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Sep. 25th, 2006

“I’ve been on TalkTalk for three months,” said my mother. “Now suddenly my machine’s asking me for a password if I want to access my emails. Why is that?”

“Well,” said the young man in the Carphone Warehouse, “they haven’t yet configured the system to work with Outlook Express. So until they do, you should set up another email account, maybe on Hotmail.”

“But up until yesterday I was using Outlook Express for my emails all the time,” said my mother.

“Um,” said the man.

“And when I got broadband it was really fast,” my mother continued. “Now, three months later, it’s as pitifully slow as my old 56k modem. Why?”

“Ah,” said the young man, brightening up, “where do you live?” She told him. He nodded. “Yes, that’ll be because so many people in your area have taken up TalkTalk’s fantastic free broadband offer. That many people using the service at once means it gets quite clogged up. Plus,” he went on as my mother was about to object, “there’s the westward turn of the Earth.”

“What?” said my mother, wrongfooted.

“You see, just as we’re all logging off for the day,” the young man said authoritatively, “people in the United States are logging on, and then Japan. Suddenly there are a lot more people online, and so in the afternoons our service in this country slows right down.”

“I see,” my mother said slowly. “So we’d better hope China doesn’t go completely online any time soon.”

“Yes,” agreed the young man, sagely.

Not the first time my mother has had cause to rue the day she switched to TalkTalk. The first phone bill she got showed about ten rogue calls, to and from numbers that were nothing to do with her. “Yeah,” was the response (after the traditional scalp-clawing half-hour on hold), “that happens sometimes. What we’ll do for security is put a password on your line. You’ll have to give it every time you want to make a call.”

That is, obviously, an astonishingly bad solution to the problem. My mother’s only consolation was that the person she spoke to completely forgot to implement it. Perhaps a flicker of interest in running decent security at their end would indicate that TalkTalk truly intended to provide the service they describe so effusively in their brochures, but currently they’re all hat and no cattle.

A few months ago my cousin, who came here five years ago from Johannesburg, hung on for an hour and a half until finally he got through to a TalkTalk engineer, who happened to be South African. She couldn’t help so she put him through to her superior, whose Afrikaans accent was so thick even my cousin had trouble decoding it. “Where are you?” he asked. Turns out TalkTalk’s technical helpline is based in... Johannesburg. The fact that they then couldn’t help scarcely mattered after that.

Also to be filed under “Are they trying to baffle me with bullshit or are they really that dumb?”: the BT engineer who came last year to fix my incredibly crackly phone line. He went off to the local exchange and returned triumphant. “That’s sorted it,” he beamed, plugging in his testing equipment. The moment he switched it on, it was clear my line was just as viciously noisy as ever. “No,” he said, seeing my face, “it just, er, it takes a while to warm up.” I got them to send another engineer who didn’t appear to believe valves were involved.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2006 12:02 pm (UTC)
My mum switched to TalkTalk a while ago, and, as far as I know, hasn't had any major problems (but then she doesn't use the internet).

She tried to encourage me to do the same, but I declined, my suspicions aroused by the fact that THEY KEPT PHONING ME UP EVERY F*CKING HOUR OF THE DAY and I just don't trust people who ANNOY THE SHIT OUT OF ME FOR NO GOOD REASON.

It is nice to know that my suspicions were well-grounded.
Sep. 25th, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC)
I was referred to your post by the lovely, pouting chiller of this parish. I too "use" TalkTalk so your mother has my sympathies. I won't bore you with the details but 10 days after my line upgrade, I am still struggling to maintain a connection, and when I do connect the line contention means I get about 128K. Marvellous.

May I steal your TalkTalk images please? :-)
Sep. 25th, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC)
I spent literally ten hours on the phone trying to fix a simple problem with Talk Talk. In the end I lost my temper, travelled to Talk Talk HQ which happened to be located close to my West London workplace and then stood in the foyer refusing to budge until someone fixed my problem. I was back online two days later and got a refund. If I was getting the free service, that would almost be OK because you don't really get anything for free but my flatmates and I pay for our broadband!
Sep. 25th, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC)
Congratulations. I entirely endorse the "make yourself a pain in the arse until they're forced to help you to make you go away" approach. Just for future reference, where is the TalkTalk HQ?
Sep. 27th, 2006 09:34 am (UTC)
Sep. 25th, 2006 04:05 pm (UTC)
Please do. And my condolences on your connection - I have full speed broadband when it's up and running, but it drops several times a day, especially if there's any considerable traffic. I've had to give up trying to use torrents.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 25th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
It is, according to my mother, what he actually said. She was too cross to find it amusing when she was telling me about it. It was only when she saw it typed up here that she said, "Actually, it is quite funny, isn't it?"
Sep. 25th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)

Here's a trick for dealing with any IT bod. As early as possible in the cond-versation you must intone the magic mantra:

"Before you ask: yes, I've rebooted my machine, IP acquisition is set to DHCP, and my DNS and subnet mask settings are correct."

It doesn't matter what any of this actually means. I mean, you don't need to know the principles of broadcast television to operate the remote, do you? The important thing is that it gives the impression that you know what the hell you're talking about, potentially moreso than the spod you're talking to. Their tone will instantly change to 'servile wheedler'.

Unless, of course, they're a bit canny and try to trip you up. Avoid this by disagreeing with every third statement they make because:

"Look, that can't be right. I'm pinging your pop3 server right now and getting 100 per cent packet loss".

You can say this as often as necessary. It doesn't get any less funny.

Always take their name and, if possible, a direct number. They get rather less shirty if they think there's a possibility of you calling them

a. back


b. on their bullshit in correspondence with management.

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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