Monday, December 31, 2007


The sheer incompetence of Telstra has to be experienced to be believed. On Christmas eve I went through the mind-numbing experience of using Telstra's phone helpline to get my cellphone "plan" changed over from a monthly one to a six-monthly one.

After FOUR interminable calls to the line, I was told that the change in plan had been made but that it would take "2 or 3" days for it to show up in the account records. So, one week later, I have just phoned the account records line (1258888) and what do I find? NOTHING has been changed!

I realize that Christmas has intervened but what has happened since then? And why does it take ANY time for information to pass from one Telstra computer file to another? It sounds like they have the sort of system we had with mainframe computers in the '60s -- where large spools of magnetic tape has to be manually transferred from one tape reader to another by an operator. That is certainly the level at which Telstra is operating, whether or not that is the actual process.

And, for once, Optus is ahead of them. I also changed the "plan" on my Optus mobile phone and that registered in the accounts department immediately. If Optus can do it, why can Telstra not do it?

And it is not as if this is an immaterial issue. Somebody with plenty of money in his prepaid account could easily have his phone cut off -- as happened to me -- simply because the accounts department has not been told that he now has extra time to spend it.

It sounds like some doddering octogenerian must be in charge of their IT department. NOTHING gets through to them sometimes. I believe that Trujillo is riding for a fall. Telstra has a huge capacity to make customers angry and I would not be surprised if someone turned up to a Telstra AGM some day with a gun. So far Telstra has been able to rely on the easygoing good nature of their Australian customers for that not to happen. But there are now in Australia people from many lands -- some of whom might not be so easygoing. Given my own experiences with Telstra -- having my phone suddenly cut off, for instance -- it is probably lucky that I am one of those cool, calm old Anglo-Saxons who rely on words, not bullets.

I wonder if a letter to Donald McGauchie (chairman of the Telstra board) might do some good towards shaking them up? They sure need it. One step that would help a lot and which he could easily direct a solution to would be to put more staff on the helpline so that the long waits for attention do not occur. The wait is so long sometimes that the automated response warns callers that the wait will be long and advises people to call some other time! If they are aware of such a gross problem, why do they do nothing to solve it? I know from experience that it is a common occurrence and has been going on for a long time. That they let it go on shows great contempt for their customers.

I think that if Telstra's right hand has not managed to talk to its left hand by tomorrow I will write to McGauchie. Phoning them is obviously pointless (and difficult) and I have already written several letters of complaint about my "plan" to Trujillo's office with no result.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Using the appalling Telstra phone helpline

Since Telstra have so far ignored all my written requests that they move my mobile phone account to a "plan" where I get six months to use whatever money I prepay, I decided that I would have to use their phone system to get the change made.

I had tried once before but was told that I would be on hold for at least 20 minutes before I got an answer to my call so gave up at that point. I figured however that the day before Christmas they might not be so busy as most people would be out shopping etc.

I was SORTA right. The wait per call was only about 10 minutes. But it took me FOUR calls to get the matter sorted out. That added up to a lot of waiting. I foresaw that, however, so simply kept a phone to my ear as I carried on blogging.

The first call was a washout because we had a very scratchy line and I could not make out what the other guy was saying. You want a phone company that cannot keep even its own phone lines working properly? With Telstra, you've got it! So I hang up and start again.

The second call, the speech recognition software sent me to the wrong area. I was supposed to be transferred but nothing happened. Hang up and start again.

The third call I was pretty cheesed off with the tedious and error-prone speech recognition software so in response to every prompt I simply shouted "BUM!". That worked very well. I recommend it. I got put straight into the waiting list. This time when I finally got answered, the thing went well and the requested change was made. Being a skeptic, however, I checked shortly after the call that the change HAD been made -- by dialing the account details line. It had NOT been made.

Fourth call: I asked why the change was not showing and was told that it will show up in 2 or 3 days. Funny computers they have there! Why it's not instantaneous entirely escapes me.

