Wednesday, March 2, 2022

On the hazards of changing your telco

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. So the cliché goes – and like most clichés, it has a core of truth.

A couple of weeks ago, I changed my phone and internet provider. A long and previously painless relationship with Spark started to unravel when the company informed me late last year that my mobile plan was ending, but that was okay because they could move me to another one. Problem was, the new plan was more expensive (who’d have thought?) and what’s more, I would lose the free Spotify account I had previously enjoyed.

Paying more for less seemed a raw deal, and from that point on my dealings with Spark went downhill. Other issues arose, like being billed $106 for a new router that I’d already paid for. Every time I went into the local Spark office to resolve a problem, I came out thinking everything was sorted only to discover subsequently that it wasn’t. Being barked at on one visit by a surly female employee because I forgot to put my mask on didn’t help either.

Long story short, I decided: Bugger it. Family and friends spoke highly of 2Degrees so I made arrangements to switch everything over – internet, mobile and landline.

More fool me. The changeover was supposed to happen two weeks ago and should have been almost seamless, but at every step along the way I had problems that required a call to the 2Degrees 0800 number.

Switching my cell phone over to the new provider – a process I was assured would take a couple of hours – stretched into several days. The problem turned out to be a discrepancy concerning my account number that took only a minute to sort out once I found out about it, but no one had bothered to tell me. If I hadn’t phoned the 0800 number to find out what was causing the holdup, I’d probably still be using Spark (which, as it happens, might not have been a bad thing, as I’ll explain shortly).

When the 2Degrees router arrived so I could set up my internet connection, the contents of the box didn’t correspond with what the setup guide said it should contain. Cables that were supposed to be grey were white and two Ethernet cables were missing altogether, as was a DSL adapter. Another adapter was incompatible with my standard phone cable. In the end I had to figure things out for myself by trial and error, which included cannibalising bits from my previous Spark setup.

When I went to the 2Degrees home page and clicked on a link that was supposed to authenticate my landline, it took me to a page that didn’t exist. That took another phone call to sort out. (I should add that the people I dealt with on the phone were helpful and courteous, with the exception of one who appeared to decide it was all too difficult and cut me off. My wife can vouch for that, because I had the speaker on and she heard it.)

Oh, and another thing. I noticed 2Degrees had my name as Karl du Frensen. No big deal; people often get my name wrong. But it wasn’t easy finding the page where my personal details were stored, and when I eventually succeeded and clicked on “edit” to correct the spelling, nothing happened. Nix, nada. The “edit” function was as lifeless as Monty Python’s Norwegian Blue parrot.

I can now report that after more than two weeks of jumping through a succession of hoops, wasting a vast amount of time and tearing my hair out in frustration, I have now reached a place where almost everything is sorted. But note that ominous word almost.  

You see, my mobile  phone is virtually useless. The signal is so bad at home that phone calls break up or don’t connect at all. Trying to send text messages is a lottery. I can sometimes get a weak signal if I step out onto my back deck, but I don’t fancy having to do that every time someone tries to contact me – least of all in the depths of a Wairarapa winter.

You might assume from this that we’re somewhere out in the wops. But no, we live in a town of 22,000 people – on the edge, admittedly, but still within the built-up, municipal area. On the TV news I see people using mobile phones in Sudanese refugee camps and bombed-out basements in war-torn Syria and think to myself: “They can do it – why the hell can’t I?”

Another call to another friendly person in the 2Degrees call centre brought forth the suggestion that I check their coverage map to see what the reception’s like where I am. So I did, and it’s supposed to be either excellent or good. Yeah, right.

The same person suggested I try a different Sim card, which was also the solution proposed by the sympathetic man in the local 2Degrees office this morning. So I’ve done that too, and the phone is still useless.

And don’t get me started on the multiple other irritants lying in the path of anyone dealing with telcos, such as the buzzy marketing jargon, much of it incomprehensible to ordinary human beings, and the vile noises to which callers are subjected while on hold, which Trevor Mallard might have found far more effective than Barry Manilow as a means of driving away the Molesworth St protesters. All things considered, it’s enough to make you pine for the days of the old P and T (Post and Telegraph) department.

So where do I go from here? Buggered if I know. But my advice to anyone else considering a change of phone and internet provider is to look before you leap.





R Singers said...

Full disclosure I have worked for Vodafone in the past, but not in the consumer space.

There are sites - such as - that can show you where mobile towers are in relation to you. This may help pick the best provider.

But Vodafone is now promoting Wi-Fi calling. If you have a compatible phone, it will use the Internet (via Wi-fi) to make the call in preference to the mobile network. Newer versions of Android messenger also will send texts via the Internet before sending them as a SMS/MNS message on the mobile network.

Wi-Fi calling might be the answer for you if you basic Internet - which sounds like DSL - is working for you.

Karl du Fresne said...

I appreciate your advice. Thanks.

Orinoco Jones said...

If you think that's bad, try changing banks!

Max Shierlaw said...

Sky broadband has been excellent. Much better than Trustpower and only $79 a month if you are a Sky TV subscriber. But I'd never change my mobile phone. Spark are the best of a bad bunch.

Doug Longmire said...

