Product stop press

This blog having temporarily started acting like Which Magazine’s Provisional Wing, I have to draw your attention to another amazing wonder-product….:-) It costs more in a their real-world shops, but you can apparently make a saving if you buy Boots Hot Weather Cooling Spray online. Only £3.89 for 125ml (plus £2.90 delivery charge for delivery in 4 days, though free if you pick it up from your local shop.)

£31.11 per litre. (Not counting delivery costs.)

What’s the magic cooling ingredient?

Hmm, water. Well , “Aqua.” Not even bloody drinking water. Just water in a spray can.

As a random comparison of the cost of fluids, you can buy a 70cl bottle of 10 year-old Isle of Jura single malt whisky from Waitrose for £27.59.

OK, it wouldn’t cool you down much (indeed, it could make you smell pretty rough if you sprayed it on your face on a hot day) but it would be the product of centuries of brewing and distilling skills. It would have had to sit round using up caskspace for a decade. It’s lavishly bottled and packaged. And it manages to pay a huge cut to the revenue and still appear on Waitrose’s online shop for less than the cost of a litre of spray-on water.

Quite apart from the bottles of Evian and Highland Spring, Boots sells expensive water in many more forms. In the homeopathic department, anyway.

Water converted into pill form even. Or “pillules”, “pills” and “tablets.” (The distinction may be technical.)

Their homeopathic remedies actually contain water so expensive that it makes the cooling spray seem relatively cheap. Because they are pills (sorry, pillules) so they are dry, containing only the memory of the water that was used in making them. But that water itself only contains the memory of the active ingredient that was used to make it, many dilutions in its past

But, as the the water’s magical healing powers get stronger with each dilution, doesn’t it follow that you could increase its potency by another order of magnitude by dropping one of these dry pillules in a bath full of water.

The bathwater would then be imbued with the memory of the memory of the memories of the first water, but made even more memorable after conversion into and out of dry water-memory states in the middle stage. And so, these remedies could be strong enough to wipe out all disease on the planet….

New business plan – to take homeopathic remedies and sneakily intensify them by this method, then sell them as being EVEN more effective than the ones you can buy from a high street chemist, if that were indeed possible.

Genius, huh?

Big Brother goes Shopping

Take the cameras that follow us everywhere. Increase their intrusiveness level by a factor of ten and you get an idea of how much staff surveillance a German-based supermarket chain thinks it needs. Lidl has been spying on its German and Czech workers in ways that might shock the most avid defenders of surveillance, according to the Guardian story.

The store employed detectives and used video cameras to gather an alarming amount of personal information about its workers. Information about their finances, their tattoos, their love lives, their friends, how many times they went to the toilet….

Recording how a German employee identified as Frau M spent her break, one report read: “Frau M wanted to make a call with her mobile phone at 14.05 … She received the recorded message that she only had 85 cents left on her prepaid mobile. She managed to reach a friend with whom she would like to cook this evening, but on condition that her wage had been paid into her bank, because she would otherwise not have enough money to go shopping.” (from The Guardian)

The Guardian writer saw this incident in a Czech Republic store as the most shocking:

.. a female worker was forbidden to go to the toilet during working hours. An internal memorandum, which is now the centre of a court case in the republic, allegedly advised staff that “female workers who have their periods may go to the toilet now and again, but to enjoy this privilege they should wear a visible headband.

The story was taken from the German magazine Stern. It appears in the Telegraph and other UK newspapers. There’s more on Lidl on AsdaWatch. Lidl’s Wikipedia page that refers to the Guardian article.

More UK broadband whines

Complaining about Tiscali (regarding the service formerly known as Pipex) is normally T_W’s realm but I’m wading in, on the basis of an article in the Register.

(I can be detached, as well as moderately smug, here. Despite my initial annoyance when Virgin took over the previous Telewest service, of blessed memory, the worst you can say about Virgin broadband is that it seems to have outsourced its tech support and started charging 25p a minute for it.

