Where is Jeremy Beadle in all this?

The late, great Jeremy BeadleI am wondering if, when I finally lose my rag over this whole getting a new phone situation, I will be ambushed by a film crew and a presenter waving my fully charged and ready to go iphone shouting ‘Gotcha!’


Really, I can feel it coming.  Surely most people don’t simply give up and stay with their original provider?  Actually, I bet lots do, or these retention departments would have fizzled out long ago.  I got a text this morning, from non other than Vodafone’s automated system.  It announced that my PAC code was about to be sent, and that I should expect the call and should save their number.

So, if you get up their noses enough, do they move any quicker?  I have no idea.  My phone rang, it was the number I’d been waiting to call.  I answered eagerly, only to be faced with the disconnect tone.  I called Vodafone back.  I explained that I had just had a non-call.  The agent I spoke to had no idea what it might be about, unsurprisingly there were no notes on the system…  He suggested I look at gsmarena to make sure I had chosen the right phone, and you can’t say they didn’t try, but he was not pushy, which was a welcome change.

About 3 hours later the same thing happened…  I called back and spoke to the rudest Vodafone employee yet.  She was adamant that I was not being called by Vodafone, that it was too soon for the PAC code to have been issued, so it wasn’t in relation to that, and that I didn’t need to chase it, and that in any event I was speaking to the wrong department.  I asked to speak to the right department, but it appears that they finish early…  I could ask for them to call me.  I mentioned that Vodafone really weren’t good at calling back, so how should I make sure it happened and she said that I shouldn’t get assertive with her because it wasn’t her fault.  I asked who was responsible, and she said that she was a manager, and the most senior person available.  I was shocked at her attitude, although I’m not really sure why, and said so.  She replied that it didn’t much matter as I was leaving anyway, and once I had my PAC code I wouldn’t need to talk to them again.  I asked for her name, but she hung up…

I feel rather guilty now about yesterday’s post suggesting that they can’t call out.  It actually seems that it is so!

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Hotel Vodafone-ya

On a bright neon highstreet, air-con. in my hair

You can upgrade any time you like, but you can never leave

You can upgrade any time you like, but you can never leave

Warm smell of gadgets, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
I walked into the O2 store
I want an iphone, all right?

There I stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
this could be heaven or this could be hell
Got as far as the PAC code, oh so nearly away,
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel Vodafone-ya
Such a lovely place
In the contract race
Plenty of phones at the Hotel Vodafone-ya
Any kind of phone, just not the apple one…

They ask am I twisted? Why the phone O2 sends?Do I need tequila?

They got a lot of pretty, pretty kit and they wanna be friends
How they offer cheap contracts, their minds are quite set,
I want my PAC code, they try to forget

So I called up Retention,
‘I want a PAC Code’ I whine
He said, We havent done one of those things here since nineteen sixty nine
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the Hotel Vodafone-ya
Such a lovely race
So just shut your face
They livin it up at the Hotel Vodafone-ya
And there’s no surprise, just excuses and a lot of lies

Handset hit the ceiling,
The iphone is on ice
And he said we are all just prisoners here, keep your old device
What you want’s a Blackb’ry,
They’re just as good and we stock
But if you want an iphone with your number
You’re in for shock

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
relax, said the PAC-man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can upgrade any time you like,
But you can never leave!




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Vodafone close at 8pm, so I guess that Customer sCare won’t be calling back before Monday…

I did call them, just to check that they had understood my request for a PAC code, and was very charmingly told that they had received the request, and they were processing it, but that really I should consider the other phones on their list…  Would I perhaps like a Nokia, they are the best phones on the market.  Perhaps I’d like a smartphone, because they will all talk to a mac…  Well, yes, they do, but they lack sex appeal.  Let’s face it, the iphone is the Sean Bean of telephones.  It is the one.  THE ONE.  

Sean Bean, looking particularly fine

Yes, I know that there are other phones that do the same job, they might even do a better job at some things, but is that enough?  Quite frankly, when faced with a choice between Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Stephen Fry, I know which one I fancy and which one I’d hire as an after-dinner speaker.  Yes, perhaps Mr Fry does do some things better, and is endowed with one of the quickest wits alive, but there would be a fundamental lack of connection.  With the wonderful Mr Fry, perhaps it has something to do with his interest in girls, or more accurately, lack of interest.  If I was to watch to Sean Bean speak to the assembled crowd, I doubt if I’d take-in a single word of what he said and he could better use his breath for something else.

