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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get Boxtox while you're young???

Headline news today in Australia is so-called cosmetic 'king', Napoleon Perdis, claiming that women should be turning to Boxtox much younger. According to Perdis, women should be getting jabbed with Botox by the time that they turn 3o.

The article I have linked to above does not mention that age of 30. However I saw Perdis in interview on Australian television earlier tonight and I can assure you that he did indeed make that claim.

Just what precisely is wrong with aging 'gracefully'? With looking after yourself with proper nutrition and facial care that does not require injecting yourself with foreign matter that gives you all the facial expression of a brick. But it is not just Botox that Perdis claims these younger women should be using. They should also be getting their faces treated to laser treatment.

Where this became particularly disturbing was to see just what impact these sorts of stunts are already having. I watched a woman in her early 20s, getting a Botox treatment. Her justification? She is already getting the occasional wrinkle and the price of beauty means those have to be removed, presumably at all costs.

You just have to look at how many young women, even adolescents, have been starving themselves for years in pursuit of supposed ideals of beauty which publicly insist that only impossibly thin is beautiful. With the likes of Perdis now openly pushing for younger women to resort to facial injections and laser treatments, we shall almost certainly see younger and younger women resorting to this sort of nonsense.

Ironically, this stunt, obviously done to support Perdis releasing a book, occurs at the same time that the push to show women as natural in magazines, is gathering momentum.

What on earth is wrong with admitting that we have lumps, bumps and other things?

In my opinion, Perdis deserves a major kick in the butt for his comments that will almost certainly have an irresponsible impact on the young.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where there's smoke...

The Australian government has just announced the intention to introduce new legislation that will require oil companies to no longer share price information.

This raises an important issue. It is hard to imagine government introducing something like that unless it had evidence that the oil companies were indeed sharing price information. So it is a pretty fair assumption that the oil companies have indeed been sharing price information.

Why would oil companies, all competitors with each other, be sharing price information? The is only one plausible explanation - that they are sharing price information in order to collectively set prices? No other possible explanation would make the slightest sense.

Now if the oil companies are sharing information to collectively set prices, that is considered anti-competitive behaviour.

There is a little organisation called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Their entire reason for being is to enforce matters such as the Trade Practices Act. Their remit involves taking action against anti-competitive behaviour. Yet the ACCC has for years allegedly been unable to find any evidence of such behaviour by the oil companies. But it now appears to have been something of an open 'secret' with enough evidence existing to warrant passing of legislation to stamp out the practice.

Just exactly why was the ACCC unable to find the same evidence? Former head of the ACCC, Prof Alan Fels, the man behind the push to remove Parallel Import Restrictions on books, who declared those who opposed the move to be ill-informed and ignorant, was apparently unable to find evidence that was clear enough for others to find.

I have said it before in this blog - just exactly who was the ignorant one, Prof?

The oil companies have been blatantly manipulating prices to suit themselves and engage in price gouging at the expense of the consumer for who knows how long. And the regulator was proven to be completely and utterly useless in combating that situation.

Pathetic. Simply pathetic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Being My Own CEO

It is time to take a break from my now perpetual rants against the telecommunications industry and turn my attention to something else that I am passionate about.

There are a number of people in the world that I really admire. One of them is Tyra Banks. That admiration is not just because I think she is absolutely gorgeous. Tyra is one very clever and accomplished lady. She made it to the top of her profession but has gone on well and truly beyond that.

One thing that I particularly like about Banks is the way that she freely shares things with people. On one hand, it probably makes good business sense to do so, keeping and further developing that fan base. But even if that were the only reason she does so, emphasis on if, then so what? We all need professional mentors, whatever our calling or vocation. And Tyra Banks certainly has plenty worth paying attention to that goes way beyond the world of being a model. The silly side of me has an almost overwhelming desire to make crass comments here about just exactly what I would like to be 'paying attention' to, but frankly I respect the lady far too much to do so. I do not let too many opportunities go past to make a joke but that is one I shall pass on. :-)

Over at her website (, Banks is sharing her tips on becoming your own CEO, taking control of your life and profession. This program neatly dovetails with her long-running theme of the importance of not just having dreams but pursuing them.

I have joined the Tyra Banks 'Inner Circle' over at her website. And I am paying particularly close attention to her Be Your Own CEO column. Each week we get another step or tip as Tyra shares the things she has learned over her rather illustrious career.

Now and again I have the privilege of interviewing interesting/fascinating people. Tyra Banks is waaaay up the top of the list of people that I would dearly love to interview. However that is unlikely to be happening any time soon. In the meantime, I am quite happy to simply learn from her.

I recommend this Be Your Own CEO program to everyone.

Peace and out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Telstra? '3'? It appears I spoke too soon!

First, the latest Telstra developments.

After all of my problems trying to get assistance, now that I have finally been refunded for the dud product, all of a sudden Telstra staff are falling over themselves trying to do things for me. First there was an email, suddenly expressing concern that I have had complaints about their service. Then a whole new Customer Service person is calling me, having assigned an entirely new Complaint Resolution case. Naturally when I called back they were not available and I did not receive a return call in response to my message. Situation normal. But they wait until after I have been refunded for their dud product and after I had confirmed receipt of the refund before suddenly wanting to assist? WTF??

I also heard from 3 today by email. First there was a blurb apologising for the distress I experienced. Then, in response to my quite specific complaint about 3 continuing to sell a product while assuring customers that they will receive service on their network when in fact the network is not broadcasting in that location at all and they have known this for weeks but kept on making bullshit promises to the contrary, 3 have entirely ducked the matter. Instead, I am told that due to privacy restrictions, they may not discuss any aspect of the matter.