I found this out when I made a tech support call about a friend’s broken cable broadband service. It was impossible to understand the woman on the other end, who was reading from a pre-set list of actions and made me go through every one at 25p a minute, despite my telling her repeatedly that I had already tried each one of her suggestions several times. In fairness, she only let this farce run for 15 minutes then she called back. So it stopped running up a pound every 4 minutes but the issue was no nearer resolution.

In contrast, Telewest tech support used to be brilliant. The tech support staff understood what you said, took on board your level of knowledge and responded accordingly with suggestions based on their expertise rather than a list of preset steps that only apply if you use Internet Explorer and Windows ffs – the current 25p a minute support.

Anyway, back to Tiscali…..)

Thousands of ex-Pipex customers have been suffering unexplained interruptions in their broadband service in recent weeks, as their new provider Tiscali stealthily works to cut costs.
People suffering a broadband outage as a result of the work are told by customer services, recently outsourced overseas, that their line is undergoing “essential engineering work”. One Reg reader was initially told the downtime was BT’s fault. (from The Register)

This “essential engineering work” seems to involve cutting speeds and service quality, in pursuit of a first-time ever profit for the noxiously-named Tiscali.

Their activities have previously been reported, by the Register, as involving making hundreds of Pipex staff redundant and outsourcing customer care in a bid to make the newly created company saleable in the near future..

There’s a good range of comments on the Register post. Here’s Luke Wells’s comment.

From Pipex to ….. errr … Tiscali
Now it has been a few years since I was a Pipex customer, but when I was a customer, Pipex were known for its rock solid reliable network and high speeds with no limits or throttling.
Tiscali are pretty much well known as a cheap “cut corners” isp with near zero customer service and poor speeds.
You’d think people would notice the change quite quickly.

I suspect they have.

Pipex is Still Terrible

Well, any long time readers of this blog will know I detest Pipex (my ISP – I refuse to link to them). It is terrible. It has abysmal customer service and for most of the summer I was without a connection at all. When they finally got round to fixing it what speed the ADSL used to have was truly gone.

Sadly, thanks to the terms and conditions the ISP is allowed to impose, I am obliged to remain with them for another four months at least. This is gutting when the net connection is barely faster than dial up.

I have spent the first three days of this month trying to connect to Thinkbroadband.com to see what my actual transfer speeds were. However, the connection was too slow for the speedtest to run. How bad is that? Fortunately, today things have picked up a little so here is this months graph:

Graph of transfer speeds using the UK ISP Pipex

What is really shocking about this graph, is not just the massive downwards trend it shows, but the fact that the really slow connections aren’t even on it. This graph only shows when the connection speeds were fast enough for me to get the speedtester to run! Very soon the early “fast” days will drop off the graph and it will just be flatlined crap speeds.

It is infuriating that, in this day and age, it seems impossible to get a consistently fast data connection. I am paying for a service which advertises itself as an “8mb connection” yet I barely scrape over 2mb. As soon as I can get out of this contract I am going with Virgin Media Cable broadband.

I have been with Pipex for about five years now – until very recently they were wonderful. I would have recommended them to anyone. However, in the summer they were taken over by Tiscali (who I have hated in the past) and things have plummeted like a lead weight.

Why in the name of Toutatis would Tiscali (who already had a reputation for being crap) buy a good ISP and then turn it to rubbish? What on earth is the point of that? Are these people mad? (Note: Virgin did the same with Blueyonder/Telewest…)

Anyway, before I get ranting about the stupidity of corporate takeovers, I will end here with the exhortation that you never, ever recommend Pipex (or Tiscali) to anyone you have even a passing regard for. Terrible ISP is an understatement.

Are BMS (01706713200) reading this blog?

Now I have mentioned Bury Marketing Sales (BMS) here a few times and it seems there is a bit of a spooky co-incidence when I do. After my last blog post about the pond-scum organisation who were phoning me two or three times a day (from 01706713200), I had a comment on an older post on the same topic.

In this comment, Paul wrote how that, after complaining to BMS customer services he never had any further calls. I wrote that, oddly, I hadn’t had any calls from BMS since my last rant about them (even though calling customer services hadn’t helped me in the slightest). It seems I was being a bit premature.

