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.