E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

How to Kill the Apple Brand with a Single Keyword: Movistar

As you may have noticed, I didn’t put together a blog post over here in this blog yesterday, even though it was one of those days… I actually have a couple of draft entries I’m hoping to be sharing shortly, but the main reason why I didn’t blog was because I needed to apply one of my all-time blogging principles: don’t blog if you’re upset about something. Is not worth the trouble. So, instead, I decided to take it easy and unwind for the rest of the evening, pondering how I may be able to put together this article today. Things have been rather busy at work, and it is only now that I have a chance to share these few thoughts over here. And here I am.

The title of this blog post may sound a bit too harsh, but, to be honest, it eventually falls short. And by far! What I’m about to share over here in the next few paragraphs is a story. A story featuring yours truly. A story that shows how a true loyal customer, fully converted (Without becoming a fanboy yet though), has finally had enough with not being treated as such. A customer. I know that good (Forget about excellent) customer service is very rare nowadays, but what I experienced yesterday is way beyond any kind of the poorest service you can experience … Ever!

Thus, you may be wondering how can you kill the Apple brand with a single word, right? Well, it involves movistar: the Spanish mobile carrier that has got the exclusive to distribute the iPhone in Spain. To give you a little bit of background of where I come from, take a look into this very revealing article that my good friend Dennis Howlett put together over at Irregular Enterprise under the title "The Case of the Missing iPhone 3GS’s". Quite an interesting read, for sure!

From the article itself you can see that a whole bunch of us have been waiting, anxiously, to get our hands on the latest model from the iPhone: the 3GS one. Ever since it came out in July most of us have been patient enough to wait for it to become available in the movistar shops. It never happened. At least, to the levels of coping with the demand good enough. And that’s the beginning of my story. If you’re not interested in reading further about it you can stop at this point. However, I’m sure what I am about to share is not a unique experience, so, hopefully, it may prove useful to others, as, after you finish reading through it, it’ll help you save about one hour of your time, and your frustration, which is what I went through yesterday. For nothing.

It all started with a phone call from a local movistar shop, where I was told my already booked a couple of weeks ago iPhone 3GS 32 GB was ready to be picked up. This was the seventh shop that I have been to to place my reservation. And, finally it was there. So I went to the shop hoping that I will be able to exchange my current 3G iPhone for the 3GS one, in exchange of points and some cash, perhaps. The lady who attended me was very very helpful, so we started with the procedures. And after a few minutes she tells me that she cannot go forward, because I first needed to call the Customer Service Centre and request that my contract be "unlocked" and that way we could move on.

I called them and I spent a few minutes talking to a customer representative telling me I couldn’t get the new terminal, because my contract wasn’t expired yet. In fact, I could only ask for a new one three months before the contract expired. And to date, I would still need to wait for six months. Ouch! Of course, I was not ready to wait for another three months (After having waited already for three months for the new terminals to arrive). So I was ready to terminate the contract, right there, and pay the penalty. Then I could get the new terminal, with a new number. I would be okay. Or so I thought.

After talking to the customer representative, and one of his colleagues, I eventually found out that I could not terminate such contract and pay the penalty. I was not allowed. Apparently, we are no longer capable of terminating the contracts we sign with vendors freely by even paying the corresponding fines, if applicable. We’re just stuck with them for as long as the contract is there. And mine is still running for another six months. Not looking good so far…

Thus after an interesting conversation I had over the phone and, which I’m going to skip over here (You can imagine what it must have been like…), I ended up in exactly the same position as I started: a contract still running for another six months, not being able to terminate it, even though I was very willing to pay the fine for it. And the iPhone 3GS 32 GB mobile phone waiting for me on top of the desk… Frustrating…

Okay, I decided to be a bit more creative then, and since I just have six months to go I decided to purchase another mobile number, with a new terminal, the 3GS one; so I spent the following few minutes with the lady from the shop filling in all the paperwork, and after a little while she is ready to click on the final window on her computer and she gets a lovely message telling her that I am not capable of having a second line, i.e. a second mobile phone with movistar. WOW!! Really? I can not have two different terminals, two differing mobile numbers, from the same provider, even though I am willing to pay for it? How fascinating! NOT!!!