Since my reply, late last night, BMS have tried to call me six times today. Seriously. The first two I missed because I was no where near my phone, one left a silent voice mail. The next call came while I was driving, I answered (handsfree, of course) and explained I was driving. The sales monster pretty much ignored it and started asking me questions about my handset choices, how long I had left on the contract etc. I continued to explain I wasn’t interested and had requested customer services take me off their war-dialling list. The salesman basically ignored this and carried on trying to convince me to take a new contract so I hung up on them. The last two calls came while I was fairly free so I entertained myself at their expense. Each time they called, I answered but didn’t speak. After about 5 seconds they would say “hello,” at which point I would start banging and crashing bits of metal together. Both times the call was terminated by BMS after 22 seconds (exactly, is that a part of their instructions?) Childish, yes, but it made me laugh.

Anyway, this got me thinking. Are they reading this blog? Have they worked out which number they call is mine (if they hadn’t, they probably have now unless everyone gives them the metal treatment…)? Was my previous comment seen as a challenge? Did they give up on me after my post, only to resume when I goaded them? Are they reading this? How will they react?

Come on BMS, let me know if you are here?

Pipex: Farce upon Farce

Well, my opinion of Pipex was already very low. Before today I had them pegged as a terrible ISP with almost criminally poor customer service and basically inept technical support.

Today, they offended Forseti, and have managed to sink to a lower level on my opinion scale.

I wont fully repeat the tale of farce which has Pipex firmly in my “Bad Shop” category (in fact, I suspect they have more entries there than any other company), but in a nutshell after a month in which they were too inept to get BT out to fix my line (leaving me with no connection), they have still yet to get the service restored to the levels for which I am paying.

On Friday (four days ago), I spoke to technical support, who claimed to have carried out some tests and would now “escalate” the problem to BT. This is pretty much as far as I can push Pipex, as despite my only contract being with them, they do not have any form of service level agreement with BT – ineptitude, basically. Anyway, I was assured by the minimum wage arts student they have working as “technical support” that BT would respond to the fault within 1 – 6 days and get back to me.

Today, I had an SMS text message which informed me that Pipex Technical Support needed to carry out some more tests and could I ring them while I was sitting at the PC. This is a touch problematical, as I was at work miles from my PC, but never mind. Eventually I got home and had logged on by 1930 hrs to call Pipex as requested.

Now the farce got worse.

Every time I ring Pipex it annoys me. First off, it is an 0845 number so it costs money. Then the first thing they ask you is “if you are a residential customer, please enter your phone number now.” When you enter your phone number, you get presented with a list of options which runs “If you are a residential customer, press 1 now…” Why, in the name Kvasir do they ask you to enter your number first? Why?

When you finally get to press 2 for customer services, you are faced with an interminable wait, listening to some bored out of her head woman telling you “Thank you for holding the line. Your call is valuable to us.” Over and over. Why do companies think this is a good thing? What lunatic believes that the call is important or valuable, when you wait half the life of the universe for them to actually answer. And when they do, finally, answer it just gets worse!

After waiting a full 19 minutes (listening to how valuable my call is), the tech support arts student answered and went through the pointless list of “data protection act required verifications.” Finally, she asked me how she could help.

This left me a little confused, because she had just told me she’d called up my details and open tickets, so surely she should know I am calling in response to the text. Anyway, I explained I’d been asked to call and she went away. For four minutes. Eventually she came back and said that the “Technical Support” people (who was I speaking to?) had asked that I be contacted to confirm I wanted this escalating to BT. Slightly stunned, I said “yes” and she typed away and said, thanks – it will now be passed to BT. When I asked what had happened the last time they had promised it would be passed on to BT, she had no idea. She said it hadn’t been logged and didn’t know who had dealt with it. Now, I have the pleasure of another 1 – 6 day wait. Unless they text me half way through and ask if I want it to be sent to BT again…

This level of incompetence is mind boggling. I am at a loss to describe how frustrating, and how bad, Pipex customer service and technical support is. In August, I was given an identical run-around where over the course of a whole month they pretended to send the fault to BT, but never quite got round to it. It looks like this is going to happen again.

