Words, written and spoken have always fascinated me, especially because of their use in communication. I find communication is better when done in ‘real time’, and considering the miles between me and some people I usually want to communicate with, I am eternally grateful to the 21st century and the many ways this is possible.
Growing up through the frustrations of Nipost and Nitel style communication, makes my appreciation of these advancements more profound.
#Glow in the dark
My first line was on the Mtel network back in 2004 and it lasted only until Glo started with their services.
Even back then I had great distrust for MTN with all their aggressive advertising and high tariffs ripping people off from the get go. Econet did not inspire great confidence, and the seeming confusion in the ownership over the years has done little to endear them to me.
My decision to go with Glo seemed to be the right thing when in their first year they won “Operator with the most accurate billing” award, because when all is said and done, it is really about the money and every little helps.
Then they introduced their other packages.
First was GLO Premium, a pre-paid package that allowed one pay less while you talked more. All one had to do was migrate and pay an amount in monthly rental. This seemed tailor made for my needs at the time because I spent a lot of time on the phone, and I found girls took to a guy who would stay on the line for one straight hour to listen to them cry, laugh, play them music, or just hear them breathe.
Next, the post-paid packages were introduced. The calls were cheaper, the monthly rental was less and, if one ran out of airtime in the middle of a conversation, one was not cut off – it got tacked onto the bill, at least that was how Glo Optimizer worked. This was even better for me; talk was finally cheap, and I was talking my life away. Then my first bill landed and the akamu cleared from my eyes. Let us just say it was way more than I bargained for. Frankly, it was not so much that I could not pay, it was just more than I would have been willing to pay for talking!
The next month I decided to take control of things.
After every call I made, I checked my account balance to guide my next call; it was a foolproof plan, or so I thought until one particular morning I woke up to an SMS from Glo that I had exceeded my credit limit by N3,000 and was advised to pay up to avoid suspension.
In outrage’ I called Customer Care and spoke with a representative who confirmed the SMS.
“How is that possible?” I asked the agent. “When I checked my account balance last night I still had about a thousand naira left to call with, so I ask you again: How. Is. That. Even. Possible!” The last part a shriek.
“Sir please calm down, there’s a simple explanation,” the voice on the phone said into my right ear.
I took a good look at the phone monitor before transferring it to my left ear. Who even says that to a customer?
“Hello sir? Are you there sir?” I took a deep breath before saying “Go ahead, and please make it as simple as you have promised.”
“Well sir, the billing is not done in real time so it takes a while before your account is charged for calls you make. What it means in essence is that your true account balance can only be determined upwards of thirty minutes after the call. Your best bet sir, will be to check your account balance first thing in the morning before you make a call. By that time the account would have been balanced.”
Again I looked at the phone to confirm it was Glo customer care I had dialled and not ETB, because this surely was some banking ish! That same day I went to the Glo office to cancel the contract only to be told it was not possible on a contract less than one year.
That was five years ago.
Recently I went to the office at the airport to cancel the same contract, I was bogged down with so much paperwork I just threw my hands in the air and walked away.
#Look who’s talkin’
Do I never learn? Maybe… Maybe not.
When Etisalat offered prospective subscribers ‘special’ numbers I got in line for one, and when they introduced their post paid package I jumped on the Elite World train – as they were offering a lot of incentives: a flat call rate to all networks, reduced of course; a USB modem with data both valued at N14,000 at the time; 20% extra call credit to any network, renewed on the 1st of every month; when the credit limit is exhausted, one could top up and use the line just like a pre-paid line, so there is no “I can’t make that call till the 1st of next month”; one had till the 20th of the next month to settle the phone bill before suspension of services and best of all, no monthly rental charge!
It was when I tried to pay my bill in the second month that I realised how apt the saying “when something seems too good to be true, it probably is” may be.
The previous month I had paid my bills the same way as I would top up normally; this month when I tried it, the value of the recharge cards was credited to my pre-paid account, with my post paid account still in debit.
I went to the Experience centre at the airport and was told I was supposed to enter an extra digit when recharging to indicate bill payment. “Now why did I not get this information earlier? Last month the old system worked, this month I am stuck with N10,000 that I may never use.”
