Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This is no surprise at all. Trujillo is a disaster

Telstra using 'plastic bags' to patch lines

THOUSANDS of people are having their phones cut off every time it rains because cost-cutting by Telstra means the lines are no longer waterproof and sometimes protected only by children's lunch bags. The Daily Telegraph has learned the number of faults skyrocketed to more than 5000 problems during the rains last week, compared to an average of 1000 in normal conditions. The problem is so severe that parts of NSW are referred to as "Baghdad" because the plastic bag patch-up technique is so prevalent.

The situation follows massive job cuts as part of the controversial cost-cutting program embarked on by Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo in 2005. The telco, which posted a $3.3 billion profit last year, has slashed thousands of technician jobs in the past 18 months, causing a massive backlog of work and leaving phone lines unprotected from the elements.

The situation hit crisis point last week when Telstra bosses were forced to issue a desperate directive asking technicians to work double time to clear the backlog. One text message obtained by The Daily Telegraph states: "Total volume is 5233 & we are currently in contingency mode. All efforts to complete ALL TOW's (tickets of work - fault reports) will be greatly appreciated."

Workers say Telstra's squeeze on technician numbers over the past 18 months - a cut of 2600 nationwide, including 550 in Sydney - has meant up to 50 lines in each underground footpath box are not properly protected. In many cases technicians, overloaded with the 500 per cent increase in workload, are forced to do hasty patch-up jobs with tape and plastic bags. They then put in a request for an outside contractor to complete the job but often this is not done in time, leaving the lines exposed to water.

The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union said Telstra's cost-cutting was to blame for a massive spike in faults. "These rising high volumes of faults are caused by Telstra's ongoing program of retrenching skilled communications technicians and major cutbacks to the maintenance of Telstra's copper cable network," assistant secretary Steve Dodd said. "Hundreds of skilled communication technicians have been made redundant in Sydney over the past 18 months following Telstra's CEO Sol Trujillo's announcement in 2005 to reduce its workforce by 12,000." Mr Dodd said there were safety concerns with people's phones being cut off at times of storms, floods and other extreme weather. The CEPU warned people to be prepared for a deterioration of services, including lengthy delays.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I knew it!

My extremely low expectations of Telstra efficiency -- born of experience -- were justified. Can Telstra get anything right first go? Their offensive and incompetent accounts management continues. After all my run-ins with them, I was sure that I had navigated correctly through their regulations. I FIRST got my prepaid "plan" changed to a "longlife" one and I THEN put another $30 into the account. That should have given me 12 months (until January 2009) to use the money.

But when I checked the accounts-checking line (1258888) I found that I had been given only until March to use the money! So I rang their helpline straight away and was told not to worry. The date would come right in about "48 hours". It didn't. I put the money in on 19th and by today -- 23rd -- the account was still showing on 1258888 as due to cut out in March this year.

So I rang the helpline yet again. Rather to my surprise I got a prompt response. I was prepared for the usual 20 minutes wait before I got to actually talk to someone. So perhaps my nagging about their slow response time did hit a nerve somewhere and they have actually put on adequate helpline staff at long last.

Anyway, the line was atrocious. Once again we have a phone company that cannot keep its own in-house phone lines working well. Amazing! But I guess that my call had to go all the way to India and back so maybe that was a factor. As it was, I could understand only about every second word spoken.

Anyway, with much palaver he did succeed in altering the date to what it should AUTOMATICALLY have been set to. I wonder when the penny will drop at Telstra HQ that doing things manually that should be done automatically is inefficient and costly? Not to mention very irritating to their customers.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Telstra boneheadedness

First: The good news. I rang the Telstra helpline (125111) about 11am this morning (Saturday) and got straight through -- instead of the usual 20 minute wait. Something to bear in mind! Saturday must be a good day.

Second: The usual archaic accounting system. I am now at last on a "longlife" plan which allows me to pay in $30 and get a year to use it. So I went in today and paid over my $30. Being a nasty old skeptic, however, (Telstra would make ANYBODY a nasty old skeptic), I immediately rang the account-checking number (1258888) to see if the $30 had gone through. It had. But what had NOT been properly reset was the expiry date. The date given was in March 2008 rather than in January, 2009.

