On Wednesday, Crikey published an exchange of emails between an Angry Telstra Customer and Telstra’s Big Pond Next G division. This has provoked the following responses from fellow Crikey readers with similar infuriating accounts in dealing with Australia’s telcos.

Have you had a similar experience? Post your comment here.

Death, taxes and poor corporate behaviour from Telstra:

Angry Telstra Shareholder writes: Death, taxes and poor corporate behaviour from Telstra: life’s certainties. Angry Telstra Customer’s experience of this disreputable company parallels mine. I live in a part of Sydney which was provisioned in 1994, where Telstra has installed a pair-gain network infrastructure. Those in the know will shudder at the term “pair gain”, but for those who don’t, it’s a phone installation architecture Telstra used to save (lots of) money by sharing lines. The downside was that it also prevented phone lines being used for ADSL, or even for high-speed modems. Telstra defended this practice by constantly reminding anyone who complained that they weren’t required to support anything more than 2400 bps modems. Leading up to 2004, I regularly complained about this.

First I was told that Telstra couldn’t upgrade me because it was impossible. Why? Well, no procedures existed to do it. Then after I found out (from a talkative linesman) that they actually did have procedures to do it, they told me there weren’t the free lines to attach me to. Lies are standard Telstra procedure, I concluded. At this point I reminded Telstra that I was a T2 shareholder (victim), and was annoyed enough about this to attend the annual meeting and raise it as a complaint with (then-CEO) Ziggy Switkowski directly. Within a week, unannounced, a linesman was at my house wiring me up to “non-existent” direct connections to Kellyville Exchange. I asked how they’d magically appeared, and he looked uncomfortable and asked me to call the divisional manager and ask him that question.

Back in the Land of No Service:

Neil Appleby in Hong Kong writes: Having just left Australia after my annual holiday, I know just how Angry Telstra Customer feels. Despite my recent experiences with Big Pond, I found myself laughing at his misfortune but also, strangely envious. At least he got a response! I always stay at my mum’s retirement village when in Melbourne and as no-one has moved to WiFi there, I am forced to use a dial-up connection. One Saturday afternoon when I rang Big Pond Sales, I was advised by the computer to call back at a quieter time. I did this a few hours later at 8PM. I waited 35 minutes before giving up and dialling another number where I was advised to call back on Monday morning.

“What? Monday morning? You have no-one to sell me your product until Monday?”

“Yes sir, Monday morning.”

Grumbling about it being grand to be back in the Land of No Service I hung up. On Monday I rang nine times. Each time I had to wait 10 to 15 minutes before an operator answered and tried to direct me to an Apple-Mac staff member. I was then sent to another queue where no-one ever answered. When I whimpered and pleaded with the fifth operator to please not put me back in the queue and asked why couldn’t anyone try to assist, he told me that I expected too much.

“Look, we are paid about $10 an hour so what do you expect?”

Hmm … that struck me dumb. At least he was honest. I hope this call was being monitored for training purposes, I really do. Operator number ten finally had some compassion and initiative and kept me on-line whilst he got the necessary techie to assist. I only wish I could remember this fellow’s name so I could commend him to the Big Pond computer, err, I mean, Adam Collard. This experience makes me realise just how lucky I am to live in a country where service is always courteous and prompt and where the customer service representatives, especially in telecommunications, take pride in their work. They probably get paid peanuts like their Australian counterparts, but are well trained, well supervised and take pride in their work.

A sore Bluetooth:

Jim Blundell writes: After returning from my first new vehicle service visit to my Toyota dealer on Wednesday I saw your item on correspondence between Telstra’s automated customer response system and a disaffected NextG customer. I had asked my new car dealer why sometimes I couldn’t get an in-vehicle Bluetooth connection with my NextG mobile phone when at other times the connection was fine. The dealer said he had other customers asking the same. Telstra apparently claims a hacker has developed an interference system that could break or prevent an in-vehicle Bluetooth connection. Even modestly expensive vehicles like mine do not have a wired facility for the mobile phone to operate hands-free without Bluetooth.

Has Telstra owned up to the problem and advised its customers through emails or the media? Is Telstra doing anything effective to protect its NextG Bluetooth customers? Will it fix this problem before or after reducing its overseas roaming charges for Big Pond Wireless internet to below the current hyper exorbitant $15/meg?

Please help:

Ken Corbett writes: I signed with Vodafone for my on the road laptop online connection post the Telstra shut down of their very good EV-DO service at the end of April. Dealing with Telstra should be avoided at all costs even if the actual product is OK. The Vodafone data connection has recently refused to go to 3G even if my Vodafone mobile on a separate SIM has very good 3G connection signal indicated. I finally rang them as today the service was so slow in CBD Sydney as to be in practical terms useless. After surviving “Lara” their appalling auto service and finally finding a real person they started the run around of where do I live etc. After pointing out the service I was complaining about was in Elizabeth St, Sydney, they fessed up and said yes they had a problem and not sure when it would be fixed. All the “smart people” in telephony these days seem to be involved in selling. After sales service and product delivery are simply second rate. If any other readers have any knowledge of Vodafone’s data service and how to improve it please help.

Peter Fray

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