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I have a pay as you go mobile phone from Vodafone, because Vodafone has the least-patchy coverage of all the networks in my damp technologyless valley.

Occasionally, I need to put more money in it to make it go. Once upon a time, Pay As You Go phones occurred in phoneboxes, and you put money in the box to make the call. If you needed to put more money in, you got a pip pip pip noise telling you to do so. I could handle this.

A bit later, PAYG phones were still in phoneboxes, but you bought a card in advance and put the card in a slot. A digital display, or sometimes, a mysterious voice, told you how much money was left on your card. And I could handle this also.

Now, PAYG phones occur in your pocket, so you don't have to find a phone box, but you DO have to remember to charge the damn thing. And people can phone and bother you, rather than it just being a case of you phoning and bother them. I am not convinced that this is really an improvement.

But also, there is a confusopoly on the subject of how you put the money in. The documentation has moved from 'insert 10p into slot A' to pages and pages of options, including things like ' Topup with mobile banking from MONILINK'. The sheer complication of it came very close this time round to making me fling the sodding mobile into the Tamar.

I build websites. If I spend 3 sodding hours trying to work out how to use the web interface to make a payment, you know what? I don't think it's me. I think it's them. My suspicion that it's them is confirmed by the fact that although I am now pretty sure that I'm not making a mistake, there is some issue with my account that has a glitch, I cannot phone anyone to tell them about this. And it's confirmed further by noting that the automated bloody link on the bottom of the message they send me is broken because they have misspelled 'http://'

Nor did I get any useful response to my email, only a more-or-less automated response saying that they could remove and recreate my account if I send them 4 pieces of ID, including the code on the back of my SIM card - accessibly only by removing the poorly-designed back of the phone, sliding out the battery, removing the sim card from a particularly iffy catch, and turning it over - not that they told me where it was, obviously. I was expected to know that, and be able to remove and replace it (obviously, it needs to be a particular way up, and a particular way round, and there is nothing on the sodding phone that indicates this once you've removed it...) And whether recreating the account would solve the problem - well, who knows? I'm pretty sure that Amita Ghume of Vodafone doesn't.

The topup by telephone thing didn't work either, probably because it's driven by whatever malfunctioning thing is stopping me from using the online topup.

Finally I realised that it was also possible to put money in by sending them a text. This information isn't in the page you get to if you Google 'Vodafone topup'. Oh no. That would be FAR too simple. Nor was it mentioned in the Useless Support Email from the semi-automated Amita.

I only found it by checking all my email for 'Vodafone' and discovering that I'd found the information previously, 2 years ago. And woohooo! The topup direct by text thing does work.

As usual when I have finally managed to put money in the damnable thing, I am simply stunned that mobile phones are such commonly used pieces of technology.  How technophobes and old people cope with this sort of thing is beyond me.




( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
23rd Feb, 2009 15:51 (UTC)
I put money on my phone now by buying a code from WHS which I then type in. It's the only way I'm able to pay for it, having evidently failed the intelligence test for using my credit / debit card. I don't know how anyone manages payment by card!

If you *wanted* to spend ten wasted minutes failing to top up your phone, and lock your account in the process, I would recommend Orange's system as exactly what you were looking for.
(Deleted comment)
23rd Feb, 2009 20:12 (UTC)
I did consider the topup card option, but because of my suspicion that there is something up with this account that is preventing the online topup and telephone topup from working, I didn't really want to do something that would involve spending cash up front in case the card topup didn't work either.
23rd Feb, 2009 22:53 (UTC)
I top up my phone from cash points. I appreciate you're not always going to be particularly near one, but when you are it's a great way of doing it. You just select your network, how much you want to top up and key in your phone number twice. It's never ever gone wrong for me topping up that way.
24th Feb, 2009 11:16 (UTC)
I didn't know it was that simple! I assumed it would need lots of initialisation and set-up and 3-hr phone calls to Amita Ghume. Hm, must try that! - Neuromancer
24th Feb, 2009 11:18 (UTC)
SO sympathise. I hate mobile phones too. They are good enough that one can't not have one, but they are an ugly technology that doesn't quite work properly. Personal rants:
* sending texts. So bloody painful with a 9 digit keypad, even with predictive text.
* My predictive text gives me "nun" when I type "mum".
* If I close my phone while typing a message, it loses the whole thing. Doesn't keep it onscreen or save it to drafts, deletes it.
* Takes sodding ages to boot up and find the network
* TMobile keeps sending me bloody irritating messages (about how I could surf the web on my phone, and how texts now only cost 18p, etc) and I can't be arsed to find out how to stop them.

Maybe i just am old.

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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