I’m a drama queen. Everybody knows that. So when I have a serious complaint, nobody pays attention. It’s like the boy who cried wolf, but in reverse. And this time, my beef is with Safaricom. Granted I’ve deleted five accounts on facebook, twelve on email, seven on twitter, and four blogs. In fits of anger, I’ve ripped countless manuscripts, broken crockery, mwikos, and umbrellas (the latter on a certain boy’s head) and have had about fifteen different phone numbers since 1999. One more change shouldn’t be that big a deal, right? Well, as Julie Andrews would say, let’s start at very the beginning.

  • 2000 – Bought my first Safaricom line for Ksh 2,500/=.
  • 2006 – Was offered a job in TZ and bought four lines, one from each service provider.
  • 2007 – Got the TZ job. Bought four more lines since the first four were expired. Or lost. Or both.
  • 2008 – Reverted to my Safaricom line thanks to the East Africa Tariff.
  • 2009 – Came back to Kenya, leaving four of my cell phone lines behind.
  • 2009 – Put my Safaricom line inside a modem and bought a new sim card to escape a stalking ex.
  • 2009 – Moved to  new house with network issues. Bought ALL lines to see which one would work. Settled for a Yu line.
Got a sign like this for my front door.
  • 2010 – Got a suspect text from Safaricom and blogged about it.
  • 2010 – After the previous saga, got mad at Safaricom, ranted online, and threw away my M-PESA sim card.
  • 2010 – Freelance client preferred to pay via M-PESA, so I bought a new line.
  • 2011 – Got a job at Squad Digital which included training Safaricom Online Customer Care Reps.
  • 2011 – Switched to postpay bundles.
  • 2012 – Migrated back to pre-pay. Then the real nightmare began.

The first time I threw away my sim card, it was more of a temper tantrum than anything else. At that point, I only used Safaricom for M-PESA, so when I got a text asking me to register my line, I was skeptical. I called Customer Care, and when I couldn’t get through, I wrote a blog post questioning the validity of said text. An M-PESA manager called me (on my Yu line). He explained the situation, in a rather patronizing manner, and suggested I write a second blog post, which I did, while throwing away my Safaricom sim card.

After the second blog post, the manager called me again, apologized for upsetting me, and asked how he could fix things. I told him I didn’t much care, but that my neighbours would probably enjoy having network in the building. See, when I moved into my new house, I tried every single mobile service provider. The most feasible one was Yu, even though I had to go stand at the window to use my phone. My Airtel line had a weak signal in certain parts of the house, but on my other lines, I had to leave the building and go outside the gate to make a call.

I gave Mr. Manager the number of my building caretaker and one of my neighbours, and within a few weeks, the building had full Safaricom network. Incidentally, when Safaricom network got strengthened, the other mobile signals mysteriously disappeared. I’m too paranoid to call that a coincidence.

A few weeks ago, I decided to get off Postpay bundles because they no longer made sense so I shot a few tweets @Safaricom_Care. They told me I’d get to keep my accumulated postpay minutes, and that I had 30 days to use them. During my lunch break on Wednesday, I went Westgate to do the deed. It took a while, because systems were down, but eventually they signed me off. I asked again about accumulated minutes (I have about 5,000, plus 700MB of free data) and they said I wouldn’t need to top up my phone until they ran out. Yay!

On Saturday, I got a text telling me I was officially back on prepay. I don’t use my phone much, so I hardly ever know where it is. But I had a pretty hectic day planned. I had to drop my baby for her camping trip, meet a friend at Yaya, and see a doctor, so today, ED was essential. When I tried to make a call, the nice lady on auto-response said she couldn’t complete the call, and suggested I try again later.

I tried three other numbers with the same result. I dialed *144# to check my balance. ‘Sorry, operator failed.’ I tried to top up via M-PESA and the text said ‘M-PESA is unable to complete top up at this time.’  I bought a scratch card to load the phone. ‘Sorry, the top up was not successful. Please try again later.’ I sent a text to find out where my friend was. ‘Message not sent.’

