My up-hill battle with the only ISP/Telco I can get coverage with…

As many of you would know from reading either my Twitter feed, my Facebook feed or knowing me in person, Telstra and I haven’t been getting along for about 6 months now. Considering the number if services we have with them…and the amount of money we’re *spending* on said services…you’d think they’d be more than wiling to help. Apparently not. And it turns out it’s not limited to one particular service. Oh, no. We’ve had to battle them in regards to every single damn service we have with them. Considering the troubles I’ve had, I figured it was time to put the lot to paper (metaphorically speaking) and get it out there before I forget, because 140 characters just isn’t enough.

My first issues with them started in June last year. We’d recently signed up with Telstra as our home phone and internet provider, because our ADSL speeds were just abysmal because of how far from the exchange we were. So we made the switch from Naked Internode ADSL to Telstra BigPond cable and home phone. As part of this bundle, we got a T-Hub. Was initially excited…until I found out that we couldn’t use the T-Hub with our Telstra email, calendar, contacts or anything else because we’d been upgraded to the “new” system. Awesome…

As I figured that there was no point keeping the T-Hub, I tried to give it back. Several times. Over a period of about 7 months. I first tried in April, when I realised that we were being charged for the T-Hub when we weren’t really using it all that much. Not only were we not really using it, it turn out that it was faulty – my parents and Alex’s parents could not call us, no matter how hard they tried. Even worse, it didn’t register these missed calls but registered other random calls that I never remembered receiving! So I wanted it gone. They said they’d send a post bag. It never came, and I forgot about it all.

I should mention, at this point, that trying to return this involved me having to be reauthorised for my partners Telstra account each and every time I called. Because, for some reason, each person I spoke to was incapable of putting into the system that I was the defacto partner and that my partner (account owner) had given me full authorisation to do everything…about 6 times >.<

So back onto the story – then I’d remember about the T-Hub gain – and so we’d start the whole process all over again of me speaking to Telstra and trying to get a post bag sent out so I could return it. I spoke to them in July. And again in September. And yet again in November. Finally, in December, I completely lost my stack over the whole process. I was tired of trying to give it back to them and Telstra failing to send me anything in order to be able to return it…and continuing to charge me for the privileged. Not. Happy. Jan. We’ll stop this part of the conversation and move to problem number 2. I’ll come back to this problem shortly.

Second issue I had with Telstra was the biggest, most time consuming and most frustrating. I may not be able to tell the whole story because there will be parts of it that I’ve forgotten. But I’ll do my best.

We had some severe storms in late November that damaged some equipment for our cable internet. I know this *now*. I didn’t know this to start with, because most of the people I spoke with honestly didn’t know what was going on. The net appeared to be okay, we had an internet connection (which proved to be more a problem than a help) but our packet loss was just insane. In some cases, as high as 70%. For most people in our area, this probably wouldn’t be a problem – it would just show up as being insanely slow and taking ages to load up websites. For anyone using real time communications, such as voice comms, video chat, VPN’s or online gaming – this kind of packet loss meant that the connection was pretty much useless.

The number of phone calls I made to get this fixed – I’m being serious when I honestly can’t tell you how many. It got to the point where whenever I called, once they realised who I was, they’d just put my on never-ending hold. I was on hold for over on hour on my landline (which is tied to the net account) and then called in from my mobile (not tied to the net account) and got through in less than 3 minutes. Needless to say, I was exceptionally *EXCEPTIONALLY* pissed. After numerous phone calls and an almost never ending torrent of “When is it going to be fixed?” on Facebook, Twitter and Whirlpool (if I can find any of the posts I made, I’ll link them here – the problem is that they’re so far back, it’s almost impossible). It’s at this point that I should say the social media guys (Jesse in particular) are fabulous. Easy to talk to, willing to listen and take your comments on board, and they *always* get back to you.

I finally ended up getting through to them when I threatened to take it to the telecommunications ombudsman. At this point we’d had dodgy internet for nearly 3 weeks.

Once I had a complaints manager, it made things slightly easier because I was able to speak to the techs that were located here in Australia. Who actually seemed to understand what I was talking about when I said “packet loss”. It was here that it was finally tracked down that the issue was related to some hardware that had crapped itself in the storm…which was over three weeks ago. Why it took so long, I’ll honestly never know. The part that frustrated me the most was that the Tech Support guys (who are neither technical, nor supportive) refused to admit their was a fault. Even though there were multiple people in the area complaining, they adamantly refused to admit there was a fault.

