never go in against an Aussie lawyer when internet is on the line!

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Ciara BallintyneTonight’s guest is writer, Ciara Ballintyne. For more about Ciara, click on her photo to visit her website.

Don’t cross me.

I’ve just had a run-in with Australia’s telecommunications giant. Can you imagine the impact of a collision with a company that size?

I can, I assure you. It’s enough to knock you flat but I won’t take it lying down! Not even 90 minute phone calls to get basic errors corrected will stop me! OK… well it might slow me down at least. It sure gave me a headache and a serious need for some vodka.

So what happened, you ask?

The whole story is far too long for this post, but suffice to say at one stage there it looked like I might not have a home phone or ADSL connection in my new house until 2022. That’s not a typo – I mean TWENTY TWENTY-TWO. I had to get my local Member of Parliament (like a Senator or a Congressman… well, one of them at any rate) involved to fix it.

The latest battle in my eight week war with Telstra, Australia’s biggest telco, occurred this week, after I thought I was well and truly triumphant and I could fly the victory banners from my battlements. But no, Telstra launched a late sneak attack and crept in over the walls while the celebratory banquet was in full swing!

I received a bill. There were errors on the bill, including charges for something called a ‘T-Box’. Don’t ask me what it does, since I don’t want one, didn’t order one, and don’t have one. So I called them.

If only it were that easy…

The first thing the customer service representative did was ask ‘What’s happening with your internet?’

Excuse me? Did I call about the internet? No, I called about some errors on my bill. Don’t forget, too, that she’s talking about the internet that I almost didn’t have until 2022 and for which I have only just managed to arrange installation this year.

‘Forget the internet!’ I said. ‘I went to a great deal of trouble to arrange that, don’t touch it! In fact, don’t even look at it! You might break it.’

OK, I was a little touchy. My experience is that once someone starts fiddling with things at Telstra, something inevitably gets broken. It wasn’t going to be my hard-won internet connection! Eight weeks of discussions with Telstra to get that arranged, remember? Very long eight weeks. Donations of vodka are appreciated…

Moving on to the incorrect charges on the bill… The woman said I had requested the T-Box. I said I had not. She said I had to send it back before they could refund the charges. I said I didn’t have it. She checked, said it was at the post office. I hadn’t received any notice and after we worked out which post office, I said I can’t get there in opening hours to pick it up. I leave at 7am and get home at 5:30 and the post office is only open the usual 9-5. I’ve simplified this conversation. All of the above was repeated about three times each because she didn’t seem to accept what I was saying. Hello, you have a pair of ears, yes? Use them!

In a nutshell she insisted I pick up the T-Box, despite the fact I didn’t order it, to send it back to them so they could refund me charges they had no legal right to charge in the first place. I refused. Wouldn’t you? After all, why should I run around, miss a half day of work, to rectify their stuff up? I told her if they sent a parcel to me that shouldn’t have been sent that was their problem and not mine. By this point I’d been on the phone half an hour so yeah, I probably said it pretty much like that. I was pissed. I was starting to cite legislation, a good sign I’m at breaking point. The office was watching, captivated by the spectacle.

When I demanded to speak to a manager she told me a manager couldn’t help me and hung up.

Yes, you heard right, she hung up on me.

I couldn’t call back immediately because I was about to go interview a job applicant. So I stewed on my anger for an hour and a half. I can’t cook to save my life, but damn I can cook up a great pot of rage stew.

After interviewing the applicant, I called Telstra back to make someone else’s day.

The chap I ended up speaking to was very helpful (if somewhat lacking in enthusiasm and charm) and did fix all the errors on my bill, but I’m sure he wished he hadn’t come to work by the end of it. I was feeling rather the same, since by then I had been on the phone for 90 minutes and had a pounding headache. The conversation hit a definite low point when he tried to make small talk and asked what I did for work.

‘I’m a lawyer,’ I replied in a tight voice.


Probably not the answer you ever want to hear from an angry customer on the other end of your phone!

The moral of the story? Well, I would avoid telcos if I could, but I seem to be connected to the internet at the hip so that doesn’t seem to be an option.

But as far as I go, Telstra should have read my Twitter profile…

I won the war, Telstra! Don’t think I won’t defend that victory barehanded if need be.


I know who to call next time I’m mad at my cable company.

Until the next time…I’ll be starting the judging on the Daywalkers character contest!

Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on February 3, 2012 .