Yesterday I bought a mobile broadband package from Vodafone - I made the purchase from Vodafone's on-line store. Nothing unusual about this purchase - I'm not a Vodafone customer, but buying the mobile dongle and the €19.99 monthly plan was very straight-forward and easy. BTW - Happy Christmas Mum! (please anybody reading this don't tell her before Christmas!!!).
On my way to the train this morning I stopped off at The Carphone Warehouse shop in Blackrock at 09.00 to make the purchase - I was passing by and thought this would be easy. I also thought I would have the dongle for the coming weekend and check it out before Christmas Day. First - I felt that I was interrupting the guy in the shop, no welcome or smile to greet a new customer. When I asked about Vodafone Broadband, he informed me that it would be no problem. Buying a package as a gift would not cause any difficulties - it was OK for me to pay the bill and someone else to use the connection. He said I'd need photo ID - no problem, I produced my driver's licence. Then he said I'd need a utility bill as proof of residence. Because I did not have one on me, he said that he could not do anything for me - I'm not believing this! So - that's it, I'd have to come back with an ESB bill. As I was leaving the shop I suddenly remembered that I get bills by email (eircom, O2, eFlow, etc) - I could show him one on my iPhone, genius! But no Dumbo - this would not work either, it had to be a paper copy which he needed to staple to the order. I finally gave up, grumbling about this archaic practice still in use in the 21st century.
Vodafone.ie did not ask me for ID, nor did it ask for any proof of residence, but it didn't smile at me either. It's ridiculous that buying on-line (it just accepted my details) is so easy compared to walking into a shop. OK - the commission for The Carphone Warehouse on this purchase is probably very small, but they lost a potential customer. No doubt Vodafone make them do this, perhaps it's even a tactic to drive buyers towards the website by making it more convenient and easy to buy on-line.
If shops want to survive and compete against on-line stores, they'll have to change with the times. A paper copy of a bill? - FFS! Maybe they should be allowed to accept an email copy of a bill (I could have done this in seconds right there in the shop), and attached it to an order. There must be an easier way.