No help from Telkom

2009-03-01 00:00

Here’s a question — which South African institution uses the revenue from its customers to support local music? The answer is your friendly fixed-line operator that has resorted to playing the music of Mango Groove, Freshlyground, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo to while away the wait for a call centre operator.

The waiting went on for a bit, and I had more than an earful of local tunes, which is probably my fault seeing that I opted for the music rather than the recorded tips on managing your telephone account.

The wait was a waste of time as the voice on the other end of the line matter-of-factly confirmed what I was phoning about — yes, there is a break in the ADSL connection.

In our neck of the woods this has been happening with far too much regularity, and when I asked about compensation, or credit, or any sort of recompense for the loss of service, the voice sounded wary, almost defensive.

“What exactly is it that you want to claim for, sir,” it inquired.

Best I could, I explained that web connectivity and e-mail in particular are critical tools of our trade, and that its failure translates into serious inconvenience, additional costs, and even loss of income.

“What,” I asked, “is Telkom going to do to make up for the non-delivery of a paid service?” The voice wanted to consult, and came back a minute later to say that Telkom will credit a customer for line rental for as long as the service was interrupted, nothing more.

To add insult to injury, Telkom does not activate the restitution process; that must be done by an affected customer. If they don’t, there’s no credit.

The end result is that Telkom gets off scot-free, and also does not accept responsibility for the consequences of its failure. Crediting customers for down time is hardly a mitigating measure, but probably is as much as one can expect from an institution with the customer ethic of a eucalyptus pole.

The irony is that two hours prior, I made a cellphone call to 1023 for a number in Durban. The woman’s voice was friendly and helpful, but the service ended before the option to have the number dialled was offered. No worries, I dialled the number and all was well, that is, until some consultant phoned afterwards to see how I’d rated the “nommer asseblief” service.

I acknowledged the good, and thought it prudent to mention the premature end to the 1023 service. Without skipping a beat, the consultant intoned … “so how would you rate her friendliness, on a scale from one to five”.

“Beg your pardon?” I said, “what about my comment? Is that not more important than how sweet a girl with a computer sounds?”

“Sir, my function is to monitor the service provided by the operator, not to deal with any technical problems.”

“Now, how would you rate her helpfulness, on a scale from one to five?”

I put down the phone, gently.

Heed the call

A previous column referred to the observance of The Earth Hour on March 28, which will see millions of people across the world turn off all lights for one hour.

The objective is to save massive amounts of energy, and also to raise environmental sensitivity.

While some cities have embraced the concept, including Cape Town, individuals and groups elsewhere are throwing their support behind the drive, and are committing to switch off at 8.30 pm.

Rubbished claims

Thank you to Msunduzi Municipality deputy municipal manager of community service, Zwe Hulane, for his response to comments in a previous column about the filth in the city.

I wish not to engage Hulane in tit-for-tat exchanges on points of detail — he is so much better than I am at that — but do contest his claim that the rubbish and broken bottles left in Alexandra Park were removed when he said. If he doesn’t believe me, perhaps I could forward him the e-mails I’ve received on this matter?

The other point of contention is that Hulane appears not to understand the notion of responsibility of office or, in simple terms, the meaning of the “bucks stops with me”. The reality is that very little has changed since Hulane took on his position — the city is dirtier than ever, the rubbish dump is a hell hole, and there appears to be no solution going forward.

Poor Driving

Just how bad are South African drivers? According to a car hire company, almost three times worse than overseas drivers.

This we discovered when we wanted to hire a car in Cape Town for a wedding we needed to attend, and were told that we needed to block off R8 500 on the credit card to cover the excess.

This we never encountered before, and on inquiry, were told that foreign passport holders are charged only R2 850 because of the “problems caused by local drivers”.

The alternative was to pay more on a standard daily rental package that required only a R2 900 deposit. Surprise, surprise, overseas travellers wouldn’t be required to pay a deposit at all.

Last word

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn’t. — Erica Jong.

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