Ouch !!
Not a good experience Karl!
We recently got told by Vodaphone that our [ancient, obsolete, so last century] landline was going to be simply discontinued. They suggested we get a voice over service, which from family experiences - all bad - we did not want.
We contacted Spark and they organised a seamless switch over. We still have our hard wired land line.

transpress nz said...

I asked a techie in Harvey Norman a year back which he thought was the best of the three - he was non-committal saying they are all bad. I have tried 2 Degrees but they were awful, and went back to Vodafone who are bad but not as bad as the other two.

Unknown said...

Spare a thought for the rural folk.
No stress about 5g radiation reading my thoughts here, we still only get 4g if we climb a hill!

Russell Parkinson said...

The worst thing with Telcos, who after all are in the communication business, is how hard they they make it to actually communicate with them.

Karl du Fresne said...

Ha, yes. In fact Spark seems proud of the fact that you can no longer contact them by phone. Apparently that's progress.

Simon Cohen said...

We use Skinny. Spark's cheap network. Therefore we have Spark coverage at only $16.00 a month for our mobiles giving us 1.25 GB and 200 NZ and AU minutes. And all unused minutes or data rollover. I currently have 2599 minutes available and 16.18 GB of data. And all phone calls between Skinny members are free and as all our family are on Skinny this explains why I have so many minutes rolled over.
And best of all if you ring them with a problem a real person answers the phone.

Ben Thomas said...

I find that one way of dealing with telcos (banks and power companies as well) is to find the name of a general manger with responsibility for consumer relations and send them a polite email or letter explaining the problem. This appears to work. The call centre is bypassed and the problem is allocated to someone who is able to resolve the issue.

Ben Thomas

anzlmjd said...

If the Spark product worked well, have you considered going back to them? They often offer better packages to 'new' sign-ups, which you may qualify for now.

theotherneil said...

Similar experience, but you are making faster progress than I did. Went from Spark to 2 Degrees, when my contract ends I will move. Internet (fibre) is great, but that is not really them. Cellular is rubbish. At home it works as it links to wifi, around NZ I have a mobile phone, but I dont have mobile connection........

MarkJ said...

Hi Karl. A lot of the new services use different frequencies and technologies. If your phone is a few years old it may not be able to use the 700MHz service most mobile carriers use these days. Another potential concern would be that if your phone is older it may not allow Voice over LTE (VoLTE) or Voice over Wifi. Of course a later model mobile may not be a solution, but perhaps you could check coverage on other peoples phones who drop in to visit - before heading off to buy an expensive handset.

Mark Wahlberg said...

Karl when all else fails, there is always a plan B

hughvane said...

Anyone reading this particular blog and trembling with dread, I suggest/recommend they let their account lapse, and try doing without a connection for maybe a couple of days while they sign on as a new customer, or switch to a different provider. It’s an interesting experience, doing without digital connection, you do strange things like make conversation with others, spend time in the garden, read books.

@Simon Cohen - you’re the only other person I know of with Skinny. I too use it, sparingly, the $9/month plan, but since it has cancelled its internet portal to payment, one has to register credit card details which, for reasons known only to itself, it won’t accept (in my case)! It won’t even allow an existing customer (me) to get connected to make a payment by some other avenue. This must be a world first, a Telco declining means of payment. I’ll get round to phoning Skinny some time.

pdm said...

Not sure if this will help or not Karl but it is something we found out about 2Degrees outlets 2 or maybe 3 years ago quite by chance.

Ngaire has a 2Degrees contract and was having some problems but their details are not relevant to this post anyway. She went into the Hastings 2Degrees outlet and got the run around and left grumpy with an unsolved problem. Later in the day she had to go to Napier to pick our daughter up and saw the 2Degrees outlet there. She took the opportunity to go in and found a very helpful staff member who quickly solved the problem.

Turns out the Hastings store (at the time) was a 2Degrees owned outlet while the Napier one was a privately owned franchise store - hence the difference in service. Now when she has mobile phone problems she goes to Napier if possible.

Sevets said...

Try contacting the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Service. In my experience the telco's will leap through all kinds of hoops the avoid them.

Karl du Fresne said...

That's potentially a very useful piece of advice. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Generally speaking, news that reflects unfavourably on the government tends to be played down or ignored. Bias is apparent too in the lack of rigour in holding government politicians to account.

Hi Karl,
I am sure you have heard this/know this but I have lived in Sweden and became a little familiar with their political scene in Sweden. I was stunned by the unrelenting lengths the truth- seeking news journalists would go to to uncover and share with the public, sly, dishonest, unethical political behaviors. My husband, Lars who is from Stockholm is in constant disbelief at the lack of honesty, transparency and overt manipulation of power displayed by high ranking gov. officials here in NZ and worse how it is reported ( and often excluded) from the news. He also recognises the careful'editing' of any news article that might lead to impartial presentation of facts and the crafting of articles to lead readers to adopt a particular 'view'. As you say, we have a serious problem in NZ with the media. As a long-time professional...any doable solutions that could reset journalism back to its original purpose; to inform facts impartially so readers need to apply their own reasoning, intellectual skills to arrive at an untainted conclusion.?