‘Can I ask you why you don’t want a smart phone?’ said the chirpy manager, as I stood blinking in front of him in the intensely red Vodafone shop.
I took my iPhone out of my bag and explained that I wanted a second phone with no brain whatsoever.
A stupid, backward phone was what I wanted. Not a scheming, conniving monster like this one. And I said this quietly, so that my iPhone didn’t hear me, because that is how frightened I am of it.
‘Ah!’ said the pin-striped tech wizard, as if he had heard of this situation before, or perhaps increasingly.
Reaching for the bottom shelf, he told me there was only one such phone in his shop. He put a tiny, plastic Nokia in my hands. It was so basic it was as light as a feather.
I said that would do fine. I got out of my purse a spare sim card connected to a phone line that once belonged to an old BlackBerry and told the man I wanted to put that into the Nokia.
He assembled it in a matter of seconds, and, while consulting his screen, said he could reduce the amount I was paying for this second phone line from £15 a month to £10. I thanked him profusely, thinking: ‘What a nice man.’
He then asked me to sign a digital pad on the desk with a plastic pokey thing, which I assumed was something to do with buying the Nokia.
I must explain that I was in a bit of a daze. When I say the interior of this Vodafone store was red, I mean entering into it was like being swallowed by an emergency warning light. Engulfed by a redness of quite frightening intensity, I think I had gone into a transcendental state. I couldn’t think straight.
Blinking, I signed the pad and left with my new old-style Nokia. But when I got home and plugged it in to charge, I discovered that it did not hold a charge.
I sighed and plonked it on my desk. Oh well, that was worth a try. And it was only £30. I couldn’t be bothered to go back. What was the point anyway? Of course the phone people aren’t going to let us escape the tyranny of being bossed about by apps we didn’t even know we had downloaded. Obviously, the system was not going to allow me to simply walk into a shop and buy an uncomplicated phone I could control. I decided to forget about it.
But a few weeks later, a letter arrived welcoming me to my new contract. The phone that didn’t work was on a new year-long commitment.
I had to go back. Back inside the belly of the warning light, where this time there was no sign of the smooth, pin-striped manager who sold new contracts so seamlessly you didn’t even realise that’s what was happening to you.
A small, scruffy fellow who was puce with irritation and about as smooth as a constipated hedgehog said I was outside the two-week period for returns. When I tried to argue he told me I was being abusive.
I refused to move until he agreed to send the phone away to be mended. I never heard any more.
Months later, I decided to ask Vodafone for comment. This was the biggest mistake of all. Emails began pouring into my inbox in rapid succession. All manner of corporate gobbledegook spewed at me, until one of these messages finally informed me that Vodafone had now completed its investigation into my ‘latest complaint’.
I can find only one other article I’ve ever written about Vodafone. Or do they mean to infer that I am, by nature, a complainer? Do they not realise that if I have to complain all the time it’s because so much needs complaining about?
Admittedly, I was deluded to think I could do something about the fact that my iPhone is trying to be the boss of me.
It was a deranged idea — I see that now — to think I could purchase a phone that only makes phone calls.
And it was demented to assume I could just email Vodafone HQ and ask them to take responsibility for a store bearing their name selling me a phone that doesn’t work.
The emails continue with no sign of ever stopping. While their investigations are complete, they say, they cannot verify my details so they are unable to disclose to me the findings.
Someone at customer relations is now asking me to prove who I am. In one of her emails, to my email, she actually asks me to confirm my email.
It occurs to me that I could just pay Vodafone £10 a month for nothing.
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