My experience will be recogized as familiar by many Telstra customers.

Conservative economists generally recognize the legitimacy of government controls on oligopolists and I think this is one occasion for it. Telstra needs to be legislated into good behaviour. They know about the waits their customers have to endure but quite obviously use it to drive way people with difficulties and complaints. They will have themselves to thank if they are further regulated.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Something Telstra has not yet learned

Telstra is a company that follows the old corporate "coverup" and secrecy policy -- as evidenced by their absurd prohibition of their own name on BigBlog sites -- so it is exactly the sort of company which should take heed of the excerpt below -- if Senor Trujillo (their boss) is capable of learning such things

Last year, Kelman was the newly hired CEO of Redfin, an online brokerage firm that was, as he puts it, "the ugly red-haired child" in the real estate world. Redfin was trying to turn the industry upside down by refunding people two-thirds of the commission that real estate agents normally charge. Customers loved the idea - why the heck did you need to hand over 6 percent of the price of your house, anyway? But agents hated it for destroying their fat margins, so they began blacklisting Redfin, refusing to sell houses to anyone who used the service. Kelman was struggling to close deals for his clients.

His first reaction was to keep the situation quiet and pretend everything was OK. "We were really ashamed that our customers were getting pushed around, so we tried to keep it this dirty little secret," he says. But when months went by without any improvement, he decided to take a different tack.

Kelman set up a Redfin blog and began posting witty screeds about the nasty underbelly of the real estate business. He denounced traditional brokers, accusing them of screwing customers with clubby, closed-door practices. ("If we don't reform ourselves, and take out all the sales baloney, too, people will come to hate real estate agents the way they hate tobacco companies or Big Oil," he wrote.) He publicized Redfin's internal debates, even arguments about the design of its Web site. He mocked himself: One post described how he had sat at a college job fair for hours, waiting in vain for a single student to approach him. ("This was particularly sobering because it meant we had outlosered our neighbor to the right, Ford Motor Company," he wrote.) Meanwhile, in the blog's comments, old-school agents were unleashing hissing attacks on Redfin. Kelman left the critiques ine and lashed right back, in full view of his customers.

His enemies got nervous. All this intestinal spew seemed maso chistic. Worse, it was probably bad for business. Everyone's business.

But customers loved it. More and more signed on to use Redfin, and by the beginning of this year, Kelman and his crew were closing several deals a day. "Instead of discouraging customers, being open about our problems radicalized them," Kelman says. "They rallied and started pulling for us."

Like some crazed convert, he trumpeted his epiphany: "I honestly believe that if Redfin were stripped absolutely bare for all the world to see, naked and humiliated in the sunlight, more people would do business with us." Follow me, he urged.

And many have. Radical forms of transparency are now the norm at startups - and even some Fortune 500 companies. It is a strange and abrupt reversal of corporate values. Not long ago, the only public statements a company ever made were professionally written press releases and the rare, stage-managed speech by the CEO. Now firms spill information in torrents, posting internal memos and strategy goals, letting everyone from the top dog to shop-floor workers blog publicly about what their firm is doing right - and wrong. Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, dishes company dirt and apologizes to startups he's accidentally screwed. Venture capitalists now demand that CEOs be fluent in blogspeak.

In February, after JetBlue trapped passengers for hours in its storm-grounded planes and canceled 1,100 flights, CEO David Neeleman tried to deflect the blast of bad publicity by using YouTube to air his own blunt mea culpa. Microsoft, once a paragon of buttoned-down control, now posts uncensored internal videos - and encourages its engineers to blog freely about their projects (see page 140). The very process of developing ideas, products, and messages is changing - from musing about it in a room with your top people to throwing it out on the Web and asking the global smartmob for a little help.

