Today I lost an hour and a half of my life to Telstra. Have I mentioned before how much Telstra suck? I’m sure I have. Why did I return to Telstra after so many years away? Because they caught me at a weak moment, cold called me at home, took advantage of my sleep deprived state and said they could save us money. Ohhhhh, and how I have paid for my fickle nature…
After signing over our home phone to them, I immediately forgot about it, until three months later when someone in the same town as us telephoned and said they had been receiving our bills. Interesting. It had not occurred to me that we had not yet seen a bill. To rectify the issue I had to give up about an hour of my time on the planet, as I spoke to people in sunny Brisbane. They did knock some money off the bill and gave me extended time to pay it. Which was, admittedly, pretty good.
Still never got a bill, so I never really knew how much to pay. Another long suffering Queensland employee practically begged me to just do my billing online. Naturally I was unable to use my login name of choice as I worked for BigPond Tech Support about a billion years ago and was still on file. I had no memory of what my inventive password of the time was. Thus I chose a username and password combination that immediately dropped into the abyss…
By the time I got around to sorting it all out, we had found this new house and I had made the sad discovery that, having ditched AAPT (internet and phone) for Telstra (phone) and Exetel (internet) – in moving house I was going to be breaking my six month Exetel contract which meant haemorrhaging $100 and then a $88 (re)connection fee. Oh WOE. However, Exetel have been very good, and it was not their fault that I had decided to escape the trailer.
I organised with Telstra to put our phone on at the new house on 22 December 2008. Seven days after that, they finally got around to it. I spent COUNTLESS aeons at the phonebox (as I had no mobile throughout that time) and also on the phone at my dads. All through Christmas – no phone. And the INTERMINABLE waiting on HOLD. Of course, my requests to Exetel to activate my internet were rejected. Twice. As the phone line remained unconnected. The whole thing had an air of farce. Finally, just prior to me taking out a mortgage on the phone box (where I would call, put the phone off the hook, go for a walk, buy milk, come back – and still be on hold) the telephone at the new house RANG!
Who was it? Astonishingly, it was Telstra. An apologetic Telstra.
“So sorry Beth,” said Telstra. “We missed the appointment that was scheduled for a technician to come out to your house.”
“Really?” I said. “You never let me know that such a thing was to happen. Oh – that’s right, I had no phone, so how could you? Oh – that’s right, I gave you my dad’s phone number so you could contact me if you needed to. And we heard nada. Nothing. Nil. Are you hearing me? Even though we are on a phone line ostensibly powered by pygmies doing pagan dancing somewhere down near the telephone exchange?”
“Yeah,” said Telstra, with a meditative pause. “Right. Well, anyway, we’re ringing to rearrange the appointment we missed.”
“Why?” I was genuinely intrigued.
“Because a technician needs to come out to the premises and activate your line. It seems there’s a problem with it.”
My brain exploded, coating the walls. “WHAT LINE DO YOU THINK WE’RE TALKING ON? YOU. CALLED. ME. Hello?”
Telstra, obviously baffled, said not to worry about it and hung up.
Cut to yesterday. I get a bill in the mail, correctly addressed, saying that the phone is going to be cut off next week if I don’t pull my finger out and pay the $80 owing from the trailer bill. Fair enough. I attempt to log on to telstra.com – but am again baffled by my login name and have to speak to a Canadian called Alex who says he can see I used to work for Telstra. I tell him that I try not to ever think of it, it’s in my past, and how is he coping? Oh, he tells me, I’m medicated. Seriously. I am seriously, seriously medicated. I’ve been working for Telstra for five years and last year, do you know how many days I had off? Two.
I gasp. Two days? Two days, he says. Because I’m getting married in February, and I’m taking a WHOLE MONTH off work to go with my fiance to Hawaii. I then say that it sounds like he will be familiar with America, judging by his accent – and then I pause, and then ask if I have insulted a Canadian. He says I have insulted a Canadian, but he’ll get over it. He tells me my login name, which I engrave on to my arm, and then bids me adios.
I log in. There, sitting pertly, are my debts. Around a hundred bucks or so. I go to pay, and the amount, after I click, totals up to FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY FOUR DOLLARS. I retry, and the same things happens. There is no way that Telstra are getting any of my barely existent finances until this is sorted out. I begin a phone call to them which sees me transferred to SIX different people, in different departments, ending with one of them hanging up on me after I’ve spent 56 minutes on the line. A few of them tell me that as I had moved into a house which, although it had a telephone line in situ, it was not a Telstra telephone line and in order to MAKE it a Telstra telephone line, I had to pay three hundred dollars. Surely I knew this? I kept repeating that I did not.
All of them goggled down the phone at me when I said that not only would I rot before paying them ANY money until the three hundred dollars was removed from my bill, I was going to hang in on that line, being passed around like a parcel, until someone sorted it out for me. Which is why, after 56 minutes, the sixth person hung up on me. I called straight back. Then I spoke to a few more people, all of whom sounded outraged and righteously indignant on my behalf, and then slyly palmed me off to someone, somewhere else, where I had to go through all my explanations and threats all over again.
In the end I got put on to some guy who I imagined was sitting on a gold chair in some kind of ethereal call centre setting where things are actually achieved. I explained for the tenth time, my situation, and told him that my brain had begun to leak from my ears. He asked if I could hold so he could consult with his supervisor. I said I would not hold. Ever again. He soothed me and said he was going to ask his supervisor for permission to wipe out that three hundred dollars, as well as the connection fee that I had told him I would not pay, as it took them seven days to connect me, and even then, they didn’t realise they’d done it. I was temporarily mollified.
He returned in under five minutes and said ‘mission completed’. I asked him if he was serious. He said he was. I asked what other worldly department was he in that he was capable of actually dealing with a problem, expecting him to say something like ‘The Department of Calm for the Truly Exasperated Customer’. But he just said he was in Billing. The same department I’d already gone through on four separate occasions. I thanked him several times. He was a very nice man.
I tiptoed back into my telstra.com billing thing. He had not been kidding. He had sorted out my bill. I was gobsmacked, and quickly paid the hundred dollars owing. I remain blisteringly astonished that a company so large is so incredibly inept. As soon as I get VOIP going again, I’m kissing them goodbye. I hope they go under. Did I mention they SUCK?