Thursday, 26 November 2009

Are the lights on?

OK, I don't know what to say... Its all about the customer that I sacked.
After my last email, after a few days, I got a polite reply confirming she was using the migration code to go to another ISP and did not want the domain. Good. She clearly calmed down a lot. My email must have done the trick!

Then it starts getting silly....

1. I replied with "Thank you". She quoted my reply including the "Thank you" saying she had just got her email back with nothing else and so did not understand! Some people have no clue how to use email it seems.

2. Today she went off line and assumed *I* had disconnected her early, so called up very cross, and spoke to a couple of staff here being quite angry on the phone. Insisting we had cut her off. It was not until someone from the power company knocked on the door to apologise for cutting off her power that she realised the power was off and just maybe that is why she was off line.

Granted she called back to apologise, which is good.

But I feel a whole lot better for sacking that customer now.

You can't make this stuff up you know!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Do people still use photocopiers?

So, we get an emailed "form" to fill in.

At the top of the document is says (Please photocopy for additional delegates)

But but but - am I not allowed you just print more than one copy?
And why not just make it a web form in the first place. Print, sign and fax, how '80's.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

"Special" Engineers

They are at it again! Just occasionally our favorite telco try and charge us for "special" engineers. Our main gripe now is the time it takes to get past their hard sell and get them to fix a fault.

They try and push their "special" engineers almost to the point of refusing to fix a fault, and it often takes half an hour arguing to get past that. Even so, occasionally, they charge.

What is even sillier now is they just can't cope if we dispute the charges they do make!

We dispute on the basis we did not order the "special" engineers. Simple. And the contract lets us withhold the money, which we do. But they have a whole department for disputing the clear code for the visit - i.e. whether it is £0 or £144 for the engineer visit depending on what he found. We're not disputing the clear code at all, we're disputing that we ordered the service. So it is a waste of time talking to that department.

But they can't cope with the money staying unpaid. They keep insisting that we have to talk to this other department. They fail to understand that in fact they just have to show somehow that we ordered the service or remove it from the bill. We have said we're happy for the amount to stay in dispute until erased under the Limitations Act in 6 years.

What is more fun is that if ever it gets to court or arbitration we are in the rare situation of being able to prove a negative. Well, not quite, but demonstrate one anyway. We put notes on faults saying we are not ordering their "special" engineering service. We say so on the [recorded] calls to them. We even have an automated system that responds when their system thanks us for booking a "special" engineer saying they are mistaken and not to go ahead with any chargeable service. We we can demonstrate that before, during and after the supposed booking we made it clear we were not ordering the service!

No idea how it will end this time but we are sticking to our guns, and trying to get ISPA involved now as well.

We have said that we'll faff about with their clear code dispute team if they like. It won't change the dispute anyway. And that we'll only charge £144 per item for up to 2 hours work which we are sure they will consider a fair rate for our time.

What is a concern is that for new services (FTTC) they are trying to charge for reporting faults that they clear as "right when tested", even if they did not test at the delivery point, or did not test for long enough to see the fault, or tested and showed the sync below threshold. We think they will try and make this apply to normal broadband in the future! In fact they charge for both reporting and for clearing such faults - scary...

What can I say?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Do they not teach maths in school any more?

So they say they are removing the VAT and then say they are reducing prices by 15%

Surely they mean 13%

And then you have the whole argument that the reduced price still contains VAT so it is not actually removing the VAT anyway!

Oh, and whats the betting that come January, with VAT changing from 15% to 17.5% shops start adding 2.5% to the VAT inc price?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Being rude to a customer?

Well, this is one of those occasions when readers may agree or disagree with me and I have no idea. Comments welcome either way! It will be interesting to see what people think.

