It has been almost 3 years now that I’ve been using Vodacom’s overpriced prepaid service to connect to the Internet. As with anything and everything that was not built for Africa’s unforgiving conditions, the old Chinese made USB Huawei Vodafone dongle had its fair share of hiccups. I eventually got fedup with the dongle’s constant malfunctions and used an old HTC phone as a modem, an arrangement that worked fine until the battery started showing signs of packing up. It was only after discovering that nobody in the near vicinity stocked new batteries for the HTC anymore, that I realized I needed to make an alternative plan with reliable Internet connectivity.
There are various reasons why I never wanted to bind myself to a long-term contract, one of them being the interminable urge I’ve been having for the past year or more to pack my bags and leave this stuffed-up country, and particularly the Gauteng Province, for good.
Nonetheless, a new employment prospect presented itself about 6 weeks ago, moments before I was about to book my plane ticket out of here! I’ve already invested a considerable amount of time and money on the new venture, so I’m going to be giving it my best shot. Incidentally, the Internet connectivity issue and also the new venture I’ve embarked on are the two main reasons why blog-posts have not been that frequent lately.
15 March 2012
I decided to pay the Telkom office at Menlyn a visit to enquire about their various ADSL broadband options. After standing in a long que for about 30 minutes I was eventually served by one of the members of Telkom’s “All Black” team. I was quite happy to learn that I was going to be saving megabucks if I opted for a 2-year contract costing only R251-00 per month. The deal included a databundle of 5GB’s per month (although they promised I’d get 10GB’s ???), plus a Netgear N300 Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router with all the necessary cables, filters, and other stuff - all made in China of course!
“When do you require the service sir?”
“By Tuesday 20 March would be just fine, thank you!”
(I was planning on visiting the bushveld for a few days starting on Monday, 26 March. Five days thus allowed for more than sufficient time to get the system installed and operating before my departure.)
“We will sms you as soon as the ADSL line is activated. When that happens you may come collect your modem,” I was told.
22 March 2012
Seeing that I had signed the contract 8 days ago, and with Telkom already being 2 days past their deadline, I started visualizing an agonizing 2-year long hell with Telkom’s ADSL service. I decided to cancel the contract there and then BEFORE they handed me their free Chinese junk… So off I went, back to the Telkom office at Menlyn. What happened there is so bizarre that I do not have words to describe it, but I’ll try:
When I finally reached the counter I was greeted by “ou diklippe” with the customary, “how are you?” The man spoke these routine words without even lifting his head. I handed him the paperwork with a friendly but stern request to cancel this nonsense immediately. He first said, “it cannot be done, because it’s too late!” When he realized that I was stubbornly intent on not leaving until I was ‘served’ properly, he then told me that there will be a BIG penalty fee. However, he couldn’t tell me what the so-called penalty-fee was because, according to him, he didn’t have the ‘authority’. Then out of the blue, while I was still conversing with the chap, trying to establish who exactly had the ‘authority’, he decided it was time to chat to someone else - on his own cellphone ( I presume) in an African language I did not understand.
Although I managed to conceal my emotions, I was fuming mad, and couldn’t believe the audacity of the man. The other “diklip”, a lady sitting nearby, was unable to help me either, as she was fully occupied with sorting out a string of grievances, lodged by the gayest-looking, handbag-carrying coloured fellow I’d ever seen in my entire life! It was then that I realized the entire place was teeming with discontented customers of all sorts.
Surveying the bizarre scene helped pass the time, while I tolerantly waited for my ‘assistant’ to end his private conversation. However, I was stunned once again when the man bluntly ignored me. He immediately made another call – this time to report a malfunction on his Telkom PC. I’ll not bore readers with the details of the conversation between “diklip” and the IT specialist on the other end, except to say that shouting and swearing cannot be good for Telkom’s already shattered image.
I quietly departed the rowdy scene, with thoughts of rescheduling my planned bushveld trip to a sooner date, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.
22 March 2012
Telkom’s sms finally arrived, announcing that the ADSL line was activated and that I could continue with the connection of the modem. So, off I went - back to that dreaded office of theirs to collect the damn thing.
