Saturday, 24 May 2014

Sucked into the call centre vortex

Every two years I have a conversation that I swear never to have again. I had it again yesterday. My mobile phone provider offered me the chance to upgrade my phone and get a better deal. Great, I thought. It will be okay. They've had two years to act on the feedback from the last delivery debacle. Oh, wait, that's what I said to myself two years ago.

The phone and the plan are both great. All the details were quickly sorted out. Then came the dreaded question: "What the is the address for delivery?"

I held my breath and gave my GPO Box which I rent from Australia Post and is completely secure.

The predictable reply came. "I'm sorry we do not deliver to post office boxes. You need to give me your home address."

I inhaled through gritted teeth and prepared to give the standard explanation.

"Who does the deliveries?" I asked.

"Australia Post," came the reply.

"My post office box is an Australia Post box. The parcel will be delivered and signed for by counter staff. You will give me a tracking number, so we will know where the parcel is at all times. A card will be placed in my post office box. I will open my post office box, discover the card and take it to the staff at the counter. The staff will locate the parcel, check my ID, scan it and ask me to sign. They will then give me the parcel. What is the security risk?"

"We don't deliver to post office boxes because they are not secure."

"Please explain to me what happens if you try to deliver to a physical address and I am not there to collect it."

"We will attempt delivery. If you are not there to receive the parcel a card will be left on your front door, and the parcel will be taken to the nearest post office," he explained.

"What happens then?" I asked, knowing the answer.

"You will need to take the card to the post office, hand it over to the staff and they will give you the parcel. You will need to do this within seven days or the parcel will be returned."

This felt like a really hard game of Spot-the-Difference.

We argued back and forth and I was ready to scream the next time the polite Indian man told me "don't worry Tanya, we will get this sorted out for you".

I considered having it sent to one of the workplaces where I work, but was worried as colleagues have had deliveries go missing. That seemed like the best option. I gave the address and specified that Wednesday was the only day I would be there to collect it.

Last night I received emails and texts confirming all the order details. The delivery address was basically my name and a suburb. While I have respect for Australia Post, I don't think that even they would be able to deliver the parcel with only that information. I clicked on the tracking number and the Vodafone website said that it was "on it's way" and "on the truck". I clicked a further link to the Australia Post website and was greeted with the news that the tracking number was invalid.

I became angry.

I called the "customer care" centre at Vodafone. After twenty minute of being on hold while the guy tried to figure out what was going on he suggested that I call Australia Post on Monday and ask them to change the address!

"Why would Australia Post change, over the phone, the delivery address of an item requiring personal deliver and signature when they have no way of verifying me? And anyway, how are they going to find the parcel when it has an invalid tracking number?"

"Well all you need to do Tanya, it is very simple, don't worry, is just give them a call on Monday and they can fix it for you."

"This is not my problem. This is Vodafone's mistake. I don't need to do anything."

"Well if you're not there, they will take it to the nearest post office for collection, don't worry."

"If I'm not "where"?"

"At the delivery address?"

"And what is the delivery address?"


"That's the problem isn't it? The parcel will not be delivered. It will be returned to sender. What you need to do is cancel this order and order me another phone for delivery with the correct address."

"Certainly, Tanya. That will take 10 business days..."

I try not to yell at call centre people. I've worked in one myself. I will confess that this morning I yelled. Nothing makes me as crazy as people who don't listen and aren't customer focussed. They were making this all my problem and it was not my problem.

"I started paying for the phone yesterday when I placed the order. Why do you think that I would be happy to wait for at least another three weeks to get the phone? That's ten days for you to get the phone back and then a week for another order to be placed and it to be re-sent. That is not what is going to happen. You're going to fix this."

"Don't worry Tanya. I will put you through to the upgrades team and they will be able to help you."

"Why didn't you do that 25 minutes ago?"

"Hello! Upgrades. Vipin speaking."

Suddenly I had been put through and it happened too quickly for a handover to have been done.

I told the story again.

"Oh well we can not add more information to the delivery details because our system doesn't allow the space."

This wasn't getting any better. I believe the hysterical, laughter may have entered the conversation at this point.

We went through exactly the same conversation as before. I was put on hold.

After 55 minutes on the phone Vipin offered to call Australia Post and change the delivery details to the complete address on Monday and confirmed that he will also call me on Monday to confirm arrangements. How they're going to find the parcel, given the tracking ID is invalid is beyond me, but I had nothing left.

Why was that not the solution offered in the beginning? I'm trying to have faith that the problem will be fixed, but I have no confidence. The only power I have is to take my business elsewhere. That will involve lots of paperwork,  more money and probably the same issue around delivery. Apart from this biennial problem, I'm very happy with the service and value. Why can't they get this right?

What's your strategy when you get sucked into the call centre vortex?


  1. This was me (almost) with a major clothing retail outlet. The weather turned cold and I decided I needed to update my jeans. I knew that I didn't have time to shop in person so I pulled up the website of a retailer who sold me a very comfy pair of jeans last year and chose a pair.

    Checkout gave me three options, login with my loyalty card (which I lost ages ago), don't login and pay by credit card, don't login and pay by Paypal. I took the third option, simply because I can easily remember the login details and don't have to find my wallet, pull out my credit card and type in all those numbers. I should add that I too have a PO Box for security reasons and that my default address for Paypal is my PO Box. So I completed the details confident that I should receive a nice new pair of jeans and shirt in a couple of days.

    A week later, no jeans. No "your items have been shipped" email either. I got back on the website and in the fine print discovered that they don't ship to PO boxes. The carrier they used, Australian Air Express, is regularly used for a magazine sub which gets delivered to our PO - so what the! It concerned me too that they said that they would not be responsible for incorrect shipping addresses. Have I just flushed $100 bucks down the toilet?

    Sure that at no stage during the checkout process was I warned that they would not ship to a PO I set up a dummy order and confirmed my suspicions then fired off an email to the company pointing this out. Infact I also discovered the "don't login, pay via credit card' option also did not remind me that PO Boxes weren't acceptable. The good news is that acknowledged that there was a problem with the checkout and made a special effort to send me my items to my PO Box.

    Like you I do not understand what is the prejudice to Australia Post PO Boxes. We've had issues with mail delivered to our house, and on occasions when I have had items shipped to work on my behalf its gone to the accounts department who have opened it. Not good, but then sometimes I have to order items for work (usually via purchase order from them) so I can sort of see why they might open parcels seeking the invoice.

    1. Susan - I empathise completely!
      I think there's a failure of communication between Australia Post and the businesses and the businesses are labouring under the misapprehension about how deliveries to PO Boxes work. Most of us have them BECAUSE they are more secure.
      I agree with you about Australia Air Express. They DO deliver to PO Boxes. Peter Alexander used to use them (don't know if they still do). I've had long conversations with AAE and discovered that they do deliver to PO Boxes, but don't do it if the business doesn't choose that.
      I finally got my phone on Friday. Spent another 90 minutes on the phone and got them to cancel the order and In I went to s store. I didn't know that was an option to get the deal I wanted. Will do this in the future!