Firstly, I must make clear I have learned to love Telecom again over the last couple of years, they have rebuilt a brand that looked like it cared, and was customer focussed. I like their new MO for building an enduring brand that cares about their customers. Their new XT network kicks ass too. It’s hands down the best in town (and out on occasion). I love their XT network so much, I tell everyone to move to it at every opportunity, doubly so if they have a smartphone. I have moved all of our work mobiles to XT recently and slightly less recently I convinced my wife to move her phone too. She had bought a Samsung Galaxy recently and found coverage and data patchy on Vodafone. She didn’t really want to move as to her how the phone works it is all voodoo magic, and moving seemed to be a bit of a hassle. But she did and immediately found better coverage and better data. Yes! Another convert to Telecom.
To move her over she went to our local Telecom store, in Botany Town Centre, to get help with the move, and to make sure her phone would work as well as get the SIM, and see what discounts she could get as she was coming to Telecom with her own phone. To make sure her phone would work, the guy in the store told her to put a Telecom SIM in the phone to be 100% sure, but told Mel her Galaxy should work. So we grabbed a SIM, popped it in, and voila full bars and XT awesomeness. I had also checked on Telecom’s website to make 100% sure her Galaxy would support the XT network as it is very different to Vodafone’s. You can do this simply here by entering your IMEI number from under the battery in the phone. This will tell you if your model of phone will work on XT.
And great news the model of the Galaxy Mel has is supported and works on all the right frequencies, but the website does also suggest popping in a SIM to be super sure. We did that, full bars, choice! So Mel moved across. She was given a credit on her account in exchange for a 12 month contract. No sweat, there was no way we would go back to Vodafone now.
So that was a few months ago. Since then she has had a few strange areas of patchiness on the network where my phone would work and her’s wouldn’t. I put that down to different aerials as hers was a Galaxy and mine an iPhone. Not all phones are equal.
So roll forward to today, well 3 days ago to be precise, when we rock out of town on holiday. We are sitting in Warkworth, one of the many places that kiwis live and play, and Mel asks me to look at her phone as she is getting bars but can’t make calls. Her phone says “Emergency calls only”. I fiddle, and find her phone can’t see the Telecom network at all, only Vodafone’s. Odd. I do some digging online while lounging around at the beach (on my XT phone) and learn that Telecom has two frequencies on their network. 2100mhz for high density areas like Auckland and a nationwide 850mhz network to cover everywhere else. Who knew? Mel’s particular Galaxy it seems can not connect to the 850mhz network, so Telecom is invisible to the phone when out of Auckland. And so I fiddled a bit more, and did some research on Geekzone and found that Mel’s phone just wont support the Telecom 850mhz network, which is the everywhere network, so without this the phone is only good for in the major centers. Unless we hack the phone, root it and upgrade the firmware or mod it which we weren’t going to do as this voids all sorts of warrantees for sure. Also Telecom wont support us if we did this.
And so feeling slightly jipped and confused, I got Mel to ring Telecom to make sure this was the case. The guy in the Telecom store who signed her up told her that her phone would be fine. We followed the instructions that Telecom gave us, and the tests all told us her phone would work, which was obvious as the SIM she put in the phone worked! Full bars, great coverage… until we left the city.
First person we speak to tries to help with some basic tests but still the same issue. I knew the problem was that the phone could not see the 850mhz network, so turning it off and on didn’t seem to make any difference. So Mel was escalated to 2nd tier support, and did some more tests and fiddling, and then they agree that it seems more complex, so Mel was put through to 3rd tier. We were relaxing at a bach and not too stressed at this stage as we were at 3rd tier support. They would be able to sort it or confirm if her phone just wont work. They hung up on us. So we ring back and ask to be put through to the 3rd tier support guys. We get put through to a dead line, just silence. Mel was going to hang up thinking she was disconnected again, but I told her to wait, incase it was just the hold music not working. Sure enough, after 20 or so minutes the hold music starts. Lucky she held on, and the hold music wasn’t that bad. We had Greg Johnson and Chris Knox to keep us company, which was good because we were on hold for another 2 and a half hours. The lady in the call centre who put us through came back to us every 15 minutes asking if we were happy to hold, we were, but eventually after the first hour she stopped asking us. So we waited and waited, read books, and waited some more. It was 9pm and we figured they were not going to come back to us at this stage so we hung up on them – Telecom’s website says technical support closes at 9pm. We would try them again in the morning.
Next day, we ring nice and early so we can get on with our day, and try desperately to get back the the 3rd tier support guys. Hopefully today they would answer their phone. Every time we rang 123 we get someone else who has a different idea about our situation. We had a fair few of them as it seems that even though Telecom is a telecommunications company they can’t actually work their phones themselves or their hold music so being hung up on was a frequent occurrence.
