Sunday, 17 May 2020

Schrodinger’s Salt-Sucker

or: Tabletop roleplaying when real-world meets weird

There’s a very specific problem I am having with a very specific sort of tabletop roleplaying game. At least, I think it’s a problem; it may just be me. Let’s face it, of course it’s just me. But let us assume for the sake of argument that while it is just me, there may be at least one other just me out there who might benefit from the two of us considering the problem.

Here’s my problem: roleplaying characters that don’t believe in weird stuff in a game where weird stuff happens.

Or more specifically (I said it was a very specific sort of problem): playing ‘normal’ characters in their first encounter with weird stuff.

That is to say, playing a regular human being from the (ostensibly completely normal) real world, though not necessarily modern day (in fact, as we will see, much of the very specific problem seems to occur in the 1920s, for reasons some of you will already have anticipated) who in the course of the tabletop roleplaying session will encounter things that are out of the ordinary.

And by out of the ordinary, I am mainly thinking magic, ghosts, monsters and other weirdnesses, particularly stuff which in popular fiction is meant to unnerve or unsettle the characters. The sort of elements that you get in a horror story for example, or a wacky comedy-action film where a bunch of drop-out scientists go around busting ghosts, or where a smartass trucker encounters supernatural trouble in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Example of play – Wail of Wazuzu

Maybe it’s better if I describe a hypothetical gaming session, to illustrate my very specific problem.

A group of friends sits down to play a popular roleplaying game with a horror/investigation slant. Let’s call it Wail of Wazuzu, Wazuzu being an in effable entity of supreme cosmic madness. In Wail of Wazuzu, the friends play ordinary people (probably, but not exclusively, from the 1920s) who are drawn into a story of mystery, death and horror. This is the first session, so the characters that the players create, with the referee’s help, are all ‘ordinary folks’, albeit capable police officers, scientists, reporters and so forth. None of them are psychic wizards or paranormal investigators. In fact, this particular session of Wail of Wazuzu (I want to shorten it to WoW but now realise that that might introduce an element of confusion) is predicated on the fact that the player characters are ordinary folks with no inkling or prior knowledge of strangenesses like monsters, ghosts or cosmic entities, because much of the game’s allure is ‘ordinary meets the extraordinary’.

Thus in the first session of WoW (screw it, I’m going with it), the characters are almost certainly going to encounter something out of the ordinary. A body drained of salt perhaps, or footsteps made by no known animal, or someone claiming to be haunted by the ghost of a 12th century sorcerer. Whatever. The main thing is that the people from the real world are going to be presented, probably at first with hints, of weirdness afoot.

As the game progresses, they will be presented with increasing evidence of weirdness until at some point, they are going to be standing in front of a spectral hound or someone in a robe raising the dead or an invisible lamprey monster attempting to suck out their vital juices. At that point, presumably, the characters will be unable to deny the evidence of their eyes and will have to accept that, to quote an overused quote, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’.

And presumably, most of the time, the characters accept that weirdness is now part of their new normal and respond accordingly by sensibly running away, desperately shooting at the weird things or rapidly consulting a dusty old tome in the arcana aisle of their local library for a spell of banishment.

SIDEBAR – Sanity Mechanics

Of course some games, perhaps even Wail of Wazuzu itself, have ways of describing those situations using rules that codify each character’s ability to deal with weird or horrifying encounters. Frequently they use some sort of ‘sanity’ rule in which players roll dice to see if their characters are able to function in the face of this new creature or concept. Sometimes they pass the test and can get on with running away, firing their gun or reading from their spell book. And sometimes they fail, and end up being told that their character has frozen in a catatonic state, started blubbering uncontrollably or has curled up into a ball and started humming to themselves.

Such mechanics are what they are, and serve a valid purpose within the roleplaying games. And I do not have a problem with them as such. My problem is in the roleplaying a character’s attitude to the weird right up to the point where a ‘sanity test’ is such exists in the game, is required. Outright denial, glib acceptance, or a tricky middle ground?

In Limbo

It’s the period between the start of the game and the ‘undeniable weird thing’ that I am struggling with. The period when your supposedly normal character from the normal world is presented with a situation which you the player absolutely knows has a weird supernatural origin – because hey, we’re playing Wail of Wazuzu y’all – but your character is not supposed to know about. Because they’re a real person and they have never heard, dreamt or thought of whatever weirdness is waiting in the wings. Sure, we the players know that we are playing Wail of Wazuzu, ‘the game of paranormal peculiarity’, but our characters in this instance are not seasoned psychic investigators with a few spook-busting cases under their belt.