We have a customer who asked for a simple change of some details on her account. She provided very few details, not enough for our normal accounts staff to identify her, and certainly not enough to authenticate that she is really the customer. We asked for the account number as confirmation and she started getting cross saying we were being unnecessarily bureaucratic and that she did not have it. As it happens she then sent a separate email on a different ticket with a copy invoice but that was not being handled the the same person and so she was asked again for the account number. At no point did she actually simply state "my account number is A1234A" (for example) but eventually we got the details and made the changes for her.

Annoying, a bit of a communications breakdown, but at least it was all sorted, or so I thought.

She is now ranting about reporting us to a regulator, and eventually got past "the regulator we report to", OFCOM, and "the organisation that we report to that represents OFCOM", to the fact that there is an ombudsman she can take disputes to. Her gripe is that we (myself and accounts staff) were rude to her!

Well, I am not a person to ask about rude. I find it hard to tell when something is rude or not and am well known for sarcasm and tactlessness. I am, I think, blunt to put it tactfully! This is why it is best if complaints don't get as far as me :-) It has on previous occasions got positive responses from customers and defused complaints quite well. Not this time!

Well, what do you do? I have spoken to the staff and they seem to agree that in their personal opinion she is a pain in the arse and has a screw loose. She takes up a lot of time apparently. Well - they are entitled to their opinion aren't they and I'm not naming her! So I am sure our loyal customers would rather we did not waste resources on stupid complaints and queries that just go on and on, so I've decided to give her 30 days notice, as we can. Its a shame if a business relationship breaks down and I would rather not, but that's life.

Even so, she is still adamant about reporting us to OTELO for being rude. WTF?

To quote from my last email to her...
There is no point in taking a complaint like this to some "higher authority". This is not school. This is real life.

In real life people can be rude to other people and that is tough! Its a shame, but that is life. Sorry if this is a hard lesson for you.

What outcome do you think you could get by taking this matter to the ombudsman? Do you think we will be "dragged before the headmaster and told off". It does not work like that. We have a contract with you and we have adhered to that and so have you. That is all you can expect in life.

I believe your accusations are unfounded anyway, but that is beside the point. If we have been rude - so what? You were very rude to my staff in your emails for no good reason, so I suggest you take a life lesson here and drop it!
Anyway, I have provided her with a migration code, which technically we don't have to do if there is a pending cease on the line. I've also asked OTELO to confirm they don't consider complaints of being "rude". Basically such a complaint cannot realistically go anywhere. What could OTELO do. Rude is not technically wrong is it, in any legal sense? The most that she could ask for is an apology and as OTELO costs us either way why would I give one?

Did I do bad?

BTW I think this is the first customer I have actually sacked in over 12 years of trading!

One hour optical lab, my arse

The only reason to go to all the way to Reading to Vision Express the one hour optical lab is because of the one hour optical lab.

Last time I got glasses I went in, got an eye test, went shopping for an hour, got glasses and went home, job done.

Apparently now they don't stock any of the photochromic lenses! WTF?!?

So two weeks for new glasses. Total waste of time going to Reading. I could have gone to one of the opticians in Bracknell.

Oh, and to top it off, they say why not get some Zeiss lenses as they are custom made and so much more precise and much better. But hang on! their promise is to Make your glasses to the highest quality within one hour in our optical laboratory... The custom made lenses could only be much better if the once made in their lab were not of the highest quality.. Sounds like total crap to me one way or another.

Anyway, next time, local optician in Bracknell. Way to keep customers Vision Express...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Duplex mismatch

So bloody annoying and I have tried an SOR in to our favourite telco and they just ignore us.

Why oh why do they insist on setting Ethernet ports to fixed full duplex. not even auto negotiate announcing only full duplex - but fixed full duplex.

Every bloody time we are involved in any way with an install people get this wrong. People are used to networking just working, but if you connect to any of this telco's circuits that is Ethernet (under 1Gb) you must have a managed switch port of some sort that you can manually set to the right speed and full duplex.

There are many bits of kit that will not allow you to set that or don't work. The best bet is a managed switch, and they tend to be a few hundred quid.