We finally talk to one person who seems to know a thing or two and suspects the same thing we do, that the Galaxy wont work out of major centres. Apparently the Galaxy S’s they sell have had modifications so they run on both Telecom networks and because we didn’t buy the phone from Telecom ours hasn’t had the necessary tweaks. They couldn’t confirm this officially, but told us it was up to us to make sure the phone worked before we signed. What!? We did. We went into a Telecom store, spoke to a Telecom sales person, followed Telecom’s advice and the phone worked! We were unaware that Telecom ran two networks and that all we were testing was that the phone would work in the city. There was very little she would or could do, other than suggest we buy a new Telecom handset that would work on both networks, cancel our contract and pay the $280 release fee, or take the phone back to Noel Leeming as they sold us the wrong phone. No they didn’t, we bought the phone before we were on Telecom. Pay a release fee? Seriously? Telecom signed us up to that contract under good faith that our phone would work. But according to Telecom, it wasn’t Telecom’s fault, and if it wasn’t Noel Leeming’s fault, then it was our fault for not testing the phone out of town. WTF! Really?
And so they refused to do anything, other than suggest we go back to the Botany Telecom store and take it up with them. We are out of town on holiday, so that was unlikely. So after some needling we get them to conference us into a call to the Botany store, so they can tell them what the issue is and get them to help us. We get cut off. There seems to be a theme here.
So we find the number for the Botany store and ring them direct. We repeat the whole story once more for good measure, and get once again what seems to be a standard response, being that it was up to us to make sure the phone worked and it wasn’t their fault. But didn’t they tell us the phone would be fine! Yes, but we should have somehow known that it was fine only on Telecom’s around town network. WTF Telecom? Are you serious?
More heated discussion, as you can imagine we are getting slightly pissed about the phone experience, if it is not the waiting on hold, getting cut off, having the buck passed, it is being told constantly that it is our fault. So they suggest we go to the closest Telecom store to us, being Silverdale which is still 30 mins drive from us but we can give them the phone, and they would do some tests on the phone and check the settings to see if they can get the phone to work. They told us that we could get the Silverdale store to ring them if necessary and they would explain the situation and see if we can get this resolved once and for all. They can put in a new SIM and see if it is a problem with the SIM. Okay, not sure what that will do, but Yay! Some action.
We go to the Silverdale Telecom store, feeling positive that we would get some resolution finally. Hopefully they can tweak the phone, or cancel the contract for us. We are desperate to get on with our holiday and put of a trip for the kids to Waiwera hot pools so we can get this sorted. We really just want a working phone at this stage, and if it means we have to go back to Vodafone then so be it. We just need the phone to work for us out of town. Two minutes in talking to the Telecom person about our problem at the store and then she launches into a defensive rant about how this happens a lot and we needed to be sure our phone worked before signing up. It is almost like she got this a lot, being in Silverdale where you need the 850mhz network.
Look here you morons, we did check, we did everything you asked us to. Then she types in the phone’s IMEI into her computer and then tells us the “system” tells her the phone may work some places but won’t work out of town. WTF!? Really, that’s not what the Telecom website told us, so I walk around the back of her desk and look her screen, and she is using the same fucken screen from the Telecom website I used, and it didn’t say “won’t work” at all, it said the same fucken thing it told us!
This device should work on the XT Mobile Network.
To confirm your device will work on the XT Mobile Network, please visit a Telecom store or dealer to try your device with a Telecom SIM.
She then refuses to put a new SIM in as she tells us she KNOWS that this phone won’t work because it is not the Telecom model. Only the phone bought from Telecom will work. How come she knows this and no one else in Telecom does!? We ask her to talk to the Botany store as they sent us here and they promised us that it would be sorted here. She refused to call them explaining that they are not an actual Telecom store, but are a Leading Edge Communications store. Therefore she wasn’t going to help as it was not their problem. After some more argument, she finally agrees to call the Botany store but assured us again that she can’t help because they aren’t actually Telecom. They just have a store that is 100% wall to wall branded as Telecom, sell only Telecom phones, wear telecom shirts, but they are not Telecom.
“Yes, ahuh, yeah they have a Galaxy that won’t work on Telecom, yes, I know, yes they should have checked first, ok I will tell them”.
Then she explains that Botany told her that, yes, the Galaxy wont work and we should have tested it before we signed up, and it is really our problem. They also said that this couldn’t be resolved in store and we would have to ring 123 or come into the Botany shop. Why on Earth would we have taken a couple of hours out of our holiday to go to a Telecom shop if we were not directed to do so. WHAT THE FUCK?
So at this stage, we have been on the phone for 6-7 hours, driven to a Telecom store under the advice of Telecom, to be told they flatly wont help us as they aren’t Telecom. And then the original Telecom store who sold us the contract, who sent us there, confirming that yes it was our problem all along and they weren’t going to help either. So we have royally been given the run around over three precious days on holiday. No one wants to help us. Not the call centre, not the technical support team, not the local Telecom store and not the original store that sold us the contract and who told us the phone will be fine.
