Brotherly love in Woolwich’s O2 shop

it was my birthday on Monday, and I decided to treat myself by upgrading my trusty iPhone. Exciting, eh? Unfortunately, dealing with O2 led to me enduring a saga which resulted in a shop assistant pretending to be a brother I don’t have…

First problem – trying to find an O2 store with the iPhone 4 in stock. My nearest O2 shop is within walking distance, in the, er, Dome O2. It’d sold out there, which is unfortunate considering the name of the building the shop is in. So it was a bus ride to either Lewisham or Woolwich for me.

Off to Lewisham I went, only to find a shop staffer engaged in a heated discussion with a man who was expecting to borrow an iPhone while his broken model was being repaired, instead of a crappy old Nokia. “You might not return the borrowed iPhone to us,” he explained. Not very diplomatic. Realising that I was unlikely to get served in Lewisham until my next birthday, I realised I had just enough time to jump on a train to Woolwich and try my luck there.

In Woolwich, all seemed well at first. I was in the hands of a trainee who was possibly the sweetest member of retail staff I’d met in years – although she struck me as being desperately nervous. She even wished me a happy birthday, and enquired what I was up to in the evening. All went well, until I signed the contract, which I immediately queried.

I’d been placed on a £45/month contract – my old contract was just that, with a discount that was available to staff when I worked at the BBC – but had asked for a £35/month deal, not expecting to get my discount again, and had coughed up the greater upfront sum for that cheaper deal.

Unfortunately, I think she’d activated the contract before I put pen to paper. She spoke to another assistant, Babatunde – I think he was the manager – and he was stumped. He spoke to someone else, made a couple of calls, and called me over. I spoke to someone on the telephone to confirm my details. Unfortunately, Babatunde said, they wouldn’t be able to fix the problem for another 24 hours – could I return tomorrow? Fine, if that was what I had to do, I said. A note was placed on my receipt and off I went.

I left it until 5pm on Tuesday – my trainee was there, asking me how my birthday was, and then she went off to find Babatunde. A few minutes later, he got to work, making a couple of calls.

I got suspicious when I heard through the speaker that he was calling O2’s customer-facing line, not using any particular network for shop staff. But I let him continue, and he made a second call.

He then read out my phone number, and told the person on the other end… “I’m calling on behalf of my brother…” – then faced me and asked for my password.

Hold on, I said, are you pretending to be my brother?

“Yes,” he said, “I’m trying to help you.”

I refused to give him my password, and he could not answer why he was calling O2’s customer helpline and posing as a relative I don’t even have. I took my contract and walked out of the shop.

Later that evening, I gave O2 a call and spoke to a nice chap called Brian, who said he’d get the matter sorted and make enquiries. Impersonating customers’ relatives is a sackable offence, he said. I’m still waiting to hear confirmation that the matter has been resolved. And I’m not happy I had to pay to make a second journey to Woolwich to watch a man in a shop make a telephone call I could have made myself at home.

All I can deduce from this episode is that Babatunde or the trainee had made a horrendous mistake and he was desperately trying to cover it up. But how the hell someone who works for O2 thinks they can get away with posing as a customer’s relative in front of that customer is baffling.

Yes, this is Woolwich, but this is a retail outlet of one of the world’s biggest telecommunications giants, not a dodgy SIM card unlocking stall in the market.

I don’t know if Babatunde will still be working at the Woolwich O2 by the time you read his. I hope his poor trainee, who was being trained by him (!), survives to tell the tale – with confidence and a decent training (which she obviously wasn’t getting) she could go far.

But there’s one experience I learned from my trips to O2 in Woolwich – be very, very careful what you sign in a mobile phone shop.

And be very, very wary if you ever enter the O2 shop in Woolwich…


  1. “…be very, very careful what you sign in a mobile phone shop…” sage advice indeed – reading it before you sign it being the best method, I wonder if the tariff was quoted on yours?

  2. Interesting that posing as your brother would somehow give him more sway with the call centre.

    I got my iPhone4 last Friday by mail order. It’s taken six days, numerous phone calls and three emails to get )2 to transfer my old number to the new phone. I vowed brave the queues and service and go into the shop next time, but sounds like that’s no guarantee of quick or good service.

  3. Darryl – I would have more trust in a backstreet unlocking shop than I would some of the, er, ‘highly trained’ minimum wage retail staff employed by any large mobile network operator. Hope you are not suffering death-grip disconnections on the IP4 a Dave.

  4. Thats a strange experience. I would exepect a more professional approach from a dodgy market stall.

    My only experience of o2 retail outlets is buying an i phone ( at the Dome) on a “pay as you go” tariff, which must be the most simple transaction, so no suprise that it went well.

    Its a contrast to my general expeience of o2. Subsquent calls to the o2 i phone technical helpline have always been dealt with well. I also have broadband from o2, and the experience of dealing with their technical support has been good; a huge contrast to dealing with my previous supplier.

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