Thursday, March 22, 2007
A weapon of mass distraction
Telstra, bless them. Most of us have a 'Telstra story" - a tale of mind-boggling, random-acts-of-terrorism-inspiring hopelessness courtesy of the wonderful people at Telstra. And in the middle of a particularly busy income-generation day yesterday, Telstra managed to throw a big bold "NOTICE OF INTENTION TO ISSUE SUMMONS" curve-ball my way which served to distract me in the way that only 'really nasty mail' can. And here for everyone's enjoyment, is the story.
March 2006. I move into a shared house and need to have a landline connected. Telstra. "Would I be interested in Bigpond ADSL broadband?" they ask. "Yes", I reply. We chat about prices, unlimited downloads (another symptom of my heinous Google addiction), email addresses and other seemingly endless points of apparent interest. Lovely. Done. "Oh, before you go," I say, "I don't open paper bills. I need my bill sent to me via my internet banking facility where I will pay it online. Will my landline and my Bigpond account be on the same bill?" "Yes they will be ... and thank you for bringing that to our attention." About a week later I received my modem and the very helpful Apple Macintosh expert on the end of the helpline had me up and running in no time. Effortless. Again, lovely. A month later, in came my Telstra bills which I dutifully paid online through my internet banking facility ... lovely. I was so thrilled with myself I paid two bills twice which resulted in Telstra owing me 37 cents for a couple of months.
January 2007. I start getting phone calls from people at a place called Creditech. Now it may not surprise you to know that Creditech is Telstra's delinqent account collection arm - which only goes to show how annoyingly unreliable Australian's must be at paying their Telstra bills. Somehow, magically, my Bigpond account had increased to $300 and something dollars and had never been paid. Over the next hour or so, as anyone who has ever had dealings with Telstra will know, I had to explain to two or three different people that it was my understanding that my Bigpond and landline service were both on the same bill. It took about an hour to ascertain that, in fact, they were not - and not only that, Telstra had happily been sending my Bigpond accounts to my email address and I had happily been deleting them, believing that they were being paid through my internet banking facility as arranged. "Can my Bigpond and landline service be on the same account?" I begged. "Yes they can," was the response, "but in the meantime you will need to pay this old account which we will then be closing."
And then the fun really started. When you pay your bills online, each of your billers has a biller number. Telstra's is whatever it is. I investigated paying this Bigpond account online, only to discover that while I was inflicted with two separate Telstra account numbers (my landline and Bigpond) there is only one Telstra biller number. I couldn't pay my separate Bigpond account online no matter how hard I tried. The result was that I had to either use my credit card (not an option) or go to the post office. I laughed and asked the girl on the other end of the phone whether she had ever seen the queue at the Randwick Post Office. I made some fatuous promise to pay it ... and promptly forgot, which is why I prefer to pay my bills online in the first place.
April 2007. Suspicious looking mail is instantly recognisable - for people like me anyway. That dread-inducing wide but not very high little window in the top left hand corner with its nasty little official looking return address ... and a larger window in the middle of the envelope, barely hiding a very official looking little bar code thing just peeking out at you. As with all such nasty looking mail, I ignored it.
Feeling bright and confident yesterday, I decided to finally confront one of my demons and open the nasty looking mail. It was good old Telstra threatening to sue me for my unpaid (but still connected) Bigpond account. I got on the phone and explained the whole sorry saga again. I was again assured that from now on, my Bigpond and landline services would appear under the one account number on the one bill which I would be able to continue to pay online. In the meantime, I had to pay the outstanding amount by cheque.
All this from the supposed leader in telecommunications and new technology in this country. Have Telstra ever managed to distract you from your day?