My Hepatitis C Story

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For 33 years my life has taken a path it wasn’t supposed to.

Whilst that life has been extraordinary and full of immense joy and I wouldn’t change it one bit, in October last year I learned that it had been limited. I learned that the immense tiredness I suffer from – which I had put down to the normal life of a new parent running a business; that the aches, pains and lack of fitness – which I had put down to a naturally sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, all had a hidden cause found in an event that took place on 30th April 1986, when I was just two years old.

I was born with a ventricular septal defect, more commonly known as a hole in the heart. My parents sought the very best treatment they could afford. I was fortunate enough to be placed under the care of one of the leading cardiologists in the world and one of the world’s leading heart surgeons. I underwent surgery in one of the leading private hospitals in the world to repair the VSD and, to the relief of my parents, all had gone to plan. I knew no difference, of course, and annual check ups with this world leading cardiologist followed and aged 16, I was given the all clear to live a full and normal life.

To my parents, further relief. To me – carte blanche to do what any teenager in the 1990s did… drink to excess whenever I could get away with it. University followed and then a career in an uber-thirsty industry. It’s safe to say the drinking mantra really held true.

From my mid-teens, my ability to recover from physical exercise got progressively worse. I suffered from foot, knee and then chronic back pain. Several attempts at personal training courses and marathon preparation ended in failure as they destroyed my body and spirit. Just an unfit, overweight so-and-so who couldn’t stay the course, I told myself. A failure…

On 18th October 2018, I learned that the failure was not mine. Several weeks prior I had been laid up in bed with unusually severe joint and muscle pain – similar to those experienced with bad flu, without the headache – and – rarely for me – I sought the doctor’s help. Blood tests ensued and I was referred to a consultant haematologist via my private medical insurance on the basis of suspected haemochromatosis – a condition that sees your body keep too much iron in the blood, leading to joint pain. A further benefit to my private medical cover was more extensive tests. Whilst away on business in Lisbon, I received a call from the consultant saying that, whilst I didn’t have haemochromatosis, the tests had thrown up a surprising result.

I had Hepatitis C.

She went through common causes of the disease, all tied to person to person transfer of blood:

a) Ever shared a needle whilst partaking in drugs? No.
b) A visit to a low-brow tattoo parlour? No.
c) Homosexual sex? No.
d) Did your mother have it whilst you were in utero? No.
e) Do you share razors or toothbrushes with anyone? No.
f) Ever had a blood transfusion? Hmmm. I don’t think so, but I did have open heart surgery in 1986…

In the 1970s and 1980s, the NHS in the UK bought blood product from the United States. Large groups of paid donors were used (as many as 60,000 per batch, and including prisoners and drug addicts); it only required one infected donor to contaminate an entire batch, which would then infect all of the patients that received that material.
It took an incredibly extensive research process for me to determine whether or not I was given blood product during my surgery – fortunately I had the time and wherewithal to know who to speak to. My medical notes were not clear, but I had been told, by cardiologists practicing today and in yesteryear, that in all probability, whilst a transfusion was unlikely, I would have received blood product – product which private hospitals sourced from the NHS – as part of a cardiopulmonary bypass, which was routine for the surgery at the time. Eventually, this was confirmed by perfusion records held by the private Harley Street Clinic, where I had undergone surgery in 1986.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

I have had it for 33 years.

I visited a consultant hepatologist who confirmed the diagnosis and performed a fibroscan on my liver there and then. The anxiety I felt during this was horrendous.
I have fibrosis of the liver.

Fibrosis is the formation of an abnormally large amount of scar tissue in the liver, causing it to not function as it should.

On a chart of a healthy liver and a fully cirrhotic liver, my liver is just beyond halfway bad, but not life threatening for now. In my head, utter relief – I had a second chance. The reality is I have liver disease. No alcohol, an improved diet and fitness regime were the orders of the day, but the fatigue will ensue until such time as my liver recovers. That may never happen, even with lifestyle improvements.

The course of treatment for the strain of Hepatitis C I contracted was relatively straightforward, in spite of some major headline side-effects, which I fortunately avoided. 3 months of tablets through the NHS – thankfully, as the rack rate price of these pills in north of £30k if living abroad. Compared with the treatment available just 5 years ago, the process is relatively painless.

