Why I Will Never Buy Anything From Tesco Mobile Again!

I Become a Tesco Mobile Customer in Dec 2013

On the 5th December 2013 I signed up (online) for an iPhone 5s and took out a 24 month contract with Tesco Mobile.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I am a customer and advocate of giffgaff. So why did I, in addition to continuing as a giffgaff customer, also became a Tesco Mobile customer?

The need to buy a second phone, and have a second phone number, arose for business reasons.  The decision to go with Tesco Mobile was based to a large degree on the Nunwood placing Tesco Mobile at no 13 in it’s 2013 Customer Experience rankings.  You can read my post on those rankings here.

About a week after (around the 12th December) the phone had arrived and I activated it.  It worked fine. I was happy with the choice I had made and got busy with organising Christmas as for once we were not travelling but staying home.

I Hit An Important Snag This Week: Vital Functionality is Not There

This week, on Monday, I was in a business meeting and needed access to the internet to access documents in the cloud. So I turned to my iPhone (as I had done for the last three years or so) to turn on the personal hotspot and use that to enable my laptop to connect to the Internet. To my surprise and disbelief I couldn’t find the functionality on the iPhone.

During Tuesday I checked on the internet and talked with some people.  They couldn’t find the personal hotspot functionality on my iPhone 5s -yet it was on their iPhones! So I rang Tesco Mobile for help.  How helpful were the folks?

Technical Support Showed Up as Honest and Helpful

The chap in Tesco Mobile’s Technical Support was great. I told him of my issue, he got it, he sympathised. He told me that whilst the personal hotspot/tethering functionality worked on other phones it didn’t on Apple iPhones. Why? Because Tesco Mobile has not struck up a suitable agreement with Apple.  When I shared the impact of this lack of functionality, he was great. He told me he understood. That this issue has been raised by other iPhone customers. And that he raised the issue within Tesco Mobile.  Unfortunately, management has decided not to do anything about it. By the time I ended the phone call I got his frustration, his disappointment at lack of suitable action by Tesco Mobile’s management, and his desire to do his best for customers like me.

Customer Services Quotes Policy and Points The Finger At Me

After taking time to consider my options given that I need that personal hotspot/tethering functionality I rang Tesco Mobile’s Customer Service team.  The woman who responded to my call was not great.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: I need the personal hotspot/tethering functionality. This week I found that it was not present on my iPhone 5s when I really needed it. I talked to Technical Support and they told me it is not active because Tesco Mobile has not come to a suitable agreement with Apple.  I need your help to get this issue sorted out.

Call Centre Agent: There is nothing I can do that functionality is simply not there.  It is not there for Apple products. It is there for other products.

Me: I had an iPhone (for 2- 3 years) previously through my employer on the O2 network, the personal hotspot/tethering worked fine. I used it all the time when I was travelling. I travel a lot for business and I really need that functionality. If I had known that this functionality is not present on the iPhone with Tesco Mobile then I would never have bought it. What can you do to help me with this issue?

Call Centre Agent: You had 14 days from the day of the contract to try out the iPhone, send it back and cancel your contract.  You didn’t do that. I can’t help you.

Me: I need help with my issue, I don’t need you or anyone else to quote the contract at me.  The fact is that I didn’t need the personal hotspot/tethering functionality until this week. And it is only this week that I became aware of it. Can you give me dongle that I can plug into my laptop and the data usage comes out of my existing contract?  That would sort out the issue.

Call Centre Agent: we are a mobile company we don’t do dongles. There is nothing I can do.

Me: My contract with Tesco Mobile consists of two parts, the phone and the monthly tariff for calls and data.  I’d like to repay, today, in full the outstanding payments for the phone and cancel the contract.  That way you are not out of pocket as I have repaid the cost of the phone. And I can go to another provider who does provide the functionality I need. Can I do that?

Call-Centre Agent: Yes, you are on the anytime upgrade plan. You should be able to do that.

Me: Can you please look into that right now and let me know what it will cost for me to end this contract?

Call-Centre Agent: I’ve looked into. If you want to terminate the contract then you have to pay off the entire contract. That comes to £610 for the iPhone and another £300 for the tariff.

Me: Thank you.

My Take on Tesco Mobile and It’s Orientation Towards Its Customers

Everything flows from being. It occurs to me that the being of Tesco Mobile is anything but customer-centric.  It is selfish. It is mean. It is extractive. It is dishonest.  What leads me to make this statement?

Folks in Tesco Mobile know that the Apple line of products is missing the personal hotspot/tethering functionality. Yet they have chosen to hide this information from those who search for and look at iPhones: nowhere on the website (product page, help and support pages, purchase process pages) have I found anything that informs prospective customers – so that any purchases made are made with open eyes.

