Older blog entries for dwmw2 (starting at number 143)

Apologies to David Wilson; I just can't help myself. I have to share this latest tale of telco incompetence. If you don't like my complaining, feel free not to read it.

Vodafone UK definitely take the prize for the most incompetent telco I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

I've been trying to get some sense out of them regarding an account which they failed to cancel when they were asked to. Even after I cancelled the Direct Debit, they employed a debt collection agency to harass me for the line rental from after I told them to close the account.

After receiving threatening snail mail from their debt collectors, I replied to the last email I'd received from Vodafone, preserving their ticket number in the Subject header and their Message-Id in my References header.

I was somewhat surprised to receive a message asking my for my personal details. After all, we had already been engaged in a conversation, and they definitely seemed to know who I was when they were talking to me before. Yet this is what I received:

Thank you for your email dated 31/05/06
In order for us to respond to your query, please provide us with the following information:-
-Your account number
-Your address including postcode
-Your date of birth.
If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,
Lesley Stevens
Vodafone Customer Services
I responded to this slightly confusing mail...
Don't send HTML mail.
I'm assuming this is either a fully automated reply or just someone not actually bothering to think -- I'm replying to an existing 'ticket' and you have my email address on file anyway.
I believe the account number may be 28632641, or that might just be the account number at Wescot Credit Services, whom you have engaged to harass me for this invalid 'debt'.
You will need to contact me again if my assumption is incorrect and you really _are_ incapable of working out who I am despite the fact that I'm continuing an existing thread of discussion, as evidenced by the ticket number in the Subject: header and the unique Message-Ids given in my References: and In-Reply-To: headers.

A few days later, I realised that their ticketing system had screwed up and assigned a new ticket number rather than continuing to use the old one. So I replied again, telling them the old ticket number so that they could connect the history.

Unfortunately, Vodafone's Lesley Stevens didn't seem even to be capable of reading the mail which was in front of her -- the response was another identical mail from her, asking for the same information which they already had. Again, I responded as politely as I could manage...

For crying out loud.
You _KNOW_ who I am, or at least you did know when we were discussing ticket #1555663. If that _isn't_ the case, send me a coherent, non-HTML email explaining how it is that you've lost this information from an open ticket.
Do not just send the same automatic response over and over again.
Unfortunately, they still seemed to be somewhat hard of understanding...
Dear Sir/Madam,
Thank you for contacting Vodafone Customer Service regarding your query.
In order for us to locate your account and check our records please reply to this email with the following information:
-Your mobile number
-Payment method
-Your address including postcode
-Your date of birth
-Description of your query
If there is anything else we can help you with, please feel free to contact us.
Kind regards,
Nilesh Pailwan
Vodafone Customer Services
I tried again, since they still didn't seem to be actually paying any attention. It seemed like they were just pressing an "ask for details" button instead of paying any attention at all to the email in front of them...
I'm not sure I believe I'm seeing this. You've _repeatedly_ been told
not to post HTML, and that you should _have_ all my details on file
already from ticket #1555663.
The mobile number on the account in question was 07796 177782. The rest of my 'query' is in my previous mails. What is _wrong_ with you people?
I don't recall the password -- this was an account which was closed a long time ago, and was unused for some time before that. The account was paid by direct debit until it was closed, and then the direct debit was cancelled. You continued to attempt to take money, and then employed a debt collector to pursue me for line rental for the period _after_ I asked you to close the account. The account number with Wescot Credit Services is 28632641
My date of birth, not that you should need it, is ...... My address at the time this account was active was ........
Please pass this to a supervisor or _someone_ who can think for themselves immediately -- PLEASE don't just send me another one of these silly mails.
You _HAVE_ all my details. You _KNOW_ who I am and you've already been discussing my account with me. In ticket #1555663.
This did, finally provide a response. Not a useful response, but a response other than just asking stupid questions....
Dear Mr. Woodhouse,
Thank you for contacting Vodafone Customer Service regarding your contract.
Thanks for your information.
I can see that your account was cancelled on 22nd January 2006 due to non-payment.
Also, there is no request to cancel your contract before this date. In order to settle your account, please make a payment of £58.34.
You can send your cheque to the following address: .....
But I'd already been through this with them before. This muppet blatantly wasn't reading the notes either. I'd asked them in July of last year to cancel the account, and I'd stopped payment for it a month later; in August. If they chose not to cancel the account until January, that is entirely their problem; they are not going to get paid for it. I responded again...

On Fri, 2006-06-09 at 11:10 +0000, Webform wrote:
> Thanks for your information.
At last, we have moved on from that particular broken record.
> I can see that your account was cancelled on 22nd January 2006 due to > non-payment. > > Also, there is no request to cancel your contract before this date. > In order to settle your account, please make a payment of £58.34.
Unfortunately, we've moved on to another.
You _were_ told, in 2005, to cancel this account. You were then told, on the day that I cancelled the direct debit a month or so later, that I had done so.
You will _not_ be paid for the extra line rental covering the time between my cancellation of the direct debit, and your eventual cancellation of the account.
I'm attaching my message of 31st May, since you blatantly don't seem to have read it.
No prizes for guessing their response to this mail...
Dear Sir
Thanks for contacting us.