What a load of absolute, prime-grade bullshit. The Information Privacy Principles that form the core of the Australian Privacy Act, 1988, specify what personal information about individuals may not be revealed. For 3 to hide this entire matter under a veil of secrecy, claiming 'privacy' restrictions, is absolutely pathetic. Just as well that I have already reported them to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. I have now reported this latest stunt to them as well.

How can anybody ever trust organisations who are quite prepared to pull stunts like that?

Why did they bother?

Am I the only one who watched tonight's re-launch of Hey Hey It's Saturday (now on Wednesdays) and wondered why they bothered?

OK, so their couple of reunion specials did well, but those were sort of retro looking back, remembering, blah blah. But 're-launching' something only to do the same things they were doing 20 years ago? It just seemed tired. Sure, it was nice to see the lovely Lavinia Nixon again and I have to say that the young lady playing the violin in the new house band not only can play a real storm, she is absolutely dead-set gorgeous. But aside from that, Red Symons and Wilbur Wilde just did the same sort of gags they were doing way back when. Johnathon Blackman is even reading the same voice-over scripts from at least fifteen years ago. Daryl Somers still can't tell a gag to save his life.

If we are going to just dig something up from the television graveyard, try and do something more than just the same old thing, otherwise, why not not just dig Graham Kennedy up from his hole in the ground and re-launch In Melbourne Tonight. Or perhaps resurrect Bob and Dolly Dyer with Pick A Box (Dear Lord that shows how old I am, even if I was just a wee tacker at the time)?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Telstra saga over... sort of

I have now settled for a refund from Telstra that has been paid direct to a bank account, having confirmed that has been received.

Several days ago, I found a contact for Telstra's CEO and sent a very strongly worded complaint. I have received a reply this morning.

On behalf of our CEO, David Thodey, thank you for contacting us about your prepaid service. I apologise for the service issues you have experienced. Your loyalty to Telstra is valued. We are committed to a prompt resolution of this matter and a member of our team will be in contact with you.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns.


Executive Customer Contact Team

Yet another assurance of 'prompt resolution'. However I have received my refund. No doubt this will be written up as a successful resolution of complaint action. As far as I am concerned, it was anything but a successful resolution. It is staggering to realise that Telstra's complaints and higher levels of tech support are so overwhelmed that they cannot cope. Surely that should be a sign of things being anything but right?

At the end of the day, despite more than two weeks of trying I was singularly unsuccessful in having any contact with the mysterious Level Three technicians, despite it being determined on Day One that this was required. There were repeated attempts to offload the blame onto my equipment despite products from Telstra's competitors working on the laptop in question. And after Telstra staff refused to accept the product for forwarding to technicians unless I coughed up a bond, their only suggested solution was to have me wear the cost of mailing it in myself. Like hell I was. If the purchase contract had specified me wearing costs of 'return to base' servicing, then perhaps that would have been fair enough. But that was not mentioned anywhere.

For some reason, Telstra seem to feel entirely justified in charging a premium for certain products while providing an utterly sub-standard level of service and support. Not to mention my previous rant about how well they manage to hide the presence of their Complaint Resolution Centre from its customers.

I have been a customer of Telstra's for more than twenty years. During my long-distance courtship of the great love of my life, Telstra could have probably paid an extra dividend to shareholders just from my international phone calls to her. I really think I deserved far better treatment than I received. Needless to say they are losing all of my business from now on.

If David Theody and his staff are genuine in their remorse, then there would be an immediate major overhaul of the way that they do business. But that would cost money so it is a pretty safe bet that this won't be happening. Instead it is just we poor slobs, the users, who have to wear the consequences.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bulging Bellies and Follicle Follies

I need a new pair of pants. But clothes shopping has become one of my pet hates.

Once upon a time, all I had to do was pick a pair off the rack and get the hem taken up. People with my then-sylphish waist were all intended to be 6'7” bundles of animated pipe cleaners. But as I have advanced in age, the dreaded middle-age spread arrived. Now it is a juggling act between finding pants that fit, that are not so tight that the seam at the back takes cover between my hairy buttocks, that I can put my hand into the pocket without something tearing, that makes my gut look a little less prominent but all the while avoiding the look of an over-sized potato sack with a pair of feet attached at the end.

Forget 'does my bum look big in this?' It is more a case of 'does my fat gut bulge out over the top like a hideously malformed muffin top?' The real irony is that I have a serious case of beer gut – except that I haven't had a beer in more than eight years.

Back in the Rubenesque days, women with more 'fulsome' figures were the epitome of all that was desirable. When is it going to be the man's turn? When are going to see male models that reflect what all too many of us end up like? Forget the rock-hard abs down the catwalk. What about the soft-bellied bloke with thinning hair that is going grey and his bad knee from a football injury giving him trouble because the weather has turned cold?

And then there is... the hair. Just what, pray tell, was the Dear Lord thinking of, when he decided it would be a good idea for men to loose the hair on the head, replacing it with follicle outbursts else where in the body? Do we really need tufts of hair deciding to emerge from our already-deafening ears? Was it really necessary to give us things emerging from our nostrils like lima vines, other than boogers? And why oh why, the tufts of hair appearing on the back where only an over-active contortionist could reach?

According to Darwin, we have evolved from the great primates. I suspect as we blokes get older, our bodies succumb to racial memory and start trying to devolve back to our origins.

I need a new pair of pants.

Warning - '3' are trading under false pretenses!