Tesco Mobile is the source of my problem and when I brought the problem to Tesco Mobile’s attention, policy was quoted, and the finger of blame was pointed at me. What is my wrong doing? Assuming that because my last iPhone (with 02) had the personal hotspot/tethering functionality then the same functionality would be present on Tesco Mobile. Please note that Tesco Mobile is a MVNO that uses the 02 network.

All through my conversation with the call-centre agent I was the one suggesting ways of moving forward- the dongle idea, terminating the contract – no helpful ideas were put forward by the call-centre agent, her attitude was one of indifference (at best)

I offered Tesco Mobile a fair route to solving the problem – one that would have paid them back for the cost of the mobile phone in full, and the tariff charges to date.  Tesco Mobile didn’t go for that. Tesco Mobile insisted in charging me for the phone (which is fair) and for the whole 24 months of tariff charges.  Which, in my eyes, amounts:

  • to letting me down by not providing the functionality that other networks do provide;
  • causing me extra work in that I am faced with the work of finding and switching to another provider; and
  • insisting on robbing me by charging me for 22 months of a service (phone calls, texts, data) that they will not be providing and I will not be using.

Summing Up

As I think of Tesco Mobile, the phrase “liar, thieves and cheats” come to mind.  Put differently, it occurs to be that Tesco Mobile’s fundamental mode of being is that of a liar, a thief, a cheat. My experience suggests that liar-thieves-cheats don’t easily change their ways. Which is why I will never buy anything from Tesco Mobile again.

I recommend that you think twice before becoming a customer of Tesco Mobile especially if the phone that you intend to use is an Apple iPhone!

Afterword / Update

What happened when this post got retweeted on Twitter? You can find out by clicking here.


Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

10 thoughts on “Why I Will Never Buy Anything From Tesco Mobile Again!”

  1. Maz – Happy New Year. The mobile industry is broken from a service point of view IMHO. Two or three years ago I had one of the earliest touch-screen blackberries on O2. It basically didn’t work, it rebooted 3-4 times a day, and would be (effectively) dead for minutes at a time. After the third time of going to the store and explaining that I had been an O2 customer as long as they had existed, and a blackberry user for more than 10 years, they completely understood my situation. They immediately gave me a choice of new phone and terminated the contract. Oh sorry, that’s what they should have done. What they actually did was tell me there was nothing they could do since I still have 9 months of a 24 month contract to run, which I could pay up in full.

    That day I deserted blackberry and O2.


    1. Hello John,

      Great to hear from you. I thank you for your best wishes and for sharing your experience and take on the mobile industry. What can I say? To a large extent I find myself in agreement with you. And today, this very day, a understanding professional chap (Niky) from Tesco Mobile has come forward with a fair proposal. So at personal level, I am experiencing a change and hope that the mobile industry gets the importance of treating customers right.

      I wish you the very best for this new year. And I look forward to the day our paths cross. I’ll buy the coffee.

      At your service / with my love


  2. Maz, hopefully Tesco customer service isn’t so broken that they miss this post!

    I am so sorry for your frustrating experience, but agree that they are not alone in the world of Telecom for this lack of customer centricity. Luckily I live in Switzerland where Swisscom has the exact opposite approach and go above and beyond in terms of helping their customers.

    May I take this chance to congratulate you on the high and regular quality of your posts ; I really enjoy reading them.


    1. Hello Denyse,

      Tesco customer service is not that broken. An understanding customer service professional (Niky) has reached out to me. He has listened, he has consulted internally, and he has come forward with a proposal that is fair. I plan to write about that experience in a follow up post. In my world, it is ok to make mistakes as long as you clean up the mess made such that all parties are at peace with the solution.

      I find myself touched by your kindness-generosity in sharing how my speaking lands for you. Given that I write to be of service and make a contribution it makes a big difference to hear what contribution I am or am not making.

      Last but not least, please know that I am grateful that you exist. I wish you the very best living in this new year. And If you are ever in the UK then you have a friend in me – so let me know and I will strive to meet up with you.

      At your service / with my love


  3. Maz, how bad is that?

    I heard a great quote the other day

    As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it ~ Dick Cavett

    I promise to avoid Tesco for my weekly shop



    1. Hello James
      Yes, if I behave as a doormat then I invite others to treat me as a door mat. If as a customer I accept crap then I encourage suppliers to provide crap. What I can say is that one man in Tesco has followed up with me since my post and we are working together to an amicable resolution.

      As for your support, I appreciate it.



  4. Maz,
    What an amazing story.

    Sometimes, I’m a bit of a luddite and I must say that I’ve never used or investigated if I can set up a personal hotspot on my iPhone.

    However, your experience just goes to show that it is the little things that make all of the difference.



  5. It would be good to add in a prominent position that tethering is now enabled. Otherwise readers who read your interesting article but don’t reach Marek’s post may think otherwise and give up.


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