We'd love to help with your query, please provide us with the following information:-

-Your account number
-Your mobile number
-Your address including postcode
-Your date of birth.

Once we've received this, we'll be more than happy to help

At this point, I'm beginning to despair. They really do all seem to have been lobotimised. I tried a different tack -- combat their amnesia by writing it all down for them at http://david.woodhou.se/vodafone.html. I sent another mail....
On Fri, 2006-06-09 at 12:14 +0000, Webform wrote:
> We'd love to help with your query, please provide us with the
> following information:-
I am now utterly bemused by your lack of competence. Since you seem incapable of conducting a conversation without constantly forgetting who it is that you're talking to, and since you seem incapable of actually responding to what is said rather than repeating yourselves, I have put all the relevant information into a web page to assist you. That web page is at http://david.woodhou.se/vodafone.html
Please get someone in management to deal with this; I am tired of dealing with first-level support droids who seem to have been lobotomised. I'm sorry to be insulting, but quite frankly, I think I'm being rather restrained under the circumstances.
When I received no reply to that, I sent another, quoting the previous mail (with the URL), and adding...
I still await a response to this. Since you seem incapable of dealing
with email, you may telephone me on +44 XXXX XXXXXX.
Do not let a first-line support person contact me and waste my time any further. Please get someone who can actually think for themselves to respond. I _will_ be taking legal action if you don't stop harassing me for a debt which is invalid.
The response was as predictable as ever...
Dear Mr Woodhouse,
Thank you for your email dated 12/06/2006
In order for us to respond to your query, please provide us with the following information:-
-Your account number
-Your address including postcode
-Your date of birth.
If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,
Jennifer Jones
Vodafone Customer Services

At this point, I just can't take Vodafone seriously at all. There's voices in my head telling me to just turn up at their headquarters and firebomb the place. After all, even if I walked into reception and introduced myself before doing it, they wouldn't have sufficient wit to tell the police who I am...

Is it wrong of me to expect better than this from customer service departments, even from telcos?

I have been politely requested to stop complaining. To be specific, I have been invited to:

"Stop polluting my RSS reader, and write about some of the other stuff I subscribe to your weblog for."

Since I don't actually know what it is that anyone would "subscribe to my weblog for", I find this request a little hard to fulfil. But I'll certainly make the attempt -- I'll try ranting about something that makes me happy instead of something that gets on my tits. I can't promise that I'll make a habit of this, though.

I comment a lot about telco incompetence. ISPs often aren't much better, but in response to the above request, I'll take a moment to reflect on an exception to the rule -- the ISP I use at home; Andrews & Arnold.

I ♥ A&A. They do constant monitoring of DSL lines with pretty graphs (can you see when I started the remote Evolution?), and this often allows them to notice problems before the users do and chase up BT¹ to get them fixed. Even when there are problems with BT kit which affect all ISPs, it seems to be A&A who are getting it fixed while the other ISPs haven't even noticed. Like this one for example. I hadn't actually noticed that one at the time; I just found it when I was looking back through the archived status posts for another example which affected the whole country.

They provide native IPv6 on the DSL line (or tunnels if your DSL router can't cope with IPv6 over PPP), they'll provide you with as many Legacy Internet addresses as you need rather than forcing you to use NAT, and they'll provide or delegate reverse DNS for it all.

Most of all, they provide a very transparent, no-bullshit service. Their support staff are clueful, helpful, happy to deal with Linux, and almost constantly available on IRC.

OK, so I've ranted about A&A, and it almost sounds like an advert -- so I'm sure someone else will now be contacting me to complain that I should go back to complaining instead of doing that. Oh well, you can't please them all... :)

(¹ BT -- British Telecom; monopoly telco in the UK who actually own the local loop in almost all cases. Most DSL connectivity is carried over their ATM network, whoever the ISP is.)

30 May 2006 (updated 30 May 2006 at 09:11 UTC) »

I've taken to running Evolution in a loop: while true; do evolution; done

At least I don't have to keep restarting it every time it crashes now -- an event which occurs ten or twenty times daily.

Red Hat bug #187565, GNOME bug #336803

For the record: Jeff has apologised, re-opened the GNOME bugzilla bugs which needed it, and has committed an alternative to the fix which was reverted.

We all get carried away occasionally; it's good to see that we can get back to normal too. Thanks, Jeff.

I'm still somewhat concerned by the current state of Evolution -- upgrading to 2.6 really hasn't been a fun experience. But I'm pleased that it does now look like we can agree (or at least have a sensible technical disagreement) on the points where it could do with improvement, and work together to make it better -- which is the important thing.

I'm sorry that my expression of frustration caused you offence.

I see the subsequent blog entry got 'revised' too -- that's also preserved in the archive copy.

I'm not going to bother refuting the new version (archived here in case it changes again). GNOME bugzilla is a public database, if anyone should care enough either way.