So I, being a neurotic player who worries about stupid things like this, find myself in an odd position from a purely roleplaying standpoint. Which is, “I know that we are playing a game with spooky monsters in it, in fact I might even suspect which sort of spooky monster it is in this case, but my plucky marine biologist character has no idea that they are in Wail of Wazuzu. As far as they are concerned, that corpse drained of salt is a freak medical condition which they are sure science will be able to explain eventually.

So there is no earthly reason for my character to go off and start reading up on local folklore just in case they might turn up some useful tales of the legendary Salt-Sucker to be found. Furthermore, if any non-player character shows up and claims that this is the work of the Salt-Sucker, there is no good reason for my character to accept their word about such a preposterous notion. Therefore I am going to play this all just like a normal person would up to the point when a dirty great Salt-Sucker actually rears up in front of my character and proceeds to suck of the salt.”

In other words, I think there’s a risk of a strange limbo-like period in games where normal folks encounter the weird for the first time. The period of indeterminate paranormal belief between ‘this is the real normal world with no weird things’ and ‘there are weird things in the world that I accept exist’. Let’s call this period Schrodinger’s Salt-Sucker. Your character has no good reason to go haring off down avenues of investigation that point to weird things, and if you are a fan of Occam’s Razor, then your character would surely cleave to the most rational explanation for as long as is possible, even if this means balking at the referee’s secret wish that you just pick up some holy water and a wooden stake.

From real world to real world + weird

I have played in more than a few games like this, both tabletop and live action (again, frequently set in the 1920s). It is only a problem for your character ‘the first time’. But given the frequently lethal nature of some of these games mortality rates are high, and that turnover of characters means that there are many games of ‘first time investigators meeting the weird’, and many periods of the limbo between ‘real world’ and ‘real world+weird’.

Now, many people will not have encountered this problem in their games, because it is a phenomenon peculiar to the genre of ‘normal meets the weird’. You don’t get this problem in fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons, because the characters knowingly exist in a world of strangeness and magic. You don’t get a party of D&D players struggling to convey their characters’ belief in a werewolves. “A man, who is also a wolf? The very idea!”.

Nor do you get it in sci-fi space games or superhero games or in fact any game where it is generally accepted that the population of that world or setting knows of the weird and accepts that it is a part of their reality.

And even if you do play some sort of ‘investigation into the weird’ game like Wail of Wazuzu, you as players may simply choose to gloss over the limbo-like period of Schrodinger’s Salt-Sucker and get on with the plot. Perhaps it was established, prior to starting the game through discussion with the referee, that your characters already know that the world is bigger and stranger than most people believe. Or perhaps you are simply not neurotic players like me and can’t be arsed to fret over your characters’ internal belief systems and just want to get to the bit where you open up your tommy guns on a bunch of cultists. But for those of us, and again this may simply be me, who do fret over such things, the struggle is real.

SIDEBAR – roleplaying extremes

Of course, like I said this is a very specific problem that not every roleplayer will encounter, because it’s not how they play that sort of game. I’ve been in a few games where players use one or other of the following approaches, which skirt the problem but have their own potential drawbacks:

Total acceptance from the get-go

This player’s character is by default completely down with whatever weirdness the game throws at them and takes it in their stride. There are no moments of shock, disbelief or revelation with this one. They simply take whatever out of the ordinariness the game sends their way and plunge on regardless.

This has the effect of nerfing any potential roleplaying fun the players and referee might get out of playing with the moment, or moments, of ‘ordinary meets the extraordinary’, which might be one of the major attractions of putting the game on in the first place. “Yeah, it’s probably vampires. I’ll get my flamethrower. How do I know it’s vampires? Well, it’s gotta be, hasn’t it?”

Dogged disbelief in the face of overwhelming evidence

This player’s character is the arch-sceptic or rationalist. The Scully to the believer’s Mulder. They continue to find a mundane, grounded explanation for the weird goings-on, whether it’s freak weather phenomena, gas leaks or that old chestnut ‘mass hysteria’.

They can be fun to play at first, and make for fun moments when believer and disbeliever characters clash, but there comes a point when this style of play starts to derail the plot by refusing the call to adventure that the referee has laid before them. “Vampires? Bullshit. You are all clearly delusional so I’m calling the authorities to section the lot of you. And put that flamethrower down.”

Column A, Column B

A little bit of either approach in a game is fine, and can add some interesting roleplaying friction to the character group. But total acceptance denies the game’s sweet moments of disbelief followed by shocking revelation and finally acceptance, whereas dogged disbelief eventually becomes a lead weight around the plot’s neck, slowing it all down unless and until everyone gets on board.

The challenge that I am struggling to illustrate here is one of roleplaying a character that sits between these two extremes, and knowing how to satisfyingly pace their journey from disbelief to acceptance.

