Welcome to the timewasting top up line!

Why is this not simple?

Hi there! I’m an annoying phone system from a well known UK mobile phone operator! I know you want to top your phone up, that’s why you dialled 4444. However, before we get to the bit where you give us money, let’s tell you about some irrelevant special offers! Did you know that if you give us £15 you can win prizes! Just top up £15 or more to be in with more chance to win it big.

Now, if you’re still listening, I need to tell you about the terms and conditions, so press # to hear them otherwise… if you have used this card before, mash the keypad followed by hash… now type in your inner leg length in whole furlongs, followed by hash so for example if your leg is … and now type in the last three digits on the back of your mother’s VISA card …

We’re sorry, your topup was not successful, would you like to go around in an endless loop and try again and again? Or would you like to dig out that unused VISA card you have in a box somewhere and try that? Please remember that the simple act of topping up your phone will trigger a call from your bank’s anti-fraud team so be at home tomorrow at 4am when they ring. Once you’ve dealt with that your card will never work on our system again. You could always top up using that plastic card we gave you, but we’re betting you lost that shortly after putting the SIM in your phone.

It really should be a short, straight to the point system. Type in card numbers, type in back of card numbers, type in amount, job done. It really doesn’t need to tell me all the special prizes I can win in competitions if I top up the phone. I definitely don’t want to know about these awesome surprises when I can choose between a crappy “free day out”, “£5 off at Interflora” or a “Music Download”.

Tomorrow’s rant: Why do I have to pay an extra £7.50 for Internet Teathering on my iPhone 4 when it already comes with 500MB of Internet as part of the Simplicity tariff?

My mobile has broken

Fantastic… the day before I go on holiday to the Alps for a week my phone dies. And being one of my pieces of technology, it just has to die in the most irritating way possible. While attempting to send an SMS the screen just went blank, and now it won’t un-blank.

The rest of the phone works! It’s just received an SMS, and I can dial out and receive calls, but the screen remains totally black and non working. It can’t be a mechanical failure since I was using the phone when it happened, so all I can think is that the firmware has buggered itself in (it is a Windows Mobile device after all) and something has told the screen to turn off, but hasn’t told it to turn back on again.

So, before we go on holiday tomorrow, we’re off to the Orange shop to either get them to magic it back alive (highly improbable) or for me to buy a new phone. And it’s going to have to be a cheap phone since I wasn’t really intending on buying a phone again for a long time. I was going to buy a 1TB hard disk for my server, but now need to use that money for a sodding phone.

If I hadn’t been a mobile phone user for the past 10 years and this was my first experience with them, I’d probably not bother getting a replacement.

My phone has gone a bit nuts ever since I put the PAYG SIM in it. First it got stuck in a reboot loop until I managed to trick it into working by turning on ‘flight mode’, powering off the phone and putting the SIM in, then disabling flight mode. Then at the weekend it wouldn’t send text messages, instead simply queueing them up and greying out the ‘Send message’ option.

And yeah, the insurance didn’t carry over from when I cancelled my contract either.

Flight leaves tomorrow afternoon, so no updates until I return. When I do return, expect a torrent of back-dated entries (unless I find wifi over there).

Oh my Orange, you’re not doing too well

My phone’s working now. But to do this I had to

  1. Ring them back and tell them it wasn’t working
  2. Ring back again because their computers weren’t working
  3. Be transferred three times, eventually going back to the ever-helpful “concerns department” back in the UK
  4. And then be put on hold because the previous call centre had my account locked
  5. Then I had to ring the call centre again to link my debit card to my phone for topups
  6. And now the only thing not working is the website stuff – it thinks I still have a contract, and happily informs me that my account is disabled. I did try ringing up about this, but failed to get my point across at all

My phone now has £10.01 in credit, I am on the Dolphin calling plan and have 300 free messages to abuse.