More here

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogs + Google = publicity

I have been a bit grouchy with Google being slow to archive stuff on occasions but I like their coverage of this site. If you input the two search terms:
Trujillo Bigpond

You get this very blog SECOND on the list that Google gives you! Senor Trujillo may not like what I say about him and his company but he is going to have to deal with the fact that Google-users will be reading it! It's unlikely to bother him in the slightest, however. After getting to be boss of Telstra despite his "problematical" record in the USA, he probably feels invulnerable. He should beware of hubris however. They even got Al Capone eventually.

Just for fun, here is the TOP entry that the same Google search returns (With spelling and punctuation cleaned up):

After being with Bigpond for years -- I've had dailup for years -- it was ridiculous, horrible, slow, downloads at 1-3kbps!

So I wanted to get ADSL, 1.5 mbps sounds great, even better came with 12gb of usage!

It was available at my address, but I inquired about how good wireless was. They were saying how great it was. Then I checked the availability thing again. ADSL wasn't available and wireless appeared on the top of the list. Ridiculous, how ever the horrible staff do this, it is ridiculous. They said it was fully available but then they said that I could only get wireless, and now I am paying $149.95 per month for 1.5mb/384kb with 3gb usage. Thats right, three-gigabytes-of-usage. I cannot survive with 3gb of usage. Even worse, Bigpond is the only ISP with an exchange here. Now I am stuck with a stupid ISP with rip-off plans, slow speeds, faulty usage meter and lousy Bigpond staff.

This is all I am going to say. Don't even think about considering Bigpond. They are the worst ISP. If you are with them, go to a REAL ISP!


I myself have Bigpond cable (after a HUGE battle to get it connected) and find it suits me well enough -- as it should do, given its high price -- but it is true that their helpdesk staff have the usual "Blame the customer" attitude when things go wrong. And every time I have had a problem it has always emerged that it was NOT my fault. I have been writing computer programs for 40 years so I am not easily foxed by anything to do with computers. So I have always had to be very persistent (something I am good at!) in getting Bigpond staff to look into problems. Sometimes I have had to ring back several times until I get a reasonably decent staffer on the other end of the line. One of their helpdesk staff is named "Enoch". Ask for him if you can get him. He is really genuine and DOES kick problems upstairs to where they get fixed.


I Googled the above post a couple of hours after putting it up and Google already had it! Impressive.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Casualties of Telstra

Readers might be interested in a little bit of history. Some time in the '90s there was a group called COT ("Casualties of Telstra"). They consisted of businesspeople whose businesses had been severely harmed by the persistent failure of Telstra to provide them with a reliable landline service. Not many people had mobile phones at the time. COT was led by Brisbane high-end restaurateur Anne Garms, whose restaurant often failed to receive the bookings that people tried to phone in.

The COT protest ground on for some years, with Telstra resolutely refusing either to fix the problems or compensate the sufferers. The matters were finally resolved only when a Minister in the Howard government called a conference of all the affected parties -- including Telstra. I understand that everything was ironed out at the conference but I have never heard what the final details of the settlement were.

But that's how bad Telstra gets: You may have to get a top politician to intervene in order to get any semblance of decency and civility from them. And you can guess how rare it is to get that level of assistance. Anne Garms had good political connections or else she might still be whistling Dixie to this day.

There are some links about the appalling behaviour of Telstra in the matter here and here. They even managed to get one complainer committed to a mental institution! Shades of the Soviet union!

Telstra are at the moment at war with the Rudd government over Rudd's plan to expand broadband services so I think if I complained to the government about them, I might get a sympathetic hearing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Letter to TIO

PO Box 276
Collins St W.
Melbourne 8007

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

Would YOU grumble if your phone company suddenly cut off your phone without warning, explanation or reasonable cause? What if there was plenty of money in the prepaid account concerned but the company decided to just take that money for themselves and give you nothing in return? That's what Telstra did to my mobile phone service no. 0448 285691.

No doubt there is something in the acres of small print that they hit you with that does in their mind permit their execrable behaviour in this matter but the courts have increasingly recognized that the average consumer cannot be expected to hire a lawyer every time he signs something and there are now in many jurisdictions provisions to overturn "unconsciencable" contracts. I hope however that an appeal to you will forestall the need to go to court.