I am now 99% sure to have been cured of Hepatitis C, but I have been internally scarred for life – physically and emotionally. Knowing the happy existence you have lead has been hampered through errors made by someone or a group of people, who may very well remain nameless, is a far harder pill to swallow.

What is truly shocking though is the lack of public awareness; of public warning.

And so, as we approach World Hepatitis Day on Sunday 28th July, rather than commenting on this post or giving me sympathy (please don’t!), all I ask for is for you to share this post. It may save someone’s life.

Hepatitis C is a silent disease for most people. I was so lucky to have identified it when I did. Diagnosis is a simple blood test and the treatment, for most, is really straightforward, so don’t be afraid to go and get checked out. Whilst those who have used intravenous drugs or have had dodgy tattoos have, on the whole, been identified and cured by the NHS, I urge anyone who underwent any form of invasive surgery – even privately – in the 1970s and 1980s in the UK to demand a test from their GP, even if you have no obvious symptoms. Note – this applies even if you had surgery in a private hospital. If you or anyone you know receives pushback to this, I urge you or them to write to your/their MP to demand a public health warning is issued prior to the result of the ongoing Infected Blood Inquiry and any conclusions and recommendations it makes, which may still be a year or two away.

My life is not as it might have been. I have used the words ‘fortunate’ and ‘lucky’ many times in this post and that holds true in the life I have lead particularly as I am now improving in health. The same may not be true for millions of people in the UK and worldwide who don’t identify this disease in time. Please, please, please – no sympathy – just share this post to help find the missing millions and rid the world of this illness.

hep stats.png

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More Skype Fun with Dodgy Data Thieves

[18/09/2015 07:10:36] gambling.traffic: Hi Tom Galanis, I’d like to add you as a contact.
[18/09/2015 07:14:43] Tom Galanis: Tom Galanis has shared contact details with Gambling Traffic.
[18/09/2015 12:19:34] Gambling Traffic: hi
[18/09/2015 12:19:38] Gambling Traffic: how are you?
[18/09/2015 14:12:31] Tom Galanis: well hello there!
[18/09/2015 14:13:18] Tom Galanis: I’m in the mood for some top quality action, so I guess it’s your lucky day
[18/09/2015 16:03:03] Gambling Traffic: wow
[18/09/2015 16:04:52] Gambling Traffic: which country you are looking to target?
[18/09/2015 16:05:56] Tom Galanis: I’d do anything for good UK action at the moment – and I mean anything
[18/09/2015 16:06:14] Tom Galanis: So hard to come by
[18/09/2015 16:06:34] Gambling Traffic: Ye we have UK targeted database for gambling
[18/09/2015 16:06:46] Gambling Traffic: how much volume you are looking for test?
[18/09/2015 16:06:47] Tom Galanis: How big are you?
[18/09/2015 16:07:23] Gambling Traffic: we have approx 900k for UK
[18/09/2015 16:07:33] Tom Galanis: Jesus
[18/09/2015 16:07:36] Tom Galanis: Right
[18/09/2015 16:07:48] Tom Galanis: I could just about take that!
[18/09/2015 16:08:05] Gambling Traffic: can i see your landing page?
[18/09/2015 16:08:13] Tom Galanis: I assume we are talking dirty here?
[18/09/2015 16:09:10] Gambling Traffic: No we have some partners to they have UK gambling db i told you total
[18/09/2015 16:09:36] Tom Galanis: Clean/Dirty, I don’t care really – that’s so tempting
[18/09/2015 16:10:10] Tom Galanis: Before we talk price, safety is my prime concern
[18/09/2015 16:10:15] Gambling Traffic: We can do the following segmentations: geographical (zip-code, area, city…) psychographic (affinities, interests) and socio demographic (age, gender, marital status.Affinities/Interests we can separate in: finance, sports, travel, fashion, health, technic, online gaming.
[18/09/2015 16:10:26] Tom Galanis: Are you willing to offer any guarantees?
[18/09/2015 16:10:34] Gambling Traffic: Yes
[18/09/2015 16:10:45] Gambling Traffic: we can provide you OR guarantee
[18/09/2015 16:11:19] Tom Galanis: I assume the STI score for the data comes in low
[18/09/2015 16:11:43] Tom Galanis: Have you been with any of the big boys?
[18/09/2015 16:12:22] Gambling Traffic: yes we are working with 888.com primegaming
[18/09/2015 16:12:38] Tom Galanis: Ooh yes – they’re big guys
[18/09/2015 16:12:52] Tom Galanis: Were they happy with the results?
[18/09/2015 16:13:42] Gambling Traffic: we provide our OR guarantee and my clients renewal campaign always
[18/09/2015 16:13:58] Tom Galanis: Must be great to have regular clients
[18/09/2015 16:14:09] Tom Galanis: How long do your clients tend to last?
[18/09/2015 16:15:00] Gambling Traffic: recently with Prime gambing last July
[18/09/2015 16:15:19] Gambling Traffic: and we are going to test with 888 this months too
[18/09/2015 16:15:32] Gambling Traffic: Creative is not ready for 888
[18/09/2015 16:15:32] Gambling Traffic: now
[18/09/2015 16:15:47] Tom Galanis: You want to get them going – once they start, they may not stop
[18/09/2015 16:16:12] Tom Galanis: Well there’s several scenarios we can look at
[18/09/2015 16:16:32] Tom Galanis: I’ve got clients who would chew you off for the right price
[18/09/2015 16:16:37] Tom Galanis: So how much are we talking?
[18/09/2015 16:16:44] Gambling Traffic: you want to check i dont have any problem
[18/09/2015 16:17:12] Gambling Traffic: because we are maintaing our relationship with client not money
[18/09/2015 16:17:20] Tom Galanis: I’m sure you’re negative, but we’ll look to protect ourselves without a doubt
[18/09/2015 16:17:34] Gambling Traffic: we want to work with long terms relationship
[18/09/2015 16:17:38] Gambling Traffic: not one time
[18/09/2015 16:17:53] Tom Galanis: I’m all about that sort of commitment
[18/09/2015 16:17:55] Gambling Traffic: NP