Orange are having computer problems

I’m stopping my Orange contract and have just received a PAYG SIM and topup card from them. Amusingly the topup card expires in 2029 so I’m going to make it my aim to keep it until then 🙂

When ringing the activation number I first managed to confuse the voice recognition system, and then the human I got through to explained he couldn’t help me because his computer wasn’t working. I laughed, lots and will phone back later.

Managing my money, confusing callcentres

Photo from Wikipedia

After looking at the amount of money I throw down the drain every month, and feeling slightly irritated that most of it I have to pay, I’ve been looking at things to chop out or pay slightly differently. After weeding out my council tax, insurance, rent and other things like that number 1 on my list of “whoa that looks a bit expensive” was my mobile phone.

I’m on a contract, it costs me £35 a month including typical call usage and other junk (insurance and an Internet bundle). My family and everyone else I know with a mobile has a pay-as-you-go and it seems to cost them at most £10 a month.

So off I go to ring a certain fruity telecoms company to ask a very straight forward question “How do I switch from contract to PAYG, and will it cost me anything?”. I found their number and encountered their automated system, from which none of the options sounded remotely useful. I opted for “I want to change my billing details, but not my contact details, or payment details, I have another query” and within a few rings got through to a nice human being.

Since this is the modern world with the magic of VOIP, the person I had on the end of my phone was not in the same country as me. I am fairly certain he wasn’t on the same continent as me. I asked my question and he answered it in a pleasing way, informing me it would be free to go from contract to PAYG, and would I like to do this?

Well yes I would, this is so easy and I am happy!

OK, so I have to go on hold and be transferred to the relevant department (probably the bloke in the cubicle next to him). And here’s where spanners start falling into the works. Due to a bit of good old Chinese Whispers and misunderstanding they assumed I had already cancelled my contract, and already had a replacement PAYG SIM, ready to be activated. No, I don’t… I want one, is it still free? Does any of what I’m asking make any sense to you, or have you run off your script and are rapidly ad-libbing into a nasty dark pit of confusion?

Hm? Yes, I can hold again I guess… this is turning into a game, I no longer care if my query gets sorted, I want to see how many people I can talk to. I’m bored with nothing else to do today.

The crappy hold music ends, the line goes silent… and after some confusion an very nice English lady comes on the line. Hurrah! Someone I can speak to in my normal tone of voice, using normal slang, at my normal speaking speed, through a line that doesn’t sound like damp string. I may just get somewhere yet… This callcentre woman was good, she’d obviously been given the freedom to listen to her callers, think a bit, and suggest ideas to help them. She wasn’t a robot reading from a script.

She told me that no, unlike what the other lot had said (she didn’t sound too impressed with them either) it wouldn’t be free, I would have to buy out the end of my contract. So I did, since I have to pay that money even if I choose to give up and remain a loyal, money pissing contract customer. Replacement SIM will arrive within a week and “all” I have to do is ring back and get it activated.

So yeah, I’ll have to go back to the giant chicken farm and hope they can understand my routine request to have a PAYG activated.

A small point to make

Please do not fall under the misunderstanding that I dislike the people in the foreign callcentres that I spoke to originally. I’ve got no problem with them. my problem is with the companies that decide to shunt our calls over to another continent, without deciding whether the idea works socially. I’m English, I speak a certain way, using certain phrases and with an accent. If I was asked to handle calls coming from the other side of the planet I’d probably get things equally confused, mixed up and wrong.

Just because something is technically possible, and will save money, doesn’t mean it’s always socially acceptable. Outsourced, foreign callcentres are just bad bad inventions. It’d be like me teaching my kids by slapping a pile of instructions on their desks and saying “get on with it”. It’d work, but it wouldn’t be very good.

Blue Arsed Fly Mode *Engaged*

Amy went off to visit some people in Doncaster today, leaving me at home to do some tedious school planning. We almost missed the train to Doncaster, me dropping her off at the station and saying “I’ll ring you in five minutes to see if you made it” and her running into the station.