It is just so damn stupid of the telco.

FYI gigabit is only sane because the standard prohibits them fucking this up.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Ignorance is bliss...

Well, I was bored yesterday (not sure how I found the time to be bored) and watched a few episodes of Bones on Sky.

Now, I'm not an anthropologist or biologist or chemist, so generally the episodes are entertaining. But the last one was a murder case that was all about someone hand carrying a briefcase in to the US which ultimately had a USB stick in it. It was meant to be mere diamonds and the whole crux of the episode was that information is valuable. They even had someone using steganography (they even said the word).

The problem is, of course, I have some vague idea of information technology.

The whole point of steganography is that you cannot tell the hidden data is there and certainly can't just spot "this image file is way bigger than it should be" and press a few buttons to find some hidden data on the screen.

Of course there were days when information was hand carried in a brief case (though not on a USB stick), mainly by the likes of banks. This was for encryption or security codes before the use of public key encryption. There are also ways that memory cards can be used to covertly get information in/out of a building past security (I saw an impressive memory card inside a pound coin that you would not see on x-ray even, apparently).

But of course, these days, if you wanted to convey some information, you can do so by many means using simple public key encryption and the internet. No way someone would hand carry a USB stuck in a metal brief case handcuffed to your arm.

I suspect if I was an anthropologist or biologist or chemist I would probably cringe at every episode though....


Hmm. It seems we now have a dog...
I'm not really a dog person.

It goes by the name of Lilly and is shaped to fit in a hot-dog bun...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Low def

Is it me, or do other people find it annoying/stupid that the advert on the start of HD movies on Sky, e.g. for some HD TV or other, than sponsors the HD programmes is in low def and looks pixely...


Stupidity tax?

I have probably had a rant on this before but every time it happens it winds me up.

We expect people to put the right reference on BACS payments to us. Its not unusual. Its why BACS has an 18 character reference in the first place - for the benefit of the beneficiary. If you pay water, gas, electric, telephone, rates, council tax, VAT, corporation tax, PAYE contributions to HMRC, heck - almost anything, you have to put the right reference. We're not unusual.

Occasionally a new customer will put something daft, we'll eventually work out who it is (sometimes by waiting for them to complain that we are chasing a bill that has been paid) and explain that they have to put the right reference. That usually sorts it. Policy is to actually send at least two real letters by post explaining this... Only if they persist do we charge an admin fee of £5+VAT for manually handling the payment (cheap price for my time I think).

When we charge £5 admin fee for this we try to include it on the normal invoice, but this does not always work as planned especially on quarterly bnilled customers, so sometimes our system raises an invoice for just £5+VAT which states "Admin fee (reduced): manual processing of incorrect BACS/CHAPS/FP payment. PUT THE CORRECT REFERENCE ON YOUR PAYMENTS IN FUTURE TO AVOID THIS CHARGE. See for more details."

What really takes the biscuit is when someone pays this £5.75 invoice, by BACS, without the right reference on the BACS payment, so that I have to manually allocate the payment!

Are they totally mad?

I used to have a special letter I sent in such cases, but basically if people have ignored the letters already they ignore that letter too, so there is pretty much no point in doing anything other than just charging £5.75 again for handling the £5.75 payment they just made.

Ho hum...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Toilet Engaged

WTF is it with South West Trains and toilets?

I often have cause to return to sunny Bracknell from London late at night, and usually this means much to drink so the toilet on the train is kind of essential. The journey is an hour long.

But they often have all 4 toilets on the train marked "Toilet Engaged" and the door shut. This seems a tad unlikely.

Its a lie. Push hard on the door and find nobody in there!

So, I have to wonder. Do SWT have something to gain (or costs to save) by this lie? If they do that is criminal fraud under the Fraud act. If they do not then clearly they are not acting in the best interests of the shareholders meaning they may be comitting a criminal offence under the Companies Act (I think). I wonder which it is.