I wrote to Francis Croydon of the Testra CEO's office about the matter on Nov., 27, 2007 and got back a reply dated Nov. 28th in which he said that what Telstra had done was right and proper. Subsequent letters from me have not budged that stand. So I think it is now clearly over to you.

As far as I can gather, the problem arose because I was put on the wrong "plan". My whole reason for getting a prepaid card was to avoid these godforsaken "plans" but it appears that I was put onto one anyway. And the default plan gave me only a short time to use up whatever money I had on the card. There IS apparently a plan that would have allowed me 6 months to use my money but I was not told of it.

Please get them to restore my account, restore my funds and put me on a 6-month plan
Another Telstra service bombs

News report below. The pic is of Sol Trujillo, Telstra's controversial Mexican boss

Telstra is poised to lose one of its key information technology services contracts with the National Australia Bank preparing to shift its $100-million-a-year desktop management business to IBM.

Unlike Santa's sleigh, Telstra chief Sol Trujillo will have to deal with lighter coffers this Christmas no thanks to NAB. Telstra has struggled for more than a decade in its attempts to move into IT services and with a cloud continuing to hang over its Kaz IT business, the telco's future in the sector is in doubt.

NAB spokeswoman Megan Lane told The Australian: "We have a letter of intent with one of the vendors, even though there are two vendors in place, but have not yet signed a contract." It is understood that the supplier is IBM.

Telstra won contracts from NAB in 2001 and 2002 to provide and manage its telephony and computer desktops. But this time around, the telco has lost out to the US-based software and service behemoth in a two-horse race following a July tender.

More here

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Telstra calls the kettle black

Sounds like some real psychological projection going on in the news report below. Telstra is accusing Optus of being reluctant to connect its cable to large dwellings. I had a HUGE battle to get Telstra to connect its cable to my place. I actually had to write to the Prime Minister before they would do it! Even though their cable was only a couple of yards from my front door! Hard to believe, really.

Telstra and Optus are two very lazy oligopolists and that is all there is to it. It is a definite case of the pot calling the kettle African-American!
Telstra has taken a swipe at its competitor Optus, accusing it of getting a cheap ride on its network instead of investing in its own. The claim comes a day after Optus announced it had upgraded its cable network to 20 megabits per second, and ahead of an anticipated ruling on the price Telstra can charge for access to its copper network - known as unconditioned local loop (ULL).

A spokeswoman from Optus denied the claim, suggesting Telstra is attempting to distract the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding its ULL decision.

Telstra has lodged a request with the ACCC to exempt it from offering Optus access to its ULL network where Optus already has cable. It claims that despite Optus' cable network passing 2.2 million homes, it continues to rely on Telstra's, particularly in multi-dwelling apartments.

"SingTel Optus claims that only 1.4 million homes within its cable footprint are serviceable, which is code meaning they don't want to make the investment to connect nearly 40 per cent of homes that have cable running past their front door," Telstra executive director regulatory, Dr Tony Warren, said. "By comparison, overseas cable networks treat less than eight per cent of their homes passed as unserviceable."


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Optus wins! (This time)

When Telstra abruptly cancelled my mobile phone service, I foresaw a long battle to get it back. So I promptly went out and bought another cellphone attached to Optus -- Australia's second biggest telecoms provider.

I did so with some trepidation, however, as my past experience with Optus has not been good. Optus and Telstra are the only two companies with a nationwide cable network so they tend to function like oligopolists -- i.e. they compete in only limited ways. And if Telstra has low standards of customer service then Optus sees no reason to do better: "Don't rock the boat, old chap, or we might all have to work harder!". Very "Yes Minister"!

Anyway, I struck difficulties with Optus immediately. You can read about it here. I of course wrote letters and filled out online forms but got no helpful response. It now transpires that I was only a week away from getting my Optus service cut off too!

