Using my iPhone in Italy

Since in the States I was able to fulfill a two year contract for my iPhone, when it was time to come to Italy I was allowed to unlock it. This was a huge deal for me, because I could keep using Charlie without changing anything, just the SIM card.

Once in Italy I browsed around looking for the best deal and inquired within three different phone companies. Even though all of them were offering reasonably priced contracts (compared to what we pay in the States at least), I eventually decided to go with Wind, which at the time was running a promotion; a 5 year contract for €9 per month with these specifics:

  • 150 minutes of outgoing calls per month (incoming calls are free);
  • 150 outgoing texts per month (incoming texts are free);
  • Unlimited Internet.

I signed up almost three months ago, and have been very happy since… until my trip to Paris last week. I wanted to be able to navigate the Internet while there (you know, for maps, info, Whatsapp, etc.), so I paid €9 Euros for a service that would have allowed me to use up to 100MB for a week. I signed up by sending a text message, got a confirmation, again, trough text message, and off I went. Pretty easy and smooth.

But when I got to Paris and tried to make it work, nothing happened. I tried for the first three days, then gave up. Once back home, I called the company on a Tuesday, which was the last day of the service. I called once and an automatic voice said to call back later, because no operator was available at the time (I mean, they didn’t even put me on hold, just said to call back). I called twice. Same thing. I went to a Wind store in the afternoon. The assistant called the call center from the store itself, apparently he didn’t have the power to do anything. And, he got the same message. The day went by and with it went the chance for me to call again (kids, homework, dinner…).

I did it the day after. Finally I was able to talk to an operator. I explained my situation. She checked and confirmed that I didn’t use any data while abroad. BUT since I called the day after the week had passed, I wasn’t entitled to request any refund. So I told her that I did call, three times, but there was no way I could talk to anyone because I kept getting the message to call back later. Well, she said, I’m sorry, but if the call didn’t go thru, there’s nothing I can do.

I stressed the fact that the call didn’t go thru not because of me, but because of them. Still. No refund for me. I asked to talk to her manager. You can’t, she said, I’m the one in charge of the call.

Finally, I asked her to give me an address where I could send a complain to (FYI, that would be some extra $3, because it has to be registered mail). She did.

As you can imagine, I was fuming at the end of the call, you could almost see black smoke coming out from my nostrils and ears. Now I wonder, am I just too used to the excellent American customer service or am I overreacting?


  1. Rossella says

    Nope! no overreaction! I fought for better customer service in Italy years back when we had to connect dsl at my mom’s apartment, it was an unnecessary long nightmare. I went through the same thing, asked to talk with a manager and they said I couldn’t, just exactly the same! My complaint letter probably went into their trash can. I hope yours makes it through. Either people aren’t motivated to work because their position is permament and it’s hard to fire them so they feel entitled to do whatever they want, or their paycheck is so ridiculous and the job satisfaction is so low that they plainly don’t care, of course it might just be “cultural” too, but what culture wouldn’t want to improve customer experience so they can sell more?
    Either way the situation has been what it is over there for years and according to this post it doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better. What do you think should be done to fix it?

    • Francesca Tosolini says

      Many things could be done to fix this, but first of all Italians should get out of this bureaucratic rigidity. There are so many people, especially young people, who are so willing to change things for the better, but they can’t, they are not allowed to. And really, there isn’t much you can do right now. Everything you say above is true: no motivation, low income, culture. I think the main difference between Americans and Italians is that Americans fight and are heard, but when Italians fight, nothing happens. As a result they stop fighting, because they already know the outcome. It’s pretty sad.

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