Kaye Johnston

Title: My Telstra Problem

Medium: Writing

We live with a landline from Telstra that usually does its thing very well and is our lifeline to the outside world as we do not have mobile coverage at our house. We do have mobile reception, occasionally up in the paddock and down the road on either side of our house, about 200m away. For some years I have owned a Telstra prepaid Samsung phone and while the calls were expensive (more than $1 each call) I managed to only spend $30 about every 6 months. Recently I purchased a smart phone and had my prepaid plan swapped over.

On a Tuesday at the end of June our landline was not working and nor was my mobile. I had no money left on my mobile. I had only just put $30 on my prepaid less than two weeks ago and had not used it to ring anybody. We were at friends place for lunch and when I explained to them my dilemma they invited me to use their phone and put it on speaker whilst I waited for lunch. I waited 20 mins to talk to an operator and then it took another twenty minutes to report that our landline was out. Finally the operator told me due to my situation of needing to be available for my sick brother and mother they would send me a special phone which the operator kept calling a Big Button phone. She advised me that a technician would come to check out our line and that I had to stay home all day on Friday to get the phone and provide access for the technician.  The operator was a very nice Indian sounding woman and she laughed when I told her someone was vacuuming money out of my mobile phone account but was unable to help me with that: I would have to ring Telstra mobile billing service.

On arriving home I put another $30 on my mobile went down the road and made two calls. I then checked my balance and I had $14 left. I was perplexed. I attempted to turn off all potential leakage of data from new phone. Like WI FI, WI FI Searching, GPS location, Mobile Data and Bluetooth.

Friday came and as well as needing to be available for my family, we are trying to sell our place and provide times when people can come to do a viewing of our property. People wanted to come on Friday so we left the house. When we arrived home no Big Button phone had arrived or the technician. That night the phone came back on but we could only ring out and the internet went down, but only overnight.

On Sunday I was fed up and went into town and bought a new mobile phone plan from Woollies $20, unlimited phone and text calls and 9 GB data. When I got home I attempted to activate the plan on my laptop. But I was unable to complete the activation due to some complex problem which I forget now. The next morning I rang the Woollies mobile phone line and was helped by an Australian guy in Australia who was very helpful but I had to have a verification code sent to my mobile phone which I then had to connect to for the whole activation to take place. I told him I did not have reception in the house and would have to go up in the paddock or down the road. He said that I would have to ring back when I had the verification code. So I went up to the paddock beside the water tank and miraculously the code appeared on my phone. I checked my balance and I had $10 left. I went back inside and rang back the Woollies mobile phone line which took about 30 minutes to get on to the helper. He then told me that I had to use my mobile phone to ring him back using the code. So I drove down the road and stood beside the white post were I knew I could get a signal. I waited about 20mins then a voice came on my phone “you have no more credit on your phone”. That wait cost $10. I went back to the house and rang again and the helper told me he would ring me. I went back down the road again and stood next to the white post for more than 10 minutes but there was no call. I went back to the house and rang again and was helped by another person who told me that he could activate my new plan without having to send me a verification code and that I didn’t have to drive down the road again. I could have kissed him he was so helpful. The phone was activated shortly after.

By Friday of the same week our landline was out again! I drove down the road to ring Telstra.  it was a cold winter’s morning at 9 degrees C but I could sit in my car with the motor going and heater on and be comfortable. I left a couple of windows slightly down so I didn’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Because it was early I was able to be put through to an operator quite quickly, a nice Indian sounding man who also laughed when I told him that apart from our phone outage that I had a problem with someone vacuuming money out of my account and could he look into that as well? I told him that I was sitting in my car down the road from my house and it was only 9 degrees. He told me that we did have an outage and due to my circumstances I had been sent a Big Button phone. Andrea had picked up the phone from the post office on Tuesday and by then the landline was working. I could see why it was called a Big Button phone because it had big buttons designed for people with big fingers or failing eyesight. I have neither of these problems yet. We had tried the Big Button phone this morning and could not get it to work. On reading the manual, the phone only worked if there was mobile reception!

I explained this to the operator and he said he could order us a satellite phone but he had to leave me on the phone while he made another call. He suggested that go and make a cup of coffee for myself while I was waiting and not to hang up. I said “I can’t do that as I am in my car down the road”!  Thirty minutes later he came back on the line. I looked at my watch and mumbled that that was thirty minutes of my life I won’t get back which he heard and replied “yes Mam I am very sorry this has been my longest call yet”.  He told me we would receive the satellite phone and a technician would come and set it up for us. I told him to forget about my billing problem and money disappearing off my account as I couldn’t wait any longer.

On Sunday our phone came back on and Monday Telstra rang to see if our problem was solved. I told the caller that we still had the Big Button phone and were expecting the satellite phone any day now which he cancelled and we would receive a prepaid satchel in the mail to return the big button phone. At some point I realised I didn’t have to talk to Telstra about my money vacuuming problem because I was no longer with Telstra on a pre-paid plan.

During this whole process one day I saw a Telstra Truck on the side of our road and I stopped to ask the technician how they were going at fixing the outage? it was now obvious that we weren’t the only people affected. He looked perplexed. He was holding in his hands a tablet and he was searching for Telstra equipment near a white plastic Telstra post. He said they were still trying to find out where the outage was and that as well as an outage at the exchange there was something here in this vicinity but he couldn’t find out what it was because he didn’t have mobile coverage on his tablet!

© Kaye Johnston 2020