Mobile phone operator Halebop, a budget subsidiary of TeliaSonera, is racist. Or at least xenophobic. Or at best a bunch of idiots.

Having been told by various phone companies when I first came to Sweden that I could expect to wait at least a year before anyone would offer me credit and thus a contract phone and its various benefits, it was with trepidation that just over 12 months on from my initial arrival I applied for a Halebop Rubbet phone package; a 24 month contract with an iPhone 5C priced very competitively. I was delighted to be approved at the first time of asking, and after waiting a couple of days for the Easter holiday postal backlog to clear out, received a little piece of paper in the post this morning advising me that my new phone was ready to collect at the local post office. With a spring in my step I finished my day at work as quickly as possible and took myself to ICA Sabbatsberg, where my package was waiting for me.

Unfortunately on my arrival at the post office desk I was told that I wouldn’t be able to use my British drivers license as proof of my identity to retrieve my parcel, and the only acceptable form of international identification would be a passport. Given that I have previously collected post using my driving license, and as recently as last week got a package out without even being asked so much as my name, let alone for some form of ID, I was pretty disappointed that the person manning the post office today was a stickler for the rules. ‘But one must respect that she is only doing her job,’ I reminded myself, and since it wasn’t such a chronic bother, I took myself home to collect my passport and returned to pick up my now long overdue new phone.

The round-trip to my current residence in Vällingby took a little over an hour (when I made mention of my ‘local’ post office earlier, it is in fact local to the address where I am still formally registered according to the Swedish government. I have actually lived with a friend in Vällingby for 6 months but never dared to admit it to anyone. Vällingby is pretty crap. Sorry Vällingby) but the time simply flew by as the excitement of picking up my fresh new telephone grew.

My current mobile is an iPhone 4. Undoubtedly a great piece of kit in its day but I only got it as a freebie as it had run its course for the previous owner and was in a pretty bad way; cracked screen etc. Before that I had owned a Samsung E1270, a capable caller and texter, but for £7 (€8.50/$11.75/77 kr) nothing to be too excited about when I first unwrapped its non-descript blue box. It is over 4 years since I last had the shiny-new-phone buzz associated with a freshly signed contract so that extra hour didn’t seem like such a big deal.

On my return to ICA I proudly presented my passport to the lady who had taken over at the post office counter, helpfully pointing out that it was a British passport, but that I knew that that was ok because her colleague had earlier told me that it was and I had listened to what she said and went and got my correct ID. I think she thought I was a child with autism. Fair enough.

After a fair bit of tapping at her computer keyboard, several confused facial contortions, some quiet tutting and under-the-breath muttering, she finally uttered those words that no customer ever wishes to hear but that are so awfully charming in the way that they disarm you that you sort of don’t mind when they are said: ‘I think I’ve fucked this up for you.’ (One of my favourite things about Sweden is that a member of staff can say this in a supermarket full of children and no one bats an eyelid. They love a good old fucking swear, the shitting Swedes)

Consulting a colleague and then an internal postal service helpline, the fucker-upper was able to establish that I was not going to be able to get my phone, because after three failed attempts to input my passport details on to the system, my package was frozen in the system for 24 hours and she would not be allowed to give it to me or anyone else, until tomorrow evening. At this point I started to get pretty annoyed, given that this woman’s incompetence at pressing the correct keys on her computer in the right order should cause me the inconvenience of being without a phone for the next 24 hours. She, clearly embarrassed and keen to avoid listening to my attempts to complain in inadequate Swedish, proceeded to dig deeper to see if there was any way to undo her doings and make things right for the increasingly upset and frustrated little boy in front of her.

Several seconds of further tapping away on the computer keyboard, plus another lengthy consultation with a different colleague resulted in the revelation that ‘I didn’t fuck it up!’ …but… ‘you will definitely not be able to get your phone within the next 24 hours.’ ..and… ‘you will possibly never get your phone if you don’t have a Swedish ID card.’

It turns out that Halebop have an agreement with the Swedish post office, that the only acceptable proof of identity for picking up your new phone is one issued by the Swedish government. When I think about all the things that I have been able to do since moving to Stockholm last year using nothing more than my British passport, and for the most part just my driver’s license, this becomes increasingly ludicrous.

Things I have done without the need to have a Swedish ID card:

  • Got a job with a Swedish company.
  • Opened an account at a Swedish bank.
  • Paid tax to the Swedish government.
  • Bought a flat with a Swedish mortgage.
  • Flown across the Swedish border several times.
  • Proven my identity to countless other different people and organisations for a variety of different reasons.

…and above all else…

  • Been approved and accepted as a customer of Halebop, a company that you would have thought would have wanted to just take my fucking money, but who apparently don’t want the custom of an immigrant who has taken the perfectly reasonable decision to skip paying 400 kr (£36/€44/$60) for an identity card that is not legally obligatory and apparently serves no purpose in any other walk of life.
  • Authorised Halebop to transfer my phone number away from my Telenor SIM card and on to the new SIM, an apparently irreversible process that means I don’t have use of my current mobile because it became inactive at 4am this morning in anticipation of my big move (as I write this, it is now ‘tomorrow’ by the way. I was so annoyed and exhausted by this shitty mess last night that I had to stop writing and go to bed).
  • Accessed Halebop’s woeful online customer service, a chat-based service that leaves you completely insanely angry because the agent manning the computer at the other end (a really sympathetic, good-humoured chap called Anton, the only good thing about this shitty tale. I told him to quit his job twice in the course of our online chat, not because he was bad at it but because he represented a proper skid mark of a company and he could be doing something better. He kindly ignored my sarcasm and anger and just did his job as best he could. Fair play, Anton) is not allowed to budge from the script, a script that tells him to say no to everything you request, a script that says there are no superiors to speak to, and no way to take this complaint further without posting a letter to an address in Borlänge. Given my previous history dealing with these people by post I am not exactly keen to head down that route, even though I’m sure it is the most efficient and quick way to retain my custom, worth several thousand Swedish Kronor to your company, and to sort out my problem in a timely manner *massive fucking sarcasm explosion*.

Yes, I am and have been allowed, well within Swedish law and my basic human rights, to do all these things, AND YET I AM NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE HOME WITH ME FROM THE POST OFFICE, A PACKAGE WITH MY NAME ON IT, A NAME THAT IS INDISPUTABLY MINE ACCORDING TO EVERYONE THAT I HAVE EVER HAD TO PROVE IT TO, EXCEPT HALEBOP, THE RACIST (or at least xenophobic, or at best a bunch of idiots) SWEDISH MOBILE PHONE NETWORK.

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