Anyway, FYI, the doors are easy enough to just push open if you try.

No response from ISP!

This is taking the piss now.

They have not only gone out of their way to ignore notes and responses on a fault, but after all the effort we have gone to in order to respond to a fault they have the cheek to come back with:-

"Fault has been awaiting CP`s response for 14 days. Fault will be auto-closed if no response is received within next 24 hours."

FFS, our response has been, several times "you can close the fault now".

What can I say to that?
"I don't believe it" does not really cover it, no matter how much I try to sound like Victor Meldrew.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

A game played by men with strange shaped balls

Well, I have never been to a football or rugby match before, but was invited to the rugby at Twickenham today. It seems we came second...

I have to say it was all very civilised. Beer/cider in the stadium even, and nothing even sounding vaguely rowdy on the way back to the station. I was amazed how many people set up stalls, mostly selling food, in their front gardens between the stadium and the station.

Overall an interesting day out, albeit rather cold (well, it is November I suppose).

Pictures on as usual, only about 400 of them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Novatech come good

As reported novatech had a dodgy display card and we left with machines that were not the spec we expected.

They only just got our letter (bloody postal strike) but were very apologetic and are couriering some RAM to make it up to spec...

Well done. That is what we would have done, and I am glad there are other companies that do the right thing too.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Arrg punycode

Why are they doing IDN this way.

EVERY app that wants to do domains has to understand it.

WTF are they not just making hostnames and domain names that are utf-8 just valid.

I just checked, and the version of bind we run as authorative server just works using UTF-8 hostnames in its config. It just works FFS, and that is the most popular authorative server and the most popular resolver FFS.

Looks like, for some things, the resolvers allow UTF-8 and for others not. But that has to be a lot easier to fix than every app getting punycode FFS. There are like two or three caching resolvers ISPs use.

The DNS protocol has always been 8 bit clean and it seems that many commands and apps just pass the hostname through the resolver library to the resolver as is so would need no changes at all.

That would have been way less work than changing every browser, every email client, ping, dig, nslookup, whois, telnet, ssh, and so on to understand punycode.

Of course, now the browsers have changed, we can't do this at DNS as the request no longer gets to DNS!!


I may make our auth servers put the utf-8 coding of punycode hosts in to the zone file anyway so things like ping and telnet will just work. That would be cool. I'll experiment.

Monday, 2 November 2009

na na na na na na na na na na

You know, fingers in ears, making a noise so you can't hear.

Its funny when a person does that, but when a large corporation does it, its just sad, and when its a major communications company!!!

We can add notes to update a fault report, sensible. We can close faults if they need closing, sensible. But look, new technology so new fault systems, so design it differently.

Key new features:-

1. Reporter cannot close the fault until it is cleared back to them for retest.
2. Reporter can however add notes, so notes like "problem sorted you can close it now".

Next step: tell staff that it is official policy to ignore the notes put on by ISP, but don't tell the ISPs this!!!

Next step: make the system itself ignore the notes (and make the system tell the ISP this).

OK, so we email in the notes that are rejected, typically things like "looks OK now, thanks, you can close it"...

Oh, and just for fun, make it so the system will keep faults for days, weeks, even months, without sending back for retest ever. This stops any new faults being reported so saves a lot of hassle for telco!

Obviously that is bad for service level guarantee, so make the clock stop at 39 hours and 36 minutes on a 40 hour target as well. Then no payout (even if only about £1.50) as not over 40 hours.

Next step: stop taking any notice of the ISP emailing in notes now. Ignore emails and then ask the ISP to stop sending then.


What next.

Well, our plan is to FAX the update in a letter automatically to their registered office addressed to the company secretary. See if they start ignoring at that level..

What comes after that I wonder? Recorded delivery letters to the managing director's home address?

Maybe just send the boys round would be the answer but we don't do business like that, honest.