It’s Universal – Telco Service Everywhere Stinks

Last year I decided to buy a UK mobile phone while traveling in London. I can recall the trepidation as I entered the Vodafone shop expecting to be sucked into a 2-hour black hole. To my astonishment, I emerged 10 minutes later with a $30 phone and pay-as-you-go service.

Everything worked well until I left for France where I discovered that I couldn’t add credits with vouchers in France because they weren’t available. No problem, I decided to go online where after 30 minutes of navigation, account creation, and forms I learned that you can’t buy credits unless you have a UK-based credit card. The phone was thus rendered useless save for the incessant Vodafone SMS spam promoting their stuff.

In the Fall, I was able to use the phone in Italy after several scavenger hunts to find places that sold the obscure credit vouchers which it turns out you can NOT stockpile because they can only be applied while you are in Italy.

That proved to be only a glimmer of hope as I have returned to France to discover that they now sell vouchers here but my phone refuses to connect to Vodafone in any fashion. It connects to all the French networks but refuses to access Vodafone services leading me to a dreaded customer service call via my US-based mobile with that $1.50/minute ticking by. Fortunately, the Vodafone service rep was in such a hurry to get me off the phone it was hard to do too much damage!

“Right, OK, then, thanks for calling.”

Except he didn’t offer me a solution or even a hope of solution. He told me to keep turning my phone on and off to see if I could suddenly use the network! All this leads back to retail I am guessing as I’ll have to venture back into a Vodafone shop in the UK.

On a lighter note, I recently called up my US service from ATT which was originally ATT Wireless and then became Cingular Wireless only to be shunted back to ATT. The service rep answered:

“Hi, thanks for calling Cingular, uh, ATT.”


[tags]vodafone, ukvodafone, cingular, att[/tags]


  1. Mobile operators in the EU operate only in a specific country. Thus Vodafone UK has no network in France (although its parent may part-own SFR), likewise Orange, T-Mobile and the other operators present in multiple countries are all separate entities in their separate countries.

    So when you leave your ‘home’ network you have to roam on one of the local networks and that frequently means no use of the home network’s services such as data (short codes and voicemail tend to work if there’s a close relationship between the networks). The best thing to do is buy a local SIM for each country you travel to, although that can get annoying (simplified for callers with a personal number though, e.g. GrandCentral/DigitalMail). A SIM-unlocked tri or quad band phone is also useful in this scenario.

    If the provider doesn’t accept foreign cards to top-up, a way around that is just to load up a local pre-paid debit card available over-the-counter in various shops. Another alternative–get one of the so-called ‘international’ SIMs (e.g. from Luxembourg and thus expensive for callers).

    Can’t speak for Vodafone, but personally I’ve always found Orange’s customer service to be fair.

  2. jenny

    You can catch the latest vodafone news at this vodafone blog –

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