Getting Round The Problem

Now, I love a good investigation game, and I love ‘real people encounter the weird’, so how can we make it so that I do not have this problem in the future? Here’s a few thoughts, some for players, some for referees and some for both.

Player – play a character with experience of the weird

Games like Monster of the Week have this concept baked into their system, so that even if you are playing a one-shot session sending your team of ‘new’ characters to investigate disappearances from a charming Scottish town, the mounting evidence that a family of medusae are behind it all (actual example, copyright G. MacLachlan) should not be beyond the characters’ credibility, even within the confines of the game’s real-world setting.

You are playing experienced monster hunters. Monsters are real. You may not know exactly which monster this is, but you are able to conceive of the possibility that it is something out of the ordinary. Although see the sidebar on roleplaying extremes for possible drawbacks with this approach.

Player – play a character with an innate acceptance of the weird

They may not ever have encountered monsters before, but they are going to be just fine when they realise that strange things are afoot. Perhaps they are ‘a bit psychic’ or have a belief system that already encompasses people returning from the dead, having encounters with aliens or simply believe the Bigfoot footage.

For whatever reason, they are not going to blink much at the concept of strangeness, and thus they will be able to instantly circumvent the belief/disbelief limbo and get on with the adventure. Again though, see the sidebar on Roleplaying Extremes for possible drawbacks with this approach.

Referee – get through the limbo period of disbelief/belief as quickly as possible

One way is for the referee to confront the players with undeniable evidence early on, but this runs the risk of undermining any mounting mystery that you might want in an investigation game. In a sense, this is what the film Ghostbusters does with a great deal of success. They have an early encounter in a library with a ghost, which is followed by the three ‘player characters’ effectively saying to each other “OK then, as some of us suspected, ghosts are real. Now let’s get on with the adventure of busting them.”

There is still plenty to investigate (and terrifying challenges for their characters to encounter), but the basic premise of ‘ghosts are real’ is a hurdle that has been neatly negotiated very early on.

Referee and Players – give the characters drives to fast-track their ‘road to belief’

The characters all start off as real-world people with real world beliefs, but it is agreed by the referee and players that all the characters will have good personal reasons for moving steadily through the limbo of disbelief to belief, and in turn towards the plot, not away from it. It helps if your characters are built with core motivations which propel them toward both the adventure as a whole and the acceptance of weirdness specifically.

Games like Trail of Cthulhu have this concept baked in with their Drive characterisation, although some drives, like Bad Luck and Arrogance are a little weak in this regard. Drives like Curiosity, Thirst For Knowledge and In The Blood – essentially ‘weirdness investigation runs in the family’ – are all excellent for reminding players to drive their characters toward the weirdness, not to ignore it.

Referee – have a The World Is Stranger Than You Think scene

Movies have these all the time, as do the pilot episodes of supernatural TV shows. Effectively the main (player) characters are gathered round and given a little talk by an authority on the subject of the weird, who – and this is crucial – is someone the players have agreed that their characters respect and thus cannot dismiss out of hand. It might be Egg Shen telling Jack Burton about an immortal ghost sorcerer, or Nick Fury presenting a slide show of documented gods and monsters, or Rupert Giles flipping through a history book of slayers and vampires.

The players have agreed to respect the authority figure in this instance, which allows them (through the referee) to ease their characters collectively from belief to disbelief in a single, managed scene. This still allows for some great roleplaying of the “Wait, so you’re saying this shit is real?” variety, but then positions all the characters on more or less the same page and allows everyone to get on with the adventure in hand.

Referee and Players – play a ‘genreless’ game system

One of the very particular features of this very specific problem is that you the player know that you are playing Wail of Wazuzu, while your character does not. By using a genre-free game system, perhaps one cooked up by the referee, you avoid any expectations of weirdness, because the players do not know that they are going to be playing in a horror game, until the actual horror hops up and starts sucking out their salt.

I myself have run and played several one-off tabletop games like this, using a home-brewed variant of the old Marvel Super Heroes system. Each session had a bland title, if any at all, like ‘The Hawaiian Storm Game’ which did not give any indication if the players should expect to encounter horror, magic, time travel or robots (though in that particular instance there turned out to be all of them. Plus the Highlander). Thus their characters were free to react however their players wanted them to react, with no expectations that they should jolly well get on with accepting the weird and break out the flamethrowers, because in this sort of game, the meta-game of discovering the genre is as much fun as the in-game plot and their characters’ individual roads to belief in whatever brand of weirdness that particular game presented them with.

It is also total legit to use this genreless approach to run a perfectly mundane game with no weirdness elements, which can be fun for wrong-footing players who have fallen into the habit of ‘it’s always vampires’. Playing a Scooby Doo-like game where the monster really does turn out to be old man Higgins in a rubber Dracula mask can be just as fun, especially when the characters have taken refuge in a church and the supposed ‘vampire’ just waltzes right in.