The talented Stephen Fry

When all is said and done, I want an iphone, and what ever happens, I most certainly don’t want to remain a Vodafone customer.

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So, back to the O2 store I went.  Cash-in-hand…  The same lovely patient guy was behind the counter, somewhat surprised to see me.  I was fully prepared this time to leave the store with my prize.  I had paid for car parking until lunch-time!  Was I ever more wrong?

This time the address worked, credit accepted.  Hurrah.  Can I have that phone, please?  Fantastic.  All set.  Until the bit where I heard the dreaded words, ‘Your new phone number is 07…….’ ‘Nooooooo’ I almost shrieked, ‘I’m keeping mine.’  Ah.  You see, if you want a business contract, despite the slightly non-business state of a SAHM, you need to transfer your number immediately or lose it.  That’s OK, I asked for my PAC code on Wednesday…


Communication Breakdown

So, I called Vodafone….  Well, now I know why they are called the Customer Retention Team.  They are charged solely with the duty of preventing you leaving your contract.  I asked for the PAC code I ordered two days before.  I was asked why, and out of politeness I replied ‘because I want an iphone and you don’t sell them.’  The reply nearly knocked me off the sparkly, see-through acrylic O2 chair, ‘I can assure you Miss Williams, what you really want is a Blackberry Storm.’

How on earth did that supremely arrogant woman know that, I wondered.  I was pretty sure I WANTED an iphone.  I’m sure there are many more appropriate words she could have used, perhaps I need a Blackberry, although she didn’t ask what I needed it for, I would almost certainly be better off with one, but it doesn’t quite meet my expectations, but how did her crystal ball tell her that I wanted something other than I had asked for?

I was firm, I repeated my request for my PAC code.  The reply was to the effect that I hadn’t ordered one, and that to issue one would take 5 days.  No, I replied, I did that two days ago.  Again, the reply was shocking, ‘No, you didn’t, it isn’t in the notes on our system.’  So, unless someone in Vodafone types little notes, sorry folks, your conversation simply never happened!  I was so incensed by this woman’s arrogance, than I asked to speak with her manager.  Employee-higher-up-the-chain he might have been, Manager he certainly wasn’t.  His stance was that since the code had not been ordered correctly that was my problem not his, and I would have to wait 5 days, and he didn’t much care that I had spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to sort this issue, Vodafone was not obliged to be any quicker than 5 days and so would not be.

It seemed like a long-shot, but I asked to be put through to Customer Service.  Never was there such a mis-named department.  I was neither treated like a customer, nor given any service.  I was offered no explanation for the lack of comprehensive notes, I was offered no explanation for the lack of agreed action, I was offered a £10 credit on my contract as a good-will gesture.  Since I was actually trying to leave, I found that simply insulting!  Customer Services even had the nerve to say that they could do nothing, since the request had not been properly recorded.  How is that for a cop-out…  You can’t leave, because we will simply keep forgetting that you have asked to.  I asked for her name, and she not-very-politely told me that she didn’t have to give me that information, but I was promised a call from someone senior in Customer Services, within 2 hours, but I’ve been waiting 6 hours already, and you can bet that they won’t call, because I have never yet had a call-back from Vodafone.  I do find it a little surprising that a telecoms company can’t make out-going calls!

On my way back to the car, I happened to pass the Vodafone shop.  I was highly amused to see, on their counter, a bold, bright, red sign announcing that they don’t have to take stick from their customers.  They seem to reserve the right to be rude and obstructive for themselves.  You can’t answer back, demand anything or get frustrated in a Vodafone store it seems.  Surely if they were good at providing service, trained in keeping customers happy or in diffusing stressful situations, then such a sign would be completely unnecessary.  Everyone understands that if they hold-up a till at knife-point they are risking spending some time at her Majesty’s pleasure, notices saying that are just a waste of wall space and a distraction from the job of selling stuff, but a notice saying you are not to be rude to their staff, that is surely the ultimate in excuses for dreadful service.  Such an open and up-front expectation of frustration from their customers can only mean one thing, that they regularly get frustrated customers.  It seems highly likely, from my experience, that they are also the cause.

‘Rubbish Customer Service, only £4.99 a month’ pasted over the windows would give much the same message, and at least put a smile on the faces of their customers.