Showing that Loki really does have a monumental sense of humour, Pipex’s home page has a blurb which reads:

Pipex - Terrible Service - False Claims

Sadly, this leaves me speechless. If it really is their “customers that matter,” why am I being singled out for this poor treatment. What have I done wrong, which makes Pipex pick me as the only person they are happy to mess around month after month?

If so many people like them “so much they’d recommend” them, why dont they bloody recommend them. I wouldn’t recommend them to Bin Laden…

Pipex are a terrible ISP. Their technical support is so bad it has become funny. Their service is abysmal (for instance, what happened to NNTP access?). In short, Pipex is bad. Do not use Pipex.

Terrible Pipex Service – Fiasco Continues

Well, I will try to keep this short and I promise to try and find a new topic to complain about, but surfing the internet at snails pace is painful.

I mentioned yesterday the fiasco I was having with Pipex, and their final suggestion was to do some tests for 24 hours then call back. Well, I carried out the tests and called them back. If only it had been that simple.

After a short lifetime listening to a bored “we value your call” (obviously they value it, I am paying to call them….) I got through to an operator who went through the questions required by the data protection act (I assume if it wasn’t for that darned act, they would happily give my details out to every one…) and once more I was asked what the problem was.

I explained, in detail, what had happened and the tech support creature started to ask me the standard questions about “had I checked the filters…” (etc). Fighting the urge to scream, I reminded him that I had already gone through all this and I was just calling with the test data so they could escalate it to BT. Rather than ask what the data was, he asked me “what sort of speeds” I had been getting “over the last few weeks.” I was stunned. So much for the 24 hours worth of tests nonsense. Anyway, I told him that before the “fix,” I’d been getting a consistent 4 (and a bit) mbps downstream and the line reported it was an 8mb connection and since BT fixed the exchange I was now on a line which reported itself as 500kbps. Then it got really comical.

The “technician” asked what sort of download speeds I was getting. I said 350 – 400kbps on average. He then explained to me how 350 – 400kbps was “about 4 meg.” This jaw dropping announcement left me silent for a moment or two while it really sunk in that he thought three hundred and fifty kilobytes per second was “about” four megabytes per second. What abstract definition of about do they use at Pipex? When I, politely, explained that 400kbps was “about” half a mbps he went quiet for at least 30 seconds. The silence became painful after a while and I genuinely wasn’t sure if he was still there.

Eventually, he found his voice again and said he would carry out some tests. After a few (silent) minutes where all I could hear was his frantic typing on a keyboard he confirmed the line was reporting it was a 500kbps and he would escalate it to BT – who would deal with it “in 1 – 6 days.” Wonderful, now I know that this time next week I will call Pipex again, who will say “sorry, BT had a problem, they will investigate in 1-6 days” and so on, ad infinitum.

Fundamentally this shows yesterday’s tech “support” person was lying through his teeth when he asked for the tests to be carried out. Today’s person didn’t care about my results and ran the test himself before sending it on to BT.

It amazes me that Pipex is still getting such rave reviews from people when they, basically, have untrained buffoons running their call centres and spend more money getting a low-life Z-lister like David Hasslehoff to front their campaigns than they spend on providing a service. As far as I am concerned Pipex is the worst ISP I have ever used (it is now even worse than Tiscali who used to be top of my List of Hate, comically Pipex’s fall from grace came when Tiscali bought them…) and I have no idea why every few weeks I get an email telling me how popular they are, how good their service is (for everyone else, obviously) and how I should recommend them to my friends. To be honest, there isn’t anyone I hate enough to recommend Pipex to them.

Please, feel free to spread the word.

[tags]Pipex, Bad Shops, Bad Customer Service, Pipex Sucks, Pipex Bad ISP, Bad ISP, ISP, Internet, Rant, Technology, Network, Tiscali, David Hasslehoff, Internet Service Provider, BT, ADSL, DSL, Modem, Networking, Orders of Magnitude, Bad Mathematics, Bad Networking[/tags]