At the same time as Mel is dealing with all this, I tweet @telecomnz on Twitter for help. All the other channels are failing us, so perhaps they can help. Richard who is the community manager on the Twitter team offers to put us in touch with the Customer Resolution team. Great, I love the sound of that team, they surely can resolve our issue. We just want to know if the phone can work, how to make it work or to release us from our contract. Help at last! Rachael from the Customer Resolution team gives us a call, after we pass on all the details of our problem in an email. She is helpful and sincere. She offered us $100 off a new smartphone. Nice offer, but it would still cost us $700 to get a new phone when we had not long ago spent that much on this phone. She told us we could sell our one on Trade Me. No thanks, that was going to be a big hassle and we didn’t want to shell out some cash at this time of year. It was late in the day, and she promised to call us back in the morning with a better resolution. Great.
Next day, Rachael calls back as she promised. Firstly she suggests we lied about trying a SIM in the phone first. They looked into the logs on our phone on the network and can’t see any other SIM ever being used in the phone. So if we didn’t test it then it is our fault. WHAT? We can’t remember what SIM we tested it in, perhaps it was the same fucken SIM that is STILL IN THE PHONE and THAT WORKED AS WE WALKED OUT OF THE STORE? She then suggests it is just patchy network reception and we are at the beach after all. She says this as she talks to Mel on MY Telecom phone. Mel’s phone is dead as a doornail anywhere north of Albany. It is not just the corner of the Bach she is standing in, it is the WHOLE NETWORK.
She also suggests we go back to Botany and take it up with them, and perhaps the guy there can fiddle with the phone and might be able to get it to work. No, we are on holiday and we need a phone to work, we are not going to drive for more than an hour back into Auckland to Botany, on the faint hope that they can fiddle with the phone and get it to work, when it seems clear to us that the phone will never work. And how would they guy in the Botany store know he has got it working on the 850mhz network when he is in Auckland on the 2100mhz network? After 3 days of headache and going in circles it seems simple to us that perhaps the best option is to release us from the contract and we can go back to Vodafone. Not ideal for us, but it makes the most sense. There will be a Vodafone store on our travels on holiday somewhere. No, Telecom won’t release us from the contract. Full-stop. Rachael then cites the terms and conditions of the contract and states that it is up to us to make sure our phone works on their network and that they don’t guarantee their network will work well everywhere – and that the area where we are holidaying is listed as an area of fair coverage, she doesn’t seem interested that the phone couldn’t pick up the network in Warkworth or Silverdale or ANYWHERE NORTH OF AUCKLAND either. So there is nothing she can do. We tell her we will cancel and move back to Vodafone, and she confirms we will be charged $280 early termination on our bill. We confirm that if they do we will take this up with small claims, the ombudsman, FairGo, whomever, and tell anyone else considering to move to Telecom, not to do so. Not because their network may or may not work for them, it probably will, it is a great network, I love it to bits. But because they royally fuck their customers over when things go wrong, and can’t seem to be able to put things right. Waiving the $280 seems like a small price to pay to get a customer, who uses Telecom for 7 other connections, back on side. Instead, it seems that no matter what, the customer is always WRONG.
- Telecom actively courts moving your phone over to Telecom. Here is their latest offer for smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy is a smartphone.
- When moving your phone over, Telecom’s advice is to use their online form to check your phones IMEI to see if it is compatible. Even their own internal staff use this form. The form said the phone should work, but check with a XT SIM in it to be sure.
- We put in a XT SIM and it worked, which was obvious as we signed up the contract and have been using the phone in Auckland for five months without a problem.
- The fact that the phone doesn’t work on the 850mhz network outside of the main centres is as far as Telecom is concerned the customers problem as customers really should have tested this themselves before signing.
- How is the average consumer
1. expected to be aware that there are two networks (when most of the Telecom staff we spoke to weren’t themselves aware)
2. adequately be able to test their phone on both networks? How would a consumer know if they are on the 2100mhz or the 850mhz network at any particular time. It seems that this is in fact impossible for the average consumer to do.
- It seems that a lot of the people we spoke to within Telecom actually knew all along our particular model of Samsung Galaxy wouldn’t work but didn’t make this information available to us upfront, instead confessed this to us as we were being buck-passed on to someone else.
- Telecom value the $280 contract early termination fee over 6 of their staff members’ time, including 7 hours on the phone over 3 days, as well as valuing the $280 more than the three days of their customers precious lost time when they are on holiday.
And as no consolation whatsoever the final message I get from Telecom after I let them know I am cancelling our account is from Richard on Twitter who seemed to be the only person within Telecom actually wanting to help.
Below average advice seems to be the standard for Telecom at the moment. They appear as an organisation full of finger pointers and buck passers. Yes, Mel is pleased not to be having any more unhappy Telecom experiences.
My guess is Telecom get this a lot, but instead choose to baffle customers with confusing information, and frustrate them into buying Telecom phones. When what they really should do is make sure their customers phone work on their network before signing them up.
Boooo Telecom. You are still the shallow greedy telco that intentionally confuses consumers to your own benefit. Grow a soul.