[18/09/2015 16:18:07] Gambling Traffic: I understand that
[18/09/2015 16:18:20] Gambling Traffic: can i see your landing page?
[18/09/2015 16:18:34] Tom Galanis: That’s a bit forward
[18/09/2015 16:18:42] Tom Galanis: Hang on
[18/09/2015 16:20:41] Tom Galanis: http://www.grindr.com/download-grindr

Gambling Domains for Sale

A client is looking to sell off his sizeable list of gambling domain names. In bulk, a selection of these could be handy for building up a link network, but the odd one is likely to pose more value to an affiliate looking to expand their site portfolio, or get started in the game.

Any offers on one or any of these fine URLs  – contact me at tom at gameon dot im?

Domains for Sale

allonlinebingogameforcash.com
baccaratbettingstrategy.com
bestcrapswinningsystem.com
bestgameonbingo.com
bestonlineblackjackgames.com
bestonlinecasinosignupbonus.com
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bestonlinepokertexasholdem.com
bestonlineslotsbonuses.com
bestwinningroulettesystem.com
bettingstrategiesinroulette.com
biggestonlinecasinosite.com
bingoboardgamesonline.com
bingomoneyonlineplay.com
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bingonewsonlineworld.com
bingopowerstrategy.com
bingotipsandtricks.com
blackjackcardcountingstrategiesonline.com
budgetbingogames.com
comparebingogames.com
crazybingogames.com
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experiencewinningatslotmachines.com
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funonlineblackjack.com
getbingosignupbonus.com
getonlinecasinobonuses.com
greatvideoslotmachines.com
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howtoplaybaccaratguide.com
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latestonlinecasinonews.com
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multiplayerblackjackonline.com
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onlineblackjackgamblingtips.com
onlinecasinobettingsite.com
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onlinefruitslotmachines.com
onlinepokergamblingsite.com
pennyslotmachinesonline.com
playbingoformoneyonline.com
playbingogameonlinetoday.com
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playfreeblackjackonlinenow.com
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purelybingogames.com
roulettesecretsandguide.com
slotmachinescheatstips.com
thebestonlinebingogames.com
thebestonlinecasinobonus.com
thebestonlinecasinotoday.com
tipsforrouletteonline.com
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winatroulettenow.com
winatslotmachinestoday.com
winningatblackjackonline.com
wowbingotips.com
yourbingoplayground.com
yourdreambingowin.com

