Yes, you will pay for my time

It’s quite simple really. If a company selling me something demands that I call them to make something happen, I expect to be taken care of quite quickly.

When an organisation instead offers multiple means of contact, makes statements via said means indicating that my request will be actioned and then engages in manufacture of alternative facts, I expect that they should know that they’re going to have a bad time.

After Australia’s grossly inept government managed to somehow appoint a bloke named Chad to install a VDSL2-capable DSLAM in the basement of the building I live in, I went looking for an option to get connected to the NBN that is currently being pushed toward all Australians (bogans and higher beings alike).

Because of the multitude of connection options offered by NBN Co to we lowly serfs, a multitude of qualification criteria also exist. As a result, my options were Telstra, Optus and a company called Belong.

Belong is special, in that they’re likely to eat your shoes if you look at them without disdain. They’re also a subsidiary of Telstra that uses none of Telstra’s network capabilities as it was easier to engage Telco In A Box to actually build a provider ready to provide service in less than 2 decades.

After signing up, downloading a bunch of stuff and then confirming that the 25/5 service that I was being provided was well below what my gear and access method was capable of, I requested that Belong give me 100/40 access.

Belong gave me the following responses:

  • NBN Co does not offer better than 25/5 in your area
  • NBN Co does not offer better than 25/5 for your connection method
  • We have decided that we cannot offer better than 25/5 due to backhaul concerns
  • Your service is not eligible for better than 25/5 because of transition rules

After some research, I confirmed that these were all untrue and churned to a provider that can actually tell me the truth and present a mild facade of competence.  An online churn request resulted in my service being moved over inside of 2 days with no downtime and things were good. Download speeds were high and my porn was free of buffering.

After many previous attempts to get an answer on the speed issue from Belong, I decided to confirm my cancellation with them via all of online chat, e-mail, website contact form, Twitter and Facebook. I was repeatedly assured that I would be called by a Belong representative to confirm said severance. Said call did not occur. I had attempted to make multiple phone calls to Belong to confirm cancellation, including on the day of churn. However after being on hold for over an hour on multiple occasions, I decided that I would rather contemplate how my urine stream circles the drain in my shower whilst I was using a toothbrush to clean the spaces between my bathroom tiles.

After hearing nothing for 3 days, my coworkers decided that they’d like some entertainment during lunch and would like to hear how terrible the Belong hold music was. After 30 minutes (!?!) of waiting, I was greeted by someone named Bertha.

After I explained to Bertha that I had moved my connectivity elsewhere, had wasted a significant amount of my time attempting to confirm cancellation and simply wanted actual confirmation, I was told the following:

  • NBN does not give us churn details (this is provably a lie)
  • You have not attempted to contact us (this is also provably a lie)
  • After insisting that I had made multiple attempts and had been promised call backs, I was told that outbound calls were impossible (this is in direct contradiction to what I was told)
  • After detailing the interactions with the social media team, I was told that the social media team had no record of speaking with me. After stating that the inability of the social media team to keep decent records is not my problem, I was instead told that my contact attempts had been recorded but that the requests I made of the social media team were beyond their remit (no statement of this nature was made during my conversations with them)
  • I had made many phone calls and stayed in a queue for significant periods of time and doing so has no appreciation associated with attempting to do the right thing.
  • Cancellations involve no refunds being provided for the days of service that were paid for in advance but not provided

Oh dear….

Of course, I would not put up with this. There is only one way to deal with such idiocy:

“I’ve done the right thing here. I’ve made multiple attempts to get the service I need from your company, given fair warning of churning away, made multiple attempts to confirm cancellation and am now being told that my attempts are not being recognised. Refund the days I did not use please.”

Of course, Bertha had precisely zero regard for logic and refused to consider my request. When I asked to speak to her manager, she responded with a statement indicating that her manager would say exactly the same thing and that it was a waste of everyone’s time.

Although one should not be an arsehole, I had decided that I was dealing with a person with no regard for logic. My next statement was as follows:

“If you refuse to escalate my request, I will raise a chargeback request with my card issuer, raise a dispute with PayPal and lodge a complaint with the TIO . This will cost in excess of 10 times more than the refund I am requesting and, beyond that, I will get the refund anyway. Is that really what you want to do to the company that provides you a wage?”

The only response was silence. And then the call ending.

Being a complete arsehole, this Arsehole followed through on all of the statements made.

3 days later, a bloke named Bill from Belong’s parent company (Telstra) called me and gave me a refund of 2 months access fees.


31 cents

We reject your reality and substitute our own

Telecommunications providers are odd creatures. The vast majority are hell bent on placing customers on 24 month contracts, selling additional services of questionable value and treating existing customers with indifference whilst typically offering significant incentives to new customers to shift loyalties.

Even though mobile technology is constantly evolving and mobile networks are constantly being upgraded and expanded the back end systems of some providers seem to have been manufactured in 1976 and regularly need a bloke named Keith to hit them with a shifting spanner to keep things running.

After cancelling a credit card I provided this particular telco with my new credit card details via their online portal. To my surprise, I received a delightful SMS indicating that immediate payment was required to maintain my service as the company was unable to “Direct Debit” my credit card.

Of course Direct Debit isn’t possible against credit cards, but what the provider was actually trying to tell me was that the payment had not been approved. I made a manual payment in response to this delightful revelation and made a note to chase up the card issuer to ensure there wasn’t a problem on their end.

Shortly thereafter, the cause became clear. The provider in question decided that supplying my new card details were not in line with whatever revenue or operational policy was in place at that time, with repeated attempts resulting in the old (now cancelled) card details being retained and no error being provided. To add to the ridiculousness of this, I had been charged a surcharge for making a manual payment. Up with this I did not put!

Online chat makes things happen

I’ve generally found that attempting the conventional Contact Us form or call centre paths are simply futile with this particular telco as a consumer. A little known fact is the increased level of access provided to staff who take care of web chat and social media channels and one that often provides a quicker, simpler and more optimal outcome for those of us who won’t put up with things going wrong and shoulders being shrugged in response.

After explaining the situation to “Dave”, the situation was resolved in his mind as I would not need to make future manual payments and would not receive SMS messages alleging that I was incapable of operating a credit card correctly.

Acknowledge. Resolve. Right.

When a supplier stuffs something up, I have the following simple expectations:

  • Take ownership and acknowledge the issue
  • Resolve the issue
  • Make things right with the customer

Excellent companies do all of these in one seamless motion and should be praised for it. In this particular case, none of these were done – the surcharge being an issue was not acknowledged, the time involved in sorting this issue out was not appreciated and no refund was offered for the surcharge.

At this point, I had to tell “Dave” that he needed to make things right and the company needed to pay me for my time. Deflection resulted, with the telco’s payment service provider being blamed, “Dave” claiming he could not give me what I was asking for and being told that I would need to invest more of my time to get any further action on the issue.

Stating that my next communication would result in fees being levied against the company due to the complaints process, “Dave” very quickly changed his tune. A request for a $40 credit and a refund of the surcharge was very quickly granted, however “Dave” managed to ruin his attempt at getting positive feedback for his resolution with a single statement. Specifically that future failures to pay will result in a late fee being applied and no waiving of said fees or surcharges.

If we bugger it up again, we’ll charge you for our ineptitude

This may be a canned response to issues involving waiving of fees, but it exemplifies the issue with far too many companies. The only reasonable response to this is (of course), “If the company does fail to follow my payment instructions again, complaints will be filed and the TIO will charge the company handsomely.”

For some strange reason, “Dave” disconnected at this point.

All in all, I’ll count that as a win.