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Today I decided that I was not going to drive into town, park the car, walk into the shops only to hear the same ‘computer says no’ message I got yesterday…

So, I called the store.  As I began explaining who I was and why I was calling the assistant, clearly not the one who was so patient yesterday, asked if I was the customer who had had the Equifax issue.  I had to say that I was, since there was no other possible answer…

So, many questions later, we decide to see if we can reopen the order.  Lo and behold, there is my address, all sparkly and new, which is more than I can say for the house itself, that has children living in it!  Hurrah.  And then she asked if I had thought about one of the business tariffs, the costs are similar, the terms are possibly better for me, and the big bonus, their business customers are credit checked with Experian.  Now, I know where I stand with them, I have a big green light, all the way.  No problem, she said, there is actually no need for you to be in a limited company or anything.

Feeling a sense of glee, I called Vodafone to ask for my PAC code.  It took me about three years to learn my mobile number, I quite like it and I am in no hurry to start all over with a new one.  I’ve spoken to Customer Retentions before, and always been convinced to stay with Vodafone, but this time I had no choice, I had to move…  First I was offered a contract so cheap Vodafone were practically paying me to use their network.  Boy was I tempted.  I asked for the code anyway, since I don’t have to use it there was no harm in that…  The pressure to stay was tremendous.  The half-truths I heard were very convincing!  I was promised a call back the same day, and went away slightly misinformed but satisfied that I had done what was necessary…

I was so tempted by the Vodafone offer that I started looking at ways of unlocking the iphone, but it doesn’t seem ethical to do that…  I looked at unlocked versions, but I’d really value the Apple guarantee.  I looked again at Jailbreak, but I could not find anything which convinced me it was stable, would withstand upgrading firmware and of course it wouldn’t really be supported by Apple anymore.  Much as I am a believer in OpenSource, this is something I am not prepared to risk.

Since it was almost school time, and I must go any minute now, I decided I’d wait until my child-free morning, and return to the store to collect my almost in reach iphone.

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Well, I tried to purchase my iphone this morning.  Simple, yeh, the economy is in recession, companies are desperate for your money…

Well, actually, no.  They can only take your money if the credit reference agency tells them it is OK.  After all, in a recession you wouldn’t want to be giving contracts and credit to those who can’t afford it, would you.  What do you mean that would be sensible even when things are OK, did no one tell the banks and building societies that yet?

So, the bank said they knew who I was, ID all OK.  Can I have that iphone please?

It seems you can only have a mobile phone contract if you can prove you are who you say you are, you live where you say you live, and you have an OK credit rating.  Great, I fit that bill, don’t I?

Ah, no.  It seems that Equifax don’t have my address on their system.  And if Equifax say you don’t live there, then you don’t!  Worse than that, they don’t have a record of my house at all.  So, I am asked very politely if I may have made a mistake with my postcode.  “No,”  I say, “No mistake.  That is definitely my postcode.”  Since I am clearly mistaken, as Equifax says my house is not on that street, the very patient chap at O2 suggests we check with the Post Office.  Just as I thought, the Royal Mail are not often unaware of houses.  There it is, in the list, just as I thought it might be, postcode intact.

Now, having experienced this issue before, I have tried, as a consumer to rectify this minor issue of Equifax not being able to read the Post Office address lists.  I have been met with all kinds of resistance, because of course you can’t amend a record that doesn’t exist, can you?  If you ask to add a new address, you are asked if it is a new-build.  Since my house has occupied the same bit of land for about the past 200 years, the answer isn’t really yes.  So, since it is not a ‘NEW’ address, it can’t be added…  I have asked for my credit report, but I haven’t got one, because I don’t live at that address, it doesn’t exist, even though I manage to go to bed there every night, and I am billed for it much the same as everyone!  You really can’t argue with a computer system like that.


But there is light, it seems that users of the Equifax service, you know, not the people whose credit scores depend on their accuracy, but those who need those scores to decide if you can use a telephone, can report errors.  The VERY patient man in the O2 store called his hotline, and they called Equifax, and they said something along the lines of it will be added by noon tomorrow.  Order suspended, one very agitated customer left the store empty handed, and one poor patient salesman saw his commission swilling into the Witham.

I made a promise to return, and walked straight into the Carphone Warehouse.  I looked longingly at my chosen piece of technology and asked a very simple question…  Who do you use for a credit check?  The assistant looked a little shocked, clearly he was expecting me to ask a nice simple girly question like which phones come in pink, but he took a deep breath and answered, ‘Equifax.’  ‘Ah, sorry,’ I replied ‘I’d have bought an iphone if you’d said Experian.’  He was still looking like a goldfish as I turned round and left.  I must go back one day and apologise, because I’m sure he hadn’t a clue what he had said to lose a sale so rapidly.

