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I generally don’t write posts on specific telecom providers and especially not of networks in Asia. But today, I feel compelled to write about one and that is about Zong network, subsidiary of China Mobile currently operating in Pakistan.
I had plannned to travel to multiple Asian countries to explore different cultures but being a tech geek I couldn’t help myself but to compare networks from these regions. Starting from AT&T in San Francisco Bay Area where I live to remote regions of Vietnam using MobiPhone. I’ve had my fair share of experience with telecom providers. But boy oh boy, Zong is just on another level.
Disclaimer: Now before I begin, I want to make it clear that all of these are personal experiences, some people may have similar experiences while others are complete opposite. This is by no way means any paid article that is trying to discredit a telecom provider.
A bit of background on Zong. Zong is currently the second largest GSM provider and third largest in terms of base subscriber with over 25.6 million in Pakistan. source
Anyways I got a Zong SIM card a month and half ago in Islamabad, Pakistan. The reason for picking this provider? Nothing special, was in a mall and there was a Zong franchise. So bought the SIM there.
I mainly used to buy internet packages, to be specific, the weekly 2GB internet package for about 100 rupee excluding taxes.
I started seeing ‘problems’ as soon as I topped up credit or topped up balance, whichever term you prefer. Topping up a 500 rupee card will only get you 379, a whopping cut of 121 rupee or 24.2% tax! Now this is not just related to Zong, this is pretty much every telecom provider in Pakistan. Personally I feel this is just an absurd amount to cut but I didn’t complain.
Things started to take a turn for the worst when I started receiving ‘spam’ from Zong. I don’t know what the hell their marketing department is doing but they are literally sending dozens and dozens of messages every day. These range from spamming you with internet and call packages to sports and celebrity gossip. The thing that really got me is that I haven’t even subscribed to such messages and Zong does not even give an easy way to unsubscribe from these spam messages.
Literally every hour I was getting spam messages from Zong. So naturally I took to twitter to complain.
— Farhan Hussain (@farhanleo23) August 3, 2016
To my surprise, Zong actually replied to my tweet.
Now from this point onwards it just starts getting ugly.
I topped up my phone with a 300 rupee card. I put the credit in my phone and like usual they cut an absurd amount of tax (can’t remember the exact amount but it was lower 200s). But I still had enough credit to buy the weekly 2GB internet package which costs around 100. So I proceed to do that. The operation fails. I check credit. I have no money in my phone!
Now I’m pretty pissed off but don’t really do anything. So two days after that I get a 500 rupee card and topped up my phone. They cut a lot in tax and I get around 379. This time I’m not even buying the internet package as the mighty dragon is going to take it all away. So the next day when I checked my credit I had 50 rupee left.
Now to make things fair. I did text 28 messages to local numbers and made two outgoing calls (local) which were 43 seconds and 16 seconds respectively. I’m no mathematician but I know these numbers don’t add up right for them to pretty much cut 229 rupee.
Now this time I had to take action and straight up call the customer service. I’m put on hold for an eternity until my credit literally finishes.
I remember about the Twitter conversation and think about messaging them. But to my surprise they have blocked me after telling me to message them. They wanted everyone to see that they care about their customers but secretly ban people who complain them!
When asked on why they blocked me, they simply sent out a standard tweet.
To be honest it is unbelievable on how pathetic their customer service is.
Not Just Me but Everyone
I thought the credit being cut without a proper reason was only related to me but after asking around, this is a widespread problem with people who are using Zong network. (I was warned not to buy Zong when I arrived in Pakistan).
Another issue that was reported is; if you are subscribing for a specific package, it gets renewed without prior approval and you don’t even know about it. If you complain they do not even respond.
There customer service is so bad that one of our users sent me this email which she sent to Zong in May 18 and still has not heard a response from them!
Currently no one is taking action against such issues from Zong. Zong or even China Mobile if you are reading this - do something to improve your appalling customer service or even fix the basic issues that are being raised by your users!
What are your horror stories regarding Zong?
Update 1: More people have come forward with their experiences. A Zong customer by the name of Zaid had to say: “There have been several instances where I got credit, pay for a package and then not get that package. I would just get a message saying that the package is expired. The 700mb package for example. I would buy it and minutes later it would be finished whether I used it or not. And even if I did use it for a few minutes, what on Earth would I do in a few minutes that would use up 700mb?!”