Sort of Back

After a month of seemingly endless problems, there is a sort of return to service now, albeit a short lived one.

Heather is still out for the count and it may be some time before she returns to blogging form. It is possible she will undergo surgery on Friday followed by several weeks bedrest, but fingers crossed everything is on the mend.

I have had none of the problems Heather has undergone, and simply have been without internet connection. I now have an internet connection, but will be going away on a long family holiday at the weekend, where I will be without it once more. Typical really.

On the subject of internet connections, life is now officially impossible without one.  A few years ago, I made a passing reference to how our society has become dependent on the internet, and things have not improved. [this is the long bit if you want to stop reading here]

Having recently moved house, I needed to go through all the things we take for granted – setting up utilities, arranging council tax, registering to vote, changing bank details etc. However with very few exceptions all of these wanted internet access to actually do anything. Some had normal phone numbers or addresses but, ironically, the only place you could find these out was online… What barking madness. Fortunately, McDOnalds provides free WiFi, but sitting in a busy public place typing away on my laptop is not good for personal security, so this was difficult at best.

Obviously, I wanted an internet service – how else could I blog for example – and I had done a lot of research before I moved, so I knew the one I wanted. The problem is that Virgin Media couldn’t even begin to confirm if their service would be available until my phone line was connected – this happened the day we moved in – so I couldn’t pre-arrange the ISP service.

Anyway, we move in and I eventually get to a WiFi point to register with virgin.  The registration process was smooth enough, although oddly they send all service updates (such as the day you get connected) to your email account. How this is supposed to help you get connected is beyond me. Then after explaining that it would take 14 days to get the service up and running (no, I have no idea why either), and what equipment they would send out to me, the virgin account creation pages came up with a huge warning saying there was a problem with my account and could I call customer services. Obediently I called and hit the worlds worst automated system. It took best part of 20 minutes to get through to a human who had no idea why I was calling when I didnt have an account. I explained everything the error message said (which was limited, to be fair), and he was still none the wiser. After another 10 mins of this, he eventually found my records and said there were no problems and I would be up and running in 14 days. He then, very patronisingly, told me it was all in the emails I had been sent. He wasn’t able to tell me how to read the emails without internet access though.

About a week later, I was back in McDonalds using the WiFi and I checked into the Virgin webmail service. The promised emails were non-existent, there were a few initial ones, but the one saying when it would all be up and running was missing. When I went to the user control panel, there was a huge message saying “there has been a problem setting up your account please call customer services.” Again, I did so. I went through all the hoops and got another bemused operator who had no idea why I was calling but promised my service would be up and running within 14 days (yes, this was about 7 days into the original 14 days).

Bizarrely, on the 10th day I got a package explaining how to connect and telling me my router would be shipped in time to connect. Back in McDonalds I followed the instructions to see what the status of the equipment order was only to be faced with a barrage of error messages and failed webpages. Inspires confidence, thats for sure.

Having my own router (I am a closet geek), I tried to connect on Day 14 and magically the service was working. It was even surprisingly fast considering the location (and distance from exchange) and all the virgin account stuff was perfect. Oddly, on Day 15 of this fiasco, I got a letter saying my service had been activated the day before (and I would be billed from that date) and that my equipment would be shipped in time to use the connection. Unless they use TARDIS delivery, this seemed unlikely. The promised equipment finally arrived three days after the letter; while this was not important to me, if I had been relying on the virgin equipment, I would have paid for four days of service with no way to access the service. Minor issue, but on the scale of virgins customer base its pretty poor.

Anyhoo, ranting over now and I can carry on unboxing my belongings. Hopefully normal service will resume ASAP.

Choice?

Reading an article on Thinkbroadband reminded me about the strange way that companies drop products that may be in the customers best interest and always claim it is down to “customer response.”

In the article, it seems that PlusNet is dropping one of its broadband “Your Way” packages. They are increasing the cap on the cheaper packages but removing the high end product that was capped at 40gb for £29.99 per month. Personally I hate usage caps and would never go with a provider that had a public on, but the fact is all providers (except maybe Virgin Cable) have some cap, they just dont always tell you.

Anyway, because people are using things like the BBC iPlayer so much (don’t ask me about this, I don’t use it) PlusNet felt they had to change the caps. Basically this is the route they went down:

Package Old Limit New Limit Cost
Option 1 1GB 1GB (no change) £9.99
Option 2 8GB 15GB £14.99
Option 3 20GB 30GB £19.99
Option 4 40GB (withdrawn) £29.99

Now at first glance, this looks like removing something that was the best deal for high end users but it isn’t quite that bad. It seems that you can get Option 3 and add 10gb at £0.75 per gb so it is a bit cheaper to do it that way – however this misses the point. Oddly, someone I can only assume works for PlusNet commented this on the Thinkbroadband site:

Not sure why you think BS is involved. 40GB withdrawn because very few customers chose BBYW4 and it now works out cheaper to buy Option 3 and add ten more GBs at 75p each. Just a case of simplifying the choices.