In Conclusion

Have I managed to get my very specific problem across? Have I over-thought it? Does the problem actually exist outside of my head? Perhaps you have encountered this problem and have some ideas of your own. Let me know.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Thorin Sits Down And Starts Singing About Gold

I don't have a lot of luck with personal technology devices. I won't bore you with my long and tedious history of arguing with broadband suppliers, laptops coming back from the repair shop with less components than they went in with, or mobiles which have just one button for both power on/off and 'take a photo'. Suffice to say, I have had my share of problems with electronic doohickeys, as I'm sure many others have.

Over the years I have found the process of switching phones, much like getting a new car, so very hideous that I simply do not change my phone very often. I am thus on only my second phone since 2008. (I know right?) It's just a horrible, horrible experience; talking to sales people, getting things set up, transferring things over, getting accidentally signed up to things you don't want, all that sort of thing. You know what I mean. All that stuff.

Incidentally, I marvel at people who get new phones all the time, or just switch laptops and PCs as easy as buying a coffee. All those TV shows and stories where people just run into a shop and get a burner and then go about their day with their new phone. Amazing. I would love to live in their blissful, carefree world.

All of this is leading up to me actually having to get a new phone, after my creaking old MotoG seized up this week and very nearly died completely. I blame the incredibly memory-hungry Stitcher app, but the writing is clearly on the wall for ol' MotoG, so on the advice of my esteemed partner, who seemingly never has any phone problems, I  decided to switch to a new phone - the Vodafone Smart V10 (henceforth known as the V10) - and a new Pay As You Go package - The "£10 Big Value Bundle" (henceforth known as the PAYG10).

Naturally, thanks to my past bad experiences, I was cautious. I really wanted to get this all done in a Vodafone shop where I could sit there and make sure the person in front of me got my phone all sorted for me. But thanks to the pandemic that can't be. So I've done the next best thing and done all of my research online, using the 'live chat' option on the Vodafone website to speak to real human beings.

I usually like live chat. Unlike ringing up a help line, you don't have to worry about crappy call-centre headset audio quality, tricky accents or, a bugbear of mine, getting repeatedly misgendered on account of my stupid voice. None of that with live chat; you type your questions, and they type back to you. Lovely.

Not so today though. After an initially successful live chat with 3 different Vodafone operators to check my options, I decided to make my purchase of a V10 and a PAYG10 using their webstore.

And that is where the real adventure today began.

15:00 - I select my products, enter my payment details, click on Submit Order and...


The website just hangs on the final 'Processing Your Order' page. For about 5 to 10 minutes, then gives up and goes back to the previous page. Rinse and repeat. I try this for about 30 minutes.

16:00 - I  figure I'll phone for help this time, crackly lines and all, and ask them to help me. Long story short, I spend half an hour on the phone, speak to 3 more Vodafone operators and finish off with the last one telling me that there is a problem on the website and I should try to make my purchase again in  or 2 hours. So I ring off.

15:15 - My spider-sense starts to tingle and I suspect that operator #3 on that call might just have been saying something to get rid of me.

So I go back on the live chat to see if I can simply get them to complete the purchase of the V10 and PAYG10 for me.

This live chat started at 17:21.

It ended around 20:30.

Over 3 hours later.

That's 3 hours of me sitting at my laptop, trying to buy a phone and a Pay As You Go package.

Shocking, you might say, terrible. And yes, yes it is. But the real challenge to my mental health came in the details of this 3 hour chat. To wit, the number of people I spoke to.

I was passed on to someone else 13 times. I spoke to 13 different Vodafone operators in 3 hours. Some of them I had long chats with, some said nothing to me before handing me on to someone else. Some were in Sales, some were in Contracts, some in Pay As You Go, some in Retention, some in Updates, and some in Concern (whatever that is). Some were in the Ministry for Administrative Affairs for all I know.

Throughout this, I had to explain to each successive operator what I wanted when they asked how they could help me. Most everyone was terribly polite. Many of them were wholly unsuited to helping me and ultimately (SPOILER ALERT) none of them got me the V10 and PAYG10 that I had asked for. The package which is on their website for the princely sum of £115.

I suspect at least some of them hoped I would simply end the chat and get out of their lives. Perhaps that's how they deal with  insoluble problems - keep passing the customer round until they lose the will to live. Hah! More fool them. It's the weekend, it's a lockdown, I'm not going anywhere and have nothing better to do. So I hung in there, even when I had to explain myself yet again, or got cut off in mid-message or found myself talking to an operator who'd passed me on half an hour earlier. I hung on because it reached a point, sometime around the 90-minute mark I think, that I simply couldn't believe how many times I was going to get passed by this circus of a help centre, like a game of Pass The Parcel.