Following the latest ludicrous display from Telstra, I headed off to the competition that I have used previously, hoping to be able to obtain a unit with better receptors such as the Telstra unit supposedly had. However the store manager burst out laughing when I showed him the delinquent Telstra unit that supposedly had better receptors in it.

"They're all made by the same company," he laughed. "It has nothing to do with receptors in the unit but is all about strength of the signal from the network you're on. Telstra have had you on, mate."

Just as I thought. Telstra staff pulled a fast one on me to sell me a more expensive unit that did no more than their cheaper one. Yet another instance of Telstra being scam artists!

At this point, I expected the manager of that shop to be trying to sell me another one of his products. He didn't. Instead, he sympathised with my problems and admitted that he has difficulty in getting a signal at his home as well. Like me, he lives just next to the CBD of Australia's capital, Canberra. Also like me, with networks other than Telstra, it has proved normal to not be able to get a 3G broadband wireless signal inside a building. The best he could suggest was investing in a lengthy USB extension and drape that outside in hope of getting a better signal. For God's sake - are we that backward in Australia??

I wonder how long the modem would last in the weather outside my window? As for any warranty after that treatment? Forget about it.

As I was stalking through the shopping centre in high dungeon, I stopped at yet another of Telstra's competitors and was checking their product out. It seemed promising. This was '3'.

First things first - what is the reception like in my area? The assistant checked on their computer system, down to my actual street address. She assured me that I had coverage at that address. So I spent another $94 (noting that I am still $160 out of pocket from Telstra's piece of garbage - as a pensioner, that bloody hurts) on one of their modems plus initial data purchase. And headed home.

First things first - activate the unit. Check. Next, call and validate the prepaid voucher - Check. I am told that it will take five minutes or so to replicate through their network. No problems. I find something else to do for half-an-hour.

Time to test the new wonder-gadget. Except I kept getting an error message that I was not registered on their networks. I call tech support. First they check my location and confirm that yes, I should have coverage there. Eventually they had me take the laptop out in the car and drive around for a while, seeing if I could get a signal in the surrounding suburbs. After doing that, feeling like an absolute idiot, not to mention having a householder challenge me, wanting to know what I was doing and telling me that he had called the police because I was 'acting suspicously' while parked outside their house, I headed home.

Another call to 3's tech support, reporting the distinct lack of success. More messing around - and then the bombshell.

They now admit that there is a network problem in my area. And they have known about this since March 20! Nor do they have any idea when it will be rectified. Yet they are happily still selling product to people, assuring them that there is coverage in this area when in fact the network is non-existent. When protested this, I was initially assured that the coverage did in fact extend to my area but the network actually transmitting is another matter. Talk about playing with semantics!

What a load of frog shit. That is nothing sort of trading under false pretenses.

I have successfully argued for a refund and have been given authorisation numbers to provide to the store tomorrow. What's the betting that the store quibbles over it? Be sure that you shall be hearing about it if they do.

In the meantime, I am still stuck with my existing service from GRLmobile that only works while sitting outside in the company of the mosquitoes, the increasing cold and the dubious company of the passing junkies on their way to visit their friendly local dealer.

Wireless telecommunications in Australia is an absolute farce. The biggest provider with the strongest network, Telstra, is doing nothing short of price gouging while failing to provide anything like technical support. Any why not? Just like the old days, they still have more or less a monopoly on things. But unlike the bad old days, the industry is now deregulated and there is SFA that can be done. Even the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has proven to be more or less powerless.

The moral of this particular part of the story folks, is do not purchase any wireless product from '3' including any mobile technology, unless they have checked the status of the network in your location. Do not, repeat, do not accept their assurances about 'coverage'. And the theme that has been running through the posts on this subject remains the same: Do Not Trust Telstra! Unless you are one of the shareholders. You lot can rejoice in all the profits being made at the expense of the rest of we poor slobs.

I was right - Telstra ARE scam artists!

I have learned, much to my cost, that the wireless telecommunications industry in Australia is an absolute farce and a rort.

Following my protracted negotiations with Telstra, it has been agreed that I am to be refunded for the unit that will not work with my computer and that Telstra are not prepared to provide proper technical support for. All I have to do is return the unit, requesting it be forwarded to the tech support people for testing.

I returned to the point of purchase. But the store manager refused to take the unit back for tech review unless:
  • I provided a credit card number; or
  • I paid cash bond.
Like hell I was giving them either of those things. It was Telstra staff who requested me to return the unit for technical support. My refund is dependent on this. But I am expected to hand over cash money that they will hold for an unspecified period of time and have been anything but up front on what the conditions are for it being returned.

What a brilliant scam this lot are running:
  • keep giving customers incorrect information via technical support that forces the customer to keep calling back at twenty-five cents a time;
  • hide the existence of the Complaints Resolution Centre
  • tie refunds to return of the equipment BUT
  • only if you provide a bond up front or give them a credit card to bill you for the process of providing the tech review that the refund is reliant on.
If you or I tried such a thing, we'd be done for fraud, trading under false pretenses and who knows what else. But, as ever, the big corporations continue to be allowed to do what they wish, when they wish, to whomsoever the hell they want to do it to. Just look at how the ACCC have consistently ruled in favour of the oil companies and their staggering degrees of uncompetitive behaviour.

But the story is not yet over - see my next post that is about to come.


Back in 2007 when my beloved former employer, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, saw me thrown on the scrapheap, having thoroughly wrecked my health and leaving me with not much more than the clothes on my back, their parting advice was that I would have no difficulty in eventually returning to the workplace.

