Diary of a Telstra Customer, pt 1.

Dear Diary,

Well, life has certainly involved a few big changes over the new year.

I spent 2 weeks in my new job before Christmas, and am looking forward to starting back at work soon. In preparation I sat down to try and do some work today, when I noticed a problem – my internet service was crawling along at an unbelievably slow pace.

Not since I was at Uni with a dial up modem have I watched websites and files download at speeds measured in single digit kbps. I tried downloading a couple of documents to work with, and a 1.5mb pdf took nearly 10 minutes. It’s a real first world problem to complain about internet speed, but I pay early $100 a month for a phone and internet package that promises speeds of up to 20mbps, so 9kbps is way outside of the realm of acceptable service.

I called Bigpond, my service provider, and spoke to a friendly young man named John who spoke with a very thick accent. I think it’s great that during a national company like Telstra actively engage in diversifying their employee base.

I did find it a little difficult to understand him at times, but that was more to do with the fact that we had a rather poor quality connection over the phone line. I didn’t want to say anything and risk embarrassing the poor young man. Imagine how it would feel to work for the biggest phone company in Australia, and yet they can’t even provide their own employees with quality phone services! I mean, I call my friends in Australia all the time on their network and never do I get a call that sounded as bad as that one. It’s was almost like he was in another country.

John asked me my name, and I told him, and he asked what the problem was. I told him about my slow connection speed and he asked me if I could please wait while he spoke to someone else. What a polite young man! I said that was okay, and listened to the light hearted music coming down the phone line. After a little over two minutes John came back and I was a little disappointed that he cut the music off half way through a particularly uplifting refrain.

John said that he was grateful to me for holding, such manners!, then he asked me to confirm my identify with my date of birth. I did think it was a little odd that he didn’t ask me that first, and I wondered what he had spent the last two minutes doing if he wasn’t certain who I was, but I gave him the information he asked for and he asked me again what the problem was.

Well, I guess it must have really been a bad line for him to have not heard or understood me the first time (though again, where did he go for those two minutes if he didn’t know what the problem was?) and I explained again. He asked me to access a website that tested my internet speed, and I explained to him that I already had it open, and that I had tested the internet speed on three different computers and using several different browsers (I do like to be thorough) and John asked me if I could hold.

I appreciated his politeness, and replied that I could hold. The music was playing again, and as if by magic the song was back at the same spot that it had been when I left before. The magic of technology, that they could dedicate a piece of music just to my phone line for me to enjoy.

John came back after about another two minutes, and asked me again to test my internet speed. I did and told him that it was the same as before. He asked me if I had tried it on a different browser or a different computer. I reminded him that I had already tried those things, and he asked me again if I could hold. I said I could, but I was starting to wonder if these breaks were about my internet service, or if perhaps John had a weak bladder.

My grandfather had a weak bladder, and it was very inconvenient, as he was running off to the bathroom at the most unusual times.

John came back and told me that he had tested my service and that it was registering at around 300kbps. I said that would be wonderful and I would very much like to be receiving that download speed, unless, of course, the advertised speed of 20mbps wasn’t available.

It was then that John said something rather upsetting. He said that Telstra only guaranteed speeds of up to 110kbps, and as far as he was concerned I was already receiving this speed.

In a polite but firm way I told John that obviously he and I saw things a little differently, as the speed test website he had recommended was telling me that I was hovering on average at around 20kbps. He asked me if I could hold, and I was a little curt in the way I said fine.

The music was starting again form the same position, and I started to wonder if maybe their CD players had gotten stuck in a loop. Hearing the same piece of music again was less uplifting the third time and I was still a little frustrated when John picked up the phone again.

He asked me again if I had tried a different browser or computer, and by this time I was beginning to think that maybe accents or poor phone lines weren’t the problem and that he just wasn’t listening to me! I told him that I had tried three different browsers on three different computers and all were producing the same results. It was then that John asked me to do something rather unsettling. He asked me to clear my browsers cache and cookies.

Diary, I know I’m not the most technically proficient person in the world, but I know enough to know that something like that was going to hurt me more than it would affect John, and I suspect he just wanted me to do it for his own amusement.

Nevertheless, in a gesture of good will I told him that I would try it. Just once, and no more. I cleared my browser out and he sounded like he was chuckling when he asked me to try the speed test again. When the results of the test came back almost exactly the same I felt like telling him “Ha, I told you that wouldn’t work” but I restrained myself.

Then John repeated himself that Telstra only guarantees speeds of up 110kbps, and I said that would be fine if I were getting those speeds, and John said that as far as he was concerned I was getting more than I needed!

That really hurt. I felt certain by this time that John didn’t really care for my needs at all. My feelings were confirmed when he asked me to try the speed test again, AGAIN! only this time with the firewall turned off! That’s right, he wanted me to do it without protection! I was very reluctant, but he promised me that if I did it without protection that there was a chance it would provide me with the service I needed.

Desperately pushing all my mother’s lectures about safe browsing to the back of my mind, I switched off the firewall and ran the test – the same results! When I asked what that was meant to achieve John told me again that he could only guarantee speeds of up to 110kbps. He didn’t care about me at all! And when I told him that I still wasn’t getting anything near what he promised he sighed in a way that made me want to scream. When he asked me again if I had tried different browsers or a different computers I told him in no uncertain terms that I had tried it on no less than three computers and two mobile devices, on as many browsers as I had access to, and John asked me if I could hold AGAIN!

Before I had finished my reply I found myself listening to the same repetitive loop of music and I felt like screaming down the phone for someone to change the track before I drove over to their call centre and did it for them.

John came back online and said he most ridiculous thing yet – he asked me if I had recently changed the network cards on my computer or if any of them had suffered any problems.

I asked him if he seriously expected me to believe that in the past 24 hours all five of my computers and mobile devices had suffered some sort of simultaneous network failure. He was obviously embarrassed when he told me that was just the question that his worksheet told him to ask. Well, if his worksheet told him to jump of a bridge, would he do that too?

Honestly, I felt like we had been in this relationship long enough for him to be able to think for himself a little bit! He then told me that he was going to ‘escalate my call’ and could I please hold again!

Without another word I found myself listening to that same god-awful piece of music as it played through a refrain so familiar I could have played it note for note on a kazoo. Why was he leading me along like this? Why couldn’t he just tell me that he couldn’t fix my problem and that I would have to look for someone else who might be able to give me what I needed? What had I done to deserve this kind of treatment!

When he answered again his tone had changed, he was more cold an distant, and I could tell he had given up on us. He told me that someone else would be calling me back later tonight, and that they might charge me for the privilege! That weak bastard! He couldn’t even tell me himself, he has to get one of his friends to do it for him! And that I should have to pay, the cheek! I’m already paying quite enough already.

And so, dear diary, now I sit by the phone yet again, waiting for the call from some random stranger who might not even be able to give me what I need, even after I’ve already paid for the service.

It’s been a very sad and lonely day.

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