OK, enough of the ranting, here's the evidence. The one good thing to come out of this is the transcript of my evening with a baker's dozen of Vodafone's Finest. I have edited for typos just for clarity, have removed a few security details, and have added in a few 'Time passes, Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold' breaks to indicate long pauses when Operator has to go and read (or pretend to read in some cases) all that has gone before.

Sadly the transcript seems to have lost the two incredibly brief interactions with operators who simply passed me on within seconds of receiving me. Unai and Calum, I'm looking at you, you teases. We will never know what fascinating chats we might have had.

Not long after it all ended, I read the whole thing aloud to myself and my esteemed partner, who was very patient with the strange voices that I assigned to my 13 interlocutors. I found it surprisingly cathartic. You may find it funny, or annoying, or simply incredibly boring. I can assure you that I found it to be all three.

I find it best if you read my bits in a flat monotone with increasing elements of sarcasm, perhaps in the style of the sainted Alan Rickman, and the Vodafone operators in a variety of friendly, sincere voices, a bit like Eddie the shipboard computer from The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy.

Warning. It is of course quite long. You might need to take a toilet break halfway through. God knows I wanted to.


Reference Number: 190099669619813176
DATE/TIME2020-04-25 17:21:50
Your Chat Transcript
The following is a record of your online chat with Vodafone today
Vodafone : Thanks for choosing to chat with us. An agent will be with you shortly
Neetu : Hi, how can I help you today?
Helena : Hello :) A simple question (hopefully) is there a problem with Checkout on the Vodafone webstore at the moment? I have been unable to complete a purchase for the last hour.
Neetu : No there was no problem going on the website
Neetu : Please do not worry
Neetu : let me do a quick security question first and then I will help you
Helena : OK.
Neetu : Just to confirm are you a new customer to Vodafone?
Helena : No, I am an existing customer. I bought a tablet and a monthly plan earlier this month.
Neetu : Okay
Neetu : May I have your registered email id ?
Helena : xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Neetu : thank you
Neetu : For the security purpose could you confirm xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx?
Helena : xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Neetu : Perfect, that takes care of security.
Helena : Great.
Neetu : Just to confirm you want to add a new contract on your account ?
Helena : No. I want to buy a Vodafone V10 smartphone and a Pay As You Go "£10 Big Value Bundle."
Helena : But the checkout process is getting stuck on the 'Processing Your Order' page, for 5-10 minutes at a time. And then returns me to the previous 'About You' page.
Neetu : Okay no worries let me transfer you to the team
Helena : Thanks.
Neetu : :)
Radha : Hi
Helena : Hello. I am having a lot of problems completing my order. I have been trying for 2 hours. I hope you can help me.
Helena : I want to buy a Vodafone V10 smartphone and a Pay As You Go "£10 Big Value Bundle."
Helena : Can you help me with that?
Radha : Sure We will help you with this nomw
Radha : IN order to place new phone with new Pay as you go mobile number with £10 bundle we have dedicated team on web chat .
Radha : They will help you to place order for you
Helena : OK. go ahead and transfer me.
Radha : Sure
Radha : Please stay connected while I am connecting your chat to them.
Helena : Will do.
Helena : Hi. You are my 9th Vodafone operator today. I hope you can help me.
Ivana : Hi you are chatting with Ivana How can I help?
Helena : Hello Ivana. I want to buy a Vodafone V10 smartphone and a Pay As You Go "£10 Big Value Bundle.". The online checkout process is not working for me though. Can you help me complete my purchase please?
Ivana : Yes I can certainly help you
Helena : Great. Thank you.
Ivana : do you need to register the sim?
Helena : Uh, I don't know! I want a new phone, and I want to transfer my existing number over from my current provider (Three).
Helena : I have a PAC number from Three, which is still valid for 20 days.
Ivana : Oh ok I can do that for you
Ivana : Let me try.
Ivana : How are you otherwise?
Helena : Fine otherwise thanks. But this has been a looong day trying to complete a simple order :)
Ivana : I understand do apologise , I will try my best for you allow me few minutes please .
Helena : Thanks. Take your time.


Ivana : I have to transfer you to the pay as you go team I cant process tis transaction but they be able to do it for you in few moments .
Helena : You do know that I have already been transfered to that team before you?
Vanitaben : Hi, how can I help you today?
Vanitaben : Hi, you're chatting with Vanita. Let me quickly go through the chat, so that I can help you.
Vanitaben : Helena , Just to be sure , you wish to add bundle on your account , correct ?
Helena : Hello. You are now the 10th Vodafone operator that I have spoken to today.
Vanitaben : Thank you
Vanitaben : I am sorry if you felt this way
Helena : I want to buy a Vodaphone V10 smartphone. And I want to buy a £10 Big Value pay as you go bundle.

