Yes I know, gasp.
Here's what I learned in just a few days:
- That there is an astonishing refuge of wildlife in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea cause no-one's allowed to go into it.
- That a Sindbad the Sailor type character sunk his ship during an incredible journey back from China, dumping the most important Tang dynasty treasure haul in history into the coral riddled seas off Indonesia.
- That the pyramids were probably built by moving the massive stones using sled like devices rather than rollers.
- That if you don't eat enough you can't lose weight (thanks Biggest Loser).
- That if all the people were suddenly not on the planet anymore the earth starts to look awesome, although not for dogs who don't seem to be able to get open doors and get out of the house if all the humans are killed.
- Even that the hot chick from Wild Things, Denise Richards has a reality show where she dates losers and talks endlessly about dating losers, it's apparently complicated - although it didn't seem so to me.
There's a lot of broadcast stuff out there I didn't really pay any attention to and some of it's not bad.
Apart from flicking between BBC, CNN, the Australia Network and Al Jazeera for 15 attention deficient minutes each morning to catch the news the box sits pretty idle except when it's hooked up to the xbox or dvd player.
Usually I get most of my news and entertainment via my broadband connection and I can tell you living without that is like living without electricity and in a surprising throw back to my rural childhood, I have had to do that a few times too in the past 8 months.
You see towards the end of the week, for no explicable reason my Telekom Malaysia broadband connection went dead - at first I thought they had just decided to cut it off. I travel a lot and for some reason, two of my key providers TM and Maxis, while almost impossible to get to do anything of speed for you (I'm not kidding Maxis told me to wait 10 weeks for a refund one time, and then didn't bother to send a cheque, it's nine months later and I'm still waiting), will cut off your services if bill payment is a day or two late.
Back to the broadband, after numerous calls by staff here in the KL office it was discovered that no my service hadn't been cut off, it must be something at my end. Of course it must have been.
I'm no tech but I know my way around a broadband connection, a modem and a router.
I answered some fairly rudimentary questions I thought were pretty juvenile but I guessed they were just on the help desk script.
Is the modem on? ah, Yes.
Are there any lights not on on the modem? Yes the data light is blinking and the link light is off (which I already knew meant the signal wasn't reaching my place)
Did you restart and reset the modem? Yes
Do you use a router? Yes
Can you unplug the router and restart it? Yes I have done that already several times.
Is it working now? Ah no.
OK we'll I'll get tech to call you. Ok but can you just send someone around, I'd already tried those things numerous times.
I'll get tech to call you.
Another 24 hours of silence. So we try again.
Via one of the staff here, as my Bahasa isn't great and by not great, it means non-existent, the identical conversation went down and I answered third hand the same questions with the same answers, but with some expletives I don't think my translator passed on.
An additional question was asked this time.
What type of modem is it? It's the standard modem you give everyone when they sign up - and then gave them the modem type just in case they had forgotten what that was.
This time after a substantial time on the phone I was informed that, oh there was some maintenance being done go home tonight and it will be working.
Although I felt it was strange that they hadn't said this at the beginning of the conversation, nor yesterday, nor maybe warned customers maintenance was going to be carried out, I thought it was still possible. Our TM line went down at the office and at my home one weekend and stayed out until Monday night - with TM telling us they knew the network was down in certain areas but the technicians don't work on weekends. No, seriously this is their policy - they told me the same thing this time.
Of course I got home and the modem was still in the same forlorn state, the data light blinking, the line light off and error screens on all computers in the house when attempting to direct to Google.
This was Friday night.
Cut to Monday a tenacious member of staff here after I confirmed I still had no access at home called TM and quoted the case number. At first they said we had never called, then after all hope of getting any resolution from the help number my colleague called the complaints department, which resulted in me getting a call from a different tech department which asked me you guessed it, the above list of question minus the one about the modem type.
This time I said the answers are exactly what I told three other people but gave them again. Then he asks me to go to my house and be near the modem so we can do some tests. I agreed but asked why we didn't do that in the first place and said, look just send a technician to look at it.