By 23:00 that same evening I was still unable to get the gadget up-and-running. To end a long story… The modem was not picking up the Ethernet cable connection, despite the fact that I had two perfectly functioning network adapters installed on my PC. Neither one of them seemed to work with the modem though, even after updating them with the latest drivers.
23 March 2012
I finally accepted the fact that I needed technical assistance, and dialled the Telkom helpline on 10210 – A voice on a machine spoke very slowly - “Good morning, welcome to Telkom online…” - in a tone that sounds more like an invitation to "Paradise Island". The usual irritating options were provided, “press 1 for this, press 2 for that,” then I waited, and waited.
Eventually I put down the phone, after listening to a repetitive musical tune and the same robot-voice telling me over and over to, “Be patient. A technician will be with you shortly!” I timed the waiting period… 15 minutes!!!
At 09:30 I dialled the 10210 number again. Same dreary tune, same voice, same options, and the same long wait. This time round the wait was 20 minutes long, but it didn’t bother me as I can multitask while holding a phone to my ear ;-)
I repeated the process more-or-less every hour, between other tasks that also required my attention, and finally managed to get a technician on the line at about 14:30, who introduced himself as “Oscar”… But that was about all I could hear, because when he started talking I could not hear or understand half of what he was trying to say.
Knowing all too well that any objection about his pathetic inaudible manner of speech was only going to provoke a string of outbursts - all related to racial discrimination – “me black and stupid, you white and clever, bla, bla…” I calmly told him that the line seemed very bad, and that I will try and call back. (In civilized countries they normally take your name and number and call YOU back!)
Of course I didn’t call back, as the weekend was open me, and I had a multitude of other things to do and places to visit!
I arrived back home on Wednesday evening, 28 March, after spending a most enjoyable and relaxing two days in the awesome splendour and tranquillity of the bush, at a place called Leeupoort, about 76km’s west of Warmbaths (Bela-Bela). Although it was a trip I could hardly afford (time wise), I did manage to mix some business into the equation, which would hopefully boost my new venture (which involves marketing, btw).
After double-checking all connections, I was once again confronted with one error message after the next. I half-heartedly dialled the 10210 number and was quite surprised to get hold of a technician without waiting too long. The tech guy was of the opinion that the fault lay with the Netgear modem. He advised me to exchange it for a new one, which meant that I had to travel to that dreaded Telkom office again.
29 March 2012
After a brief quibble about a fault-reporting reference number, which I didn’t have because nobody gave me one, the modem was immediately exchanged for another newly packed and sealed one. The one I handed in was nonchalantly tossed into a bin without even checking whether I had returned all the contents in the box.
Now I do realize that this story is becoming rather monotonous, but when everything was connected again the same old problem cropped up: The modem was not responding to the Ethernet connection.
I’ll cut short all the customary hassles I had in my endeavours to speak to someone at Telkom. During late afternoon, on 29 March, a lady by the name of Sharron eventually had the line tested – only to discover that the ADSL line was faulty. She was unfortunately unable to fix it, or to report the matter on my behalf, but told me to wait while she put me through to the fault department. I held on for about 25 minutes until another idiot from the SALES DEPARTMENT answered, who in turn diverted me to a telephone that nobody answered.
30 March 2012
Fridays are never good days to phone clients, so I decided to start early – only to discover that my landline was dead. At about 09:15, after I had reported the problem, I received and sms message, as follows:
“Dear Valued Telkom Customer, your faulty telephone line, ### has been re-tested and is found to be free of defects. To confirm that the line is working, please reply to this SMS with your Telkom number followed by @W. If the line is not working, then reply with your Telkom number followed by @F. No reply will indicate to us that the service is not working and we will attend to your fault as soon as possible…”
I replied with the @F option!
31 March 2012
Landline still dead and no ADSL!!!!
To end a loooong story… By 12:00 in the afternoon all the technical problems were sorted, but only after I started snarling and barking at all the right people.
I’m so fedup and tired of all this crap that we have to put up in this country, that I sometimes feel like jumping off a high cliff – (I’m not suicidal, it’s just a manner of speech to make it known that I’m REALLY fedup and that Africa is no place for sissies!)
Stay tuned, stay safe, and have a great weekend!