 

Random Cammer adds me to Skype

[09/12/2014 13:43:16] cozy.skirt8: are you online
[09/12/2014 13:43:24] Tom Galanis: Tom Galanis has shared contact details with cozy skirt.
[09/12/2014 13:43:47] cozy skirt: hey
[09/12/2014 13:45:07] Tom Galanis: hi
[09/12/2014 13:45:28] cozy skirt: hey.., how are u?
[09/12/2014 13:45:41] Tom Galanis: good – you? Do I know you?
[09/12/2014 13:46:09] cozy skirt: well im trying out thongs, you sound nice lets have sum fun…
[09/12/2014 13:46:40] Tom Galanis: Bit forward. How do I sound nice, you just added me?
[09/12/2014 13:46:45] Tom Galanis: I am actually psychotic
[09/12/2014 13:47:12] cozy skirt: my camera is turned on.. . wanna take a peek? Ill show you but dont tell any one, ok?
[09/12/2014 13:47:27] Tom Galanis: take a peek at what?
[09/12/2014 13:47:42] Tom Galanis: It’s dangerous letting people you don’t know look at your camera
[09/12/2014 13:47:55] Tom Galanis: I can use it to hack in to your hard drive whenever I like
[09/12/2014 13:47:57] cozy skirt: im going to give you a cam invite, all ya have to do is Accept, ill show u
[09/12/2014 13:48:04] Tom Galanis: You wouldn’t want that
[09/12/2014 13:48:15] Tom Galanis: I could put anything I want in there… dodgy photos and what not
[09/12/2014 13:48:27] Tom Galanis: Risky business
[09/12/2014 13:48:30] cozy skirt: you don’t need a cam to see me 😉 im basically naked right now, my nipples are soo hard
[09/12/2014 13:48:50] Tom Galanis: I can get your a refund on your PPI
[09/12/2014 13:49:20] cozy skirt: this is me go here http://bit.ly/1zkyP4X and click on join (Accept invite)
[09/12/2014 13:49:23] Tom Galanis: You should update your URL tracking system
[09/12/2014 13:49:48] Tom Galanis: I clicked the link. I’m currently uploading a trojan virus to your computer which will replace any face or body part you display on your webcam with a photo of Jimmy Savile
[09/12/2014 13:49:54] cozy skirt: its 100% free, it’s just for age verification reasons.. keeps the children out. hehe
[09/12/2014 13:50:18] Tom Galanis: Yeah, sadly for you I’ve just rerouted my IP through the local primary school
[09/12/2014 13:50:25] Tom Galanis: So that’s you fucked
[09/12/2014 13:50:29] Tom Galanis: And not in the way you want
[09/12/2014 13:50:40] Tom Galanis: Selling sex to kids is bad news
[09/12/2014 13:50:50] cozy skirt: just get ur login when you clic Accept Invite here http://bit.ly/1zkyP4X , hurry im wearing no panties.. im so hot
[09/12/2014 13:51:03] Tom Galanis: Maybe turn the aircon on
[09/12/2014 13:51:37] cozy skirt: ok once you are in my cam room go 2 private with me so we can chat just me and you
[09/12/2014 13:52:09] Tom Galanis: Yeah, it’s just a shame for you that it’s not just me though isn’t it
[09/12/2014 13:52:50] Tom Galanis: You know, for the number of times you must have to do this in a day, you could actually bring some good to the world
[09/12/2014 13:53:14] Tom Galanis: It’s fucking tragic

Vodafone – Data Roaming Nightmare

We’ve all heard about them. They’re usually found in the depths of press coverage alongside an Apprentice candidate’s debaucherous night on the tiles in Basingstoke and usually envoke a similar emotional reaction in the poor, most probably procrastinating reader. “How could you be so stupid?! When you’re abroad, everyone knows to turn their data roaming off”.

Well, let me tell you. I’ve been one of those procrastinating readers, fast to judge a poor soul’s misfortune as outright stupidity. They should have known that streaming the Best of Cliff Richard was going to cost them the earth as they soaked up the shade in their white-sock bedecked sandals on the patio of their Thomson holiday apartment in Dalaman.

Roaming.

It is now my most despised word in the OED and it’s purely down to what I can safely call misfortune and the harshest customer service I have ever received.