I went for an amble around Maplin for a bit, coming out with a new A/V switcher for my various consoles. I rang her and got no answer, and a quick check at the station confirmed she must have made the train. Still, bit odd not being able to ring her. I continued home…

And when I went into the front room I found her phone on the settee… with 17 missed calls from the people she was going to visit. It rang another six times before a Doncaster number came up which I answered and discovered a slightly pissed off Amy on the other end. I was instructed to text the people she was meeting, explain the situation and get them to collect her from Doncaster station.

This I did, and she called back about ten minutes later asking me to ring them and ask where they were, she having now been stood there for at least half an hour in the cold and rain. So I did and received the news that the other people were “lost” and couldn’t find the station. This was duly relayed to Amy and was greeted with a certain amount of swearing 😉

She said she’d ring me when she was coming home and I continued about my afternoon slightly bemused and wondering what was happening.

Later that afternoon I got a call from Amy saying she was at Doncaster station and about to get on a train back home. I made plans to leave after half an hour to meet her. Ten minutes later I got another call saying she was there, it seems trains go a bit quicker on Sundays.

After the day’s ordeal we sat down for some tea and watched Resident Evil before making a trip to my parents’ to drop off the dog.

Text “Moron” to 80333

The TV has just told me I can text “mate” to 80333 to receive the first initial of my future husband/wife. This feat of superior mind powerz costs a mere £1.50.

Yes. £1.50 for some automated robot to send me a letter of the alphabet.

Who the hell signs up for this crap? Evidently there are a lot of stupid people on the planet to make this even viable. People dense enough to waste £1.50 on a message that contains a letter of the alphabet.

So… how can I take advantage of them too? The way I see it, if you’re thick enough to do this, or have that much cash to waste, you deserve exploiting.

Tell you what, give me 50p through my PayPal tip jar and I will send you 26 letters, one of which is guaranteed to be the first letter of your future mate (subject to you getting one, of course).

Google Mobile

For a while it’s been possible to browse the Google search using a mobile device by pointing a browser at the Google Mobile page. From then it’s the usual Google Search affair to do a web search.

I’ve just noticed, at the bottom of my iGoogle page a link to view it on my mobile phone. Hoping this would be some fantastic RSS/GMail/Calendar iGoogle style page for my phone I followed the necessary steps to add the link to my phone’s browser.

The page loaded quite quickly but wasn’t what I was assuming. Think of it more as a list of Google services, rather than iGoogle. It’s really handy though. You can access all your Google services through it – including Google Docs.

My mobile is an Orange SPV E650 running Windows Mobile 6, and includes the pocket versions of Excel and Word. Using mobile Google I was able to download and edit one of the spreadsheet documents I have stored in my Google docs. There was also an option to view it as HTML. I don’t know if editing can be done though.

I’m fairly sure this is a feature I won’t use that often, I usually have access to a proper PC for most of the time. However there have been the odd situations where being able to call up Google Maps or quickly check my mail (booking a hotel somewhere and forgetting its address, then needing a map to find it, being an example) have been really useful and saved loads of effort.

Automated parcel tracking robots

I’ve ordered a new phone from Orange and am currently waiting for it to be delivered. According to Parceline’s website my package is in Leeds with “Next Day” delivery. They don’t specify a delivery date and I’d quite like to know if it is going to turn up today (Saturday) or if it’ll be on Monday – when I’m out at work.

For some reason it’s 7am and I am awake. I’ve just rung the parcel tracking number and had an entertaining few minutes looping round their automated system which politely told me they were shut. Of course, it only told me that after I’d chosen the “where’s my parcel?” option, typed in my package number, had the robot say “we are having difficulty tracking that parcel”, been redirected twice to a customer representative whos automated service said they were shut.

I will try again at 8am. I want my new phone. More importantly I want to go out today and on Monday I don’t want to have to arrange a drive to Leeds to collect my phone. If I can do that today it’d be much better.

I want my cake.