Anyway, just a few hours ago I did get a phone call from a perfectly knowlegeable, intelligible, polite and helpful Optus staffer who seems to have fixed my problems. His call apparently was in response to one of the two online forms I filled out a couple of weeks ago. When you fill out one of the forms it tells you that they will try to respond within two days. But TRY is obviously the weasel word. They don't try too hard.

No further response from Telstra yet, though. It almost takes an atom bomb to move them! I may have to lodge a complaint against them with the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) shortly. I don't intend to give up on them until my old service is restored.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Asleep at the wheel

Francis Croydon
CEO's Office

Re: mobile service 0448 285691


It is now over two weeks since I wrote to your Referral Centre but I have not as yet been favoured with a reply from them. Do you think you could gee them up? I had anticipated that an unsatisfactory reply from them might cause me to apply to the TIO but I had not anticipated that I might have to apply to the TIO just to get any reply at all out of them. Are you sure that is the way Telstra wishes to proceed? Please advise.

Note that I am a TLS shareholder (HIN X00036201355). That is of course no mark of distinction but it should get me into the next AGM. Immediately before the next AGM, therefore, you might wish to brief Mr Trujillo on the questions I might ask. I am sure he would be amazed to hear of the small-mindedness I have encountered. Or perhaps not. I imagine the media might be amused, though.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A constructive suggestion

I imagine that those at Telstra who have had to deal with me consider me to be something of an enemy. They are dull enough for that. I myself think that I am one of their little helpers, though. I try to get them to improve their procedures and become more user-friendly. I am after all one of their shareholders -- dubious distinction though that is. Being a shareholder could get me into their AGM, though. That would be a ball!

Anyway, here is one more little way that BigBlog could upgrade what it does. It will only bring them into line with all other blogging services that I know of so it is not exactly a huge leap forward but it would help.

When you log on to BigBlog it has no memory. With most internet sites that you visit repeatedly, you just have to enter the first couple of letters of your username and the site immediately completes it. Not on BigBlog, though. You have to enter every last letter of your username and password every time. Quite primitive.

They are obviously bottom-of-the barrel programmers that run BigBlog but what I have just described is so common that it must be a library function by now. All they have to do is look it up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An amusing victory

One of the weirder features of Telstra's BigBlog service was that it would not let you mention the name of Telstra itself. Their blogging software actually told you that "Telstra" was a "naughty" word. I kid you not. I had to modify the name as T*lstra to get the blogging software to pass it. I was of course most derisive about that and in my post of 4th (See below) I called them "sick puppies" over it.

It seems that the rhinoceros hide of Telstra does have its vulneralbilities and "sick puppies" was one epithet too far for them. In my last couple of posts on Bigblog, I did not encounter that barrier. I was able to use the unmodified name. They have obviously caved in and modified their software.

Getting intelligence out of them is a huge task but it can be done -- very slowly. Their BigBlog product may even be usable one day.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Welcome to my new site for exposing the idiocies and arrogance of Australia's major telephone and cable provider

I have previously been blogging about them via their own "Bigblog" facility and from that some readers may vaguely recall something of the execrable services that they provide.

BigBlog was always a primitive affair but I have just found out that it is even more primitive that anyone could have imagined. They turn it off at night! That's right: It is only available during Australian daylight hours! Amazing that Australia's largest provider of internet services cannot keep its own blogs up and running 24 hours a day -- but that is the reality, folks.

Now that I have discovered that, I have of course moved camp and am now blogging here about them. I have already transferred below some of the more recent posts from the BigBlog site.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another night failure

It's happened again. I could not access my BigBlog blog late at night. That is SO primitive it is unbelievable. One more such night and I will transfer operations to blogspot. Blogspot is a much more sophisticated and easy-to-use platform anyway. I just thought it was rather neat to use Telstra's own blogging service to post criticisms of them.

