Thanks for the memories, Sol

Over the years, having sworn never to have mobile phones, we’ve ended up with three of them in the house. All started their lives with Telstra, and today, finally the last of them has been shifted to another carrier.

For a long time, Telstra made sense. The coverage was the best, the infrastrcuture the biggest, and in many cases the competitors just used their stuff anyhow. We don’t use mobiles much, so we tend to try and go on plans with really long pre-payment periods. A year in advance is good if you can get it. Telstra’s plans seemed to gouge $30 a month, or every couple of months. The credit would accumulate because we didn’t use it. But miss a payment and you forfeit the lot.

So we’ve moved, because the dollars add up.

A week ago, the time had come to move the last phone off Telstra. The Oldest Sons phone. To do that we had to unlock the handset, and this is where the tale of madness and ANGRY began.

To unlock the handset, the Lady Of The House had to log into the web site. Trouble is, we use the web site about once a year, and she’d forgotten the password. No problem you cry, just play the game of answer the Seven Silly Questions From Hell and you get a new password. But with questions like “What is your mothers maiden name”, she was then bamboozled. When the account was set up 2 or 3 years ago – were the answers from HER point of view, or from OLDEST SONS point of view?

After getting the answers to the Seven Silly Questions From Hell wrong, the web account was locked out.

Solution – call the enquiries number. This she duly did, and after much waiting and 17 transfers, she had a nice chat to somebody who ran through the Seven Silly Questions From Hell and pretty much read out the answers. So much for checking identity. But, the web account could not be unlocked by the operator.

“It will automatically unlock in 3-4 hours”, she was informed.

That evening, another try resulting in the account still being locked.

More calls to operators, more transfers, and another half hour on the phone led to illuminating help such as “Oh, I can see you have been trying to log in a lot”.

“Well, yes. Your colleague said it would unlock in 3-4 hours.”

“Oh no, that’s not right, the account will take 3-4 days before it unlocks”, came the reply.

“What? 3-4 days? You have to be joking, right?”

“No. 3-4 days.”

“Well, all I want is to unlock the handset so its not locked to the Telstra network any more, can you help me do that?”

“No. Wait till the web services are unlocked and you can log in again.”

Grrrr. Right. Seething anger and burning resentment lit the room. If we could have harnessed this, we could have sent power back into the grid.

I provided tea and sympathy. She Who Must Be Obeyed would not be comforted:  ”The stupid jerks”, she fumed, “I’ll log a complaint.”

So she found the Telstra web site again, and went to the complaints form. Typed up a detailed description of what had transpired, and asked for a simple statement. Yea, verily, a mere clarification. “How long does it take to unlock the web account so I can log in again?”.

Submitting The Question That Shall Not Be Mentioned, the web system promptly came back with an error. A Parse Error. Clearly, the web system is broken. But who knows – maybe The Question That Shall Not Be Mentioned was submitted anyway?

And thus came back the answer, an email from the gods of Telstra. An email full of waffle cut-n-pasted from the Handbook Of Corporate Waffle, providing Yet Another Phone Number To Call For Customer Service In The Bowels Of Telsra. But not answering the question.

And thus began the email exchange. A reply was duly dispatched, stating that the answer provided by Providence and the Bountiful Gods Of Telstra was somewhat inadequate, seeing as it had not answered the question.

The email ping-pong continued for some days, each time new phone numbers being provided, and at no time giving an answer, to a question which had now assumed proportions akin the search by the ancient alchemists for the turning of water into wine, or the ponderings of the meaning of life. Only a number – you might think – only a number! But no, in the annals of Telstra, the Account Lockout Period is a closely guarded secret – transferred from one CEO to another, but only behind locked doors and when there  is a full moon.

And thus, a calm came upon the land, and the Family Of The Dump were silent and mollified, having temporarily given up on trying to tame the Telstra Dragon. Defeated, but not yet deterred, we quitely bided our time. We waited the allotted 3 to 4 days, and then some. Which brings us to today.

Today – The Lady Of The House spent another 2 hours on the phone, trying to report that the web site is broken. On each attempted “I’ll just transfer you”, she would shriek “No… I’ll NOT BE TRANSFERRED. Take down my complaint, you stupid and compliant oaf.” They didn’t like that much.

But today also, Providence and The Gods Of Telstra had deemed that the internet account woudl unlock. Like opening the Great Doors Of The Temple Of Doom, it was now possible to access the holiest of holys, The Telstra Account Site.

And so it was done that the handset could be unlocked from the Network Of the Omnipotent One, for the payment of a small fee. Strangely enough, Yet Another Phone Number In The Maw Of The Telstra Monster had to be called! But at no time did it actually ask for the credit card number, to which The Fee would be charged.

And thus, it came to pass, that by this evening the phone was freed from its tyranny, and transferred to the land of Vodafone, where an accumulation of Free Vodafone Minutes will likely see its cost drop to $50 a year. And have as parent a web site that works. And operators who answer questions , and make things work. All on  single number. Finally. After two weeks of pain and suffering.


There’s a bitter lesson for the next Telstra CEO in all this. Mr Sol, the current and outgoing CEO, takes great pride in reducing the number Telstra information systems, from something like 250, to about 20.

Trouble is, Sol, you forgot a couple of really important things. The staff don’t have a clue what’s going on. You changed things so fast you left the people behind. And you have so many toll-free customer service numbers that nobody has a clue which to call, when, and for what.

Oh – and your web site is still stuffed for logging a complaint!

I’ll be selling my Telstra shares. It’s no longer getting with the strength, it’s getting with the organisation that’s been F@#$ed.


Haha don’t sell your shares yet! Wait until they get up to $5.50! I share your pain! I’ve been with Vodafone since the Olympics in Sydney and no complaints but I’m on an old, old pay as you go plan which has worked out way cheaper than prepaid or anything else since I don’t use my mobile much . . I had my home phone (Telstra) disconnected because we use Skype or mobiles these days and iiNet comes with Voip . .I’d overpaid the Telstra account by $45 dollars and they kept sending me an invoice with the credit amount on it long after the phone had been disconnected saying “this amount will be credited to your next bill”! Took them three months to refund me a cheque! Take heart tho . . I am retrieving some lost super for a client and the ATO announced yesterday that it takes 28 days to log their incoming mail!

Comment by Baino | March 24th, 2009 3:42 am | Permalink

Our first two mobiles were with Telstra – never again. Likewise, we’re enjoying the benefits of Vodafone 12-months pre-paid credit on both our phones.

Once or twice there’s been the odd thing come along requiring intense mobile phone use and for those times we just buy a $29 30-day card that gives $150 of credit. At the end of the 30 days, just buy a regular card and go back to the 365 day option. Free Vodafone to Vodafone minutes are preserved and continue to accumulate.

Comment by Newman | March 24th, 2009 7:22 am | Permalink

Crikey….! I’ve been with Telstra since my first brick of a phone was bought in 1998 and I (think) I also have a ‘pay what I use’ kind of plan which they’ve worked out doesn’t make them very much money, hence the spending of lots more money posting me out much glossy marketing material urging me to upgrade my phone (a Samsung that does absolutely NOTHING except take and make calls) and join up to a plan that sounds about as simple to comprehend as the inner workings of the pentagon.

Comment by Kath Lockett | March 24th, 2009 9:33 am | Permalink

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