My phone was stolen near my student accommodation the other evening. I went for a walk around the block, to my step goal (I use vivofit), and someone on a bike snatched it out of my hand. I screamed “thief!” and chased them down for two streets, until they turned two corners and lost me.
My first feeling was this is ridiculous. During Welcome Week, we’d been warned that this was a method of theft that occurred in the area, and I’d thought it was ridiculous then, when I’d first heard about it. Having it done to me was embarrassing.
Argos - or, Clusterfuck the First
I decided to buy a refurbished iPhone 5S from Argos, since they were the cheapest, at £230. I ordered the phone online that evening, Tuesday 6th December, for delivery on the 8th December.
Since I live in a gated complex, and I no longer had access to the phone number they have for me, I called that morning to make sure they told the delivery driver to leave the parcel at reception. I called again at 4:30pm, after checking with reception that no parcel had arrived, and a gentleman named Daniel told me that they didn’t actually have any in stock for delivery, and so they wouldn’t be delivering it. I’m not sure when they had actually planned to tell me about that.
Daniel told me that I could either wait until they had any more iPhones in stock - which would be totally at random, since they’re refurbished and so they need to wait until someone trades theirs in - or pick one up from a store which had them in stock. I chose the latter option, although all of the stores that had them were at least four miles away. Since I don’t drive, that meant taking three hours or so out of my day and trying to figure out the route via public transport, with no access to my phone - so no calling anyone, or checking google maps, or looking at Moovit. Especially tricky in a city which I’ve only lived in for 2 months.
Daniel said he would be able to send me a £15 gift voucher to cover the time and a cheque for £5 to cover the travel expenses. Let’s see if either of those arrive.
Daniel told me that I’d receive a text message containing the details I needed to pick up the phone. I pointed out that, no, I won’t, because I don’t have a phone. He told me that he would email the details to me if it went through before 6pm, or I could call back before 8pm or the next day to ask for those. He assured me he’d note the account fully and I could just ask anyone for that info the next day.
The next day, Friday 9th December, I used the live chat on Argos’ website to ask for those details. I spoke to Emily, who informed me that their systems were down, and that she had absolutely no intention of doing anything at all; I could just call back later. No offer for her to give me a call, or to email me; no responsibility taken or effort made. I asked for her details to raise a complaint and she closed the chat.
I called later, around 11:15am, and was told that customer services wasn’t the right people to speak to; they put me through to another department, who sent me through to voicemail instead of putting me on hold.
I called again and got through to someone who told me I could pick the order up using just my online order number and nothing else - I didn’t need any more information. I asked if she was absolutely sure about that; she insisted that she was. I asked if the store would be able to call in, should she be wrong about that; after all, I wouldn’t be able to contact anyone after giving my housemate’s phone back and leaving the house for the hour long journey to the store. She insisted she was sure, but said that yes, they would.
I got to the store, and they can’t hand over an iPhone without the details that the previous operator insisted I didn’t need. The store called Argos for me, and I spoke to yet another person, Martin.
Martin insisted that the only address on my account is the one I lived at three years ago. I know that isn’t the case; the delivery address on the account is for the room in Manchester, and the billing address is for my parents’ in Birmingham, both of which I updated online before making the order. I can see them online right now.
Martin said he didn’t know what was happening with the order. Daniel had left notes saying “order transfer initiated” but it didn’t appear to have actually been done. He also said that although Daniel’s operator ID was on the notes, he had no idea who what was and nor would his manager, which begs the question of why they even bother having IDs on notes. There were no notes regarding any of my other conversations.
Martin suggested looking at other stores nearby to see if they had any in stock; I told him I’d already checked that, and that it would be hugely inconvenient to spend more time and money traveling to yet another store because of their mistake. Martin went silent, typed for a minute, and then asked if there was “anything else” he could help. Yes, the first thing, we haven’t moved on yet Martin, you haven’t helped at all.
The store did have the phone I wanted reserved, but couldn’t confirm whether it was for me or not. Martin said it might be; I asked for the reservation number, or any of the numbers I needed to pick it up, and he said “the store can tell you”.
I asked how on earth he expected that to work. Would the store just tell me “the reservation number is XXXX”, I say “yes, that’s for me” and they just hand it over? What kind of crazy planet is he living on?
