This post will be long and possibly a bit negative – I completely understand if you want to skip it and wait until we’ve posted something more interesting. Won’t be offended one bit.
Buying a SIM card in Sweden
Go to shop.
‘I’d like to buy data for my laptop please.’
‘Here is our range of products – which would you like?’
‘I’ll have that one. Here is my credit card.’
Leave shop with data stick and SIM card. Plug in – surf, Skype, work etc. to our heart’s content.
Buying a SIM card in Finland
Go to newsagent.
‘I’d like to buy data for my laptop please.’
‘Here is our range of products…’ etc etc
Leave shop with new SIM card. Plug in – surf, Skype, work etc. to our heart’s content.
Buying a SIM card in Germany
Day 1 (told you this would be long)
Go to shop.
‘I’d like a data SIM card please.’
‘We only have one product. It costs the same as the Swedish one but only gives you a third of the data allowance.’
‘Oh. Well, we better have it.’
‘I need to see your passport.’
‘Oh.’ (Walk back to van in rain to collect passport)
‘Here is my passport. And my credit card.’
‘We don’t accept credit cards.’
‘Oh.’ (Walk back to van in rain to get cash as we only crossed the border an hour ago and he doesn’t have any € in his wallet yet)
Fill in paperwork, sign three forms. Leave shop with SIM card. Plug in data stick with new SIM card – doesn’t work.
Go back to shop. Explain that it doesn’t work.
‘I will ask our technical guy to have a look. He will be here in 5 minutes.’
5 minutes later – ‘Our test PC is downloading updates – you have to wait for 20 minutes.’
20 minutes later – ‘It doesn’t work because your data stick is locked. It won’t work outside Sweden.’
‘But it worked in Finland.’
‘Oh. Well, it won’t work here.’
So we buy another data stick. Take new data stick and yesterday’s SIM card back to van and plug in – doesn’t work.
Go back to shop. Explain that it doesn’t work. Shop guy (very helpful by the way) phones a helpline.
‘There is a problem loading the credit onto your SIM card. It will be fixed in an hour.’
Go back to van, have lunch. Check again in an hour – it doesn’t work. Shop guy phones helpline again. They say there is nothing wrong with the card. We test it on our laptop in the shop and show him it doesn’t work. He rings helpline again.
‘There is still a problem loading the credit. It will be fixed in 24 hours.’
We explain that isn’t good enough and ask for a refund so we can buy something that works. He offers us a replacement SIM card with 2 days free access to tide us over until the other one is fixed. Leave shop with replacement SIM card – and it works! Whoo hoo.
We move on. Try the old SIM card at the end of the day – 24 hours are up but it still doesn’t work. Still have replacement card though.
Replacement card no longer works – 2 days free access includes the day we were given it, even though we only started using it in the evening. Original card still doesn’t work. We’ve moved on, D has done the work he needs to for the time being, so we decided to sort it out when we get to Hamburg.
We enjoy pottering around on the banks of the Elbe, eating plum cake and boozy icecream sundaes. The weather is glorious.
We stop at another Media Markt (huge multi media superstore chain in Europe. Not so super as you will see.)
Explain the problem to the shop guy. We want the credit from the card that doesn’t work transferred onto the card that does work but has no credit left. He speaks to helpline (needs to see D’s passport before he will call them) – they say there is no problem with the card. We test it and show him there is. He calls helpline again. They say their technical people won’t be available until Monday so nothing can be done until then. We say that is no good – we’ve had this card for 6 days now and still haven’t been able to use it. We ask for a refund. He speaks to his manager who says we can’t have a refund because we registered the SIM card in a different shop. We ask to speak to his manager’s manager. He says we can’t have a refund because the fault is not Media Markt’s but the SIM card provider’s. The SIM card provider keep saying that there is nothing wrong with the card. We realise that we are fighting a losing battle and leave. We go to nearest town to try and buy a SIM card from someone else.
Shop 1 (Vodafone) – normally have them, but are out of stock. Tell us to go to ‘World of Communication’.
Shop 2 (O2) – have them, but don’t think that it will work with our data stick which they think is locked to Debitel. Tell us to go to the Debitel shop.
Shop 3 (Debitel) – explain the problem with our existing SIM cards. She can’t help because they are a franchise – Media Markt are the retailer and should fix the problem. We agree. Ask if she has a new SIM card – normally does but is out of stock and won’t get any for 4 days. She tells us that the data stick is unlocked though.
Shop 4 (World of Communications) – don’t have SIM cards, just complete packages.
Back to O2 – he is still not convinced that their SIM cards will work and their cheapest one is €50 so we are not prepared to take the risk. He said it would be cheaper to go to Tchibo and buy a complete package from them.
Shop 5 (Tchibo) – have the package, is relatively cheap. However, the packaging doesn’t say how much data or time allowance you get and shop lady doesn’t know – she shrugs and turns her back on us to serve someone else. We leave.
Have a great evening with friends in Hamburg. They try to help us load credit onto the card that works online (we’ve tried but our German isn’t good enough). There is a problem with the website and it doesn’t work.
Sunday – a day of rest.
We go to the tourist office of the town we are in. They have a computer we could use, but no wifi. We ask if there is a cafe with wifi. There isn’t. We ask if there is a telecoms shop. There isn’t. Leave tourist information and see a Vodafone shop across the square (isn’t that a telecoms shop?). They normally have SIM cards but are out of stock. They can sell us the complete package with another data stick, but it will cost €50. We walk down the road and see a shop with a Vodafone sign in the window.
‘We need some data for our laptop. Can you help us?’
‘Would you like me to put some credit on your SIM card?’
‘Yes please!’ (No-one else has mentioned this, even when we explained we already have a SIM card)
Five minutes later ….WE HAVE DATA! AND IT WORKS!!!
We don’t know how much data we have or how long it will last, but have coffee and waffles to celebrate. Tomorrow we start being tourists again, taking photos etc. and not spending several hours a day trying to buy bloody data.
Good to get that off my chest. I’ll let you go now. And I’ve just realised that it is actually the tale of three SIM cards but the title wouldn’t work as well.