Running a business

So, one goes to a mobile phone network operator to open an account. Provides some personal and payment data – such as bank account information for direct debit. The operator needs a few days to do a background check before enabling the service; granted – somehow understandable in a world where potential terrorists use their mobile phone to order a piping hot pizza and a cold beer. Or some mutton kabab (hint hint).

All is good, one uses the phone to call other people and surf the net. Until, one year later, that service suddenly comes to a grinding halt. Nothing goes. When one calls the operator (from another line, mind you!), the friendly customer support executive advises to turn the phone off and back on. You guess right, calling from the other line again. A few more times. Finally someone says, “oh yes, your stay visa expired. We terminated the service”. Good; one has a renewed visa since quite a while already. Thanks to said operator for never mentioning this “automatic visa-renewal reminder service”. The competent service executive advises to visit the closest operator outlet to apply for reopening of the account.

Deal! The (not so) friendly clerk in the closest (and 5 other, not so close) shops insists that such process does not exist. Plenty of calls (from another line, mind you!) later, one of them (not so friendly) clerks reluctantly accepts a form for reopening the line and confirms service resumption within 2 days; verbally. Upon visiting the store 10 days later (after several calls to the above mentioned hotline via, yes, you guessed it, another line…) the meanwhile even less friendly clerk produces a confused look and says “oh, THIS application?” – which he pulls out from under a huge stack. “Was I supposed to submit this to the back office?”. Hmm, no, I just filled it in to contribute to the stack of paper in front of you which makes you appear important…

Finally service is restored after about a month so I can happily pay my regular phone bill again. Short of one year later, one obviously learned his lesson to become proactive. A month before visa expiry, all it takes is to call the friendly hotline (from – hah! NOT another line; yet…) and submit the renewed visa for updating of customer records. Said, done. Next step? Goto above “it suddenly comes to a grinding halt”.

Finally, time to put an end to it all. One is departing the country for good. And closing the serice permanently. Yes, you might well guess it by now:

One calls (from NOT another line) the friendly service hotline, asking about termination of service. Of course one prepares early and asks those questions a couple months in advance. The answer one gets is that termination by phone has to be provided 10 days in advance. Said, done: 10 days in advance, on giving notice to the same hotline, one is informed that notice can only be given 2 days in advance. 2 days in advance, on giving notice to again the same hotline, one is informed that notice has to be given 10 days in advance. Hmm, 3 more calls to the same hotline, talking to 3 different friendly operators, yields in a promise for 24hrs termination of service. With the request to report to the (see above) closest outlet to settle one’s final bill. 

Less than 24hrs later, service is indeed disconnected (surprise!). Reporting to the closest (see above) outlet results in comments that this cycle’s bill will be processed later. Once one has left the country. Long discussions and multiple calls to the friendly hotline (from, yes you guessed right, another line) later, the closest (see above) outlet accepts payment outside the regular payment cycle. Receipt of payment is recorded in a handwritten ledger at the (see above) outlet and one is informed that receipts cannot be issued but everything is in order since it’s reported in the ledger.

One leaves the country some 24 hours later; for good. With quite a happy smile across one’s face.

Some 30 days later, one receives an email about new charges accrued on above, closed account, during the previous month. The email wasn’t, as the innocent observer would suspect, sent by the mobile operator but was instead provided courtesy of the bank where one had an account while living in that country. One had meanwhile closed the bank account as well (hah! that’s worth another blog post even longer than the one you’re reading now). So apparently a bank, holding a closed account can accept charges from a closed mobile phone account and inform a permanently departed account holder about outstandings. Hmm…

3 months into the story, the two institutions are accruing and bouncing (while a 3rd party, the landline phone service provider, is joining forces in the battle for unpaid bills). Meanwhile, a relocation company who was paid as a service provider to handle all the above account openings and closures for one also comments on the situation:  “It’s OK, don’t worry about anything”. 

Heck, I’m not going anywhere near this country anytime soon knowing that friends of mine were summoned to court for “unpaid telecom charges”. 


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