The store had the same phone in a different colour, so I bought that one and asked Martin just to issue a refund for the online order. Yes, this means I’ll temporarily be out of pocket for an additional £230, but at least that solved the not-having-a-phone problem. It created a new problem, but at least it’s a different problem.
Martin wasn’t able to issue the refund while I was on the phone - which I suspect has something to do with whatever Daniel tried to do - but assured me he would put it through later.
Later that evening, I eventually got my phone working, after some wrangling with Apple. The text with the order reference and PIN was there; that reservation was for me the entire time!
I tried live chat again, about 6pm that evening (actually, this evening - I started timing while that was ongoing). I spoke to Trevor, who told me that Martin hadn’t put the refund through, but he would email finance directly, and it would be back in my account within 5-7 working days.
I asked Trevor what would happen if finance couldn’t issue the refund for some reason; after all, Martin appeared to have had no plans beyond “lol, doesn’t work, time for a nap”. Nor had Emily for that matter. Nor had whoever hung up on me. What I’m saying is, I’m pretty sure if finance ran into problems, their response would also be “lol doesn’t work oh well, what can we do? It’s not like this is our responsibility, fixing our own mistakes!”
Trevor repeated that refunds take 5-7 working days, and apologized that it would take so long. I repeated that that wasn’t the problem; my problem was that no one was taking responsibility for ensuring that this refund goes through smoothly, which is especially galling considering all of the other problems Argos’ had caused with their incompetence and laziness. I suggested that he, for example, contact finance on Monday and then let me know what was happening.
He said he didn’t work Monday. Or Tuesday. Or any day except Friday. It didn’t occur to him to come up with his own solution, like asking a coworker to contact me. I would need to call back in 5-7 working days, if I was still out of pocket and, for example, desperately needed to buy food.
So that’s where we are. I did email Argos’ complaints department - either Help@argos.co.uk or Order.Enquiries@Argos.co.uk - regarding Emily’s “computer says no” impression, and they offered me another £15 gift voucher. Don’t really fancy trying to buy something else and wrangling with the terrible customer service again, thanks. Just want all of the calls listened to, everyone involved to have some proper training, and for me to be kept updated on the status of the refund. Daily updates; “Finance off, it’s Saturday,”, “Finance off, it’s Sunday,”, “Finance in, refund issued”, etc. Actually, just that third one would do. Also, if someone who works for Argos could say “Jesus Christ, were they all taking stupid pills? This is not good enough, let me fix it” that would be great too.
As of the 4th of January no vouchers or anything else have arrived, although they did send an email asking me to review them on trust pilot. They also asked me to review them on their website, but they don't want anyone discussing the customer service there.
I emailed to ask what they were playing at; they say they have no record of any promised compensation, but they can authorise me to go in store to pick up £30 of vouchers. I've asked them why they can't just listen to the call and read down the email chain, so we'll see what happens there.
Apple - or, Clusterfuck the Second
This one is probably my own fault, for choosing an iPhone in the first place.
So, I got my new phone - eventually, having paid for it twice - and got my £5 SIM activated, surprisingly painlessly. I ran into trouble when I put the SIM into the phone and turned it on.
To restore from a backup, it wanted my iCloud password, which is fair enough, I know that. Then it informed me that it had sent a passcode to my “trusted device” - presumably the stolen phone. The other option was to send the passcode to the phone I was currently trying to use; unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to see it until after I’d logged in to my apple ID.
I tried just getting the phone started without restoring from a back up; I could always do that later, after all. Unfortunately, same problem. Absolutely no option to just use my phone without going through this process.
I called Apple, who confirmed the situation was exactly that. My other option was to go through ‘account recovery’, which can take up to three weeks and would mean not having access to my phone for that entire time. He did offer to let me speak to his manager, but confirmed that the manager would just repeat the exact same advice, so I hung up on him rather than start screaming down the phone.
I tried putting the SIM into my housemates phone, but it didn’t like it. Wouldn’t let me access anything but emergency calls, which seems a bit odd since it’s not like the SIM’s locked to the phone.
I then used a temporary email address to make a throwaway Apple ID. That let me log in far enough to access my texts. With access to my texts, I used the Apple website to log into my real account and turn off two-step verification. I then reset the phone to factory default and went through the set-up again without having to access impossible, Escher-esque codes. It’s now working fine, although I do appear to have lost the texts and voicemails that came through on my throwaway ID.