In the end, it took nearly a month to get everything fixed. I did get reimbursed for both the wasted month and for some of my time due to the fact that I’d spent hours trying to get it resolved. What still frustrates me is that if I *hadn’t* kept chasing it, there’s a good chance the fault would still exist and nothing would’ve been done about it because, of course, there was no fault. I would think, with a network as large as Telstra has, they would think to get some decent monitoring of their equipment to *know* when things break >.<

Going back briefly to problem 1 – now that I had a complaints manager, I also mentioned the issues I’d had with the T-Hub. This is when they tried to give me the run around, saying that if I wanted to break contract I was going to have to pay to break it…which, as you can imagine, is where I lost the plot again. No way was I paying to break the contract on a device that HASN’T WORKED since I received it over 9 months prior. After going through 4 different ‘managers’, I finally get to speak to one who seems to understand. I think get a call from my complaints manager saying that the T-Hub is being removed from my account and not to worry about returning it as, if it is broken, they don’t really want it back. Awesome. I now have a dud phone that’s been sitting in my closet for a long time just taking up space…

Now finally onto problem 3. Mobile phone. This one is completely personal, as the home phone and internet are also tied to my other half, but my mobile phone is alllllll mine.

I’m going to copy and paste my direct post from Whirlpool to here, simply because it contains everything and it was also written while I was extremely angry and I’m pretty sure encapsulate my anger rather well:

“It’s all fun and games until someone’s mobile bricks itself. Also, apologies for the length of this post but I feel the story needed to be told.

Backstory: Have a HTC Sensation, absolutely love it, have had no problems with it until now. Had no issues with it on Friday night, woke up on Saturday morning to a phone alert (SMS, Facebook or Twitter, can’t remember which) and tried to get into my phone. Couldn’t. Touchscreen no worky. Restarted the phone, same problem. Factory reset the phone, same problem. Decided there was a good chance phone was bricked and needed to be repaired. Thankfully I remembered I had Telstra phone insurance.

Went into a Brisbane Telstra shop at 9am on Saturday morning. If required I’ll name the Telstra shop, but for the time being, I’ll leave them out of it.

Walked in, wasn’t approached by anyone, so I went to the front counter where two guys were working. Said that my phone was dead and I needed to claim my insurance. They told me to speak to speak to the floor manager. Spoke to him, put my name down on his “list” and waited. And waited. And waited. Took about 15 minutes to be seen when there were, at most, three other people in the store. Was also interested to note that when two of the guys had finished with their customers and approached the manager to get their next assignment, they basically drew straws to work out who’d get to deal with me. Didn’t I feel special…

The guy I spoke to said that there was probably nothing he could do, as it was outside of business hours. Considering I’d checked my paperwork before coming in, I was amazed by that, as CGU (the insurance that Telstra use) said that the claim could be made between normal business hours *AND* between 9am and 1pm on Saturdays. Told this to the guy who said he’d “Have a go at getting through”. He last about 5 minutes on hold before telling me that there was a good chance that, although he was “in the queue” and “progressing”, there was no one there. Told me that if I wanted to continue with the claim that I’d need to wait on the phone as they’d “want to speak to me anyway”.

At this point, it would be good to point out that I wasn’t sitting in one of their booths reserved for their sales, probably because I’d take up a booth and I wasn’t a sale. I was standing at their counter. And I remained standing at their counter for the best part of half an hour while on hold. At this point, as you can understand, I was pretty miffed. Miffed being the politest word I can use in this forum.

Finally got through to a lovely gentleman at CGU who was more than happy to help and who also confirmed that they were definitely open on Saturdays. Not sure why Telstra store employee told me they weren’t. He processed my claim very quickly, gave me my claim number and said that I should hear back from Telstra within a very short period of time regarding my phone (I was told 3 business days, so should be Wednesday at the earliest, possibly Thursday). Did make me feel a tad better.