Helena : Can you help me do that?
Vanitaben : I will surely help you with this
Helena : Thank you.
Vanitaben : You wish to buy bundle for this number , xxxxxxxxxxxxx ?
Helena : That is my existing phone, which I want to transfer over from Three. So, Yes.
Vanitaben : Please allow me a minute
Helena : No problem. Take your time.
Vanitaben : Thank you


Vanitaben : Just to be sure , have you already got pay as you go SIM ( which includes £10 bundle with new phone and once you receive it , you need to bring your old number to pay as you go account , correct ?
Vanitaben : I mean , you wish to get new phone with pay as you go SIM which includes this bunlle
Vanitaben : And then you wish to get your old SIM to pay as you go account .
Helena : Um, sorry. I last bought a phone about 6 years ago, so I'm not entirely sure I understand. I currently have a a very old Moto G and a monthly contract with Three, which I want to cancel. I want to get a new V10 phone and a new Pay As You Go plan.
Vanitaben : Yes , I understand now
Vanitaben : Let me give you step by step explanation
Vanitaben : 1) You need to purchase phone first , I will give you the link and if you wish the contact details of sales team - I will give you that , or if you wish to get connected to our sales team on the chat , I will connect you .

2 ) I will send you pay as you go SIM with new number from here , so once you receive that SIM , Please contact to us and we will add bundle for you Or I am giving you the link to buy directly SIM with the bundle

Here is the link :
Vanitaben : And 3 )Once you receive the SIM , you will need to contact us and give us the pac code and we will bring your old number to this pay as you go SIM
Vanitaben : Here is the contact number of sales team : 08080 408 408
Vanitaben : And here is the link to purchase pay as you go V10 phone with SIM and this bundle
Helena : OK, can I stop you there? I cannot make the phone purchase online. The checkout process keeps getting stuck. That was the initial reason that I started this chat with the 3 people before you.
Helena : I need you to help me buy the phone and the bundle. You or one of the other 9 people before you.
Vanitaben : In this case I am connecting you the sales team and they will help you to place the order .
Helena : I have also called that number you suggested. One of the operators told me that there is a problem with the website. One of the other operators told me that there is not a problem with the website.
Helena : You are now the 12th Vodafone operator I have spoken to today.
Helena : Please review all of the chat that has already happened here before asking me what I want today.
Reem : Hi, you're chatting with Reem. Let me quickly go through the chat, so that I can help you.
Helena : Thank you.


Reem : so sorry for all of this that you have been put through, I do apologise.
Helena : Can you help me?
Reem : You are having issues with pay as you go order
Helena : Yes. V10 phone + pay as you go.
Reem : however I do apologise I am the upgrade team who deals with upgrades. this is a misunderstanding, I will have to transfer you to the correct team and this will be retention team meaning you will be dealt with quicker and better. Don't worry about the issue, I will now tell them what they have to do and you don't have to explain anything to them.
Helena : No. Please do not transfer me again.
Lexie : Hi, you're chatting with Lexie. Let me quickly go through the chat, so that I can help you.
Helena : OK.
Helena : Please note how many times I have already been transferred on this chat.
Lexie : Thanks for waiting.
Lexie : Let me connect with concern team.
Lexie : Please stay connected.
Helena : ...and you are the 13th Vodafone operator I have spoken to today. And the 6th or seventh on this chat alone.
Ana : Hi, how can I help you today?
Helena : Ana. Hello. I have been transferred about 8 times on this chat in the last hour.
Ana : I am really sorry to know about this but let me quickly go through the above chat to get this sorted
Helena : Several people before you have already said those words to me. Forgive me if I am a little sceptical at this point...
Ana : We do understand this but please do not worry we will help you with the best
Ana : Many thanks for your kind patience


Ana : I have checked the above chat and can see that you wanted to Buy a V10 samrtphone and also want to activate the £10 bundle
Helena : Yes, that is correct.
Ana : May I know are you able to buy the phone or place the order from your side ?
Helena : No. That is the whole point of this chat. I cannot complete the order on the Vodafone webstore. I get as far as the 'processing Your Order' screen (after giving my payment details' and then it hangs there fr 5-10 minutes. Then returns me to the previous 'About You' screen.
Ana : Could you please clear the cache and cookies and then try to open the website on the new browser window and then try to please the order
Helena : OK, that sounds like a possible technical solution.
Helena : I am worried that I might accidentally close this window and the chat.
Helena : (I'm using Chrome on a laptop).
Ana : Please minimize the chat and then try
Helena : OK.
Ana : Thank you
Helena : Just clear my cache and cookies now...
Ana : Great now,please open the new browser window and then try to place the order
Helena : Right, I will open a completely new Chrome window. Are you OK to hang on?
Ana : Sure we will stay connected with you
Helena : "Sorry, there's a problem with our site" Sad robot face.
Helena : If I could attach a screenshot, I would.
Helena : The error is when I click on a phone option on the webstore
Ana : Then we to connect you to our sales team and they will be able to help you in placing the order

