Monday, March 15, 2010

The Wireless Modem Part 1

What follows is a letter of complaint I sent through to the manager of the local Telstra shop. I think it adequately explains what happened. Jade is the manager of the store.

Hello, Jade. I am writing to outline my complaint about the service
I've recieved of late, principally in your store. I felt I should
contact a manager prior to seeking ways to lodge a formal compaint

On Friday, Feb 19, I went into the Telstra store in Hobart and asked
for advice regarding my wireless internet account. I expected to pay
$150 for a modem, and then to add some bandwidth to that modem, to
create a prepaid account in order to give myself access to some excess
bandwidth when I needed it to deploy my work to my US employer. I was
told that this modem was inadequate, and that a $400 modem would give
me far better speeds. Shaun R ( the name on my receipt ), took me to
speak to Jed Bennett. Jed informed me that this upgraded modem would
send my 2 GB file in 15-45 minutes. Based on this news, and on the
fact that I didn’t want to spend more than I had to, I decided to
upgrade my existing BigPond account to the faster modem. I then took
this modem and my notebook to an office in the city where I could
leave it, and set it up to send the files. I watched it for half an
hour, and then tried I tried the speed test
several times over the next day, and always found the speeds on offer
were roughly the same as for my old modem, and certainly less than 5%
of the speeds I was told I would get. The files in question ended up
taking 10 hours to send.

I then found out that I had used all my available bandwidth for the
month, so I needed to buy a prepaid device as well. I went in to the
Glenorchy store, and they told me that resellers are not allowed to
sell prepaid modems. They also told me that the city store closed at
1 pm. I asked them to call to make sure, and they refused. I raced
in to town, to find they close at 4 pm. I mention this as an example
of how hideous customer service is when dealing with Telstra or your

I bought a modem identical to the one I’d bought before. I should
mention at this point that I discussed with Shaun R in detail that my
options were to upgrade my modem, or to buy a prepaid device to use as
a backup for the months that I need it, and I asked for pricing, and
he pushed me towards the $400 modem as the available option, and gave
me pricing that included a peak price of $169 for 20 GB. I was sold a
$30 SIM card which I was told would come with a GB, and then I could
recharge online. I took the modem home, and installed the software on
a different computer to the one I’d been using, however, the software
proved to be the same. I read the manuals, and followed the
instructions, but could not get online. I finally worked out that I
needed to call to activate my SIM, no-one had told me this. When I
asked how to recharge the modem, I was told to push the $ symbol in my
software. I was told this by several support people over the weekend.
They all referred to the software as the Telstra Turbo Connection
Manager, when the program I got was the Telstra Connection Manager.
They typically just kept telling me to look for a $ sign and would not
believe me. I’ve since been told that the modem I was sold is ‘not
suitable for prepaid’ ( although it is working ), and so I have the
wrong software. I made several attempts to buy more time online, but
this did not work, either. I made many calls to support during this
process, and they were uniformly useless.

On the Monday I went back to the Telstra store. I was informed that
my best option for charging my modem is $100 for 6 GB. The prices I
was given when I asked for prepaid prices, were prices for people on a
monthly plan with an ongoing commitment. I was therefore encouraged
to buy a modem for prepaid, which is not a prepaid device, and does
not come with the necessary software, and told that I could buy data
at a casual rate, with prices that are actually not available to me.
The person who made this recommendation to me was not the person who
sold me the modem, so at least two people were told I was buying a
prepaid device, although only one lied to me about pricing. Again, I
was VERY explicit, I didn’t just ask what the prices were, I also
explained at length that I was considering this device for use as a
prepaid option for months when I needed it.

The salesperson sold me some bandwidth for $100 and kindly used his
phone to load it into my SIM, as I only have an iPhone, which I
believe will only work with the SIM you provided. I then explained
that as I spent $400 on a device which worked no better than the
device I already had, and as I was specifically and explicitly lied to
when I was told a 2 GB file would upload in 15-45 min, I wanted my
money back. The salesperson found Jed, who came out, and spent 20
minutes trying to look at my account online. He said it was running
very slow. I guess he was not using one of these new, fast, Elite
wireless modems… I asked him what he was doing, he said looking at
something. I said that’s not really telling me anything, and he said
‘yes, that’s right’. In other words, he wasted 20 minutes of my time
and was very rude. He went on to ask things like where I was when I
tried to send my files, but because he couldn’t find anything wrong
with what I did ( I was in the CBD ), he just went on to waffle about
burst rates and so on. The burst rates would have to be VERY rare for
a file to take as long as it would with the old modem, and, either
way, he was the one who told me 15-45 min, there were no caveats at
the point I was being sold to, and certainly there’s orders of
magnitude between 15 min and 10 hours.

This whole transaction was typical of dealing with Telstra for me.
The sales people lied, the product did not work as promised, the phone
support was clueless, and everything went wrong. However, while I see
I have no choice but to be ripped off on the discrepancy between the
rates I was told I would get and the rates on offer for prepaid, I do
not see why I should spend $400 for a modem that does not work as
advertised. I am told there is no way for you to activate my old
modem again. I would suggest that is your problem. I am sending this
to you, as the manager of the store in question, to give you an
opportunity to respond before I start to involve the Ombudsman and to
seek other remedies.

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