Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Many Million Days?

Being the responsible adult that I am, I forgot to pay my internet bill last month. In Indonesia, if you miss a bill, they usually cut you off. If you don't pay your electricity bill by the 20th of the month they shut your power off by the 25th. This is exactly what happened to my Indosat M2 internet connection. In all fairness, I did pay it before the end of the month but I was still too late. My lame excuse is that they didn't send me an invoice last month. They emailed me invoices every month for over a year and then they suddenly stopped. Paying the bill is the easy part, the hard part is trying to get them to turn the internet back on.

On Tuesday, I tried calling the hotline number they have on their website. After playing trial and error with the "press 1 if you are a customer" "press 3 if you are wearing shoes", I finally found a way to get directly connected with an operator. Not so much, I was put on hold while waiting for an operator and after 5 minutes of soft rock and the voice telling me to continue to wait, the voice told me that they were too busy to help me and disconnected me. I tried 4 more times with the same result. Later in the day, I tried again. Finally, I got through. The operator was very friendly, a little too pleasant and polite since all of these pleasantries were costing me money as my cell phone credit was slowly depleting. After a few minutes of confusion, she told me that she was going to put me on hold to go check my file. She repeatedly requested that I don't hang up. Why would I hang up? It took me 5 tries just to get the operator on the line. 2 minutes later, the soft rock was interrupted by the dreaded beep beep beep telling me that my phone had run out of credit. Seconds later, against my will, my phone hung up.

Later that night, I decided to try to call them again on my house phone. The alternative was a very far drive to one of their outlets followed by a 1 hour wait in line. I tried the same path I had memorized to get through to an operator. This time, when I "pressed 3 for network coverage", there was the following message "IM2 is experiencing technical difficulties in.....DKI.......Jakarta and......................Bali........This problem should be fixed in..................twenty-one......million.....six hundred.....thirty-four......thousand and.....seventy.....five.....................days.......thank you for your patience." I laughed so hard that I had to hang up and listen again to make sure I wasn't crazy. Same message. I called again and made my better half listen since I knew she wouldn't believe me. Perfect, all I had to do was wait 59 271 years and my internet connection would be restored.

After I stopped laughing, I tried again, this time successfully getting through to an operator. We went through the same scenario as last time. After putting me on hold twice for more than 5 minutes each time, he told me what I already knew; my account had been blocked since I hadn't paid my bill. I explained to him that I had indeed paid my bill on the previous Friday (4 days earlier) and that the reason I was late in paying was that they had forgotten to send me an invoice. He asked me if I had provided them with evidence that I had paid my bill. Evidence? "Yes, you must fax evidence you pay bill, mister" he replied. I told him that I didn't have a fax machine in my house (who does?) and asked if I could instead email the e-banking transaction. He told me that this was not possible and that it must be a fax. I asked him how many days it took to process payments from the bank and he said 2 days. I told him that it had been 4 days since I paid the bill. He once again asked me for evidence. I decided to turn it back on him. I explained that they didn't send me an invoice and I still managed to pay my bill (3 days late) and despite that, they needed evidence that I had paid my bill. I started thinking like Seinfeld and asked him if he could fax me evidence to prove that they had sent me an invoice. He took me seriously and said that they couldn't since I didn't have a fax machine. I kept persisting that in this day and age, it was absolutely ridiculous that I was going to have to go an internet cafe, get my bill printed and then fax it to their accounts department and then call another 5 time to get an operator to go through a pile of papers trying to find my "evidence". He told me to wait and not to hang up when he put me on hold. So I waited and waited and waited.

More than 10 minutes later, he had a solution. They were going to un-block my account for 2 hours so that I could go online and email them the evidence that would prove that I had paid my bill. I agreed and went online to email them my evidence. An hour later, another guy from Indosat called me to inform me that they had unblocked my account. He asked when I planned to send my evidence. I informed him that I had sent the evidence via email 45 minutes ago. This really confused him. He put me on hold for a couple of minutes. Finally, he came back and asked me if I was sure that I had emailed the evidence. I insisted that I had. He said that my internet should be back on by the next morning even though, at that moment, he had no evidence. He asked if there was anything else that he could do for me. I requested 2 things 1) Please send me evidence to confirm that you have received my evidence that I have paid my bill 2) Please send me an invoice every month. He asked why I hadn't received my invoice. I replied that I didn't know. He asked if I had changed my email address. I hadn't. He said that I must have done something wrong in order to not receive my invoice. At this point, I was tired of talking on the phone. I agreed that I must have done something wrong and apologized (for hacking into their billing system perhaps?) and told him that I didn't require any further assistance.

The only good thing to come out of this is that i found out that the monthly price for my internet package had dropped by almost Rp. 20 000. I'm hoping that they provide me with evidence to show that I overpaid on my last bill and that they owe me Rp. 20 000. If they don't, I'll survive I guess. After all, paying an extra Rp. 20 000 is worth not having to wait nearly 60 000 years to get my connection restored.

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