Obviously, she cannot go any further. If I want to have a new terminal from them I won’t be able to have one till that contract of six months left expires. Now, *that* is what I call customer service! Indeed! NOT!!! So you can imagine, how, by now, I am rather frustrated, not only because I want to be able to upgrade my iPhone 3G, but mainly because I’m no longer in control of the contract that I myself signed and very willing to pay for whatever the penalty. So what’s the point? Is that how you, as a vendor, want to treat your customers? I hope not! More than anything else because movistar is already doing it! And we would just need to have one seriously bad customer service experience in a lifetime!

So, there you have it. My story. The story of a loyal customer who is no longer planning on purchasing a new mobile terminal from a company like movistar. No matter which terminal. The story of a loyal customer who is even considering, very carefully, moving away from his current ADSL provider, because it is part of the same company. So my search has started. And probably there will not be a way back! At least, not until they change and start learning what decent and good customer service is all about.

You may be wondering by now how does it affect my relationship, as a converted and loyal customer, with Apple, right? Well, after four iPods, one 3G iPhone, two MacBook Pros, one Time Capsule, and a couple of other Apple gadgets, that relationship is now destroyed. Completely. It is probably going to be a long while before I purchase any Apple product. As clear and simple as that. By the time I am "eligible" again to purchase this 3GS I will probably have a new mobile provider, with a new terminal. Hopefully, with a vendor that understands what good customer service is like. One with which I would not have got a strong feeling that I have been ripped off all along. One that has managed to earn my trust and loyalty, versus destroying it all together in 1000 pieces in a split second, just because they decided to partner with the wrong vendor. Yes, dear Apple, that’s how you have managed to destroy your prestigious brand with yours truly with a simple word: movistar.

(Oh, don’t worry, I won’t expect an answer, nor will I want it either, from you, my no longer dear Apple, and certainly not from you, movistar. You have already done a fine job yesterday in turning me away for a long while from you both, to the point where I would also be sharing these very same experiences with those very same folks who are about to make the same mistake I made over nearly a year ago. Hopefully, they won’t go that far!

Thanks, but no thanks! Hope you will learn one day how to treat your customers properly, because right now there is plenty of room for improvement, starting with making much better decisions altogether about  who your business partners should be. Perhaps movistar, in Spain, was not the best choice after all… So it’s time to put a stop to it. There’s a lesson learned there for all of us. Including you, my no longer beloved Apple, and me. I think it’s too late for movistar already…)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0 votes


  1. Nice post – it’s similar to my bane with the airlines – when will they get it? Maybe you can try the storm 2 or you can move to Canada and we at TELUS will treat you well!! 😉

  2. Man, sorry to hear (or read) that. I must say, my experience has been the complete opposite. Apple has worked with me on my iPhone battery issue twice. Even AT&T was helpful. So far the machines have not had a problem (although I will steer clear of the old Time Capsule!)

  3. Hombre Luis, me he reído un buen rato con un tu entrada. ¿Pero como sigues todavía con Vomistar o Robafone? Yo fui hace años cliente de Vomistar, luego de Vodafone y ahora un feliz cliente de Simyo. Por cierto, hace unos días vino por aquí un BP con un iPhone libre funcionando con Robafone. ¿Es que no conoces http://www.emancipatumovil.es ? quizás haga una entrada sobre este arisco tema en el ESLUG. ¿Nos visitas alguna vez? Un Saludo, Albert.

  4. Luis,

    I wish this story was unusual but it is rather typical of telecom service providers. This makes me wonder why equipment vendors like Apple sign exclusive deals with any service provider.

    Many years ago I had a bad experience with a bad experience with Eircom (the legacy telecom provider in Ireland). When I applied for a line in the apartment where I stayed while in University they told me that as a personal customer I was only allowed to have one line and I would have to give up service at home.

    Eventually I managed to work around the rule by getting service in my brother’s name, but now several decades later I still implement a policy of avoiding getting any services from Eircom whenever possible.


