Carphone Warehouse, you are cheaters

I’m writing this blog post to document one of the worst experiences I have ever had (and continue to have) with a brand, the brand in question being Carphone Warehouse.

The story so far

On Wednesday 9th March, a salesperson from Carphone Warehouse called me to offer me a free phone upgrade based on the fact that I was eligible for one. I said yes, and the guy, without letting me finish informing them that I had moved home and they had the wrong address for me (“no that’s OK, the old address is fine” – how, I do not understand), said he’d get it sent by courier ASAP. I managed to squeeze in that I’d moved home but clearly he wasn’t really bothered: he had to make that sale. I warned him that I was leaving the country for a week and would need it by the next day, which he said would not be a problem at all.

The next day I called to verify my details as I was a bit concerned if they had the right address, and to ask if they could get it delivered to a store nearby from where I could pick it up. Unsurprisingly, they had the wrong address, and no, it was too late to get it that day because letting DHL know about the redirection would take time. In the meantime, O2 switched off my Blackberry data services thinking I now had an iPhone. So I went to one of the biggest tech conferences in the world, SXSW Interactive 2011 in Austin, with a dumbphone – a BlackBerry instrument which was as good as the earliest ever Nokia phone, good enough to make and receive calls and SMSes and nothing else. Carphone Warehouse did promise, however, that they’d send the instrument to the store I specified for me to pick up when I got back.

When I returned to London on Thursday March 17th, I called their customer service centre to confirm that it had been delivered to the store. I got a verbal confirmation from their agent, and then turned up at the store only to be told that it was not there. I called their support centre again from the store, who at this point started changing his story: first he said it was delivered on the 10th March to the store but it probably was returned as they usually return unclaimed products after 5 days. I pointed out that this could not be the case because the store employees showed me their incoming delivery log and there had been no delivery in my name in the last 2 weeks. Then he put me on hold, came back and told me that it was delivered to my old address (which I had told them before I left for my trip I no longer lived in) and that somebody signed for it according to DHL – with a name that was not mine. No response to my point that I had asked for it to be delivered to the store. Another bit of being put on hold and they told me that it was delivered to my current, not my previous, address on 10th March, but still signed for by someone that was not me. I was asked to call DHL to verify, despite the fact that Carphone Warehouse were the dispatchers – why on earth should the onus fall on the customer to find out what happened to something that was sent by Carphone Warehouse?

After not being able to reason with the guy, I had to call DHL, who said they had delivered it to my old address, confirmed it was signed for by someone – the same name I did not recognise at all, and that I’d have to get Carphone Warehouse to log an enquiry as that was ‘the procedure’.

The guy I got on the phone at Carphone Warehouse this time, Usman, was much more intelligent – he said that it was indeed Carphone Warehouse’s responsibility to log the enquiry and that I had been given the wrong information the first time around. He put me on hold while he logged the issue with DHL, then suggested I call the police to report the loss too (if you can call something I never received in the first place as a ‘loss’), which I duly did.

Two hours later the first customer service agent called back saying the phone was available in the store for me to collect.

My hopes didn’t even have enough time to go up before he called back saying it was a mistake – and I had to take him through what his colleague had done for me a short while ago. He apologised and asked me to wait for a couple of days, as Usman had told me to do, when I was supposed to receive an email with further details.

That evening, I called Carphone Warehouse to check the status of my complaint. This time they said it was delivered to my current address, and since someone (who I had not heard of, and neither had anyone in my building) had signed for it, it was a case of theft and I had to claim homeowners insurance – it was now a ‘legal issue beyond their control’. Of course it was beyond their comprehension (chap called Andy, may I add) to understand that it had not entered the door of my home in the first place. I spoke to a manager – Michael – and got my complaint escalated to the next level. Note that I had spent well over an hour calling their premium phone number by then. I asked for an email confirming that they were looking into it. I was promised they’d send it, but of course no email came.

I then called O2 to see what they could do and whether they could turn my BlackBerry services back on, but they said no, as far as they were concerned I had an iPhone and they could not do anything till Carphone Warehouse reported it as stolen. Basically I was now paying for a phone which I did not have.

On Saturday 19th March, I called DHL again to see what they were saying: they did not budge from saying it had been delivered to my old address and signed for by ‘a decorator’. So I went round to the old address and enquired with the current residents whether there had been a delivery in my name the previous week, and whether they had any decorators working in their flat. This is where the story starts getting *really* interesting and potentially damning as far as Carphone Warehouse and DHL are concerned: they said they had in fact had a delivery on Thursday 10th March, did not have any decorators working, and as the delivery was not in their name, they sent it back to the sender. Which, as we are all aware, is Carphone Warehouse.

I called Carphone Warehouse again that evening, and emailed them with this new information. I was simply told to wait 4 days for a response (I spoke to Kate this time, a manager). This morning I got an email which said exactly what I knew, and that it was still ‘being looked into’.

Let’s get the basic facts again:

1. Carphone Warehouse did not bother verifying which address I wanted it sent to right from the beginning. They did not care a hoot after the sale, so to speak, where it went.

2. When I asked for it to be sent to the store, that request was completely disregarded despite me receiving verbal confirmation that they would send it there – twice.

3. Repeated back-and-forth calls resulted in different stories EVERY SINGLE TIME I spoke to Carphone Warehouse.

Someone has clearly taken the phone for their own and it is not me, and I have a pretty strong case when I say I’m not going to be paying for someone else’s phone due to the inefficiency of Carphone Warehouse and/or DHL.

Let’s now get to the math:

  • Value of the contract we’d agreed: £45 x 24 = £1,080, which I have no problem paying if the phone reaches me.
  • Value of the next 3 (at least) contracts I would have signed up for which I most definitely will not if things are not resolved = £45 x 24 x 3 = -£3,240
  • Value of positive word-of-mouth recommendations (which I have given in the past for the exact same company): about £10,000, say 3 customers for 3 years
  • Value of negative blog post(s), Facebook, Twitter: about -£30,000

(HT Ian Delaney, who thankfully had a happy ending to his story, for the above)

I don’t know, Carphone Warehouse, if you’ve heard of brands like Zappos and Best Buy who live by their customer service online. Why, just this morning, I read of this positive experience someone had with Volvo.

I have been an advocate of your brand for the last 3 years – and I can prove it. I sincerely hope for a positive resolution to this issue, so that I can go back to being one – all I ask is that you reach the phone to me satisfactorily, and I hope that will happen in less than a week as I am tired of being shabbily treated. I trust this is not a scam, and that you are a responsible, fair, empathetic business that listens to their customers online – because you won’t survive long otherwise.

UPDATE 26th March 2011: I contacted the CEO Team at Carphone Warehouse after 4 days of the start of this problem, on the advice of a friend who used to work there. After that, the response was much more courteous and quick. Rob from the CEO team finally traced the call and admitted that the problem originated with the first sales call where the salesperson did not log my details properly though I was trying to tell him to, and they replaced the phone for me. Thanks very much, Rob, I do appreciate your help.

One day, I hope every customer sales advisor will be as courteous as you.

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