the human, having been shafted (through my own fault) by the system on Sunday. I was pretty pleased with the deal too.

“It’s a shame I didn’t speak to you about the phone line earlier,” I said as she confirmed the terms of the arrangement.

Anyway job done. I’m looking forward to the new MiFi arriving.

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