More than two years on, I'm still trying to find that elusive workplace to re-enter. Today I received the quite joyful word that it is not my age (46, almost 47) that is going against me (like hell it isn't) but that I am too highly qualified.

I am so over trying to climb corporate ladders and that b.s. Yet for some reason, nobody seems interested in believing that all I want is a job that I can do quietly and well, keeping a roof over my head and food on the table, while I continue to develop other interests. I am long-term proposition but nobody seems interested in that fact.

A round of applause folks, for Australia's national Statistical Agency for getting it wrong - yet again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Popsicle Award

This would have to be one of my favourites so far.

Two women have been caught trying to sneak a dead man onto a plane flight in England, heading to Germany. The 91yo was definitely deceased so they just tried to hide the fact by sticking a pair of shades on him and pushing him along in a wheel chair. They then tried to claim that he was asleep.

I keep getting mental images of the women saying things like:
"Don't worry about granddad - he's asleep. Truly ruly. No, it only looks like he isn't breathing. Look - he just waved at you. What, you didn't see that? Huh? No, granddad always smells like that."

Forget the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch, now we have the Dead Grandpa in a Wheelchair sketch.

So for only have a Popsicle Stick keeping their ears apart, I hereby bestow the Noble Order of the Popstick Award on this pair of dimwit shelias.

Telstra - a serious warning!

Are you in Australia and thinking of using Telstra for a pre-paid telecommunication device i.e. mobile phone or mobile broadband? Then there are a few things that you need to be aware of. These are matters that I have uncovered over the past two weeks during my extended saga.

  1. There is a Complaints Resolution Centre whose role is resolving complaints over Telstra's failure to adequately address complaints. They can do things like give you credits on your account as compensation for the difficulties you have been put through as well as elevate the complaint too higher levels. But Telstra are under no obligation to reveal its existence. It is not listed in any telephone directory, Directory Assistance or on the the Telstra website. Their staff will not tell you the number. I even found staff who denied the Centre's existance. But if you call the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and lodge a complaint, they will require you to contact that Resolution Centre before the TIO can take action. And now (drum roll please) that ever-s0-secret telephone number is 1800 665 376. If you are having problems and Telstra are not resolving it properly, call this number before doing anything else. If they continue to mess you around then call the TIO but note that this entails another ten day wait before they can actually act. But every call that the TIO receives in complaint about a telco provider, that telco provider is billed for the call. So you if you wanted to be particularly nasty, keep calling the TIO to run up the charges being billed to your telco. :-)
  2. You will be given repeated assurances that a Level Three Technician will call you. But do not expect this to happen in anything remotely like the promised time frame. That is because Telstra have such a backlog of serious technical complaints yet to be resolved, that they are unable to cope with it. But this is not actually revealed unless you elevate the matter to higher levels such as the Resolution Centre.
  3. The 'Customer Service Centre' will declare your case closed once they have directed it to technicians for further action. The excuse given to me is that they have so many complaints to deal with that they cannot afford to leave them 'open' until the problem is actually solved. So congratulations all round to Telstra for being able to hire a workforce of psychics who can accurately foretell the future and declare matters closed before anything has actually happened.
  4. Telstra charges twice the price for half the amount of data download in prepaid mobile band than does its competitors e.g. GRL charge $29 for 750Mb, 3 charge $15 for 500Mb or $29 for 2 Gig, Telstra charge $3o for 400Mb;
  5. Telstra's customer accounting systems are not able to tell you what your download limits actually are for pre-paid mobile broadband. That accounting is kept in dollar terms even though you are purchasing a set amount of download capacity that is expressed and monitored by the Megabyte. But the download history is expressed in Bytes making it impossible to work out your remaining download limits unless you create and solve an increasingly complex quadratic equation for 'x'.
  6. Late today, Telstra staff have made the quite damning admission to me that their interest in customer support is not in looking after pre-paid customers but instead devoting its attention to post-paid customers. Any difficulties requiring technical support that may not be resolved by the immediate technicians (who merely use a prepared script) then it is moved to quite low priority queues. Telstra have virtually no interest in providing real support for its pre-paid products.
The bottom line is that if you are after a pre-paid telecommunications option, then do not use Telstra. Their service is virtually non-existent and any interest in you as a customer ends the moment they have sold you the product.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bastard Banks - again

In my experience, there are three particularly unprincipled industry groups in Australia: the banks, insurance companies and oil companies. Being an ex-banker who worked in the industry through the madness of the 1980s, I know who I think is the worst. I have previously blogged on the subject.

An ongoing matter for a couple of years now is the fact that when the Reserve Bank changes interest rates, there is no compulsion on any of the banks on what they may or may not pass on to the consumer. In fact we now have a standard practice in the banking industry. When the Reserve Bank lowers interest rates, the banks refuse to pass on all of this rate cut, protesting the cost of raising funds as the cause. But when the Reserve Bank increases rates, the banks all but fall over themselves in passing on 100% of that increase.

Now back in late 2008, when the banks passed on 80% of an interest rate reduction, after earlier generally expressing the view that they would only pass on less than that, we were subjected to then Leader of the Opposition, Chief Turning Bull (Malcolm Turnball), claiming the credit. His justification? He claimed the Opposition drew a 'line in the sand' which somehow forced the Banks into line. Does that mean they have to also carry the can for when the banks pass 100% of a rate increase after shortchanging their customers on rate reductions?

Ironically, dear Ex-Chief Turning Bull has just announced he will be standing down from politics at the end of his current term. Oh how the mighty have fallen. After failing to talk the former Labour government into handing him a seat, he suddenly became a true believer in the Liberal Party (for my friends outside of Australia, replace 'liberal' with 'conservative') cause. And now as the banks continue their bastard practices, Turning Bull is cowering away, his tail well between his legs.