And Google scan blogspot sites with amazing speed: They often have a post within an hour or so of it going up. The fact that they own blogspot is obviously relevant.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Memo to Francis Croydon

Francis. I am putting this memo on the net only as I am pretty sure you will be reading it soon.

I have come across what seems to be yet another colossal piece of Telstra incompetence. I have tried several times to access my BigBlog site late at night and have found that it just will not come up -- even if I wait some time. I have tried accessing it from several points on the net but still with no success.

Is Telstra back in the Menzies era with an assumption that everybody who counts is in bed by 11pm Australian Eastern Time? Surely everyone knows that the internet is a 24 hour affair. It has to be. What is late at night in Australia is early morning in America -- and Americans DO read Australian sites.

So turning off BigBlog late at night is both bizarre and unprecedented in the world of blogging. I am hoping that it is only a temporary aberration, though. Could you get someone at BigBlog to ring me and tell me what the heck is going on?

I have of course saved everything on my BigBlog blog to disk and can easily recreate it on a more mature blogging platform if need be


John Ray

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

TO: FRANCIS CROYDON, CEO liason, Telstra


I said something nice about you on my blog yesterday. See here:

The blog now has quite a few links on the net so will gradually move up the Google page-rankings and thus be read by more and more people. Try googling "Francis Croydon" for instance.

I have not yet had any response from your Referral Centre. You will find a copy of my letter to them in my blog entry of Dec 3rd. You might consider ringing them and encouraging them to see the light. The amount of money involved is tiny and it will cost Telstra more and more in man-hours as this matter goes on. The TIO will be my next port of call if Telstra is pigheaded.

You might want to note my blog entry of Dec 5th. as as example of what I might write to the TIO.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Francis Croydon apologizes

I must say that I am beginning to get a soft spot for old Francis Croydon. He seems to be the only decent human being in Telstra. He is Telstra's CEO Liaison Officer. I have just received a letter from him dated Dec 6th that reads as follows:

Dear Dr Ray

I refer to your correspondence dated 3 December 2007.

I apologise for providing incorrect details in my last letter.

The correct telephone number for Telstra's Customer Referral Centre is 1300 363 390.

The other two numbers I provided were correct.

Our Mobile consultants are reachable via the 125 111 and my personal telephone number is 02 9329 2274.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Telstra are liars says court

When you play hardball, as Telstra does, with a whole range of your constituents, including politicians, regulators, the law, competitors, shareholders and even consumers, you face the possibility of an equally harsh response. That is what it received yesterday.

Until now Telstra has displayed aggressive behaviour towards many of these groups. Its historical relationship with the previous Coalition government has been nothing short of toxic, as have its public brawls with the regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Telstra has tried to justify this posture of pushing the bounds of its regulatory and legislative restraints in the name of improving returns for its shareholders. But the concept of this shareholder-centric behaviour blew up a month ago when a majority of investors voted down the pay package for chief executive Sol Trujillo and the board chose to ignore them and push it through regardless.

That doesn't mean Telstra management is not attempting to maximise profits, it just means that shareholders' views run a poor second to management's personal financial prospects. Only time will tell whether keeping the management happy and financially well rewarded was worth the sacrifice.

But yesterday's news was all about the most important Telstra constituents - its customers. And the Federal Court ruled that this group has been dudded. Justice Michelle Gordon delivered a judgment that Telstra had misled consumers about the available coverage of its Next G mobile network. The commission took action against Telstra in September, claiming the company had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct courtesy of claims that the Next G network had coverage "everywhere you need it". (We have all experienced being in a tall building, a lift, or a remote location and losing reception.) In reality, there are plenty of places that the signal cannot be received.

The advertisements that make these claims will probably need to be withdrawn, as the commission will seek injunctions to stop these representations from being made any more. Relief orders have not yet been made. The damage to Telstra will not be financial; it will be to its image among customers.

In terms of commercial gains, the really big actions being fought by Telstra are on the battleground of regulatory pricing. It wins some and it loses some, and there are already plenty clogging the court lists. These decisions potentially make a big difference to Telstra's profits and they are hard-fought, with important commercial outcomes.

