Friday, November 8, 2013

Post-paid phone plan pains, persistence & problem pluck- Airtel

I don't like making phone calls as much as many people do. Maybe it's because I always felt they were too expensive when I start making them. My very first SIM card was an MTN (Spacefon) one I used in 2004 when I was in Ghana as part of the MIT-AITI team. I remember the digits, mostly because a dear one uses that number now. After using MTN for a couple of times when I was in Ghana, I decided I wouldn't use an MTN chip again. Because it made me say "Mato nonsense" a couple of times. In December 2010 to January 2011, I used a Vodafone chip. When I moved back to Ghana in August 2011, I used an Airtel chip. It's the same MSISDN I've used till now. MSISDN? Thank Rancard for making me say that. I'm just referring to my phone number.

So, this month I made a switch to get a post-paid account with Rancard using my Airtel number. I had fought getting a post-paid account while at Google. I just wanted to do pre-paid things. Post-paid things reminded of many things I disliked about US phone plans and numbers. Either way, I buckled this month because it was evident I had to make many phone calls. I had been spending routinely less than 20GHC a month on phone credit - which was how much I spent on calls and texts. Why? Because, thanks to Vodafone, I have a landline at home as part of my broadband package. Shweet! In fact, I have not screeched that land line as much as I should. I think I found a way to screech it though. Hello Vodafone :-)

Anyway, back to Airtel. Last Friday, November 1st, I realized I didn't have service on my Airtel line. It was very strange. After inquiries, it turned out that my Airtel line had been turned into a post-paid one and no one had really warned me. I needed to get a new SIM to experience my post-paid phone plan pleasure. So most of Friday night, I didn't have the pleasure of a mobile phone user. I had to use other people's phones to make calls I should really be making with mine. Once I was able to settle everything, I didn't really need to call, text or even whatsapp anybody. I gots all that I needed then.

Fast forward to yesterday. I started hearing some jibberish while making phone calls. And then I couldn't text. And then I couldn't use data. Holy Cow! This wasn't good. I alerted the Airtel folks about it and they said they'd look into it. Yeah, this is becoming a story in customer service. This is Ghana. Yes, I know. Just read on. Thank goodness, I have great Wi-Fi access at work and home so I could communicate as much as I wanted and how I normally would anyway. But hey, not being able to make those calls would hurt.

So when I realized at 2:33pm on a Friday, that I couldn't really use internet data on my phone - and in essence GMail, Whatsapp, Twitter, etc, I had to act. I went to the Airtel office in Osu to get my issue solved. I made it there before 5pm which ensured that I would be served. After being attended to by two customer service reps, it became evident that some mistake had been made with my account. "Your credit has run out". BS. That doesn't stand for Black Stars by the way. I didn't say it loud, chillax. Turns out I was only working on 5GHC of credit and it had run out, so now I was being barred.  Barred from making calls, sending texts or using data, but people could call me, text me, and data me.... oh wait, no, they can't data me. Shoot! I asked the customer service reps as many questions as I could to ascertain the issue and what realistic fixes and timelines for them I could get.

I collected a cordless phone for one of the Airtel folks and proceeded to make calls to folks I knew at Airtel. I didn't care that it was 6pm and work had closed. This is mobile phone communication we are talking about. The issue should have been resolved a while ago. My friends at Airtel called others to see what they could do. When the Airtel folks were going home and my issue wasn't resolved, I collected a cordless phone from Airtel to make calls. Yea, if I can't use my Airtel number, I would use an Airtel number. As in, one paid for by Airtel. I'd bring it back when my phone was working again or at a time of my choosing. And I'd want my next post-paid bill to be free to appease for the inconvenience caused. This is not America. This is Ghana. Oh wait, this should happen and happens everywhere. I have evidence from Vodafone to share. Some other time.

Thankfully, the folks at Airtel came through for me. Or well, came through period. My phone is working now, am making calls, sending texts, using data. Big ups to the Airtel team for resolving the issue. I just had to blog this. Why did I use the title I used? If you start writing things like post-paid phone plans, you want to persevere with the P. Too bad I can't change Airtel's name to start with P too. Any ideas?
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