Home opinion-and-analysis Fuzzy Logic Why I cancelled my gold iPhone 5s order with Vodafone today

Why I cancelled my gold iPhone 5s order with Vodafone today

As Vodafone Australia is the only telco in Australia offering the iPhone 5s on a 12 month plan on its website, I decided to reward the company with my business by ordering a gold 64GB iPhone 5s, but after a major customer service snafu by Vodafone, I’ve cancelled my order.

Let me first start by saying that in parts of greater Sydney and across the state of NSW in Australia today, bushfires have raged and reports suggest well over 50 homes have burned to the ground.

Dark smoke has billowed from Sydney’s west across the skyline, with some radio callers and announcers suggesting it almost looked like the giant mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb.

Thankfully, at time of publication, there have miraculously been no reports of fatalities, with only one fire fighter in hospital being treated for burns and smoke inhalation, but as ash falls across parts of metro Sydney and as fires continue raging across the state, my thoughts go out to those who have lost their homes, the belongings, their photographic and other digital memories, their animals and more, and I thank God no-one but a brave fire fighter has been injured.

With some Australians facing life and death issues, having had to evacuate homes in several areas, my level of frustration with Vodafone clearly registers very lowly on the scale of importance compared to the real world catastrophe happening to fellow Australians, while reaching very highly on the scale of #firstworldproblems.

So, with all of that said and sincerely acknowledged, I want to explain why I cancelled my iPhone 5s order with Vodafone Australia today.

Vodafone Australia has gone through some hard times following its merger with Hutchison’s 3 Mobile, a situation which saw Vodafone without a 3G network able to cope with the demands of modern smartphones.

The debacle led to the Vodafail affair, where Vodafone’s customers experienced painful call dropouts beyond the norm, coupled with glacially slow Internet speeds.

Customers spoke with their actions and not just their words over the last couple of years, with an exodus of customers defecting to rival telcos.

Naturally, Vodafone has been slowly and steadily fixing and upgrading its 3G network in response, upgrading its network and deploying new 850MHz 3G base stations across the country, while also delivering superfast 4G in what Vodafone says is “selected metro areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane”, with availability “in other outer metro areas like Wollongong, Gold Coast and Newcastle that have 4G sites” and the promise of more new 4G sites being enabled “every week”.

Vodafone’s 4G network is even faster than Telstra’s in some capital cities – although Telstra still wins the 4G coverage and overall 4G race, having started so much sooner than its competitors.

Thus, the Vodafone Australia of today is in a far better position than it was two years ago, and has been actively working for some time now to make things even better – something it had no choice but to do if it intended remaining in business in Australia. (Article continues below ad.)

Because of Vodafone’s network improvements, and because it is the only major Australian telco with 4G to officially offer a 12 month plan for smartphones on its website (as its competitors only officially offered 24 month plans on their sites), and because I wanted to upgrade to an iPhone 5s, I decided to reward Vodafone with my business.

I was getting a new service with a new number and access to Vodafone’s superfast 4G network to complement my existing number on Boost, using Telstra’s Next G network. It doesn’t hurt to have the backup of two services on completely different networks.

So, on the day the new iPhones launched, I placed an order for an iPhone 5s by phone with a very nice lady in Vodafone’s new Tasmanian call centre, and having eventually successfully navigated the process of signing up for a new 12 month plan for a 64GB iPhone 5s on the Red $65 plan, I was told there would be a wait time of 2-3 weeks, which I happily accepted.

Indeed, I was on my way to an iPhone 5s and 5c briefing with Apple at the time, where past history suggested that journalists invited to a briefing receive a time-limited loan device for purposes of review, so a short delay in actually receiving my own iPhone 5s was inconsequential.

Even if I weren’t a technology journalist, I still wanted the phone – and indeed, still do, with a wait of 2-3 weeks hardly remarkable on launch day for Apple’s latest and greatest if you don’t get your order in immediately.

So, naturally, I’ve been waiting for a package to arrive from Vodafone over the past week or so, thinking to myself that it’s probably about time the iPhone arrived, especially after having become well acquainted with the iPhone 5s review model and its dramatic speed improvements over the iPhone 4S (which I was using as my primary phone), the vastly improved camera and dual LED flash and the unequalled Touch ID.