But there are other court actions to which Telstra is a party that are considered questionable by investors and by the courts. In October Telstra was spanked for using legal action as a tool to publicise its campaign against regulation - a court ruling denied it the chance to get secret documents from the then communications minister, Helen Coonan. It was all about Coonan's decision to award an Optus consortium a contract to build broadband in the bush. (This has been appealed.)

A recent decision in a class action about Telstra's disclosure presented more of a victory as it was ordered to pay shareholders a mere $5 million against the hundreds of millions sought.

Meanwhile, Telstra has initiated a constitutional challenge to the power of the Government and the commission to regulate the prices it can charge its wholesale customers. The list of actions taken by and against Telstra is long - some are long shots, some are small and some are incidental. But yesterday's judgment is about reputation. Plenty of small and large companies are accused of misleading and deceptive conduct - some inadvertent, some bold and risky.

For Telstra the establishment of the Next G mobile network is the biggest display to date of the achievement of its new management. It's been done ahead of time. It's the big boast and the largest initiative to capture market share in any of Telstra's markets. For those with 3G market coverage issues this news will come as no surprise, but those thinking of signing up or those that are annoyed that the existing CDMA network will be shut down will have some additional ammunition.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Stealth admissions

When I pay for a service and find it poorly executed I normally write a polite letter to the service provider suggesting changes. Usually, however I get politely told to get lost. What amuses me however is that some months down the track I often note that my suggestion has been adopted -- without notifying me, of course. My usual bank, the Bank of Queensland has been particularly apt at that. I think I have got just about everything I asked for from them -- eventually.

And the same is true of Telstra/Bigpond. When they first made available the service you are now reading -- BigBlog -- it did not even have an option for uploading pre-coded html. If you did upload html, it was reproduced, not rendered. Can you imagine anything more hopeless than that in a blog? I of course complained and got told huffily that they had "no plans" to introduce a html facility. Yet just such a facility popped up earlier this year and has now made it worthwhile for me to use this blog.

The latest innovation that I have noticed is that they now have a blogroll facility of sorts. I wrote a couple of didactic letters to the long-suffering Francis Croydon about that -- which got zero response -- but I noticed recently that they now have a "Favourite links" feature. I have no idea WHEN it popped up but much searching revealed no such thing when I looked originally.

In a recent unanswered letter I also insisted that a blogroll facility had to be on the front page and I now note that the "Favourite links" feature is now to be found there -- as well as being a menu item. It could be however that the front page feature only appeared when I first used the menu item concerned.

The facility is still a poor one as you have to enter links by hand one at a time. On my other blogs I just copy and paste a whole list at a time into a new blogroll. Maybe that facility will silently pop up on BigBlog some time soon as well.

I guess that somewhere deep in the ratlike recesses of their brains, these guys know that I am doing them a big favour by giving them a user's viewpoint and thus enabling them to improve their product but they are never big enough to acknowledge that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Would YOU grumble .... ?

Would YOU grumble if your phone company suddenly cut off your phone without warning, explanation or reasonable cause? What if there was plenty of money in the account concerned but the company decided to just take that money for themselves and give you nothing in return? That's what Telstra did to my mobile phone service.

The money is trivial of course. I have already bought myself a new cellphone for $60 and all I really needed was a new sim card. But the inconvenience of finding your phone cut off just when you had a need for it is great. And there is the great bother of giving out the new number to those who may want to contact me.

Telstra still have the arrogance of the government department that they once were.

No doubt there is something in the acres of small print that they hit you with that does in their mind permit their excrable behaviour in this matter but the courts have increasingly recognized that the average consumer cannot be expected to hire a lawyer every time he signs something and there are now in many jurisdictions provisions to overturn "unconsciencable" contracts. There is certainly such a provision in NSW, where Telstra is headquartered.

