DON’T WANADOO.


My non-service Internet provider, Freeserve, aka, Wanadoo, aka Orange Broadband, continue to jerk around with my Internet connections, cutting me off arbitrarily at their end through inability to find line faults, perpetual ‘engineering tests’ and ‘service improvements’. Quite how not giving me a service at all for several days a month amounts to an improvement is beyond me. They continue to take my money from my debit account though – money for nothing.


To paraphrase their own advertising campaign, The Future is shite. The Future is Orange.


Phoning the Orange helpless helpline is one of the most depressing and distressing things you can possibly do. They have the usual inevitable list of sub-directories for you to call, i.e., if you want account information press 1, if you want to be laughed at press 2, etc…  These numbers change from time to time so that you have to listen to the full electronic monologue. Orange know that persistent callers (Those like me who they let down frequently) will simply dial the main number and then the extension numbers right away to cut through the turgid spiel so they swap things around. You are running up a premium phone bill all this time.


Another bizarre touch is when the electronic voice tells you that it didn’t quite catch the number you pressed and asks you to press it again, after re-reading the whole menu – as an electronic devise it is perfectly capable of hearing you the first time. Such deceptions really make orange show their true colours. The idea is to keep you talking to generate more revenue, which is all they care about.


You will then be told that the service is very busy right now (Probably true given how few satisfied customers they have), and you are subjected to themes from the songs interspersed with adverts from orange for their free cinema ticket offers if you buy more of their services. You are effectively a captive audience to his or her own advertising campaigns, (As if you would buy more from them, given the poor quality of what you have already purchased from them).


You will also be told that your call is being monitored and recorded for training purposes. This is a lie of course – the call is policed in case your fragile patience understandably snaps and you start getting angry or abusive towards the people who speak as slowly as possible and leave long pauses that leave you wondering if they have cut you off the phone before they speak again. Even Gandhi would think angry thoughts if he was subjected to this.


After an eternity, you get through to a human being, often on a very poor line, sometimes with the sound of other phone line chats going on in the background. The person you speak to May or may not be able to speak good English – you are probably talking to someone in Pakistan. S/he will tell you his or her name, (first name only as they won’t want you complaining). They will then understandably ask you your phone number, name and then they ask for the 2cd and 4th digits of your password. I usually snap these at them before they ask for them – it saves time and helps reduce the phone bill they accumulate for you by talking as slowly as possible and frequently taking their time to read or update your case files. They make a lot of money from keeping you on the phone as long as possible.


The assistant will now want to know what your problem is and will then start routinely rolling through a standard diagnostic trouble-shooting script – fine if it’s the first time you call, but 1/. The list is geared up to assuming that you are at fault and stupid. 2/. If you call again with the same fault, having, from knowledge done all the diagnostics you can without phoning in at all, the assistants will insist that you repeat the procedures. 


Take my most persistent problem as an example – My speedtouch modem has a flashing green light on the right hand side. The light should stay solid. That it blinks tells me that the modem is disconnected from the phone system. It generates an ‘Error 680 – no dial tone’ message to confirm this. The diagnostic starts by telling me to make sure the modem is plugged in correctly, has the right filter, etc.  The diagnostic invariably begins with asking me to unplug the modem, switch off and restart my computer, plug the modem back in. This invariably makes no difference whatsoever to my situation.


They will then try to blame the problem on outside interference from Sky Satellite dishes, other phone lines, etc.


This whole diagnostic is something I can do all by myself without phoning up Don’t Wanadoo, but some assistants insist on endless repeats of this exercise from inability to see from their notes that it has already been done ad infinitum, or knowing what to do next.  I now generally insist on telling them loudly that the process is wasting my time.


Finally, the assistant will accept that there might just be a fault at their end  (no shit Sherlock). They now request an ‘engineering test’ on the phone line, which is supposed to take 24 hours and in effect guarantees no service for you for a whole day. You are asked to phone back after this time. When you call back, you usually get a fresh assistant, though even if you get the same one, they suffer short-term memory loss, and try to talk you into going through the whole diagnostic procedure again. I usually insist on the result of my line test right away, which they usually do not have at hand. This can mean phoning a third or even fourth time or more.  The different assistants you ring will then tell you a variety of contrary stories. 1/. The engineers are still testing the line. 2/. The test is complete and no fault was found so could you unplug your modem again? A fault was found / suspected. It will be fixed in 4, 8, 24, 48 or 72 hours. All of these answers have come my way in response to the same ongoing fault. A supervisor called Megan who I complained to about this told me that none of the helpdesk staff have permission to even give such deadlines, but she seemed reluctant to take disciplinary action against them. Megan also invited me to ask the help-line workers to actually phone me whenever they get any engineering updates - she would not do this for me or tell them for me - I had to phone back again at my expense to get that done - the first person I called asked me to spell my own name to her slowly and phonetically, not once, but four times. I hung up and phoned again, reaching a man who refused to do what Megan asked me to tell him to do and then tried to put me through the whole diagnostic process again. I hung up again. 


At this point I generally threaten to leave the service, and I have even requested my MAC Code, a means by which I can shut down Orange as my server. With my e-mail address linked to a 1,000 pages on my website I don’t want to change them all by hand so I am probably bluffing. The bluff usually at least generates a temporary stay of execution when my modem suddenly comes on. It often goes out again within a few days though, as he ‘engineers’ are supposedly really busy trying to resolve my crisis for me.  This situation has gone on since January now. Reconnections have occurred, usually right after I threaten to take my business elsewhere – quite a coincidence - some reconnections last a whole week, others mere minutes. It’s like playing Russian roulette. A bullet is coming – you just don’t know exactly when.


At one point in a recent call, a Wanadoo rep cut into my conversation to offer me a month’s free service if I stay with them. He then offered me further assistance by telling me a special number to phone – as he gave me the number I realized it was the very phone number I had called in the first place for technical support before being routed towards him. He was under the delusion that he was doing me a favour. As I write this, on Monday 14th May 2007 at 10.30 AM, I still have a flashing green light. I have just been informed that the engineers will have me back online at 3 PM this afternoon. I will log the time of reconnection (temporary or permanent, with no way for me to know which when, and if it ever occurs.


On Tuesday 15th May I was invited to send the issue up to the next authority which I reasoned should have been done well before now. Once I did request this I was told that it will take up to five days for any higher authority at Wanadoo, whoever they might be,  to intervene. I now seem doomed to a lack of service until Sunday May 20th. The lack of service is utterly disgusting.



© Copyright. Arthur Chappell