I went home, partly to await the slow process of updating computer records, and partly to check that my house hadn’t really been swept up in a twister and dumped on some poor unsuspecting green woman with silly tights and fab shoes.

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My iphone

I was wondering how long it would take me to cave.  I’ve been after an iphone for a while now, and have reached a point in my life where I can justify owning one…  


OK, it has taken a while, and I’ve been through the whole range of wish-states.  I’ve been reluctant to succumb to the desire for a gadget, but I have finally  successfully rationalised it.  Of course, I need one.  I’d really like a new ipod, one with a bit more space.  I really need a calendar I can carry about with me, update on the go, one that will talk to my mac without hassle.  I’d quite like a phone which is a little beyond cool, and with an unlimited address book, an essential for someone with a head like a sieve, and if it can talk easily to my desk-top address book, even better.  A camera would be nice, but I am no photographer so quality isn’t that important.  It wasn’t long ago that I thought my 2 megapixel camera was simply amazing.  I’d quite like sat-nav, which really is the only box the iphone doesn’t tick as it uses Google Maps, rather than turn by turn directions.

So, apart from one minor flaw, I’m all set.

Oh, make that two minor flaws, iphone is currently only available through O2, so I either have to go for jailbreak, which doesn’t seem very stable, or switch providers.  Bang goes my negotiating a dirt cheap contract as an incentive to stay…


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Why Independent Midwifery?

With your help we may be able to make this experience freely and widely available to women in the United Kingdom.

This was written by a mother who had experienced Independent Midwifery care and who has kindly agreed for it to be used here.


Want Independent Midwifery Care Feels Like…

If you pass this on to anyone who might not know what independent midwifery care would be like, ask them to imaginethis..Imagine being able to spend an hour, or even two, with your midwife every time you saw her.

Imagine being able to talk about everything that is worrying you, and not just the physical symptoms of your pregnancy.

Imagine knowing that the midwife you saw at your last appointment, will be the same midwife you see at your next appointment.

Imagine knowing that the midwife you have come to love and trust will be the same midwife who catches your baby and cares for you in the days following the birth.

Imagine being hugged and kissed by your midwife when you are in labour, and that that doesn’t feel strange.

Imagine being able to plan the birth you want, free from the fear that you will face opposition and with the confidence that you will be supported no matter what.

Imagine being able to call your midwife a part of your family and


Imagine your children growing up knowing their midwife so well that they want to invite her to their birthday party each year.

That is what independent midwifery is.

If you want this type of midwifery care free on the NHS for yourself, for your daughters, granddaughters, friends, family or just birthing women generally you may want to read on…


The campaign to save Independent Midwifery continues. Changes in legislation mean that we may be unable to practise legally as Independent Midwives after next year unless women and their supporters demand that this option remains open. If Independent Midwives become illegal, pregnant women will have very little choice over the type of care they receive and who provides it. We are now working towards Independent Midwives remaining self-employed and “contracting in” to the NHS to work for Primary Care Trusts (PCT’s). This would mean that women would have more choice about their care and their carers within the NHS system.Independent Midwives UK (the new name for the Independent Midwives Association) is now in the process of collecting names and addresses of all those who would like to see Independent Midwifery essentially FREE to all women at the point of care. Once we can demonstrate a local need for such services, commissioning Independent Midwifery services is the next logical step for Primary Care Trusts. This is in line with Government policy as outlined in the recent document “Maternity Matters”. We also hope that making this scheme work may also entice some of the many trained but non-practising midwives back into the best job in the world.Do you want to help make this happen?


Please go to Independent Midwife Virginia Howes’s website to fill in the quick simple form on the home page.


Please forward this e-mail to as many people as possible, women, midwives, fathers, and grandparents.

Happy healthy birth for every mother is everyone’s business.

Tell all your friends and let’s beat the 10,000 signatures we had on the Government petition we ran last year. Thank you for reading this and filling in the on line form, 

Liz Nightingale

Independent Midwife


07986 493 454


“Peace on Earth begins with Birth.” Please help save Independent Midwives, visitwww.saveindependentmidwifery.org

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NHS Statistics

I was ashamed to pay my licence fee this morning when I saw the BBC reports on hospital cleanliness.  

Having dug a little and asked for some more information I was shocked to find that this list was compiled from data requested only hours before.  It seems that NHS trusts were asked for their data under the Freedom of Information Act (which gives them 28 days to respond) and yet the results were published days later, with many Trusts, including the one where I live, not having had time to respond at all, never mind with complete and meaningful results!