Some background, if I may. As a (previously) savvy internet user, whose career has been built around online marketing, I am reliant on my smart phone more than I am coffee. As a small business owner, my smart phone performs the dutiful role as my alarm clock, my address book, my personal assistant, my mobile office, my social calendar, my modus operandi for dealing with my clients, friends, wife and family on the neverending go, the twentyfoursevenness I long to escape.

And a holiday is when one is supposed to escape. Sure, I dropped a couple of working days at a conference in the middle of it, but needs must.

So there we were, enjoying the high life in New York City. On to Atlantic City for a spot of work and then the big relax on the beach in Florida. Imminent bliss.

Four hours before the flight to the Sunshine State and tragedy strikes. My iPhone 5 completely freezes up, part way through my final email composition. The buttons did nothing although I could still see calls and messages coming through. I’d lost my window on the world as fast as Samson lost his hair. Horribly tragic, I know, but that’s how it felt. I’ve often considered myself addicted and this actually felt worse than the 24 hours after I first quit smoking, so it must have been true.

About 26 hours had passed by the time I was next connected to WIFI for long enough to resolve the freeze. The Apple forums told me the best solution was to install the latest update of iOS – 7.1.1 for the record. I connected my iPhone to my MacBook Pro, the iTunes message popped up. Yes I did want to download and install the latest software update, thank you very much. That should restore my precious iPhone to its former glory and keep me connected – just in case…

I sneakily check my phone once or twice during an informal dinner, so I noticed its absence. In the process of clearing the plates, I checked in on the download/install. It was happening alright, but at some point the WIFI had disconnected and the connection had switched to my apparently still operational 3G signal. Two messages had appeared on my phone from Vodafone, partially alerting me of my impending doom.

“You have now spent £270 on mobile data today”.

“You have now spent £495 on mobile data today”.

Gobsmacked, I pulled out the cable. 500 quid for something out of my control. My wife talked me through the annoyance. It wasn’t the end of the world and we’d get it sorted in the morning.

After a stressful sleep, I was iil-equipped to meet my new nemesis head on. Their combative nature hits me early on.

I awoke to a text from Vodafone. “Due to some unusual spend on your phone, please call Vodafone on +441635692070 before 10am (UK) tomorrow to avoid loss of service. A payment may be required.

Here beginneth the Tale of Immeasurable Woe, Brinkmanship, Stalling Tactics and Astonishingly Poor Customer Service, narrated and illustrated by the self-proclaimed misfortunate martyr, Yours Truly.

“Please Press 1 to hear your balance, Press 2 to pay over the phone, Press 3 to set up a direct debit or Hold to Speak to An Operator.

“(Hold Music), (Hold Music),

“We are extremely busy at the moment. Your call is important to us. Please wait for an operator to become available.

“(Worse Hold music)

“Eligible for an upgrade, please visit Vodafone.co.uk to find out about amazing offers on the brand new Samsung S5”.

“Good afternoon, you’re through to X, how may I help you?”

“Hi there, I received a message to call you. I think I know what it’s about.”

“OK, sir. Please can you tell me the mobile phone number it relates to?” I did.

“And your name, first line of your address and postcode”. I told her.

“Just a few more security questions to make sure you are the account holder. Can you tell me your billing date?” Err – I’m not sure. I think the payment leaves the account on or around the 24th of the month.

“OK, that’s incorrect. Can you tell me what your contract includes?” Unlimited calls, messages and data.

“That’s not quite right. Can you tell me how much your last bill was for?” I’m afraid not.

“I’m afraid you have failed our data protection check this afternoon Mr Galanis. Please try contacting us again later today”.

But… but… you asked me to call.

Ridiculous, but there was an obvious solution. I logged in to my Vodafone account to have the answers ready for the next £1.50/min call. Holy mother of God. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what I saw. The single data session, totalling 888.051MB and lasting no more than 20 minutes had cost added £2670 to my bill!

vodafone data roaming nightmare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never dialled a number so quickly. I had to get this resolved.

I scraped through the data protection check after about half a dozen new questions were thrown my way. I detailed what had happened and asked what they could do to help me out. The brusque Northern lady I was speaking to at Vodafone had about as much a capacity for sympathy as I had for patience at that moment, although I’m pretty certain she’s carries that mantra on in day to day life.

