Nine and a half weeks in Vodahell

THE FIFTH COLUMN

For a communications company, Vodacom is exceptionally bad at communicating.

Try to get a real person, who can actually explain something, when you have phoned the line Vodacom hilariously calls “customer care”. You’re likely to get lost in a thicket of robot voices intoning their prerecorded messages, enjoining you to press this number or that number — until you get to the prerecorded cul-de-sac, a message telling you to check your balances and be patient.

That’s what one needs: patience. If I was more patient, I wouldn’t be so irked that it has taken nine-and-a-half weeks (and counting) to get from the salesperson’s promises to the moment of actual switch-on. Living in hope, as one does, I keep imagining it’s about to be sorted out in just a day or two. But hope is beginning to fade.

I would cancel the contract, except I can’t get through to anyone to do that.

Silly me — I fell for the sales pitch. Someone from Fibre SA, which seems to be marketing fibre to South Africa (I would check that fact online if I was online), called me up, out of the blue, to offer a fibre contract. He said he would send a salesperson (a real human!), who duly arrived. I explained my problems with the other fibre companies I had tried (but never got further than 
the bot) and was told by this nice young salesperson not to worry: he would sort it all out. Give him two weeks.

Nothing happened for three weeks, then four. I tried calling the salesperson. No answer. This number didn’t even seem to be his any more. Eventually I got through to Vodacom Fibre’s tech department, who were helpful but seemed unable to get either Vodacom or Vumatel, which is in charge of the physical infrastructure, to move with any degree of swiftness.

Vumatel blames Vodacom and Vodacom blames Vumatel. It’s like they’re locked in an embrace of perpetual near-immobility, constantly stumbling over each other’s feet.

Six weeks after the salesperson’s visit, Vumatel finally came to upgrade the box that was installed already. All I had to do was let Vodacom know and they would be along with the router — and all my dreams would come true.

That was three weeks ago. This week, Fibre SA phoned to see how it was going. I had to say it wasn’t going at all. The young man apologised and said he would “escalate” the matter. Five minutes later, he called back to say he had spoken to his manager and, very sorry, he couldn’t do anything at all.

So it’s back to my daily round of trying to call Vodacom.

Yesterday, as in December and January, they were having “outages”, so couldn’t answer the phone. Outages? No electricity? Do they then shut down completely, or what? I do pity the customer with a Vodacom phone. Must be hell.

I would call Vodacom for comment on this column, but that would probably take years.

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Author Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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