I work in Mongolia and in our company the main source of news for the expat is through the internet. Our service alternatively comes through Russia or China. Over the last week or so we have noticed that any search for web sites containing “news, SMH, Daily Telegraph etc” is either a success or met with a server not found. CNN or BBC are very hit and miss as well. Our IT director informed me that when the server is not found, this is a result of my search going through the Chinese lines and the Chinese are now severely restricting and censoring internet access and the content displayed. Not much we can do about it apparently.

I had a $99 credit with Qantas so I rang to make a booking. “That will be a $30 administrative charge and $44 for change of booking, do you want to continue?” The fare I wanted was $99. “Can you tell me how to access my credit on the website?”. “You can do that on the website or I can do it for you. That will be a $30 administrative charge and $44 for change of booking, do you want to continue?” It took about five minutes to get directions to the appropriate part of the website, where I booked a $99 fare, utilised my credit, balance to pay — $0. I don’t blame the staff member — but their training and supervision must be like jackboots.

GIO Insurance computers went down twice on Thursday. Customers calling about their insurance policies with the company were told GIO was unable to discuss their policy with them. It seems everything they know about the customer is on a faulty database. The long wait on the phone is one thing, but being told that waiting on hold for that long was a waste of time (because they couldn’t talk to you in any detail anyway) is just unprofessional. Good luck to anyone trying to make a claim or discuss where all the money they pay in premiums each year is going.

I rang Fairfax yesterday to renew my subscription to the SMH. The phone voice droned on several times about their high standard of service, press 1 then listen to it all again (what about my time?) press 2 then the phone went dead. They haven’t realised that there’s a break in the system and the callers just get lost. So I ring again the 1300 number which costs me, now twice, and I haven’t got any service yet.

I get smarter and get through to a real person. I tell her about the break in the phone system and I ask her to report that. she says she will. Then I say that I do not want to be called Mrs as they have done, that I have told them this before and can she please change that. She says no she can’t change that unless I make an application in writing. I point out that I have already paid for two phone calls and do not wish to buy a stamp as well and as I was born with the name I have and as I am an old age pensioner, I am not likely to have told them to call me Mrs by mistake.

As the error is offensive to me and it is their error can’t they change it. She said no she couldn’t. She can’t report that. How’s that for a high standard of service to women? Do they want female subscribers who do not wish to be automatically addressed as married women? Apparently not.