Thursday, 12 March 2009

Meanwhile, back in the real world of blogging ...



Where to begin?

There is a hint in the rather surreal cartoon above. We lost our telephone wires in the big storm in January, and that took ten days to get restored. Then, because the repair was temporary, and the wires sagged lower than usual, a local farmer drove through them with a large and tall agricultural machine.

OK, so call the provider from a friend's phone and get it sorted, right? Um, no. Actually, this could have been funny.

Our provider is Alice, part of Tiscalli. They buy capacity from France Telecom and flog services on as an independent. You probably know the kind of thing. Part of their contract with France Telecom is that they take over the maintenance of the line, by, err, paying France Telecom to fix it when it goes wrong. But they have to call in FT. You can't do that; you can only deal with Alice.

Well, first the funny part (this all takes place in French of course):

"Hello Alice, there is a problem with the line - it's broken"

"OK, are you standing by your modem?"

"Err, not exactly, I'm 6 km away, calling from a friend's house, because our line is down"

"Yes, but I can't help you unless you are standing by your modem and reboot it and tell me which lights are on"

"No, I don't think you quite understand, I've seen the line, it's on the ground, and it is in two halves"

"Are you standing by your modem yet?"

"Just a sec, yes, OK, I'm standing by my modem". I think, dear reader, you will grasp that this lie was necessary to move on.

"Good, OK, switch it off and on and tell me what you see"

"I see an error light, because the line is on the ground and broken in two"

... Now I have to tell you that this pantomime went on for ten times longer than I depict it. In the end, after divine intervention, the baton was passed to someone in technical who, after more of the above (I swear it), did a remote test and declared "Oh, your line seems to be broken".

Hooray! They agreed that it would be fixed that week (this was Monday evening).

It was not. More calls. Apparently someone from Alice had been to inspect the site and had declared that the line was down and in two pieces (I though that we had told them that ...).

So what next?

Ah, well according to their service agreement with FT, the line would be fixed before the end of week 2.

Except it was not. (In brackets, hello, is this a first world country or what?)

Further calls to Alice became more and more weird. Their computers were down, our account was blocked, no sorry, it and a number of others were subject to some review which means that they could not be serviced for a while. How long? Well, a while. Etc etc etc.

Now you need to think about this for a bit (I know I have). Ninety nine times out of 100, Alice doesn't need to lift a finger. If a line goes wrong, it will affect FT customers too, so they will have to come in and fix it at their own expense.

But we fall into the 1% (or 0.1%) of cases where the line comes to us, alone. Or at least the last kilometer or two - a small section is shown below as it marches towards chez nous.



And I slowly began to realise that they weren't going to fix our line. Not now, not ever. They were simply, and cynically, waiting until we got so pissed off that we would leave them and rejoin FT, who could then fix the line at their own expense.

I have to say that the realisation stunned me, but I'm convinced I'm right. There is still a 1/2 kilometer of damage from the storm and it will cost hundreds to put right. Or about the revenue from 3 or 4 years of our contract with Alice.

We were in the shit and they were happy to leave us there. Call FT? Tried - "Sorry, you have to take that up with Alice".

So I got an extremely long ladder, put on a fluorescent jacket, climbed up the effing pole (we're talking 4-5 meters here), joined the two ends of the cable using household connectors, went back to the house, fired up the modem, and had working telephone and internet.

Since we still had no word from Alice a week later, we called out of sheer curiosity. Well, they said, the line is working so one of our technicians must have fixed it. Any details of the above on our computer file? Well, no, but clearly it had been fixed, so our problem was ...?

How about the 1/2 kilometer of line that is still trailing along the ground? You want it raised? Fine we'll raise it, but at your expense.

Well, thanks a bunch Alice, and may you all rot in hell, and with no internet to make your punishment even harsher.

So there we are.

I guess that we will simply have to change to FT and after a decent interval tell them that, surprise surprise, our line is on the ground and please come and fix it.

Footnote.

Blogging is a habit, I've realised, albeit a nice one. It has been really quite difficult to return to it after such a break. But I'm sure I'll get back into the swing of things. Anyway, lots of nice catching up on all your lovely blogs to look forward to.

61 comments:

SJW said...

Enjoyable and funny story Ernest - well from the outside in anyway.

The price you pay for living in such a beautiful, remote spot I guess - though this type of frustration dealing with sub-contractors gets us in the suburbs as well.

Welcome back to blogging anyway - always enjoy your posts.

I've become a more regular, if brief, contributor of late by committing myself to 100 words each day for March.

Dumdad said...

Ernest,

First of all, welcome back.

Secondly, your story beggars belief except I do believe it. All of us have been made promises by providers who are just lying through their teeth. I shan't bore you with my myriad fights with various organisations but one little tale about TV.

I changed to TPS with computer and television through the phone line. The reason I chose them was that I wanted BBC Prime. I asked them expressly that they did BBC Prime. Yes, they did. But what they didn't tell me was that a couple of months later BBC Prime was not available through the phone line. Now they must have known that when I signed up. But, of course, they didn't tell me. So after a blissful two months of BBC Prime, zilch.

Yes, I complained but to no avail. Did I leave TPS? No, because I would have been cutting off mon nez to spite my face. They win again.

Not on the scale of your woes but another example of cynical salesmanship. Plus ça change....

Working mum said...

Welcome back. Looking forward to rubbing my neurons again!

My parents had a similar thing recently with BT (who provides the line) and their internet provider - (who also happens to be BT!) Neither side would take responsibility for the fault. So, that's BT not taking responsibility and ...... BT not taking responsibility. Where do you go from there?!

Clare W said...

Well how nice to have you back at the end of the string with a yoghurt pot.
I think I know what FT stands for and it's not French Telecom...and Alice is definitely somewhere in Wonderland with the March Hares. xxx Jolly Good.

Miranda said...

Oh hurrah welcome back! I'm sorry for your internet woes but oh they made me delighted! Sounds JUST like Africa, but its not! This pleases me no end. Sorry. Great that you're back though. Hope you pick up the habit again quick...(as in blogging, not anything to do with nuns)

Lehners in France said...

Howdee - Nice to have you back - I thought you must have fallen out of a tree and expired or suchlike..

Anyway you have my greatest sympathy - Tiscali in my experience are the worst company on the entire planet.

When we came back to our cottage in the UK our tenants had been using Tiscali for telephone and internet. I thought (silly me) that it would surely be easier to stick with the same provider and just have it transferred to our name.

WRONG ! Tiscali proved absolutely unblievably useless and frustrating to deal with.

Their help desk is in the Phillipines and manned by robots (I think they are actually humans) who are obviously programmed to say only a limited number of things.

'Hello, can you tell me when my line is going to be up and running please ?' 'Your line is not ready yet, but will be done soon'. 'Can you tell me when ?' 'Your line is not ready yet, but ...' All this at £1 a minute.

After 2 weeks of this I found a UK complaints line on the internet(accessed via the public library as of course we have no internet at home). However you can't lodge a complaint without giving your account number - and of course we didn't yet have an account.

Then 'phoned another so-called customer services department who said 'Nothing to do with us - 'phone this number' (the one in the Phillipines !

AAAgghhh - after several weeks and fearing a hypertensive cardiovascular crisis I told Tscali where to stick their 'phone line and contacted BT who to their credit (and my amazement) had us up and running in a few days.

At least 2 months later had an e-mail from Tiscali saying they were now ready to install our line !


Anyway - you must be very grateful that you have a fluent French speaker - imagine the poor sods who have to deal with this sort of situation in pidgin-French .

Have a nice day. BOB

Ernest de Cugnac said...

sjw - Yes, I guess you are right about the beautiful, remote spot. But these days (I guess all bloggers are going to be the same) you really feel lost without internet, so I'll have to do something about a more reliable supplier. Any time soon.

dumdad - takes the biscuit, doesn't it? This is one thing that the UK *may* do better, what with ombudsmen and women coming out of our ears ...

wm - spoilt for choice eh? And, as bob says lower down, BT probably emerges as one of the stars.

claire w - now you have me intrigued. What could FT stand for? I can guess at the F, but the T??

miranda - I can tell you that thoughts of Africa did cross my mind. And I expect fixing it oneself is one of the things one might do. I like habits.

bob - how lovely to read your long screed, and realise that one is not alone in telecoms provider land. Hope all is well.

Lulu LaBonne said...

Poor Ernest - that sounds dreadful and dreadfully familiar, when I was going through my own FT fiasco I discovered there was no-one who hadn't lived one telecoms nightmare or another.

But hey - you got it sorted and in a Superman sort of way, I can now only imagine you striding around with a tablecloth knotted over your shoulders

Ernest de Cugnac said...

lulu - I'm OK with the knotted tablecloth as long as I don't have to wear my underpants outside my trousers.

Nota Bene said...

Almost reassuring to hear that telecos are the same in every country...but glad you are re-connected.

Of course, in the UK they'd probably prosecute you for doing their job...'he shrugs shoulders in typically Gallic fashion'

Baino said...

Ha . . sounds like here or calling Microsoft or Apple with a PC problem and they tell you to go online to troubleshoot!

i beati said...

We are glad you are back. I found this post both funny and frustrating..especially the truth in the wireless part.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

nota bene - actually I'm sure I could be prosecuted here too. I was anxious, but even more desperate to get some comms back.

baino - no, they never do ... do they?

ibeati - glad you liked the cartoon!

Mud in the City said...

Great to have you back and I am impressed at your level of DIY!

claires inner world said...

Hi Ernset! Welcome back - have missed your posts.

I can't believe you fixed it yourself!! Nice one! (You do know how crazy that is, though, right?!)

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

It is Alice in Wonderland, isn't it?

Glad to see you're back, hope you manage to stay awhile, Alice and FT notwithstanding. And really, you know, you may want to consider moving back here, neither Telkom nor Neotel (yes! we have competition now) are as bad as your lot. Though the Gautrain is proving problematic in shredding both lots' cables...
See, at least you didn't have to become a mole to get to your cables, though I don't envy your trip up the pole!

Siobhán said...

HI Ernest
You've been out of circulation for a while I know, but just to say I've tagged you for a meme at 100 Words from Dublin if you'd like to take part.
Siobhán

Baino said...

G'day Ernest, ust thought I'd drop round . .you've been conspicuous by your absence? I hope all is well and life is doing what it does, distracting you from the blog.

Milla said...

come out come out wherever you are, I've given you some bling, yes, an award.

Yvonne said...

Where are you? I'm getting worried. I do hope that you are well and enjoying some away time and that your absence is not permanent.

lakeviewer said...

If it wasn't so frustrating, it would be a comedy show stopper. Anyway, I enjoyed my visit here.

Millennium Housewife said...

begining to get more than a little bit worried about you Earnest, just check in and let us know you're ok xx

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