A reality check - despite the arrogance of Turning Bull (and his then mate, Blubberguts Joe Hockey, although TB is still walking around with Fatboy's knives in his back), the banks are not in fear of the Liberal-National coalition. Or the government for that matter. They are in fact a law unto themselves.

Enough is enough. Deregulation of the financial sector has plenty of things going for it. But this was never intended to be a free pass for the banks to blatantly engage in price gouging.

A Current Affair strikes again!!

In an earlier post, I had a crack at Australian television program on the Australian Channel Nine network, A Current Affair, for putting ratings above justice. I commented that this was hardly an isolated incident.

Channel Nine and two of its staff are now being prosecuted for making illegal recordings. They received a tip-off that a former Mayor of Sydney was ordering a hit on another person. Rather than take this to the police, A Current Affair did their own sting, fitting out a car with listening devices and had someone pose as a hit man. It makes good viewing, but once more, in pursuit of ratings, Channel Nine has thrown the rules out the window. Once more we face the spectre of justice not being seen because any jury panel would have been compromised and thoroughly tainted.

When is something going to be down about these cheque-book journalists? How many more years are television networks going to be allowed to continue to abuse the law in the pursuit of cheap, nasty ratings? How many more criminals and dodgy characters are going to be able to duck proper punishment because due process has been hopelessly compromised?

The Telstra saga continued...

Right - next step - elevate my concerns to the Telstra Complaints Resolution Centre. One problem though - I no longer have their number. So back once more on the phone to Telstra. Get this - nobody in Telstra knows anything about their Resolution Centre. They are only required by frigging law to have the thing. Nor is it listed in any telephone directories. Nor can Telstra's own Directory Assistance provide it to you.

In the end, I was told by Telstra to call the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and get their number from them. Huh? Telstra, ie the telephone company, tell me to call someone else ie the Telecommunicatoins Ombudsman, to find the contact for one of Telstra's own departments!

Have you ever heard of anything so ludicrous?

Before the TIC can help me however, I have to first start a formal complaint with them. Once the basic details are recorded, TIC give me that closely guarded secret, the number for the Complaint Resolution Centre.

I call the Resolution Centre and start to have a little success at last. It is confirmed that I should have definitely heard from someone by then. In compensation for all the difficulty and frustration, I am offered a $100 credit on my phone bill. Well that is better than a slap in the face with a dead fish, so I accept. But what about the actual technical assistance that I want. I am told that I shall have to continue to wait. No, they cannot give me a number to call the Level Three technicians myself. No, they cannot put me through to them direct. But someone will call me in a couple of days.

That isn't bloodywell good enough, I exclaim. Telstra staff have a distinct habit of not returning calls to me, so why should I trust you now? Besides, I need that goddamned mobile connection working properly for tomorrow - that's why I bought the stupid bloody thing 1.5 weeks ago to ensure that I did have it up and working.

You guessed it, I was put on hold....................................... while he tried to see if he could talk to a tech somewhere. Eventually he returns with the dubious news that I have been appointed a case manager and he would now attempt to put me through to the next step in this interminable chain.

Another looooong wait on hold until I eventually find myself talking to a receiptionst. Once more through all the identification waffle. And put on hold again while she tries to locate my case manager.



Finally, I find myself talking to my case manager. He assures me that he is there to ensure my properly resolved. I shall spare you the full details of the conversation but the highlights included:
  • suggesting that I go pay for my own technical support
  • suggesting I buy another dongle and hoping to get a refund or credit for the existing one (note - not exchanging the unit but buying another one)
  • suggesting I buy a new laptop to see if the unit works on that - I shall reiterate - buy another grand's worth of laptop to see if a $160 dongle will work on it
I am now assured that a technician will call me direct sometime over the next two days.

"Why can't I talk to someone now?" He waffles rather than explain

"How do I know that he will actually call - nobody else has when you lot have made those assurances before?" He gives me his 'guarantee'. Yeah right, like that means anything. I can 'guarantee' you that the next time I fart, it will produce a shower of emeralds, but that doesn't mean I actually will.

Not surprisingly, I am becoming increasingly frustrated but managing to hold onto my temper - just. Then he made a crucial mistake.

"I am now closing the complaint."

What? I congratulated him on Telstra's ability to only hire psychics who are able to see the future and know beyond any question that things will happen as he says they will. What business did he have declaring the case closed, up to two days before a technician even calls me?

He hastens to assure me that a technician will call and will be staying on the line until we have resolved my problem. Again I ask, how can he make any such assurances? More blather.

I become increasingly cranky and mouthy. Again not surprisingly, he starts to a bit as well. He goes off on a lengthy explanation that may be safely summarised as they have so very many complaints to deal with, that they cannot afford to leave any open indefinitely.

Bingo! Telstra has just admitted that they are getting more complaints than they can deal with!

My suggestion - rather than just declare the case closed, if the technician is able to resolve things, then he should surely be able to enter something into their systems to indicate that the problem has been fixed and then it could be safely declared solved.

To my surprise, I am hit by a counter-offer - that if the problem is not resolved, then it is up to me to call them and get the case 're-opened'.

The moral of the story is do not believe any performance statistics from Telstra as they are obviously utter crap. Trust me - I worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and I know how to massage figures to get a pre-determined result! What's more, I know the signs of someone else doing it only too bloody well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A definitive response from MySpace

Well it took three goes and increasingly blunt requests but I finally have a definitive response from MySpace.