Helena : You do realise that I have been transfered to that team several times before?
Helena : Argh.
Helena : You are the 9th person I have spoken to on this chat.
Cristian : hello, allow me 2 minutes to read pre-chat so you don't have to repeat yourself
Helena : You'll need longer than that...


Cristian : wow okay that's a long road you have been on, okay your after a V10 Payg phone and to transfer your number over too?
Helena : Yup.
Helena : I should tell you that my patience is running very low. You will note that I have been passed around many of your colleagues, possibly even people in the same team as you. This does not fill me with confidence.
Cristian : I'm just talking to my manager about this give me some tiime
Helena : 'manager'. You said the magic word.


Anas : Hi, you're chatting with Anas. Let me quickly go through the chat, so that I can help you.
Helena : Anas, you are the 10th person to speak to me on this chat.
Anas : I'm really very sorry Helena.

Please allow me couple of minutes to read your previous conversation and will resolve your query.


Helena : How are we doing there? Any progress?
Anas : Hi Helena.

I'm almost completed to read. just few more seconds.
Anas : Thank you for yor patience.

I read your previous entire chat conversation. and came to know that you are looking for new phone. and in that case we have our dedicated sales team who can only place an order while connecting with you. and they will help you order number as well.

Once you get confirm order number on chat. then you will also get confirmation by email or text as well.

I request you to please stay connected and let me connect you with our dedicated sales team who can place an order for you successfully.
Tofique : Hi, how can I help you today?
Tofique : Let me quickly go through the chat, so that I can help you.
Helena : Go for it. You are operator #12 by the way.


Tofique : So I read the survey and I assume you want to get a new phone contract?
Tofique : If so any phones you really liked?
Helena : You have not read the previous chat properly, or you would be able to see that I have mentioned the exact phone and bundle many times already. Please go back and read it again.


Tofique : Apologies, sorry this is the contracts team, however I can help, I can see you want to purchase a Vodafone V10 with a big value bundle?
Tofique : Are you seeing errors on the website?
Helena : Yes. Yes. And yes.
Tofique : Okay well I can see from the chat that other agents have passed you to incorrect department, apologies for that, I looked at the departments who you were transferred to, as you see I only deal with contracts I will then think its best if I transfer you, to our Pay as you go team. Apologies again
Helena : Ah, the Pay as you go team. Again.
Helena : I have been transferred 12 times. 12. Count them.
Helena : Just to buy a phone and a bundle.
Anas : Hi, you're chatting with Anas. Let me quickly go through the chat, so that I can help you.
Helena : Anas, my old friend.
Helena : You may recall me from some time ago. When you transferred me Calum, who transferred me to Tofique, who transferred me back to you?
Anas : Hi Helena.

I remember that. so didn't they help you to place an order for you online?
Helena : No.They did not.
Helena : Anas. I have been on this chat for two whole hours.
Helena : I have been transferred 12 times. 12 times. Can you imagine how I might be feeling right now?
Helena : I need to speak to the highest possible manager now.
Anas : I'm really very sorry. and I can understand that situation.
Anas : As I have checked and when I connected you with our sales team then they lose connection with you so could not help you to place an order and this chat again
Helena : I need you to get this sorted now, Anas. Can you do that for me please?
Anas : I completely understand. and I discussed with my manager your case and if you wish to discuss with my manager then we need to follow the internal escalation process
Helena : Please escalate this.

Anas: Sure
Generally that order can only place by our sales team. they have only access to . as we are from pay as you go service team.
Helena : I am no longer interested in being told which teams can and cannot help me. I only need Vodafone to get this order completed.
Anas : Please allow me few seconds to connect you with my manager.

Please stay connected.
Zoheb : Hello, you're chatting with Zoheb, the manager on shift. Can I get a few minutes to go through your chat so we can find the best way to resolve this?
Helena : Of course. You will need about 10 minutes to read it all, I think.


Zoheb : Thank you for waiting.