Whilst I was looking for meaning in these numbers, I discovered that the question asked how many visits from pest control had been requested over the whole Trust in a two year period.  That included every building used by the Trust (clinical and administrative alike) and every preventative and advisory visit as well as actual calls to problems.  So, if an inspector came and found no problems and gave advice on pest prevention, that was still counted in the figures…  

I wonder how many buildings my local Trust uses, since it could include every GP surgery, every NHS dentist and every office as well as the major hospitals there are potentially hundreds of sites per Trust.

Surely this means that rather than improving the state of services, Trusts are simply more likely to be cautious about asking for advice, review or preventative measures and actually increasing the risk of pest problems within NHS buildings.

Features like this, with misleading figures and sensationalist headlines only seek to destroy confidence still further.  The NHS is struggling with a shortage of front-line staff, overworked and stressed employees, and a history of ever changing agenda and management teams.  Consumer confidence in our healthcare system is at an all time low.  Would it not be better to focus on the things that are really wrong and that can be improved, rather than creating a whirlwind out of a few badly thought out statistics and a couple of examples of pest problems where the right authorities were called to deal with the issues in a safe and speedy way?

The NHS is in a muddle already, and it needs help and good quality consumer feedback to improve, not pointless criticism for addressing problems when they are found.  

If we want the NHS to be honest about the figures, and to report them in a meaningful and comparative way, we have to start asking for the numbers that are really important, and using them constructively to improve services. People need to have access to the figures, but they also need to know that they are complete, what they mean, how and why they are recorded and what to do with them in terms of making informed choices or campaigning for improvements.

If the NHS needed less money to pay for lawyers, publicists and insurance agents, there would be more money for clinical staff who could provide safer, better and cleaner care than they are able to manage on a shoestring budget.

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What did I do in the days before Facebook?

Once upon a time I used to spend hours on the phone, and hours wishing that it was easier to keep in touch with friends.  It was a challenge to find a time to talk… 

The advent of email made it so much easier, it didn’t matter if the only quiet time you had to chat was when your mates were at work and unavailable, you could leave them a message and they could reply whilst you put the children to bed, then when you were up in the middle of the night, having been woken by a small person and unable to get back to sleep you could reply.  How simple, and so much quicker than the post.  

Sometimes I am quite sad that it has reduced the volume of social mail through my door, but it means I don’t have to write back, not being very good with a pen and paper, and I am getting the news much quicker than I did then.

It wasn’t long, of course, before I discovered Friends Reunited.  A quick and easy way to track all those people who had moved since you last got round to writing to them. The down side was that it sometimes took ages for messages to be read and you had to pay for the privilege of sending them.

Still, I managed to find most people I wanted to contact and gained an address book full of email addresses and mobile numbers.

Hurrah! Then the world changed. For a while I had been resisting, dismissing web3 chatrooms as a place for kids and feeling too old for school yearbook stuff. After all, I was now well over the age of 25. Then, one day, I was doing some research on interactive websites and I decided that I really ought to find out exactly what this Facebook thing was really doing, so I joined.  

Oh boy, what a discovery.  Within minutes I was clearly hooked.  Within an hour I had a profile and a small but rapidly growing circle of friends.  Within a week I had discovered 50 people that I knew and wanted to chat with. I loved it, and shortly after that sent invitations to everyone else I wanted to keep in touch with.  

Each one of those people I listed as friends could be contacted in seconds, even if it took them days to reply. I quickly realised who was a regular and who popped in occasionally and keep in touch accordingly. There are still a few stragglers who I wish would get round to joining, but most people I’d like to say hi to on a weekly basis are there at the touch of a button…  

OK, so there are a few out there whose intimate lives I’d rather not hear all about, but there are easy (rather cleverly coded by the designers) ways of limiting that too.

I now leave Facebook running in the background whenever my computer is on, which means if I have time for a quick chat I press a button and my entire electronic list of mates is there.  I get to know who has news and can reply with a hi on a wall, or a longer private message if I like, or even chat in real time, just like MSN which is great if you have family and friends overseas!  It is so much less difficult than answering the phone, which you can’t even hear above the noise of children, let alone converse, and so much more personal than an answer phone message. 

I wish now that I had more time to spend.  Or perhaps I don’t, but I do enjoy being back in easy touch with old and new friends.  Certainly a social asset and a valuable networking opportunity, rather than a giant time-waster.

So, those of you who are not yet on Facebook, you know who you are, join in and tell me what you are up to! 

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