Gadgets Mobile

I finally picked up my EE Power Bar today. If you’re one of the thousands of EE, Orange or T-Mobile customers who registered to get one, you may know what I mean when I say ‘finally’. On the face of it, this seems like a really good deal. You send a text message (which costs you 35p) to EE, they send you back a code which you take into any EE store to redeem your Power Bar. You can then use it to charge your phone on the go. Once it’s run out of juice, you can either recharge it using your phone’s charger, or you can take it into any EE store and swap it for another fully charged one.

Sounds amazing? It is. Sounds simple? Not for the first few days.

As you can imagine, anything ‘free’ (well, 35p) is going to attract a lot of interest. Even if you don’t particularly need it. This is also the case for the Power Bar. Almost all stores in my area are completely out of stock. I asked one of the stores when they expect new stock and was told that it would be ‘some time in June’. I understand that the demand has been exceedingly high, and with this being a new product, EE had no idea how quickly they’d rip through that initial stock. As it turns out, only two days. I imagine it would have been even quicker if the stores themselves hadn’t made a complete and utter hash of what should have been a pretty straightforward transaction.

Now, like a certain percentage of the population, I have two phones. One for my personal use and one for work, which my company pays for. My work phone is the EE phone. This isn’t a small family business, it’s a large public sector organisation with somewhere in the region of 38,000 employees. Before I sent my text to claim my Power Bar, I checked with EE that I would be eligible to claim. I was told that all contract customers whether personal, small business or enterprise could claim. I sent the text and got the code. I went to the nearest EE store along with a colleague, armed with my code, feeling good about getting a new, free toy to play with. My colleague had his code too, although his was for his personal EE phone.

We turned up at the store and were relieved to find a relatively quiet store with plenty of stock still available. Then it went completely downhill. My colleague started the process of getting his Power Bar. The EE sales rep went into the back to get one for him, and when she returned, she asked him for some photo ID. There was no mention of that either in the Terms and Conditions of the EE Power promotion, or anywhere else on the website. The only instruction was to turn up at the store with your code. Unfortunately for him, that’s where the transaction ended. The sales rep wouldn’t give him his Power Bar.

My experience was even shorter – and not in a good way. I was asked two questions: “what’s your name?” and “is the account in your name?”. The first question was easy enough, but the second was “no, it’s in the name of my employer”. That’s where my transaction aborted. “I’m sorry, the account has to be in your name for us to give you a Power Bar”. I explained to my sales rep that I’d checked with EE beforehand and was assured that I was eligible for the Power Bar, but he wouldn’t budge. We both left, empty handed.

On the way back to the office, I did what I always do when I’m looking for help when a company lets me down. I took to Twitter and sought assistance from the EE social media team. It took until the next day for them to respond to me, but they agreed with the initial advice I had been given: I was eligible for the Power Bar. I’ve been looking through EE’s Twitter feed and found loads of people in similar situations – people who were trying to claim on a company phone, people who were trying to claim multiple Power Bars for themselves and family members (all with valid codes), etc., etc., etc. Mine wasn’t an isolated incident. It was happening to other people. All over the UK. I got in touch with some of these people and they thought the same as me: EE has NO idea what its doing.

Let me clarify that. When I say ‘EE’ has no idea what its doing. I don’t mean centrally. I mean at the store level. The poor folks on their social media team, and probably in their call centres have probably been having a brutal time with frustrated customers, and that’s not fair on them. The problem lies with the individual stores, and their inability to share a memo with their sales staff. I went to another store later that day, armed with the knowledge from EE’s Twitter feed. By this point they had run out of stock (big surprise!), but when I asked if I could claim as a corporate customer, I ran into the same issue I did in the first store: I couldn’t get one as my name wasn’t on the account. I showed the rep one of the tweets from EE’s account saying anyone in possession of a code should be issued one without question. Not taking this as gospel, he checked with his manager who responded with “yes, we got another email about that this morning”. This just confirms that the EE in-store staff have NO IDEA what they’re doing and can’t follow simple instructions from Head Office.

So in summary: EE Power Bars. Great idea. Horrific implementation.

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