Hello Mr. Hamilton,

MySpace does not cooperate or aid spammers in identifying currently active user profiles.


I am still suspicious. I doubt that I shall be using MySpace any longer anyway. But I shall be keeping that response on file just in case they are finally caught out. And for what it's worth, I would suggest being even more careful with what you may post on your MySpace account. Something stinks here worse than my socks in summer (and that's a lot).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dear Mr Rudd

Damn it.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

Kevin Rudd - I am so bloody angry with you right now? Why? Well I'll tell you, mate.

Prime Minister, you have just forced me into the position of having to agree with your opposite number, The Mad Monk, Jug Ears Tony Abbott.

I simply cannot stand this abusive prat who changes his mind more often than I fart after dining (and trust me, that's plenty). But for once, he is right on the money.

A full inquiry into the disasterous home insulation scheme is not only warranted, it should have been a given once the details of just how bad this scheme was, became public. Four people are dead, Kevin, FOUR. There shouldn't have even been one but once that first tragedy occurred, why wasn't someone stopping to think hmmmm maybe there is something wrong with this scheme after all. But nothing happens until after four people have been killed due to the dodgy nature of this dumping insulation over top of live wiring within house ceilings that was allowed to go on. And largely paid for by the Australian tax payer.

Just how many Australian homes have been turned into potential deathtraps?

Who is going to answer for ignoring the many warnings received from industry bodies that were in a position to be concerned?

For crying out loud - this whole thing is looking more and more like criminal negligence! And you have made me agree with Tony Bloody Abbott!

More on MySpace

In my last post about MySpace, I posed the questions - are MySpace co-operating with spammers and would they respond to my inquiry on the matter?

Well MySpace have responded but once again, have studiously avoided answering the question. Instead, I have received yet another string of instructions of what to do to avoid spam.

Now I have zero interest in reading spam. There are only so many penile enhancers that I can use at one time, I already have a good supply of my drugs (ie required medication) courtesy of my GP and local pharmacist, complete strangers offering me their undying love arouses the cynic in me, and I already have a wristwatch. I think that covers the bulk of spam that I receive in one form or another. But MySpace seem to think that I have been trying to find out how to avoid spam. Not so.

I am on a quest to obtain a definitive statement from MySpace about whether or not they are co-operating with spammers. It is just ever so convenient that no spam comes in while my MySpace account is inactive but it starts up again almost the moment I begin using my account. Sure, it might be possible that the spammers sit there trawling through every single MySpace page to see who has been active. But a far more likely explanation is that they are using applications developed to show who has been active. And what is it that MySpace have previously admitted to doing? You got it - working with third party application developers to access publicly available information.

Is it just me or does this sound suspiciously like co-operating with spam merchants and MySpace making a buck out of it along the way?

I have upped the ante a little further, asking MySpace whether or not they are co-operating with spammers, advising them that any failure to answer shall be considered a reply in the affirmative.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Are Telstra just scam artists?

And the saga continues.

You see, I had managed to get this mobile connection working on a small netbook but that is not my laptop that I use for working purposes and general internet connection. But with no working connection on that main laptop for the foreseeable future, I went to use the netbook again.

The connection is now running at a download rate of zero on this unit that it worked fine on before. But I decide I shall be smart this time and call 125 111 which last night I was informed was the direct line to technical support. Only one problem with that – once again I had been told the wrong thing. This number has absolutely nothing to do with prepaid services. So I had to hang up and call 125 8880 for the umpteenth time and yet another twenty-five cent hit.

After being on hold for a while, I was put through to a ‘consultant’. She asked me for my service number but quite inexplicably put me on hold once more only part-way through my recitation of the necessary digits. Then the call was disconnected.

I called yet again - yet another twenty-five cents. After more delays I finally spoke to a ‘consultant’ who now claimed that I had used up all my credit – more than a Gig! From a unit that isn’t working properly! I was told to check my balance via the Telstra Turbo connection manager. Except that doesn’t tell you anything. I was then told I should have registered online to check such details. First I have been told about that. I was further informed that I would have to validate this new credit voucher via the telephone.

So I put petrol in the car, drive into town, incur a $2 parking fee for the time it took me to get into a shop, purchase a credit and return to the car to go home.

While waiting for yet another interminable time on hold, I read the voucher which was quite adamant that I could do this online. So I tried, while my phone was jammed between cheek and shoulder. It appeared to accept the voucher number but now a message appeared saying that it would be up to 48 hours before this was put through! In the meantime, I am still on hold, listening to an incredibly annoying tune that has me wanting to just hurl the phone across the room.

At last – a person answers the phone. She updates the account. I query my balance. She keeps telling me it is $30. I have a considerably difficulty in getting her to understand that I want to know the balance in download terms ie the download limits. She is unable to tell me anything meaningful. So I ask where I am supposed to be registering online for such information as told earlier today. She is unable to tell me and has to put me through to a ‘specialist’. Someone else takes the call. I ask him where I am supposed to be registering so I can find out what is going on with my account, and he just hangs up in my ear. Was I rude? Abusive? Nope.

I start experimenting with Telstra’s website. I manage to work out how to register. I explore my account. The account balance tells me NOTHING about available data download. The history is meaningless as it shows extensive use when the unit was not working!

I have purchased a set amount of data download. It is not unreasonable to want to know how much download I have left. Instead, it appears that I am supposed to just whip out the calculator and convert $ into Mb by some arcane formula that I first have to work out for myself. But wait – that would also depend on how much my original purchase was for – larger purchase amounts, the price per Mb becomes cheaper. So now my formula for working out what my balance actually is depends on a range of factors in an algebraic formula – solve for X – and just hope that you got it right. What is this – I have I suddenly slipped into a time warp back to 1980 and am studying Higher School Certificate Pure Mathematics once more?

