Thursday, 14 June 2012

Telkom and technological woes

It hasn’t been a great week where technology is concerned out here in the country. A series of power cuts on Tuesday – the first really bone-cold day of winter – reminded us just how fragile is Eskom’s grip on the grid, and doesn’t bode well for the chilly months to come. And a concurrent ‘network failure’ on Telkom’s part didn’t exactly inspire confidence either.

Not that I knew it was a network failure to start with. I first did all those fiddly things people do when their email/internet isn’t working, like reboot the modem, then reboot the computer, then reboot the modem again, then phone my neighbour to see if she was having similar problems: she was; and, like me, her ISP is MWeb. So I phoned MWeb, and got a prerecorded message that listed Riebeek Kasteel among about 20 other places that were having network failures; it was, apparently, a Telkom problem and Telkom’s engineers were ‘investigating’.

Fair enough. These things happen.

But when lunchtime rolled around and the situation hadn’t changed, I decided to phone Telkom’s helpline myself and find out what was going on. And, honestly, if I hadn’t made a resolution not to scream at people on the phone, I would have, because Telkom has a ‘it wozzen us’ policy that seems designed to drive its customers crazy. After following an infuriatingly lost list of computer-generated options (which included, annoyingly, keying in my phone number twice – why? – and a laughable one that invited me to go online to fix my problem) in order to finally get an actual human being on the other end of the line, this is how the conversation went.

Me: I work in one of the areas that is currently having a network failure, and I wondered how long it’s going to take to sort it out?

Telkom rep: Is your modem switched on?

Me: Look, we don’t have to go into all of that. I’ve already established that it’s a Telkom problem. I just want to know how long it might take to resolve.

Telkom rep: Oh. Hang on.

Quite a long break while I hear computer keys clacking.

Telkom rep: Right, here it is. The problem was resolved at 9.56am.

Me: Uh, no it wasn’t. I’m sitting in front of my computer, and there’s still no internet access.

Telkom rep: Oh. Hang on.

Another long break, more computer keys clacking.

Telkom rep: Okay, I’ve got it. It’s a network failure.


Me: Yes, I know it’s a network failure. It’s been a network failure since last night. I just want to know if you have any idea how long it’s going to take to fix.

Telkom rep: No.

So it was a completely fruitless exercise, and I put down the phone feeling bloody frustrated – but a little bit proud of myself for having remained polite and even-toned.

Almost immediately, the phone rang. Now, I must note here that I never answer my landline any more, as it’s inevitably someone trying to sell me something I don’t want; but I answered it this time because the timing seemed to suggest that it might be Telkom phoning me with news about the network failure – I had, after all, keyed the number in twice.

It was, indeed, Telkom, but it wasn’t about the problem – and, in fact, the timing of this cold sales call was so bizarre that I had yet another one of those ‘where’s the hidden camera?’ moments that seem to happen so often to me.

Telkom rep: Good afternoon. I’m calling from Telkom to offer you an extra-special deal on our ADSL packages—

Me: Hello? What? Are you really phoning me to try to sell me a Telkom ADSL package?

Telkom rep: [pushing on regardless] —as a valued Telkom client, you qualify for a month’s free internet access and—

And, I’m sorry, but I lost it.

Me: WHAT??! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! BECAUSE OF TELKOM, I’VE BEEN SITTING WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS SINCE LAST NIGHT, AND NOBODY CAN TELL ME WHEN THE PROBLEM IS GOING TO BE FIXED. AND YOU REALLY HAVE THE NERVE TO TRY TO SELL ME A TELKOM ADSL PRODUCT??! GO AND SPEAK TO YOUR TECH DEPARTMENT, AND ONCE THEY’VE SORTED THEIR SHIT OUT, THEN MAYBE YOU’LL HAVE A HOPE IN HELL OF MAKING A SALE!!

Telkom rep: [apparently unfazed; I suppose they must do a course in verbal abuse before they begin harassing people] So you don’t want one of our ADSL packages?

I slammed down the phone so hard I’m amazed it didn’t shatter.


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