So this could be an interesting battle. This blog is only one avenue for pursuing the battle. It will cost them heaps in executive time at least if they do not back down promptly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Corporate anger avoidance

Telstra generates nationwide anger because of their arrogance and incompetence. So what is their response to that? A healthy organism would try to fix whatever is causing the trouble -- but Telstra is not healthy. What they do instead is take all sorts of steps to block their ears.

Perhaps most amusing is that on their BigBlog blogs, any mention of their name or the name of their Bigpond subsidiary is banned. If I include their full name, the blog post will show an error and will not go up. I have sometimes managed to get away with posting their full name but I have not yet worked out what the loophole is.

Can you imagine a company that does NOT want publicity? It's because Telstra knows how bad that publicity will be that they try to suppress it. Not remotely clever.

And the ostrich philosophy extends right to their letterheads. Note the blowup from one of their letters below. The phone no. there is false. Last time I rang it I got a "wrong number" response. And the letterhead below came from the office of the CEO of the company!

They really are sick puppies.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Letter to Referral Centre

Customer Referral Centre
LB 5904
Sydney 2001
Re: Mobile no. 0448285691

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

When I bought the above mobile I put $20 worth of prepaid credit on it and was told I had 6 moths to use it. I used most of the $20 and then on 17.9.07 I put another $20 on it -- taking it as read that I would have another 6 months to use that.

I have just been advised however that I was on the wrong plan to get 6 months use of my second $20 and my service was cut off without warning recently.

I think that is disgraceful as nobody advised me of this strange quirk. Please change my plan retrospectively and restore my service. I am putting this letter on the net so do consider that it might be wise to do the decent thing in this matter.

Yours faithfully,
Letter to CEO's office

Francis Croydon


I am very disappointed to see that the legendary Telstra incompetence has spread to you. In your letter of Nov 28, there is one internet link and three phone nos. given. The internet link did not work and the phone nos. 1300363700 and 0293292274 were both responded to as "wrong number".

I also tried to get to the internet link step by step but ended up with an "unable to proceed" message. Please try again to give me fully accurate information. I will be putting both your letter and this one on the internet as my experience of Telstra is now way past a joke.

Yours disgustedly,
Dr John Ray
The latest missive from Telstra

You can read it here

It did not scan in well so the wording is:

28 November 2007

Dear Dr Ray

I refer to your correspondence dated 24 November 2007.

It is accepted standard within the Telecommunications Industry to provide a limit on credits applied to all pre paid services in order to encourage use of these services.

Information regarding the usage of your Pre Paid Mobile service is easily accessible via Telstra Pre Paid Internet site:

If you are unable to access the relevant information our Mobile Consultants will assist further. They can be contacted via telephone 125111.

If you remain dissatisfied, the next step is to contact our Customer Referral Centre, where staff will arrange to have your concerns reviewed via our internal complaint process.

The Customer Referral Centre is contactable via telephone 1300 363 700 or by addressing your correspondence to:

The Customer Referral Centre
Locked Bag 5904
Sydney NSW 2001.

Francis Croydon
CEO Liaison Executive

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Call back later"

Francis Croydon
CEO's Office
Locked Bag 6595
Sydney, NSW, 2001

Dear Francis

I can't believe it. I TRIED to have my latest problem addressed at a lower level than the CEO's office but all I got when I phoned Telstra was the notorious: "We have more calls than usual. Call back later" message. So what do I do? If the phone book had given the address for the Qld State manager I would have written to him. But all I had available was unanswered phone lines. Do YOU think that is a good thing? Does Mr Trujillo want his office to be the first port of call for complaints? Quite insane.

Anyway here is my problem: I refer to my mobile no. 0448285691. It is a prepaid card and it suddenly went from being in plenty of credit to zero without my using it and without warning. It seems likely that someone has hacked into the number.

I would be obliged to receive a list of all calls since last topup, complete with the charge and duration for each call. I may have to change to another provider if this cannot be resolved

Yours etc
Dr John Ray