Then had to get the attention of the Telstra store employee who was dealing with me before…who’d now wandered off to get a sale, undoubtedly increasing his commission. Ended up having to deal with another guy (one of the original two who had been lucky enough not to get the short straw the first time around). He started processing the claim but said that he was “weekend staff” so he didn’t quite know what we was doing. Talk about filling me with confidence…

After filling out the wrong paperwork to start with, we finally get the paperwork filled out so that it can be lodged. I was told it won’t be put in until 9am today (Monday), which I totally understood. As I’d said that I’d requested a loaner phone (I’m on-call for work) he then went out the back to get the loaner phone.

I have no idea how this store managed to get hold of a phone so ancient that even my mother got rid of hers over 3 years ago. A Samsung of some kind that, during the time he removed it from the charger and I’d had it in my bag while shopping for 5 items in Woolworths, had lost 15% of its charge. While I accepted it at first, I ended up losing my shit and having a breakdown (my choices when angry are to either a) turn homicidal or b) cry – crying is much less messy and doesn’t involve police). Handed it back in and said it was totally unacceptable, especially when I know of at least three other people who’ve had their phones repaired and have been given either identical models to what they were getting repaired or near equivalents. HTC Sensation =/= Samsung C5220 (believe that’s the model they tried to pass off to me).

I was told that it was no reason to “get upset” and “we’ve all been in different jobs and have had to be put into these difficult situations”. Honestly, he couldn’t have been more patronising if he tried. I also want to know when a Telstra store employee has been on-call 24×7 requiring RDP and VPN access on their phone. If there are any employees on-call, would be good to get their numbers, because I’m sure they would’ve been better than this guy.

During the whole process I was made to feel like a second-class citizen, I’m guessing because I wasn’t there to buy something and they couldn’t get commission out of me. Totally unimpressed and will go out of my way to go to a different Telstra store, to the point of driving to the other side of Brisbane to a different shopping centre.

To make matter worse, I was told on the phone by CGU and in person by the Telstra store employee, that I would know what was happening with my phone by Wednesday/Thursday this week. I’ve since been told by others who’ve had their phones repaired that this is most likely a lie and I’m more likely to hear back in three weeks, not three days. If that’s the case, I can tell you that I’m going to be monumentally furious.

Would a Telstra employee like to step in please and a) take my complaint regarding the store (I’d love to give you the names of the people involved, but when it became apparent to them that I was upset, their name tags mysteriously vanished) and b) ensure that my phone *is* repaired/replaced within the timeframes given to me?”

(full post including comments can be found here:

Much to their credit, a Telstra social media team member (Jesse to the rescue again!) saved the day and gave me the details I needed to make the complaint and he offered to investigate for me.

I waited the requested 3 days and then called CGU insurance to see where it was at. Was told that, for some reason, the phone was “delayed” in getting to them and hadn’t arrived until Wednesday morning – 48 hours after I was told it would be sent off. Again – Not. Happy. Jan.

The CGU gentleman was an absolutely treasure, offered to fast track it for me and get back to me if there were any problems.

I’m not sure if it was because of my insanely detailed complaint, or if it was because the CGU rep contacted Telstra, or if it was Jesse’s doing – but on Friday morning (less than 3 days after it was sent off for evaluation) I received a call from the Telstra store in question to let me know that my new phone was ready to be picked up, no out-of-pocket costs incurred.

You can imagine my surprise when, turning up to the store, I find that the two Telstra employees who “helped” me the first time were in the store. Which I found incredibly annoying as I was told by both of them, and their manager, that the reason the paperwork would take so long and the reason they weren’t good at speaking with CGU, was because they were “weekend workers”. Pretty sure Friday isn’t a weekend. Pretty sure they were just making up excuses so they wouldn’t have to do their damn job. >.<

I get to the store, the manager obviously recognises me in some way, but can’t quite place my face…until I give him my name. He pales and says that someone will be with me very soon. Sure enough, 30 seconds later, a different person is available to assist me and takes me up to the counter. Quickly grabs the new phone, asks me to sign a piece of paper and away I go. I could tell with the way they were dealing with me that they wanted me *GONE*. That’s fine. I didn’t want to be in their store anyway…and never will be again, even if I have to travel to the other side of the city!

So – landline, internet and mobile phone. Three out of three services. Three major issues. Other than their social media staff and their technical support staff here in Townsville, I didn’t speak to a single person who was actually interested in helping me. It appears that Telstra are more than happy to speak to you provided you want to BUY something from them. The minute you want the HELP with something that you’ve already paid for? Good luck.

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