Instead of a nice package from Vodafone, the package I received was most unexpected: a phone call from a blocked number, from a lady that didn’t sound like she was sitting in Vodafone’s Tasmanian call centre, telling me they were from Vodafone and asking me for my 4-digit identifying passcode, which I gave.

I was told that my new iPhone hadn’t been delivered by the courier, who seemingly had an unspecified issue in delivering the package, and who then returned it to Vodafone, and was told that they wanted to check my address.

The rep told me the address they had in the system, which was the correct one. I gave some extra tips on the buttons the courier should press on the apartments intercom keypad to ensure the doorbell rang correctly – it’s a touch pad system that is nowhere near as efficient than an iPhone’s touch screen, and when you press the “bell” symbol it must say “call” on the dim red screen, which sometimes catches some couriers out.  

As the delivery address is always staffed in during working hours (and beyond), meaning someone was always there, and as both Australia Post and couriers have had few issues in delivering to me in the past, I just expected this call to mean there was a small delivery snafu that would see the phone delivered next week.

So, I then asked if the phone would now be re-delivered next week, only to be told that it would now take an addition six to eight weeks for the iPhone to arrive!!

That’s up to two months additional wait, suggesting to me, at least, that “my” gold 64GB iPhone 5s had simply been redeployed to the next person in line on the waitlist, with my order placed to the back.

Now, I’d ordered on launch day. There was no notice in my letterbox of failed delivery, or I’d have immediately called to arrange re-delivery or even personal collection.

Vodafone had already issued me an electronic bill by email, to have been automatically debited from my account on the 23rd of October onwards, for a pro-rata amount of approximately $83.

When I questioned whether I was hearing the six to eight week delay correctly, I was assured this was the case. Obviously I wasn’t terribly delighted to be hearing this news and decided that, if this is the way Vodafone is going to treat a brand new customer, then my decision to reward Vodafone with my business is revoked.

So I cancelled. I explained I did NOT want to cancel, but if their delivery stuff-up meant it was more important to get the phone back to Vodafone than getting it to a brand new customer, and if they really couldn’t deliver in the timeframe I was originally promised, for which they were already going to bill me, they really gave me no choice but to cancel.

Six to eight weeks is just not good enough – why couldn’t the unit originally assigned to me simply be put aside while a -phone call- was made to me?

Why wasn’t a phone call made at the time of delivery if there were delivery issues, especially given this is a brand new iPhone that someone is obviously waiting to receive, something Vodafone’s courier company is probably well aware of, even if only by package size!

Vodafone -was- able to call to advise of a significant, business-losing, deal-breaking delay. It was not able to call to check delivery details, it was not able to call to make a genuine effort at next-day, next week or just timely redelivery.  

I’ll either have to reward one of Vodafone’s competitors (and see if they offer 12 month plans despite their sites not saying so, something that some friends have nevertheless managed to activate with their non-Vodafone telcos by asking on the phone) – or simply buy one outright – perhaps sometime over the next six to eight weeks!!

Sure, I could have just waited an extra six to eight weeks, but I just can’t see why I should reward a company that – quite literally in this case – cannot deliver, or at least not on the first try!

Had they delivered, this article wouldn’t have been written, and my order wouldn’t have been cancelled.

Look, I’m not trying to start a new revolution against Vodafone, and I know that my decision to stop being a Vodafone customer will have infinitesimal effect of Vodafone’s bottom line. Nor am I looking for special treatment from the PR or marketing team for expedited delivery – I’m not interested in that.

I’m just amazed that this is how an everyday customer is being treated, shoved to the back of the line because of a delivery issue that Vodafone failed to rectify before it became a problem, and I’m just not going to put up with it.

In the meantime I have an iPhone 5s (and 5c) on temporary loan from Apple, something similarly affected iPhone 5s Vodafone customers don’t have access to, so while this is all very nice for me for the temporary time being, anyone else who has received a similar call from Vodafone this week (or any week) can’t be too happy about it.

No, I haven’t lost everything like some Australians have today, and again I note this is very much a #firstworldproblem, but now you know why I cancelled my iPhone 5s order with Vodafone today.

Have you had a similar experience?


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.