So I rang the polite Indian gentleman on the helpline to ask what was going on. What he told me is that a reset date takes 48 hours to go through so they initially reset it to only two months ahead.

Incredible! If they can reset it at all, why don't they reset it to the correct date? It's very Telstra. I really am beginning to think that it will need legislation to make these bunnies behave with some semblance of civility and intelligence.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Silly Francis

A letter to Francis Croydon -- PR man for Solomon Trujillo

You are being very stupid by ignoring me. I had to write to the Prime Minister once before to get a Telstra problem sorted out. I am quite prepared to write to Kevin Rudd about your latest pigheadedness -- and that might have more fallout this time than Solomon will be comfortable with.

Yours disgustedly,

Dr John Ray

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My aim

My immediate aim in my present controversy with Telstra is to get them to refund the money that they have purloined from my prepaid mobile phone account.

But I am financially very well-off. I give away money by the thousands frequently. So such a tiny amount of money is of no consequence to me of itself.

What I object to is being treated contemptuously and my underlying aim is to stop people in general from being treated that way. What is an insignificant amount of money to me may be quite important to many others.

So I want to win this one for the impact it will have on Telstra, not for any other reason. I want to civilize them -- vain hope though that probably is.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Telstra Tricks

At long last, after numerous phone calls to Telstra and one totally uninformative letter from Telstra Head Office, I think I have figured out the treacherous techniques that Telstra uses to squeeze more money out of their hapless customers who hold prepaid mobile phone accounts.

No doubt one is supposed to figure it all out from the reams of legalese they give you when you sign up but I am no lawyer and nor are 99% of their customers, I am sure. Furthermore, Telstra's own helpline people don't generally seem to be aware of it all either. So how can customers be expected to know it?

First trick: When you buy a prepaid Telstra SIM card, they give you 6 months to use the money on it. But once you have used that money up, you only get one month to use any extra money you put on it unless you specifically request restoration of a six month's leeway. That one got me straight away. Before I knew it, my phone was cut off because I had "used up" my one month after the first recharge that I did -- even though I still had plenty of money in the account.

Second Trick: You have to request a return to the 6 month "plan" BEFORE you put in more money. You cannot do it after you have paid in. I fell for that one too. After my phone was cut off I put in another $20 of credit and rang them immediately thereafter to get my "plan" changed to a 6-monthly one. Both of the two helpline people that I spoke to on the day concerned assured me that all would be hunky dory from that moment on. It might take "2 or 3 days" for the change to show up in the account records but show up it would and that is all there would be to it.

It was only when I rang today (9 days later) and demanded to know WHY no change had showed up in the account records (automatically accessible via no. 1258888) that I was told of Trick no. 2.

I think that these tricks are utterly gross and that my "plan" should be fully changeable at ANY time, WITHOUT my pumping more money in. I further think that money unused due to time restrictions should be refunded to the customer. That would in my view be a minimum standard of civility for Telstra to adopt. But don't hold your breath when you are dealing with a huge and predatory company. I hope however that this blog might serve to forewarn a few of their potential victims.

I think my next step might be to approach the Rudd government and ask them to IMPOSE those minimum standards on Telstra. Rudd and Telstra are at daggers-drawn anyway so Rudd would probably welcome the chance to give Telstra one in the eye.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dear Mr McGauchie

I have just sent the following letter to the chairman of Telstra:

I would like to draw your attention to the contemptuous attitude towards customers that characterizes Sol and his staff. It has got so bad that I have started a website devoted to recording my appalling experiences with Telstra/Bigpond. It is here:

The site already has a high Google page-ranking --- as you can see for yourself if you Google (say) the two words:

Trujillo bigpond

My site is the first or second on the list that Google gives you in response to that query. So lots of people will be reading it. You get a mention there too.

Have a read through it (the posts are short) and consider whether or not personal intervention from you is required. Sol is missing in action -- even though I have written to him and his PR assistant (Francis Croydon) many times.

Yours sincerely,

(Dr.) John Ray