“You will be liable for this charge Sir. Vodafone made you aware of the costs of mobile data. £5 for the first 5 MB, then £3 per MB thereafter.” I’m aware of that, thank you. What I’m saying is, the phone I have leased from Vodafone crashed. I followed the guidelines for a phone restoration I could find from Apple, and it’s ended up in this disaster. Surely there’s something you can do to erase the cost?

“Let me talk to my manager”

“(Worst Hold Music for 8 minutes)”.

“Sorry about that sir. I’ve just spoken to my manager and we can offer to reduce your bill by 10% as a goodwill gesture.” Yeah, thanks, but that still makes the bill more than £3000. Can’t you see that this was a completely accidental spend outside of my control?

“I see that sir, but you are liable for the usage”.

“I can’t afford to pay it. Can I speak to your manager please?”

“It’s Vodafone’s policy to offer callbacks from managers within 24-48 hours. Shall I arrange this for you?”

“Ok, but is there any way I can speak to someone now?”

“I’m just going to put you on hold, Sir, is that alright?”

“(Worst hold music ever)”.

“Sir, if you agree to pay £2000 now and agree to pay the remainder in 3 weekly installments, I can offer you a 10% discount, right now.” I’ll wait on your manager thanks.

“It’s a one-time offer. It’s likely you won’t get a better offer from a manager”. I’ll take my chances.

Fuming, I hit Google with a vengeance. The previously amusing tales of woe give me hope. The woman who downloaded a Neil Diamond CD in Morocco got the charges waived. The man streaming radio had his £16k bill reduced to £3k. There was hope. Ombudsman involvement had helped many a poor soul out. The advice I could find hinted that the first step was lodging a written complaint to Vodafone, so I constructed it, covering everything that had unfolded and send it via email through their system on 14th April.

Still anxious, as one would be, I kept digging, and found myself reading about roaming data caps. I recall opting into a Euro Traveller bundle Vodafone has on offer, allowing you to transfer the usage allowance you have in the UK to EU countries for £3 per day of travel. A decent deal admittedly. Had it meant I no longer had a data cap on my account? Apparently this only affects additional spend in the EU. A further desperate look at my online account shows that my Roaming Cap is in fact on. I should be permitted to use no more than £42 per month in the Rest of the World zone.

Vodafone - Data Cap Proof

 

 

 

 

 

I call back. The man I’m dealing with – Behan perhaps – was far more sympathetic and several hold music ballads later confirms that the cap had been switched on throughout my ordeal but it hadn’t been working. He asks me if I have ever opted out of the data cap for the ROW zone. I was in the States in September last year and again in March this year. I have no recollection of opting out – but expressed that it was kind of irrelevant as the cap showed as on in my account. If I’d opted out, surely it should indicate the cap was off. Vodafone alerts have a canny knack of disappearing over time, so I had no trace of opting out. Behan assured me that, if I hadn’t opted out, my bill would be adjusted to reflect the technical error in Vodafone’s capping tool. Behan also assured me my line would remain open and nothing needed to happen until the bill came through.

He was wrong. I lost signal. Using another line, I called up. After the 5 minute/£7.50 data protection gauntlet, the first lady told me that, because I’d not settled the large sum, they’d suspended my line. I was cut off. The next lady I spoke to with a delightful Indian subcontinental accent, informed me that I could set a four digit PIN rather than go through the data protection rigmorale every time. Astounded, I set it. Little did I know it would probably save me the best part of £100 over the next week. I told my tale of woe. She told me she’d unlocked the line and all would be fine within 2-3 hours.

It wasn’t. I called back, proudly informing the operator of my name and second and third digits of my PIN. It had occurred to me that I was still abroad and perhaps I would have to wait until I was back in the UK and could receive Vodafone coverage for the line to be restored. No, no. A SIM card removal and replace later and all was well with the world.

Now the correct readjustment of my month’s bill to reflect the data cap did sound too good to be true, and sure enough that would prove to be the case. In the meantime, I’d become aware that my nemesis really was to be reckoned with, so I did some more work.

I tried to identify the true cost of data usage to Vodafone in the US. They need to pay a fee, albeit at wholesale prices, whenever one of their users requests usage of an international operator’s mast – hence the concept of roaming fees.