I had a meeting at 2.30 and a doctor’s appointment at 3.30, so when the doctor’s office rescheduled, I tried to let my pal know, but the call wouldn’t go through! Luckily [?] I was a few minutes late, so she called to check how far away I was, and we agreed to talk after I had finished with the doctor. Once my shots were done, I tried to get in touch with my friend again, but my phone was still haywire, so I borrowed the receptionist’s phone.

I went online to tweet Customer Care and my Tweetdeck said, ‘Tweet unsent. Connection problems. Automatic retry.’ So I called Customer Care, the only number that would actually go through. The first Customer Care Rep was very polite and suggested I do a hard reboot – put the phone off, take out the sim card, put it back in, restart. I did it five times. No luck.

I waited a few hours then called again. This time, after being on hold for five minutes, I got a mean one who said, ‘How do you expect a prepay line to work without airtime. Have you tried topping it up?’ It was all I could do to keep my voice calm as I explained that (a) they told me I didn’t have to, and (b) I’d been trying to top up for three hours. She suggested I get someone to sambaza me.

I asked the girl next to me in the matatu, and she was suspicious, obviously. I mean, a stranger asks you to sambaza them airtime and they’ll pay you cash? It has scam written all over it, even though I’d only asked for 50 bob. In the end, we agreed that I would buy a scratchcard, she would load her phone, then send it to me. It failed, so she ended up paying ME for her ‘free credit’. Sigh.

I got home and tried to tweet @Safaricom_Care from my PC, but it has issues and took about half an hour to boot up. While I waited, I called Customer Care again, and they said they were setting up a ticket which would take 24 hours. Ngggggggg!!! When my machine eventually started up, I tweeted @Safaricom_Care. They said I was mteja and asked me to DM an alternate number. I explained that I don’t have one, tweeted my brother, and asked him to call me. I wanted to see whether I could still receive calls, since I was apparently mteja. Turns out I can, and I ranted at the poor boy until his airtime ran out.

A while later, Safaricom finally got a call through, and they confirmed that a ticket takes 24 hours to resolve. I was furious because I needed to call my baby and see if she had arrived at camp safely. It made me so mad that the one time I desperately needed my phone, I couldn’t even use it. The next morning, a Safaricom Rep called to ask if I could top up my phone. I asked her to call back in 5 minutes. My battery was low and there was a power blackout, so I knew I’d be mteja soon, one way or another.

I tried to top up and failed. I couldn’t call them back because (a) I had no guarantee of getting the same Customer Care Rep, and (b) I didn’t have enough battery power. Plus, with no power and no mobile internet, I couldn’t even tweet. I waited half an hour for her to call back before I gave up, went to the neighbourhood kiosk, and bought Yu and Airtel lines. They both have no network in my house, so I had to go outside the gate to load them and call my baby girl. She’s fine by the way, having a blast and telling me I worry too much.

I’ve heard Safaricom described as an abusive boyfriend lots of times, and I agree. I get it. Safaricom is not that into me. And it hurts because I know I won’t leave. After all, (a) no other mobile service provider has network inside my house, (b) I’ve changed my number so many times that my bankers think I’m Nigerian and my relatives think I’m insane, and (c) all our mobile service providers have crappy service anway. I’ve been hung up on by Customer Care Reps from Orange, Yu, Airtel, Safaricom (and even Voda and Zantel in TZ).

I suppose I should consider that the problem here is me. Maybe I just don’t know how to talk to Customer Care people. Still, when you’re getting paid to solve my problems, I don’t expect you to talk down to me whenever you can’t solve them. That makes me mad, and when I get mad, I yell. And then people hang up. On the upside, I’ve never been hung up on by any Customer Care person that I trained, though I suppose that was for a different reason. Plus, I changed jobs and I don’t train them anymore, so I guess they can hang up on me now, if they want to.

This weekend, I was raging mad at Safaricom, and yes, I did quite a lot of yelling. Now I’m just numb. I’ve talked to one more Customer Care Rep this morning, but I couldn’t find the energy to protest, so I just gave one-word answers. I’m too fed up to be angry. At least I can use my Yu line for emergency calls, and I’ve spent most of the morning switching and un-switching sim cards. But if one more person responds with, ‘You changed your number again!’ I’m likely to stab somebody.

♫ Move b***h ♫ Ludacris


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