Kenyan Cell Phone Service People Are The Devil

The last time I had beef with Safaricom, I threw a tantrum … and my simcard. A few days later, I had to buy a new simcard because some clients prefer to pay for work that way. I’ve also had issues with my phone, so my Mpesa line is mostly in my wallet. I don’t use it for calls, though I sometimes keep it in an old phone.

When I first came home from TZ, I bought a Safaricom line, because it seemed like the logical thing to do. I already had a dormant Zain line, and an idle Orange one for internet. I soon discovered only Yu had network in my house, so I sent out line-changing texts and exiled my other simcards to my wallet.

I’ve written a lot about my beef with service providers, and my loudest words have always been against Safaricom. But an interesting thing happened over Christmas. I don’t know if it’s Bob Collymore, the Niko na advert, the price war with Zain, the offers with Yu, or all the above, but for some strange reason, Yu is now unsteady in my house, Zain is practically non-existent, and Safaricom rings clear as a bell.

I suspect Yu made a bunch of people buy lines, and the Airtel hype got crowds to vuka too. So both lines are now congested while Safaricom is suddenly empty. Maybe that’s why all their calls get through. More than once, people have tried calling all my numbers, and have ¬†only gotten through on Safaricom.

I received an important call from Kisumu on my Yu line last weekend, but we could hardly hear each other. Out of desperation, I tried calling back on my Safcom line … and had an amazingly clear conversation. Naturally, I was traumatized.

One of the M-pesa managers – Mr Alvin Okari – contacted me severally during the Soap Box fiasco. We got off on the wrong foot, but he was much nicer afterwards. He got my neighbours’ cell numbers and promised to bring network to my building. I expect his efforts have a lot to do with this.

Mgema akisifiwa tembo hulitia maji.

I remember this proverb from my primary school days, and I was worried that my praises for Yu might … you know … go to their heads. The proverb roughly translates: ‘When you praise a brewer for his beer, he dilutes it with water.’ I suppose the idea is to increase the volume of the drink and subsequently increase business, but it waters down the beer – literally – and that will scare the customers away. Unless of course they’re too drunk to care.

I’ve acquired the unfortunate reputation of being ‘that girl’. You know, the one that’s always ranting about cell phones on DR? It can’t really be helped, seeing as I have three of them. And unfortunately, after many weeks away from DR, I am back doing what I do … ranting about phone providers. Le sigh.

I’ve had nasty words to say about all our cell phone service providers, but in the past, I spoke highly of Yu. I liked their rates, and the fact that I could always get through to Customer Care. I was miffed when they wouldn’t stop sending me texts, and annoyed when a Customer Care Rep hung up on me. But I stuck with them. After all, it was the only line that worked in my house.

But a few months ago, Safaricom styled up, and an Mpesa manager brought life to my building. He specifically made sure that they got me good network. Yay!

Incidentally, or subsequently, all other lines became unclear. Interesting. I wonder if Safaricom blocked them. I wonder if that’s even possible.

Nah, probably just me being paranoid. Still, Safaricom suddenly getting clear and everything else suddenly getting murky sounds a lot like ergo proctor proctor. So anyway, I now use a twinsim, with Safaricom as my main line, and Yu as a second.

A few days ago, my brother switched to Mpesa after about a year on Yu. The reason was that Yu had him mteja for several days, and he didn’t even know it. He wondered why expected calls weren’t coming through, and why we were all yelling at him for keeping his phone off.

No, he hadn’t put his phone off.

[I say *switched to Mpesa* because we all have a largely idle line used purely for sending money. It's a good idea to keep the idle line loaded, because Safaricom deducts 10 to 20 bob a month from idle lines, so after a while, it reads empty, with or without calls.]

When he reinstated the Yu line, we had a strange experience. Each time I called him, I was redirected to some lady talking about Dunda tunes. I hung up the first few times because I thought it was his voice mail or something. Turns out he had been forcefully subscribed to Dunda tunes, and he was sent a text instructing him on how to unsubscribe. Ala!

I assumed he had unwittingly bought in, so I ignored it. Half an hour later, I received a text congratulating me. Apparently, I had been subscribed to a service that gave me 20 minutes of free Yu-toYu calls every day for 5 days. On the 6th day, they would charge me 5 bob, and continue to do so ad infinitum. The text ended with instructions on unsubscribing.

I followed the instructions and unsubscribed, but I received the text five more times, that day, which means they effectively resubscribed me each time. How now?

A different text informed me that I could now call any network for 2 bob a minute. Yay? Er … no. Because what happens is I load my phone with 100 bob, get a bonus of 50, and as a result of the badly warped math, I end up paying 2 bob per call. Er … ok.

Here’s the thing. Most people don’t read texts to the end. Promotional texts come in every five seconds, and Yu has consistently refused to stop the spamming. I tried getting it done and had agents hang up on me. So as you happily ignore these texts or delete them without reading, you’ll start to wonder why your airtime is suddenly dissolving into nothingness-ness-ness.

I have whined so much that at this point, there is little else to say. Airtel has little drama, but has sucky network in my house. Safaricom is just special, no elaboration required. And now Yu has decided if the big boys can play, the little guys can too. The only ones that suffer are subscribers.

It’s getting so you can’t tell one mobile provider from another. I suppose that’s just as well, since we’ll soon be allowed to migrate without changing our prefixes or numbers. In the next few weeks, dialling 0733 may not necessarily mean you’re getting through to Airtel, so I suppose it’s only fair that they should share their dirty tactics.

I don’t have any wise words or retaliatory actions. We can’t boycott phone companies since they’re all doing the same thing. And once the changing-tarrifs-keeping-numbers-issue is sorted, it won’t matter anyway. So I leave you with two non-text-ual messages.

(a) Always read the fine print.

(b) Read those silly texts before deleting them.

PS: According to my Zuku bill, prices are going up by 500/= as of April 1st. Funny, I could swear the fibre they were laying in Lang’ata and Kilimani was going to bring prices down to a K. Also, you can now pay via Mpesa. Hmm … ergo proctor proctor anyone?

I notice that customers in cities – me inclusive – love to whine about Safaricom. But their social events and causes won them legion fans upcountry, so complaining about Safaricom is futile. It’s more of a venting exercise than constructive criticism. And while I’m now mostly using a Safcom line, I’m not going all psychophant … mostly because my pride won’t let me. Still the tables have turned, and now, twin sim or not,¬† Saf is the most reliable network in my bedroom. Aw crud.

I guess people flocked to Zain-Bharti-Airtel when they went three bob, and that Yu’s marketting made them more popular than they could handle. Either that, or the winds changed and my house moved. I hope Yu gets their act together. They need to increase capacity and give me an excuse to brag about them again *cough*cough*hint*hint*

Until then, *sad dramatic sigh* Niko na Safaricom. I trust you can tell I’m not happy about this, but hey – whatever works. I won’t bother with more line-changing texts. I’ve already sent out four this year, and if I do one more, somebody is going to scream.

2 Responses. Yay! I like it when you talk back ... to “Kenyan Cell Phone Service People Are The Devil”

  1. Waywardfoe says:

    Mobile phone service is a particularly pesky bitch. And you’re right it does sound a bit like post hoc.

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