Here are some facts for you:

1) Vodafone is the second largest mobile phone operator in the world, behind China Mobile, in terms of number of connections and annual mobile revenue.

2) AT&T, the network with which Vodafone users are paired up with in the USA, ranks 10th.

3) AT&T mobile users are offered bundles for roaming in over 150 countries, including the UK. Their pay monthly user can add 800 MB of roaming data to their contract for $120 and pay an overage charge of $30/120MB thereafter. So, should they undergo the same misfortune as I did in Ol’ Blighty, they might be crying over their medium over easy breakfast on the flight home for the sake of $144, or in old money, £85.59.

4) It is therefore 32.2467578 times cheaper for a user of the world’s 10th largest mobile network to consume data on the world’s second largest mobile network, than it is for this misfortunate martyr to do the opposite.

5) In other words, Vodafone are claiming that their position, as only the world’s second largest mobile network, prohibits them from negotiating a deal that would make their data roaming costs in the US anything less than 32 times more expensive than a smaller network would offer their customers the other way around.

I can concede that costs may be higher in the States from an infrastructure perspective. I can accept that the price in the UK for a domestic or international network to access and serve data is the lowest in the world. I can accept that Vodafone’s sale of the Verizon Wireless network, AT&T’s largest competitor in the States, may have put Vodafone on the back foot.

As a commercially minded person myself, I can see that Vodafone might see the opportunity to overcharge customers on non-EU roaming data to boost profits – particularly if their customers opt in to the plan.

What I cannot accept is that Vodafone pays anything close to £3 per MB for data on the AT&T network. I’d be amazed if it’s even a tenth of that. One of Vodafone’s UK rivals, albeit far smaller, has all but scrapped data roaming charges in the USA. The Three network, at the time of writing, almosts begrudgingly limits it’s All-You-Can-Eat calls/data package to a whopping 25GB per month, available at £41 per month on a 2 year contract. In Vodafone language, this equates to £76,800 (1GB = 1024 MB, (£3 x £1024) x 25 = £76,800.

To look at that commercially, if Vodafone’s pricing is to be taken as read, Three would be out of pocket if one of their customers spent 2 years solid in the USA, consuming 25 GB of data each month to the tune of £1,842,216. (That is £1,843,200 (24x £76,800) – £984 (24 x £41).

One might speculate that Three could be taking a calculated commercial risk in offering such a deal to obtain market share – perhaps the true cost of the data is twice or even Three times the price of the contract (sheer madness)?. If one was on holiday in the States, as I was, for 16 days and racked up a not unreasonable sum of 50 MB of data usage per day (probably 20 minutes on Facebook, maybe a Youtube clip, pulling through 10 emails and using Google Maps to navigate a 10 minute walk – 800 MB in total, even if the true charge of the data to Three was threefold their return on my contract for the period (£20.50), the cost would only be 0.076875p per MB.

I understand the commercial need to keep the true cost that a MB of data costs Vodafone in the US a closely guarded secret, but I am (was) a very good customer to Vodafone. I own three lines on Pay Monthly deals at a combined total of 15 years of loyalty. I dread to think how I have lined their corporate coffers, and might continue to have done so beyond this sorry episode.

What might not be quite so acceptable is to offer any customer £2760 of credit in this day and age, in such a short space of time, without even informing them. Hardly responsible lending, is it?

With that all aside, the data cap on my account was on and Vodafone offered me no information, thanks to their evaporating SMS alerts, of how to opt back in to this IF indeed I had at some point opted out during the contract (again, no evidence put forward of this).

As it turned out, the time spent calculating all of this was not wasted.

My bill arrived over email – I’m kind enough to save them the postage cost every month – late, one assumes because of Easter. Three Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixteen British Pounds and Twenty Nine of Her Majesty’s pennies.

After returning to the UK and taking to social media at a sensible data usage rate, the @VodafoneUKHelp handle tells me that the Customer Relations team doesn’t have a phone number I can contact them on. Marvellous. I find one in a deepest, darkest forum somewhere twenty minutes of my precious time later.