This is an amazing scam by Telstra. Consistently tell people the wrong information so that they have to keep calling back at another twenty-five cents a time – and tell them yet more incorrect information. Set up a system that forces you to call them to sort out updating. Then only give useless information after they have registered, so that you will have to call them back yet again to find out what it actually means. And then leave the poor sods who are silly enough to use their service, now having to go through complex mathematical calculations to work out what their available download limits may be.

At present, I now have to have two computers on my desk: my laptop with everything on it that I need to do the work I am supposed to be doing but which cannot connect to the Internet for reasons still unknown, and a netbook that will connect to the Internet – sort of- but does not have the software I need on it, and as those units come without a CD/DVD drive, I cannot install the software that I require. So I am forced to download information onto a flash drive and keep going back and forth between the two units. And in the meantime, Telstra are still yet to give me a single, sensible, useful response to anything.

You want to know the real irony of all of this? The doctor wants me to avoid stress!

And there is one more aspect to this that I have so far refrained from ranting about. Telstra now have their call centres somewhere overseas. By the accent, I am guessing Indonesia somewhere. But the operatives refuse to answer my question as to where they are. I do not hold it against anyone for being from another country and only speaking my language with a strong accent. I am quite sure they are speaking English far better than I would speak their native tongue. But that accent makes it quite difficult for me to understand what they are saying. And their prepared script is so insincere it isn’t funny. If I hear that accented ‘I am sorry about that sirrrr’ one more time, I shall be looking for someone that I can ram sharp pointed objects into. But where their performance really goes down hill is when they try to spell things. There is an accepted, international phonetic alphabet for English – alpha, beta, charlie, delta, echo, foxtrot etc. But these clowns use silly words that could mean anything. For example, telling me in heavily accented English to type B for Bob sounds equally like telling me to type D for Dog.

This is beyond ridiculous.

Telstra and the Third Level of Hell

I decided that I had had enough of the El Cheapo mobile broadband service that I had been using. Sure, it was cheap, but there were little inconveniences such as the fact I could only connect at broadband speed while sitting outside amid the cabbages. Not to the mention the disgusting, vivid pink colour of the dongle. And just who came up with that name?

Off to visit my local Telstra shop. Surely our biggest and original telecommunications provider could point me in the right direction? Indeed they did – and I left the shop with a new dongle that was equipped with far better receptors than that of the old El Cheapo unit.

At about 3pm a week ago, the account was activated. Five hours later and I was still on the phone, trying to find out why it was only connecting in the region of 1K or less per second. Let me put that into perspective – in Australia, dial-up landline speeds average around 42K per second on an alleged 56K connection – our old copper landlines don't like trying to faster than that. So my brand spanking new broadband connection was running at one-forty-second of dial up speed. Not surprisingly, nothing would work.

During that five hours on the telephone, I made call after call to the tech support line. I was repeatedly put on hold so long that the call timed out and I had to call back over and over. Calls would end for no reason. When putting me through to a Level Two technician, I usually just ended back with the general staff who first answer the phone – and had to go through the entire charade yet again. And why is it that no matter how many times I tell these people my service number, I have to keep telling them all over again every time that I am put through to someone else?

It was finally decided that there must be a problem with the network broadcasting in my region. But then I am given the joyful news that the only people in the entire country who can check to see if a particular part of the broadband network is broadcasting or not, is in the state of Queensland. And they will not be able to actually get back to me for three business days. What?? Then of course on yet another call, I learn that there are actually people who can read a computer screen to see if there are any reported network outages and I don't have to wait days for that information. Except the network in my area is apparently working just fine.

So matters are now elevated to an esteemed Level Three Technician. In Queensland again. But I am assured that I shall be receiving a call in three days to sort things out.

A week had gone by with no calls from these Tertiary Gurus of All Things Technological, so I decided to dare Telstra's telephone 'help' service again.

Another six hours are spent in utterly pointless, fruitless calls. Yet more calls end up timed out and lost in their system. Yet more contradictory information being passed along. Finally, after several hours, I am told that it needs to be elevated to a Level Three technician. I explain that it has already been elevated to there with no response. An argument now ensues with this particular Telstra operative insisting that there hasn't been any Level Three technician inquiry raised. I insist that I have been told that one had been, a week ago.

I am told to recite the 'Trouble Ticket' number. Huh? I have no idea what they are talking. That is then used as 'proof' that nothing had been elevated to that Most Holy Third Level. What?

Then all of a sudden, this tech changes her story. She has found that a Level Three inquiry has been raised after all. But not for my problem but to investigate actual network broadcasting. And I am now informed that all inquiries to Level Three will take seven to ten working days for a response.

Oh great.

I am left with the encouraging news that if I am able to find anything with my actual laptop that may have implications for the connection, that I was to contact them again.

I commence running diagnostics and yes, I discover a problem. There is a problem with the network connection equipment resulting in invalid IP addresses. So... I call the tech line again. This time I ask to go straight to a Level Two. More debate about it but I finally convince this woman that I have already gone through things at her level over and over again already. She agrees to put me through to a Level Two. I find myself talking to another woman. She discusses things with me for some minutes before admitting that no, she isn't a Level Two tech at all. Yet more time on hold, listening to Telstra's maddening bloody muzak.

