Calling a spade
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 December 2012


As my last column for the year, I was going to narrate a horror story that I thought had a happy ending, which would be appropriate for the season (not the horror story, but the happy ending). But I had thought too soon. And as of this writing, there is unfortunately no happy ending as yet. I will tell the horror story anyway, and if the Reader has any similar stories to tell, please do so, not just because misery loves company, but because I want to know how common or uncommon this kind of experience is.

This is a story involving my daughter Tami and her attempts, unsuccessful so far, to replace her phone which she lost on Nov. 5. As I write this, it is Dec. 28, and she still has no iPhone, having been promised that it would be delivered on Dec. 27 before 2 p.m. (that was supposed to be the happy ending).

But more importantly, this is a story about a multibillion-peso company that can be so good at marketing but so lousy, it would seem, at housekeeping. This is a story of customers and cell phone holders who are helpless in the face of cheerful indifference, incompetence, conflicting advice and unfilled promises. While this story has Globe Telecom in the role of the giant corporation, I want to know whether other cell phone subscribers are subjected to the trials/horrors my daughter was subjected to. I got involved only on Dec. 26, three days ago, because she had been on the phone with the Globe hotline people for nigh on two hours, and was fast losing it. So I got on the phone—and was subsequently subjected to still another bout of  indifference—the bottom line for me being that it took me one hour and 12 minutes before I finally got to talk to a “higher up.” And within two minutes of our conversation, the phone was disconnected. My stay on the Globe hotline lasted for the better part of two hours at that point.

In my frustration—the “higher up” was a Mr. Jun Nicerio—I texted Jaime Augusto Zobel (the top banana) and told him of my trauma, asking for succor. Five minutes after I texted Jaza, Mr. Nicerio called back, apologizing for the disconnection (subsequent events show that there was no connection between the text to Jaza and Mr. Nicerio’s callback) and assuring me that Tami’s phone (an iPhone 5) was to be delivered the next day—Dec. 27. He talked to Tami, and arranged that it would arrive before 2 p.m.

It did not. And has not. Without any word from Mr. Nicerio as to what the reason was.  Meanwhile Tami received an e-mail on the night of the 27th thanking her for her “desire” to order an iPhone 5 and that the desire would be processed come the New Year. Except that Tami had placed her order, at the instruction of the Globe hotline call taker, through the Globe website, and her order (not her desire) was acknowledged. I wonder how a “desire” can be processed?

Jaza texted back with his “deepest apologies” and said he would get in touch with Ernest Cu (Globe president) to see how these problems could be minimized if not eliminated. I sincerely hope he succeeds.

But back to Tami’s story, and the horror parts of it: First, she lost her phone on Nov. 5, it is now Dec. 28, and she has no replacement as yet. Second, her attempts at replacement have involved at least 10 phone calls to the so-called Globe hotline and two visits to Globe Rockwell. Not to mention talking to at least 12 different people. I don’t know how long those hotline calls lasted—the Dec. 26 one certainly took probably an hour and a half before I took over. But I invite anyone who wants to participate in an exercise at frustration to call the hotline at 730-1000, and see for himself or herself.

Third, she was given conflicting advice. Examples: She was told to disconnect her phone, which she did, only to be told by her next hotline phone pal that she should not have disconnected it, and should reconnect it forthwith; and then when she tried to reconnect, she was told by a third person that he wasn’t sure he could do it because … She was given lists of requirements for her applications, only to be told that the lists were insufficient. She was told that she didn’t have to pay her December dues because she had no phone, only to be told that it was company policy that she pay. Will the real Globe please stand up?

And fourth, the Globe representatives did not do what they had told her they would do for her. Examples: One Erin told Tami that she would e-mail her a transfer of ownership form; she never did—Tami had to call again. One Jay told Tami that if she did thus and so (which she did), then the next day he would arrange a conference call between Globe, Tami and her Dad; they waited in vain. One Roc told her that he would call her up to keep her posted about the availability of iPhone 4S. He did not do so. The last example of unfulfilled promise is of course that she would get her phone by Dec. 27. What kind of representatives/call centers is Globe using?

My own experience with the Globe hotline? I have been disconnected, and of course I was put on hold for periods totaling one hour and 12 minutes. I called up the Globe main office (strangely, this number is not on their website; I couldn’t find it anywhere—I got it from another website which does profiles of various companies), and asked to be connected to Ernest Cu’s office. I was put through to his secretary’s office—no answer. Holiday season notwithstanding, something is wrong.

One wonders. Does Smart treat its subscribers this way also? If so, are the two giants so concentrated on marketing that they have left out good housekeeping? Finally, where can we poor subscribers go for relief?