I pick up my complaint with the team there. It’s not been looked at yet. I request what is called a deadlock review, where my case goes to, presumably, some bigwigs in the customer service team. If that fails, they send a letter of deadlock – essentially a big “FU, let’s see what the Ombudsman has to say about it” document. I’m told this review will take place in the next 24 hours and I’ll receive a call either offering me a New Deal or informing me the letter is in the post.

Well, FDR was obviously not on the panel, although I had to call 36 hours later after receiving no call, as promised. On three separate occasions, Vodafone have failed to follow up with a call at management level, as promised. It is only the stress this situation has caused me that has driven me to get to this point within 17 days. Vodafone don’t seem in the least bit concerned that I “owe” them £3416.29 and have cancelled my direct debit. It’s almost as if it’s nothing to them…

And that’s where my nemesis and I have got to. I’m reliant on the Ombudsman to come to my aid. So much for “Power to You”. I’ll keep you posted…

UPDATE – 7th May 2014

After all of your sharing, retweeting, commenting, advice and general support, my story was picked up by the Daily Telegraph in the UK, who used their weight to get Vodafone to comment.

Vodafone did so by waiving all roaming costs for the month and limiting my data roaming charge to €50. I have just paid the revised bill.

Thank you all so much!

The Telegraph article can be found here. It uses snippets from my blog post:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/northamerica/usa/10813260/Britons-2670-Vodafone-phone-bill-for-US-roaming-charges.html

What is Bitcoin?

If, like me, the advent of Bitcoin has kind of slipped under your radar, and you happen to work in an industry that is now at the stage where it goes beyond the assumption that you know all there is to know about virtual currencies, this little piece will help you understand what Bitcoin is and how and why it has evolved…

what is bitcoin?

why use bitcoin

My Personal History of Mobile Phone Ownership

It all started in 1999 with the Philips/BT Cellnet (remember them!?) C12. Best thing about it was being able to compose your own ringtones using keytones. Was cool until everyone who’d waited a month or two longer had a Nokia and could play Snake.

Philips C12

I finally saw sense and moved to Nokia in 2000. This, the 3210, was the phone inbetween two classics. It had Snake on it (possibly even Snake II)

Nokia 3210

Sticking with Nokia, my uni days in 2001 with this classic Nokia, the 3310. God I wish I still had this (epic battery life). I seem to remember cladding it in some horrific faux metallic case that added about an inch in width and depth (to the phone).

Nokia 3310

Life got serious with the first ever camera phone in 2002. The Nokia 7650. Was awesome until I had it knicked (uninsured) on my 21st birthday.

Nokia 7650

After a few hand-me downs saw me through to my next upgrade in 2003, I went to Samsung for the one and only time, sticking to the slide phone mantra for now with the D800. I recall being livid when they brought out not one, but two upgrades to this within 6 months. Nonetheless, life as a poor student meant I took a cut on the tariff rather than a new phone in 2004.

Samsung D800

The advent of email on your phone and a professional life saw me head to Blackberry in 2005 for the one and only time. The original Blackberry Pearl looked great, but as soon as a smidgen of dust got caught in the tracker ball, it was as good as useless. I recall limping through the last 4 months of the year without the tracker ball altogether – it finally gave way after 30 or so weekly removals to clean. Crap.

Blackberry Pearl

Up next came the concept of music on your phone in 2006. I moved on with the Sony Ericsson W800, which I recall loving. Besides the musical focus, it was a solid phone. No stupid tracker ball or flimsy slider motion.

Sony Ericsson W800

A move overseas to Spain in 2007 came with the delights of my first company phone. The Nokia 6233 was budget to say the least and belonged in 1999. The phone bills were anything but budget as it was a Gibraltar registered phone and the roaming charges in Spain were greater than anywhere else in Europe.

bet365 Tight Bastards

My first foray into dual phone ownership came alongside this farce in 2008. The Nokia E65 was a decent phone, although I recall Vodafone Espana as being a fricking nightmare to deal with.

Nokia E65

Back to the UK in 2010 and my first smartphone, the Android powered HTC Desire HD. Cracking phone, ever-worsening battery life. I stuck with it for a remarkable 26 months.

HTC Desire HD

That brings me to the present day. The all conquering Apple iPhone finally caught my eye with their sixth entrant, the iPhone 5. I’d still go back to ’99 for that Nokia 3310’s awesome battery life though…

iPhone 5

Got to wonder what the future holds…