At my house I am in position over the modem when the technician calls - at least he called, three times we were told we would be called and they just didn't bother. One time a woman said the case had been closed, when we asked why, she replied "we thought it was fixed".
Why would you think it was fixed? Because no-one called about it.
So now I have this picture of TM as this huge room with post-it notes all over everyone's phones, the fridge, PC screens, obscuring the lights on their modems...
So the call comes and this technician says,
OK is the modem on? It's on, it's always on and I've reset it, and the orange light is blinking, the line light is dead, the modem is now connected directly to the laptop, are we up to speed?
I am just trying to help you sir OK
So are there any lights not on? The orange light is blinking! Are you kidding?
Oh... the orange line is blinking... that means there is an interruption between the server and the socket we will have to send out an technician. I know there is, I know it's at your end I have told everyone since last Thursday you need to send a technician out.
OK it will take up to 48 hours for someone to come out. What you'd hear now is silence as I have hung up on this guy, I would much have preferred to be using an old fashioned phone with a meaty crash as I banged down the receiver, it's hard to get that effect by clicking the "end call" button on an iPhone. Curse you Apple and your sleek, sexy and silent functionality.
By this time you can imagine my state of frustration. I express this back at the office and the very capable office administrator who looks after me on issues like this gets straight back onto the complaints line and tells them it's outrageous how this has been mismanaged.
She extracts out of TM complaints an undertaking to send a technician straight up on Monday night to fix the problem and they will call when they arrive.
I play it safe and stay at home and watch some TV (did you know a mother shark can give birth to 40 pups? Or that only one in a 1000 baby turtles survive after they hatch on beaches and they will often in built up areas head towards street lights instead of the ocean reducing even more their chances of survival) and the hours pass and of course no one calls or turns up and with all the lights turned out I just see the pleading orange light reflected on the ceiling, but in the name of getting a good night's sleep I try not to fixate on it and get my blood boiling.
In a blind and pathetic optimism, despite yet another day passing when I can't do my critical morning Skype conference calls to various other offices and North America from home, I drag myself into the office and I decide it's a brand new day and maybe we'll get someone who can actually help at TM.
Once again our office admin calls and lambastes TM for saying they would finally turn up and then not turning up, what follows is another round of denial that it is anyone's fault and going back to square one again.
I have a call put through to me from someone who can ultimately fix all this I am told.
It went down like this:
Are there any lights not on the modem? At this point, if you know me or recognise this sort of customer service experience, you may well expect me to answer this question with ferocious expletives and stinging criticisms of this company. However realising that this is just what it is like, that no-one takes responsibility, that no-one seemingly takes notes and that once someone has finished their shift, that's it for your case. So I just said "the orange light is blinking".
Hmm, hmm. Is your internet working? IS MY INTERNET WORKING!?!
Yes, is your internet working? NO! WHAT DO YOU THINK WE'VE BEEN CALLING ABOUT FOR FIVE DAYS?
It's not working, hmm I need to get a technician to look at it. I hang up again.
And that's it folks, there is no end to this tale, more deadlines have passed and there have been no further developments. I have got used to re-acquainting myself with TV at nights, getting early into the office to do my early calls here, and catching mail on my phone after hours.
Thankfully after a similar experience with TM at the office, that threatened our whole productivity not just my home productivity, we wisely voted with our feet and went with a smaller provider that has never given us a day of trouble and doesn't have outages.
I have had all sorts of explanations as to why the customer service experience is like this and why TM has unexplained outages, from a number of people - but none from TM themselves - who will always say there must be "maintenance" or you must have unplugged something.
There was never any attempt to stop us jumping ship when we got fed up and decided we needed more reliable and faster internet service in the office.
I am willing to give TM the right of reply, but my suspicion is that they'll never even know about this. I am also sure this same experience is repeated over and over and hopefully getting it out in the open will assist the TM marketing department to focus a bit more on customer service and it's importance to the overall brand experience and customer retention.
Telcos are highly focused on new customers and as the market gets more competitive customer service will be a powerful currency.
I'll let you know if my orange light stops blinking anytime soon.