  5. My current Movistar “journey” is as Kafkaesque as Luis’s, although it may point towards something more sinister and offensive than mere rank incompetence and 19th-century red tape – although it’s got that in spades, too.

    Four days ago, I went to a Movistar shop (an actual owned-by-Telefónica shop, not a franchise or associated dealership) to upgrade my wonky old prepaid Motorola to a contract for an spanking new 32-gig iPhone 3GS. Yes, they’d arrived at last, after a mere three-month wait (as mentioned above). I was armed with everything required: multiple ID, bank details, SIM card, the works. All was well until the very end of the 25-minute form-filling, photocopying and key-tapping procedure, when the shop assistant looked up from her screen, shrugged, and said, “‘Transaction unauthorised’, it says here.”

    “Er, sorry? I’m offering to give you €239 in cash right now and commit, in the middle of a recession, by means of a legally binding contract, to at least a further €700 over the next 18 months in flatrate fees and charges, and you’re not interested? Why, pray, why?” I beseeched the shop assistant (perhaps not in those exact words).

    “I’m not allowed to know,” was her reply, so sheepish that all the local dogs started growling. Apparently I would have to wait for a call from the “Traffic Department”, who would explain the problem and how it might be solved.

    So I waited. And waited. No call from the Traffic Department, so I called them (via nine calls to a call centre in Honduras, as you do). It turns out they wanted a €150 deposit, returnable in six months, provided I was up to date with my monthly fees and charges.

    “Is this because of the ‘X’ at the beginning of my ID-card number, by any chance? Because I’m not a Spanish citizen and therefore not to be trusted to pay my bills?”

    “No, no. It’s just that it’s not quite as easy to buy an iPhone as it used to be.”

    “So everyone who wants to buy one has to spend half an hour filling in all the forms only to be told that they’ll have to wait for a call from you that never comes so they have to phone Honduras nine times to find out that you expect a deposit? That’s your system for selling iPhones, is it? Across the board?”

    “Er…(a pause so pregnant its waters were breaking)… yes.”

    He was lying. I could hear his eyes flicking away to the left and his foot twitching to stub out an imaginary cigarette end as he said it.

    I really, really want an iPhone, so I just sighed and asked how I should go about paying the deposit. He gave me an account number to pay the €150 into. Oh, but I couldn’t do it via bank transfer over the Internet; it had to be done in person at a specific physical bank. Oh, and the specific physical bank had to stamp the receipt legibly – very important that. Oh, and I then had to fax (fax!) the receipt to a number that he gave me. Then, and only then, would I be able to buy my iPhone.

    The following morning I went to the specific physical bank, €150 in cash akimbo, to make the required deposit. The cashier laughed in my face. “Did Movistar give you this account number?” he asked me.

    “Er, yes… and?”

    “It was a temporary account. It’s been closed for months. It doesn’t exist. Sorry.”

    So I took the most radical, most dramatic action that was open to me: I called Honduras nine times again. Eventually (a word that will forever be associated with the Telefónica group the world over), they gave me an account number that they assured me does indeed exist, and this morning I went to specific physical bank No. 2 to try again. The cashier laughed in my face. “Cash deposits can only be made into this account between the 10th and 20th of every month. Oh, and only before 10:30 a.m.”

    Eventually (there goes that word again), I managed to send them the money in accordance with their terms by driving 15 miles to my own branch and doing a transfer from there. Having now spent an entire afternoon and an entire morning trying to buy an iPhone, I will apparently be able to complete the transaction next Tuesday, because the “system” will take 48 hours to approve the operation. That’s provided the fax number he gave me was correct, it arrived, it was legible and it had its very-important-that stamp duly in place.

    The upshot is that Movistar discriminate against immigrants, which is illegal. There; I’ve said it. Let them sue me if they dare.

    My advice? Go to Vodafone or Orange and buy a sodding BlackBerry. Or if you really, really, really want an iPhone, take out Spanish citizenship. It’s easier.

Leave a Reply to David Ing Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *