Saturday, August 06, 2005

Don't sweat the small stuff

I think I was relatively civil. I didn’t shout, and I didn’t resort to name-calling. I did ask for the address for complaints, however, and added that I’d be copying the Fraud Office. I’ve never had an internet installation take place without the phone hanging from my ear for most of an afternoon, while I try to decipher the rapid, polite, but thickly-accented speech coming over the line, and I didn’t expect this one to be any different. I should have suspected something, however, when I put the CD-ROM in the drive and it didn’t even start, not even when I clicked on the file the instructions told me to click on if the CD-ROM didn’t start by itself. I’m not at all sure there’s actually any fraud – I was clutching at straws here – but it would certainly make a good scam.

Here’s the idea: you’re an ISP, and you announce a promotional campaign during which installation fees will be waived. You set up a call-center hotline to help people with the usual installation and other problems. To reduce queuing times, you announce to callers that calls cannot exceed 30 minutes, adding that this is a “telecoms regulation”. When 30 minutes are up, you cut off the call without warning. When the customer calls back, he gets a new person on the other end, of course, who luckily can call up the history of the customer’s previous call. But he decides to take the customer through the last ten minutes of manipulations he just did with the guy sitting at the other end of the room. Repeat ad nauseum.

In my case I had to call four times. At €0.34 per minute, my approximately 100 minutes of call time cost me €34. I would have preferred the installation fee if it might have avoided this hassle. In fact, maybe I can hire a consultant next time, say a university student, to come over and call my ISP for me while I do the work I’m more qualified to do. This service must exist, no? If the average DSL subscriber out there is no more computer savvy than I am, there must be a big market for it.

After my four calls, the connection still didn’t work. Then I realized that on a previous call a week ago, the ISP technician was in the middle of fiddling with the network settings in my control panel when the 30-minute bank-vault door came crashing down. So I’ve probably also won a call to Dell to fix the network settings.

Oh well, all of this, related lovely tasks (and blogging about it all) will have to wait for my return from vacation, which starts tomorrow and ends two weeks later. Hopefully, by then I’ll be a little more tolerant and philosophical about it all. If I were to try to resolve it in my current, enervated state, I’d be reduced to sobriquets and epithets, some of them not too flattering.

I should also have lots of other stories to tell, provided our gentle, charming hosts don’t mind being grist for a mill ….


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