I understand that you are trying to purchase a handset with a bundle and it is not going through after the checkout page.l
Zoheb : Really sorry for the trouble this has caused to you.
Helena : That is correct. And the 13 people before you on this chat have been unable to help me. 13 people. (if you count Anas twice)
Helena : I have had a dreadful experience this afternoon.
Zoheb : We haven't had any customers contacting for the same issue. Could you please try to delete cache and cookies of your internet browser and then try or try using a different browser.
Helena : If you read the pre-chat, you will see that I have already tried that, an hour ago, on the advice of Ana.
Helena : I am using Chrome.
Zoheb : Let me check this with the team what can be done in this case.
Helena : Thank you.
Zoheb : I have checked this with the team and they have to say that there is no such issue on the site. You may try using internet explorer and see if that helps.
Helena : Very well.
Helena : I am trying Edge.
Zoheb : I'm right here.
Helena : Entering card details...
Helena : Review Order. Ticked the T&C box. Clicking Submit Order now...
Helena : Processing Your Order page (with robot head)...
Helena : This is where it got stuck 3 hours ago.
Helena : Still processing Your Order...
Helena : Still going...
Zoheb : Okay.
Helena : Still Processing...
Zoheb : This is odd and should not happen. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I will need to forward this to the dedicated team so that they are aware of this.
Helena : Still hanging. The little robot head is just cycling through its speech balloons.
Helena : This is the original problem I reported in this chat.
Zoheb : I'm really sorry for the trouble this has caused to you Helena. This is really odd and should not happen.
Zoheb : The only thing I can do is request you to try tomorrow and I'm sure it will go through.
Helena : Zoheb. You realise that I have spent over two hours on this chat today?
Helena : And none of you have been able to help me buy a Vodafone V10 and £10 bundle?
Helena : It should not be this hard.
Helena : Getting me to go away and try again tomorrow is unacceptable.
Zoheb : I understand that you have spent your valuable time on something which should have not taken more than 5 minutes. I would have surely sorted this for you, however, it seems to be an issue with the site which I will have to report.
Helena : Let us suppose that this happens to me tomorrow, or the day after. Do you expect me to spend another two hours speaking to 14 different people online?
Zoheb : I understand how valuable your time is and you shouldn't be spending so much time to resolve this. To be honest this should not have happened in the first place but I'm sure that it should not happen again tomorrow.
Helena : I have had a truly terrible experience with Vodafone today.
Zoheb : It could be that the team is making some changes on the site and it could be causing this issue.
Zoheb : Sorry to know that Helena.
Helena : You will forgive me if I am, as I said to one of your many, many predecessors today, sceptical that anything will improve tomorrow.
Helena : Even if the technical problems with either my laptop or the website are solvable, do you think that I have should have been passed around your teams so many times today, seemingly at random? How many times one of them said to me 'I'm sorry, this is the wrong team'?
Zoheb : I agree with you and it should not have happened and you shouldn't have been passed so many times.
Zoheb : Please be assured that proper feedback will be provided to all the advisors.
Helena : It's my time wasted, but it's Vodafone's reputation that is taking the real hit here.
Helena : Please do feedback to all concerned. Some of your operators didn't even speak to me before passing me on to the next one. Unai and Calum come to mind.
Zoheb : Please be assured that proper feedback will be provided to all the advisors.
Zoheb : I'm sorry that you have had to go through this.
Helena : I wish I could keep a transcript of this entire chat. Just to scare children at Halloween.
Zoheb : Please accept my sincere apologies for this. This should not have happened.
Helena : Apologies accepted. And they're all very well. But honestly. We have all spent a lot of time today on this. I am about to walk away and report my experience on every tech platform that I can, and I am no closer to doing the simplest thing: buying a phone and a pay as you go bundle.
Zoheb : Sorry to know this Helena. I wished I could have sorted this for you. The best we can do is wait till tomorrow and try.


Helena : I guess you're waiting for me to end the chat now..?


Zoheb : Sorry I had connection issues
Helena : OK, so I guess we are done now, and you would just like me to close this chat?
Zoheb : Is there anything else I can help you with?
Helena : 'Anything else'? No, nothing else. You have done some excellent apologising, so well done for that. I'm not sure what else you can do.
Helena : For my part, I think I have coped with surprising patience and politeness throughout.
Zoheb : I completely understand that you have put your valuable time in ordering the phone and not getting it through. The advisors should have informed you in the very beginning to try later rather than being passed for 14 times.
Helena : Yes they should.
I'm looking forward to filling in the 'Rate how we did' feedback form at the end of the chat.
Zoheb : You will get the survey when you end the chat.
Zoheb : Do you want me to go ahead and end the chat?
Helena : Yes please Zoheb. I think you have done as much as you are capable of tonight. Perhaps we will speak again.
Zoheb : Thank you for contacting Vodafone. Stay safe!


Post script: There was no post-chat survey. A pity. Perhaps they disabled it before I could share some of my thoughts with their customer satisfaction team.