Cancellation Karma

I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I can’t say I was either shocked nor surprised how hard it was. Even though logic and reason would make you think it would be easy. Where shall I begin this tale? Let’s go back to May 2011, very briefly. I emerged from the Three shop in Bournemouth with a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S2. On a two year contract, with Three. Two years, in theory. But not if Three could help it. Let’s fast forward two years. My contract ends, so I call them. I don’t want to renew, and I can sense their fear. But I just want to switch to a cheaper rolling month by month contract. I don’t need to be paying for the phone itself anymore. They breathe a sigh of relief.

But the Samsung Galaxy S2 was a dated phone, and I was waiting for something better to come along. It came – the HTC One. I bought a brand new contract rather than upgrade the old. For a good reason, but one that is unimportant to the story. So I called up to cancel the S2. Alas, their cancellation lines are only open from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. So I waited till I had time during the week. I had to wait three weeks.


I finally got through last week. I explained the situation. I have a new phone. And I have bought it with Three, so fear not I haven’t left you! Just need to cancel the old contract please. ‘I can definitely help you with that, sir‘, came the reply. Followed by, ‘but what most of our customers do, sir, is….‘. Followed by scripted bilge. I asked him if more than 50% of Three customers have two contracts and two phones with Three? He wasn’t sure. I reminded him that he’d just told me that, in effect, ‘most’ customers do. Which is nonsense.

Seriously, I have a new phone with Three. I do not need two. No one else in the house wants this contract, they all have there own. Just cancel it. ‘I can definitely help you with that, sir‘, <pause as a page is turned> ‘but what most of our customers do, sir, is….‘. No, really, just cancel it. ‘I can definitely help you with that, sir‘, <pause as a page is turned> ‘but what most of our customers do, sir, is….‘. This continued for, and I kid ye not, for nearly 30 minutes. Before he finally yielded, with great reluctance, and transferred me to the cancellation department. Jesus H Christ, I hadn’t even been speaking to someone who could actually cancel the bleeding contract! And he had just spent half an hour promising that ‘he could definitely help me with that’. When, in fact, that was the one thing that he couldn’t do at all!

The policy was eventually cancelled, after further hanging on hold until someone who could cancel a policy picked up the call. But not before a few more efforts at retention were made. What was the net result of that call? Mrs P’s contract is up. We are shortly going to get her a new phone. It was going to be on Three. Now it will not be with Three. Too difficult to cancel when the time comes. Their efforts to save a customer cost a customer. Cancellation karma indeed.

The telephone sales industry really does need to be looked at by regulators. I know this from experience. Not this experience. From working in the telephone sales industry, Service is shoddy. Miss-selling is closer to being the norm rather than the exception. Sales scripts are closer to harassment and bullying than they are banter. Most firms should probably have their outbound dialing departments shut down. Many should probably have their Inbound departments closed two. And new regulations should definitely be implemented. I have my own list of regulations that I would like to see.

  • If a call centre is open and available to sell a policy or provide a quote, it should also be able to amend or cancel a policy. Opening hours for both sales and cancellations should be the same.
  • If an 0800 (free) number is available for sales, then ALL numbers provided to customers for other purposes should be free.
  • If you can buy a contract or policy online, then the company must also make it possible to cancel online.
  • If a customer asks to cancel a policy, they must be put through to an agent who can cancel the policy immediately. Any attempt to retain should be a breach of regulations.
  • Retention agents handling cancellations should be permitted to ask why the customer wishes to cancel. Once. They can offer to transfer the customer to a sales agent if they would like to explore better offers. Once. Otherwise, the policy or contract should be cancelled immediately.
  • Any company failing to cancel a policy within five minutes of answering the call should be fined. Heavily. There’s no reason it should take any longer.
  • Agents should not be allowed to sell a quote from an outbound ‘cold call’. The customer must ring back.
  • I could go on. But you’re bored already.

11 thoughts on “Cancellation Karma

  1. tancho says:

    It’s exactly the same in the States, I tried to cancel my sat tv, and if you are stupid enough to press the number for cancellations, that agent computer tells you that the wait time is between 20 and 25 minutes. So then you can get another rep that once they find out you want to cancel sends you to the customer retention department. Finally I told them that my eyesight was too poor to watch tv anymore and that ended the transaction immediately without any more BS. All in all it took me about 2 hours and two days to complete the transaction… bad we can’t bill them for it.


    • Any contract can be difficult to cancel, purely due to obstructive retention agents. Phones are the most infamous in the UK. I dare say they’re not any better in the US. I’ve also heard similar stories to yours with cable companies.


  2. This reminds me of my efforts to cancel my America Online account in the early 2000’s. In the 90’s, it was a wonderful service, but by the 90’s it had been pretty much rendered moot by the internet.

    Of course I had heard the horror stories of how difficult it was to cancel. The reputation was that they basically tried every trick in the book to keep you.

    So I cooked up a story.

    When I called them, I told them that I had joined the Peace Corps and would be stationed in Gabon where there was no internet at all, and that we’d be lucky to have electricity every day. Even with that story, there was plenty of debate as to whether I was entirely sure that I’d want to cancel such an invaluable and irreplaceable service. Might I return from time to time and need my service? Was I completely sure? Wasn’t the internet coming soon to Gabon? And on, and on, and on.

    I stood my ground, and after about a half hour, managed to cancel the service.

    I’m not sure I agree with all your proposed regulations, but I do agree with the basic concept that it should be relatively easy to cancel once you’ve completed your end of the contract.

    Bloody vultures!


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where our experience of a cellphone in DF included getting daily marketing calls, to which I always answered in English, but could only cancel in Spanish. This seems to be an international problem.


    • Oh AOL! Boy do I remember them! I had to cancel with them back in the 90’s too. But I had set some obscure passcode that I couldn’t remember and they refused to cancel until I faxed them (email? No sirree, that would be too easy) ID . They continually refused to accept that they had received my fax. I cancelled the easy way instead. I went onto their online forums and left expletive ridden messages, promising to continue to do so, until they cancelled. They did so within hours, for breaching their terms and conditions. Victory was mine.

      I’m sure my regulatory plan would meet many objectors, not just yourself. But having had an inside view on outbound dialing…it really is such a scam.


    • I used to feign interest, ask them to hold on a moment, and then put the phone down and carry on with whatever I was doing. Remarkably, some would hold on for me to come back in excess of ten minutes.


  3. I cancelled something else today. Welcome to the Sun+ Live Chat service. Please note that all Live Chats are recorded for training purposes. Please wait, you are currently 1 in the queue and an Online Advisor will be with you soon.

    You’re now chatting with Hannah. How can I help you?
    Hannah: Hello, you’re chatting with Hannah. I’m here to help you with any questions you may have about Sun+.
    Gary Denness: Hi there, I just want to cancel my membership please
    Hannah: Hi Gary- that’s not a problem.
    Hannah: Could I please take your full name and e-mail address so I can get that done for you.
    Gary Denness: Gary Denness – garydenness at
    Hannah: Thanks for that- please bear with me for one moment.
    Gary Denness: No problem.
    Hannah: Right, that’s all done for you.
    Hannah: Your membership will run until the 17th of September.
    Hannah: Is there anything else I can do for you today?
    Gary Denness: Thanks very much.
    Gary Denness: No, that was very helpful, thanks.I tried the £1 for the first month trial. It’s an ok service, but I wouldn’t pay the £8 something per month normal price. I did it online via chat….

    That is how it should be done.


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