I finally talk to a real, live Level Two technician. I ask if she is able to assist me with this IP address issue or should I go looking for assistance elsewhere. Yes, she claims she can help me with that. But all she does is start going through their basic script again, although she denies doing so when I challenge her about it. How many frigging times am I expected to have to uninstall and reinstall this stinking software. Thirty-four minutes later (I timed this particular call) she now announces that it is not Telstra's policy to assist with resolving IP addresses. What?? So why in the name of Hell did she not say so at the bloody start and save us both more than a half-hour of frustration and growing angst.

You guessed it – yet another discussion about Level Three assistance. More arguments about when this is supposed to have started. This woman insists that yes, it is indeed a seven to ten day wait but the count started from when my inquiry was first lodged ie a week ago.

I get off the phone, fuming. This is complete and utter crap. I'm not going to put up with this. So I call back yet again, going through the maddening muzak and automated answering service, yet again. I finally get to speak to a live person once more. She is very reluctant to let me speak to a Team Leader unless she has gone through all the trouble shooting first. She agrees, yes, there is a lengthy record of all this on my file already but she still wants to go through it all again. No. Frigging. Way. But she did give me one bit of help – apparently there is a direct line to their tech support – just that not one of the other multitude already spoken to, thought of bothering to tell me this.

At long last, I get to speak to a Team Leader. Except he is even more useless than his staff. He. Knows. Nothing. This clown, the boss, has to go and ask one of his Level Two staff what to do! Another 12 minutes on hold and I am put back to - you guessed it – a Level Two once more. But not before I have a whinge about the ludicrous number of calls that I have had to make at my expense at twenty-five cents a time. Not a lot by itself, but when you realise that I have now made in the region of thirty fucking calls!

In fairness, this one did have some idea of what she was talking about. Unfortunately her accent from her home base in Indonesia or wherever it is that Telstra has hidden its call centre, is so thick that I cannot understand her half the time. Fifty-nine minutes this time, according to my handset. And still no further along. In fact, I learn that I have gone backwards. The original Level Three inquiry had been directed to the wrong area so it has had to be re-lodged to the correct area, and I am now at the end of the queue again, where I was a bloody week ago! I have absolutely no idea of when I am supposed to be hearing from The Third Level of Hell as I was once again given a story that kept changing.

Mind you, that's not all there is to the story. Back a week ago when all this started, after being told that nobody in Telstra could possibly tell me if the network in my area was even broadcasting, I came up with the bright idea of contacting one of their competitors to see if they were able to broadcast on the 3G network at the moment. The only problem is that I didn't have a number for any of them. But that is not a problem, surely? All I have to do is contact Directory Assistance.

So I call Directory Assistance. The automated system cannot understand what I am saying so I am put through to a human being. He asks where 'GRL mobile' are located. I have no idea – I need a telephone directory to work that out, and if I had a telephone directory, then I would not need to be calling Directory Assistance. Of course I could always just look them up on the Internet. Oh wait – riiiight.

To my considerable surprise, this clown says he cannot look any number up unless I can tell him the location. I am now told to go find the location before calling back. He hangs up in my ear.

I call back immediately, hoping to get the same dickhead so I can give him a mouthful. Instead I get hold of a much more helpful and pleasant woman. Except that she can't find 'GRL mobile' either. But she offers to put me on to her supervisor to see if the supervisor can assist.

The supervisor is able to find the number in about six seconds. I then complain about the earlier treatment and being hung up on. She is not impressed and asks me for the precise time I spoke to that idiot. Yeah, right – we all take careful notes of the exact time we make a phone call, don't we. So much for that complaint being resolved.

On Tuesday I shall commence trying to talk to the Resolution Area to get something sorted out. But I have been down this route before. You see, Telstra staff do not like admitting that they even have a Resolution Centre. If it is in the Telephone Directory anywhere, then it is well and truly hidden. Nor can it be accessed through the main call centre networks. You have to cajole the separate number out of them. But not until you have had several layers of people insisting that you have tell your entire story to them first – over and over again. If you persevere for long enough and if their delaying tactics haven't made you hang up in disgust, eventually you will be given the magic telephone number.

So what do I want? Pretty simple, really. I just want my broadband working. And my money refunded for all the calls I have had to make that should not have been necessary at all. An explanation for all the fuck ups wouldn't go astray either. Because of the public holidays over Easter, I shall not have moved up the queue in the waiting list for Level Three assistance. But you can be pretty sure that despite all of this utter balls-up and incompetence, the Resolution Centre will almost certainly prove to be unable to do anything about elevating my concerns.

What a very long and bloody awful bad joke.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Is MySpace co-operating with spammers?

I recently blogged about the rumour of MySpace selling user data to third parties, posting the MySpace reply to my inquiry of them.

The emergence of that rumour saw me start to use my MySpace account for the first time in ages. I spend a little downtime playing poker with pretend money (and yes, I'm ahead). However, after zero spam hitting that account for a long time, almost the moment I started using it again, despite not doing any updates to my status etc, I suddenly started receiving spam once more. Just the usual - women I've never heard of before, suddenly pledging their undying love, blah blah blah.

This started me wondering - just who are these third party application developers that MySpace help access the public information from MySpace accounts? Could they in fact be assisting the spammers?

Rather interestingly, MySpace responded with a string of instructions on how to make my account private. Sorry folks - that wasn't the question, so would you kindly answer the actual question I asked?

Call me a cynic, but when people avoid answering questions by changing the subject, I immediately start thinking 'ah haaa - they are doing it.'

I have responded to MySpace with a more pointed question that they could not fail to understand. I wonder if they shall bother responding?