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Helpline maze

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment
Indicative of the branches in the TIM helpline

Indicative of the branches in the TIM helpline

This morning Clive pointed out in alarm a message from TIM, our internet service provider, saying that his 5Gb of upload and download per month were almost used up.

Once used up, the speed would slow to a crawl (not even worth trying to access the internet).

He checked on TIM’s own page and it said he’d used 4Gb, while their statistics said he’d used 2.7.

I picked up the mobile phone and settled down for a long session.

The options on the free helpline branch and branch again. The voice which conveys the recorded messages is gratingly familiar and enthusiastic. The content is almost entirely promotional.

The option for help from an operator is the very last one in each round. Unlucky you if you actually expect it to be there at the end of the maze. By the time you’ve exhausted all avenues, it has disappeared.

You have to know that the only way to reach an operator is to pretend that your phone has been lost or stolen. Now that could be dangerous! Do that in other countries or other situations and your number is instantly cut off and can’t be reconnected without protracted delays.

To add insult to injury, TIM now asks you to tap in the number of the phone or SIM card that has been lost. It was only after an otherwise unhelpful call to the shop which sold us our internet keys that I had the courage to tap in the number of Clive’s key.

And then I was too slow finding the asterisk with which I had to begin and had to hear the whole thing round again!!

When I finally got an operator, she confirmed that Clive has 1Gb left of his 5Gb, which is plenty to see him through to the renewal date of the 27th. (What happened to the 2.7 figure, though, and why are they sending out false alarms by text?)

She also confirmed that the only way to speak to an operator is to go through the farce of typing in a ‘lost’ number.

I sometimes think that it’s almost a full-time job just LIVING here.

Going backwards

December 9, 2012 5 comments

Generally speaking, over the 9 years we’ve been in Italy, our telecommunications facilities have improved.

We started off with business landlines for which we paid astronomical monthly bills, then moved on to transponder ADSL, then dongle ADSl.

Ever since we renewed our dongles at the beginning of this month, talking on Skype – for which we have a subscription that allows us unlimited conversation with landlines practically everywhere in the world for no extra charge – has sounded like being slowly strangled underwater.

We tried at different times of day for days, then finally tracked down articles on the internet which confirmed that all the main Italian carriers, with one possible exception, are deliberately discriminating agains VOIP, of which Skype is an example.

We went yesterday morning to a shop which sells packages for that ‘exception’ which proved not to be, of course.

Clive had a radio interview coming up today so we had to move fast. We bought a new mobile phone and a pre-paid package which gives 4 hours of calls per month to all phones including those in a useful selection of foreign countries.

I took advantage of our parking space to do some shopping in a very expensive supermarket, came out, and the car wouldn’t start. This was lunchtime on a Saturday which also happened to be the Feast of the Immaculate Conception so getting hold of anyone in a garage was an impossibility. I had to bat my eyelashes in my best Damsel in Distress Act to entice a young man to emerge from the warmth of a Bar to give us a jump start.

In the afternoon, as snow was beginning to fall, we discovered we couldn’t get the back off the phone to insert the SIM card and the battery. Nothing on the internet helped (except to make us feel a bit less stupid because no-one else could manage it either) , the shop itself advised us to return, so return we did, even though it might mean we never got home again.

Then, as we sat in the carpark, we got all sorts of messages on the phone which suggested our credit was being gobbled up at a rate of about 3 Euros per non-call (by non-call I mean: phoning our other mobile just to see if it rang) and by the time we realised we probably needed more credit, the shop was shut!

We crept back up the snow-covered road with flakes hurling themselves at the windscreen.

Driving into snow

Driving into snow

We’re beginning to get to grips with our new telecommunications facility now, but it’s definitely going to make us feel more isolated.

Once more unto the breach

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

My new dongle, which I’d been told would be active within 24 hours, gave me access to the internet this morning for about one second then died.

Clive thought it must be something to do with my computer, or the fact that I’d used his dongle on my computer, and he spent ages trying to sort it out.

The brief lifting of the portcullis onto the internet had allowed a message from TIM, the  telecommunications company, to slip through. It has since disappeared but it said something about there being no credit.

In the end I thought I’d better phone TIM on their centralized number. I should point out that each time I phone, I have to follow a different path and use my ingenuity to be able to speak to an operator as there is no selectable option for this.

My first 2 conversations with operators came to an untimely end (they hung up or disappeared) before I’d got all the information I needed. It seemed, though, that it wasn’t a computer malfunction but an administrative matter to do with TIM.

I gradually learnt that by activating internet access before 24 hours were up and before the promotion had begun, I’d forfeited the €5 credit provided by the promotion, my credit was therefore zero, and without credit I couldn’t activate the dongle.

I would have to go to a bar, or some other place where they sell phone credit, pay €5, then take the SIM Card out of my mobile, put the SIM Card from the key into it, and wait 24 hours or so for a message from TIM saying that the dongle had been activated. (Then swop the SIM Cards round again.)

A knight to the rescue

Sod that for a game of soldiers.

After trying 4 times without success to get through on the phone to the TIM Centre where I bought the dongle yesterday, I phoned the centralized TIM service again.

A kindly-sounding woman suggested I phone a free-phone number (‘green number’ it’s called in Italy), tell them my story, and ask them to refund the €5.

I followed her advice and spoke to a woman there.

“This number is only for people who’ve made a purchase over the phone. You’ll just have to go to your TIM centre.”

Not one to give up, I phoned the green number again and spoke to a man who proved to be my knight in shining armour. While I waited, he reimbursed the €5, then told me I could navigate straight away.

“Straight away?” I asked incredulously.

“Straight away.”

And so it was.

Another little adventure that took the best part of a day.