A modem tragicomedy

Never mind Cujo the dog or Christine the car. Imagine the horror of finding a slip from the post office saying this month’s Telkom bill is too big for street delivery. At the post office waits 412 pages, double-sided, listing calls every six seconds to the number your modem uses to get online at Telkom’s minimum charge of 59c each.
For Telkom subscribers, this is more spine-chilling than anything Stephen King has ever written.

Last month, my father received this monster Telkom bill. Fortunately, instead of yet another Telkom bashing story, this tale has a happy ending, demonstrating how wonderful Telkom’s customer service is these days.

The saga started when my father’s hard-drive crashed, forcing him to re-install everything. After filling in the settings for his Telkom ISDN modem, he instructed it to dial in for the weekend to benefit from Telkom’s R7 call cap deal.

Early the following week, Telkom called to warn there were lots of short calls being made on the line.

A Telkom Internet specialist paid a house call and found that my father’s modem initialisation string was set to the theoretical speed of an ISDN line. But the modem wasn’t able to set up a link at the instructed speed, so kept dropping the line and retrying.

By the time the problem was discovered, a bill of more than R15 000 had been rung up, giving my pensioner dad many sleepless nights.

Besides fixing the modem settings, the Telkom boffin put a request through to the accounts department to see what could be done about this financial disaster. The person with the authority to sort it out was on study leave, but when she returned, she scratched all but the regular calls and line rental off the bill, cutting it back to its usual amount of about R800.

Telkom called my dad to tell him not to worry about the mammoth bill on its way in the post and told him what he actually needed to pay. A note verifying this soon arrived in the mail.

If only Telkom had been like this 10 years ago when builders doing alterations to my house broke the alarm system, causing a modem installed by the security company to make constant calls. Back then, you just got a shocking bill, with no warning, which you had to pay.

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