So it all kicked off a bit yesterday afternoon as I tried to finally sort out Abi’s mobile phone contract. And, as usual, it’s the big companies who seem to have no idea about dealing with the bereaved. I’ve blogged about this before.
In October 2012, we bought Abi a new mobile phone (as she’d just started secondary school and as a part early birthday present). I took out a 2-year contract with Virgin mobile as they were offering a Samsung Ace for £14 a month. It was less than she’d been spending on her pay as you go, so it sounded a good deal.
Then, four months later, she died.
Only that afternoon, as she had come home early from school having had a fall (the start of it), she was sat with me in my office on the laptop looking up new phone cases. I was half listening as she chatted and showed me cases she wanted to buy. There was never a sign that her brain would haemorrhage just hours later.
Anyway, so I was left with a 2-year contract. The bill was of course registered in my name, but the number was used by Abi. So I called Virgin and explained the situation (a few months after Abi’s death I should add).
The thing was, I wanted to keep her phone, as it held all her precious memories in of course, but I didn’t want it to be active and get a monthly bill each month – a cruel reminder that she is not here.
They said that in order to cancel the contract (and keep the phone) I’d need to pay the full amount (around £300), which I couldn’t afford to do. So I decided to keep the account and lend the sim to my niece but change the phone number to a different one (closing Abi’s number – I didn’t want it used by accident in any way as this could upset her friends if they received a message).
I was sent a new sim and gave it to my niece for a while (Abi’s sister was too young for a phone so it would be pointless giving it to her). My niece used it for around six months and although we were still paying out each month, at least I could disassociate it from Abi a little bit.
Eventually, my niece didn’t need it anymore so I called Virgin and suspended the sim so that it couldn’t be used. I just had no need for it, and with six months left on the contract, I decided to just let it run.
So, it’s coming up to October and I received my e-bill from Virgin yesterday. It didn’t say anything about it being the last payment so I thought I’d call them to make sure (after all this, I didn’t want the contract continuing).
In fairness, it was the wrong time to do it. I had about 20 minutes before I had to take my son to his football club, but as he was already changed and the baby was fed, I thought it wouldn’t take long to make the call while I remembered.
The first person I got through to took all the details and seemed to keep disappearing. He took ages just to look up my account, and when finally I asked him to close it, he said he’d have to put me through to the department that deals with that – ugh!
Ok, so ten minutes in and the kids were getting restless, but I was determined to just finish the job seeing as I’d had to wait so long. When the next guy connected and I, yet again, went through the whole identification process, he asked me how he could help, and I rather quickly told him I wanted to cancel the contract now that it has run its course.
He asked me why I was closing the account. I’d normally think of a suitably vague response, but as I was now under time pressure, and I didn’t want them to start giving me the sales patter, I thought I’d cut to the chase. ‘Because my daughter died and it’s her phone. I need to make sure the contract is ended.’
He apologised, but then rather than carrying on with my request quickly like I expected, he asked me if he was speaking to the account holder. I realised he probably was confused. So again I explained, ‘I am a mother paying my daughter’s phone bill, she uses the phone, she’s died and now I need to cancel the contract.’ I was that abrupt I’m afraid, but I didn’t have time to faff about.
He asked me another three times to make absolutely clear that he was talking to the bill payer. I also re-explained the reasons for me suspending the numbers in the first place. Ugh!
Right, he finally got that, but then he said that he had to tell me about some of the benefits. Benefits? I said okay – all breathless and hurrying about, now trying to stop the older siblings fighting with one hand and getting bags and bottles of water organised with the other.
And then I couldn’t believe my ears when he started to tell me how, despite me hardly using the account during the entire term, the account had great benefits attached to it. I can’t remember what – a load of minutes or something. He asked me if another family member could use the phone instead, rather than cancelling it! I stopped him mid-flow and said, ‘I’m sorry. Why are you telling me this?’ I was getting angry now.
‘I want to make sure you don’t want to take advantage of this great loyalty you have with us. It’s an amazing deal.’
I almost hit the roof.
Surely he could hear the baby crying in the background, the children arguing and calling for me. Did he really think I wanted to talk deals? After what I just told him?!
I spelled it out. Again.
‘Look. My daughter is dead and I have to close this account. It is upsetting just thinking about her number. I don’t want the account anymore. You could offer me free phones and zillions of texts but it doesn’t change a thing. Please just close the account.’
‘OK, madam. I’m sorry. It’s done.’
I still had to clarify with him when the final payment will be taken out so that I didn’t stop the direct debit too soon. I flew out the door and didn’t have time to think. The children were fighting I expect after hearing my conversation and picking up on the fact that I was now stressed out. I felt teary and hassled.
Why on earth that had to be so hard I don’t know.