Looking apologetic, the manager explained how the system was relatively new and they just got the information a few days before. And no, I could not transfer from my pre-paid account to offset my post paid bill.
Three months later when I got my bill I found I was over billed by about N3,000, so off to the Experience centre I yet again. All I got were apologies and a promise to have it investigated – I still paid the amount pending investigation .
And so it continued for the next couple of months.
One day I got a call from the airport kiosk saying the reason for the over billing was because of an unsettled bill in November of 2009 – the monies I paid then was the security deposit not the cost of service – and the system had fragmented it and was including these to my monthly bills. “How much is left from that bill then?” I asked. I was given a figure and I paid up, but at the time I suspected what was really happening was that the system was double billing me because the months I got over billed were months when I exhausted my monthly plan and topped up. The system still tacked the amount to my bill despite my having paid for them on the pre-paid platform.
That month, to confirm my suspicions, I used up the balance from the N10,000 on my pre-paid account. When the bill came, I found I was over billed by almost N8,000 and I decided I was not going to pay. At the stroke of midnight on the 20th my line got suspended. I could not call out, only incoming calls were allowed. I would have done like my brother who broke and tossed his Glo SIM card over something similar, but my BIS was tied to the contract and I could not afford to be incommunicado for a long time. Plus I had slowly made this my primary contact number – the Glo plays second fiddle, and sometimes no fiddle at all.
I considered getting my BIS on my Glo line, but when I heard how much ‘security deposit’ I was supposed to pay – different from the existing security deposit on the line as it is post paid – I literally crawled back to Etisalat, and sent mails to customer care to express my displeasure. I got an auto-response and nothing else.
In fairness to the Experience centre personnel, from MMA2 through Silverbird Galleria and E-Centre to Allen avenue, my complaints got escalated with only promises of investigations. I even met the man in charge of IT, Tony, on board once and complained to him, he said it was the first he was hearing of this. He made the same promise to investigate, but I have not heard a word from him, or any of the other managers I had complained to: Ayi in Kano, Ofili and Alex both in Lagos.
As if that were not enough, apart from the current “Register and get airtime back” promo, everything before had been aimed at pre-paid customers only, and there is at least one pre-paid package with cheaper call rates than Elite World. I often wonder why I have not migrated back to post paid. I guess I am still living in the hope that one day in the not too distant future my loyalty will be noted and rewarded.
I have resorted to not exceeding my monthly limit, so once I have a few hundred naira left on my account, I stop calling unless it is extremely important. BBMessaging takes care of the rest.
So much for “…now we are talking”.
I have lost a friend to the BBMadness that I do not know whether to blame it on Research In Motion (RIM), though I suspect if investigated, it would lie squarely or spread-eagled at the door of our service providers.
No, she did not die.
She had once accused me of ignoring a BBMessage she sent me one night when I left for Dakar. I vehemently pleaded my innocence, but when I went through my messages on my return to Nigeria the message was there and it was marked “R”. My apologies were effusive while I wondered what had happened.
The next time it was again after a trip to Dakar, so I thought Dakar had it in for me.
The third time though, I was in Lagos so I could not blame another city. This time, I went through her messages but could not find what she referred to. She would not hear of it. As far as she was concerned, I had grown a big head and ignored her messages so there was no point taking up BBContact space on her phone.
The next evening, another friend accused me of doing the same thing. Desperate to prove I was neither lying nor losing my marbles, I downloaded the screen grabber application and ‘grabbed’ the page which I sent to her. She was as astounded as me. She then ‘munched’ her page and sent to me, and there were the messages she sent me, messages that I was supposed to have read.
Downloading that application is one of the better decisions I have made in recent times because whenever I see “Why are you not replying?” Or “So you are ignoring me now?” I simply grab the page and send while hoping the contact gets it.
I can go on and on, but that is just what it would be – going on and on.
I have great distrust for eMpTyNet with their advert blitz and even higher tariffs ripping people off at every turn. Airtel has not inspired great confidence, and the continuous change in ownership over the years has done nothing to engender much confidence.
PS: There are a lot of humans without conscience. Business and Government are full of people like that, they reel us in and then hump the unsuspecting public. Me, I have taken to walking about with a pack of rubbers.