Erm. No. It does not “simply the choices” it actually makes it more complicated for the user. Now if people really weren’t going for the expensive choice, why remove it? Why did it cost PlusNet to leave a slight less cost effective option for users who wanted the “simplicity” of having a larger usage allowance. The only way option 4 is more expensive is when PlusNet don’t increase its limit, which they haven’t.

Equally strange, if this is a result of more people needing more bandwidth, why not increase the allowance of Option 4 in line with the others? As few people used Option 4 this extra bandwidth for those few customers (say 45gb) wouldn’t strain the system surely?

Now, don’t get me wrong. PlusNet can charge what ever they want for broadband. I am not even a customer. It is just that something about this repricing exercise struck the cynic in me as strange.

Sadly, it isn’t always the company that is the main driver. When Morgan Spurlock’s tedious “Super Size Me” hit the screens, McDonalds were quick to withdraw the “supersize” choice. Sadly for the customer this represented the most cost effective way of getting food and was close to a loss-maker for McDonalds. I am sure they were devastated to withdraw it. When supersize meals were available, a very low income family of four could feed all with two meals, now they would be hard pushed to do it with three and would probably need to buy four. For about 25% increase in cost, the supersized meal delivered 33%+ extra food (at least it did over here). The only thing not increased was the burger but they are big enough already. Now, because at the most fundamental level western people don’t like the thought of self control, we have lost the option.

Well done world.

Pipex is still crap

Even though I had thought my problems with pipex were over, the BT engineer had come out and supposedly fixed the line, it seems I am still paying over the odds for a non-existent service.

Thinkbroadband.com Speedtest results

I am aware ADSL is dependant on the number of subscribers at the local exchange but I also know that there are no new subscribers hanging off my exchange. From the chart you can see that in Jun and early July, the service was acceptable. In August it was non-existent (completely) and since it was restored it has been painfully slow.

Pipex is a terrible ISP. Pipex customer service is borderline incompetent. If you are looking for a new ISP, steer clear of Pipex.

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.

Pipex – Terrible ISP

Long rant – if you are reading this on Planet Atheism / Planet Humanism (or just aren’t interested) and you don’t want to know about my troubles with a UK based ISP please skip this 🙂 If you know anyone thinking of getting a new ISP, simply tell them to avoid Pipex at all costs.

My problems with Pipex continue unabated. I am in the process of trying to move away from them and get Sky Broadband but I am hitting hurdle after hurdle.

Following on from the fiasco where I had an entire month without internet connection, despite repeated false promises by the customer services staff and the only offer Pipex could make to placate me was to promise me an extra months connection for free – when this free month will be is anyone’s guess, I am still being billed each month – the connection still sucks. Pipex technical support have reached new levels of incompetence and it is getting to the point where I am tempted to simply cancel this phone line and get a new one…

Continue reading

Pipex – Terrible Service (long)

Well, I am back online now after over a month without any method of connecting to the internet. I would like to say about how my ISP (Pipex) provided some wonderful technical support and helped me through the process, going the extra mile to earn the money I pay them each month.

In reality, the opposite is true. I will try to keep this brief as I am angry enough to rant for months over this, and I have every intention of bringing this up on a regular basis to make sure it remains “current” in search engines.

Basically put, Pipex is a “bad shop.” It provides a moderate service which is no longer really cost-effective in the ISP market of the UK. The headline promise is 8mb connection speeds but, so far, I have never got over 3mb. Once upon a time it had a good standard of technical support services, not any more. Pipex technical support and customer services are so bad it defies belief. It is one thing having a hard time helping a customer, it is another to lie and be rude to them. Pipex are terrible. Needless to say I am in the process of changing ISP now. On to the back story for this rant.

On 5 Aug, my internet connection died. No warning, no indication. At first I thought it was a fault or something with the server (the log kept reporting “LCP Down” and “Failed to synchronise”), so I tried to see if this was the case. Sadly, due to the time of day, the only way to see if there was a problem was to log on to Pipex’s website. Hard to do without an internet connection… Continue reading

Back Online

This is a short note to say I am back online now. Things are still a little hectic so “normal service” is not yet in place, however at least I can use things other than my phone to browse the web – it has shocked me how reliant “we” become on the internet for basic things.

Anyway, thanks to the miracle of Pipex, I have a working net connection (four days, only two of which were “working days,” after I ordered online) and things are certainly brighter now. Well Done Pipex.

Now I am “back” as it were, I will have a look at re-designing the site theme to try and improve on the issues it currently has and take on board the user comments you were kind enough to send. Thank you.

More soon.