This whole thing is very discouraging for anyone who needs to take Evolution (and, by association, GNOME) seriously.

I'm uninterested in the kindergarten games and abuse provoked by calling someone an 'idiot' -- that overreaction is mostly just a source of wry amusement. But I don't expect bug fixes to be reverted, patches to be marked 'invalid' and genuine bugs to be closed 'WONTFIX'. Well, I shouldn't expect that, although unfortunately I have to admit that I'm not utterly shocked by it. And I certainly didn't expect it to continue for a second day without commit and bugzilla privileges being revoked.

If this behaviour is allowed to persist without anyone from the GNOME team or Novell intervening, then I think we need to take a serious look at either forking or dropping Evolution. We really can't be held hostage to this kind of thing, and by this kind of person.

It seems that the blog entry I linked to previously has been changed. It no longer contains the torrent of abuse that it used to.

I wouldn't normally go back and retrospectively edit diary entries, but I'll fix the link in my previous post to point to an archive copy here. I think that's within the bounds of 'reasonable revisionism'.

10 May 2006 (updated 10 May 2006 at 17:55 UTC) »

A while ago, I wrote:

"Also, the Ximian monkeys were just too much of a pain to deal with. For example: even a simple RFC-compliance bug fix like the "don't use underscore in HELO" one, where I supplied a simple patch, was something which required me to argue with idiots. I believe the patch for that is still only carried in the Red Hat package rather than being accepted upstream."

Well, the patch did eventually get applied. Today, however, the person about whom I was speaking above (who is no longer an Evolution maintainer) took offence at what I'd said, and spontaneously reverted the fix from CVS -- presumably without getting the patch approved by the maintainer. The commit message is quite amusing too -- "David Woodhouse can fix his own damn server since he configured it to be broken." This was a fix for an RFC2821 violation which will cause Exim in its default configuration to reject the (erroneous) HELO greeting. I didn't have to do anything special to my server to make it do that.

He also went on a spree through my bugs in bugzilla, closing some valid bugs and making strange and unhelpful comments in others -- using his @novell.com identity to do so.

I haven't re-opened them myself; I'll let someone more closely involved with GNOME and/or Novell do so, and hopefully they will also consider the question of what privileges he should retain to Evolution CVS and bugzilla, given this behaviour and the fact that he is no longer supposed to be working on Evolution.

Now, I'll freely admit that I can be an arsehole at times, but I'd never go through bugzilla closing all someone's bugs just because they called me an idiot, let alone revert RFC-compliance fixes which were already committed, just because the bug was originally reported by the person who'd done so. That really is overstepping the mark, IMO.

(NB: 'took offence' link changed on 2006-05-10 to point to an archived copy of the original post.)

Quote of the week: "Get this through your head: This is not Fedora bugzilla."

Seen in a a Fedora bug, of course :)

Got shiny new Motorola SLVR L7 phone. I have to say I'm not very impressed with it, although it is shiny.

Although I don't like receiving phone calls, and I'd prefer for people just to email me instead -- I don't think my phone should enforce that. Twice I've observed it start to ring... and then spontaneously reboot, losing the incoming call. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think that's how phones should behave.

Its dialup behaviour isn't particularly impressive either -- it gives me the first line or two of the login prompt from the remote system before giving the CONNECT response. That isn't really handled too well by most chat scripts, wvdial etc...

ATD01789835243^MHello 07815910501

obelisk.infradead.org login: CONNECT 9600 dwmw2 Password: Last login: Mon Apr 3 22:23:35 from 07815910501 obelisk /home/dwmw2 $

Those are just the two major flaws which are why I'll probably return it to Orange -- especially as Orange don't seem capable of contacting Motorola to even report the problems and ask if there is a firmware update pending. But they're a telco, so I suppose I shouldn't expect anything else.

There is an email address for Motorola customer care listed in the user manual, but it bounces.

But there's a whole bunch of other, more minor problems with it too; they just don't seem to pay anywhere near as much attention to detail as Ericsson do. When it gets a receipt for a delivered SMS message, it treats that just as an incoming message rather than marking the outgoing message in the outbox as 'delivered'. It doesn't let you set a default to request receipts on all messages, either.

It's also fairly astonishing that it doesn't even have an automatic keypad lock -- it does have a lock to prevent you from accidentally making calls while it's in your pocket, but there's no facility for the lock to come on automatically after a minute or so of inactivity. What were they thinking?

It's rather strange that it can't even do IMAP+SMTP over a v.110 dialup connection, too -- although at least it can do them with TLS over the real Internet (by GPRS), which is about the only way it's any more advanced than the Ericsson T630 I've had for years. In every other respect (other than the sexy 11mm profile and the shinyness), Ericsson beats them hands down.

Last time I checked, though, Ericsson weren't doing any quad band phones. I don't really want much from a phone -- I want quad band, Bluetooth, sensible email (which can use TLS and ideally Bcc every outgoing mail to a configured address), v.110 dialup which works, and generally for them to have paid a little attention to detail when they designed it. Orange have said they'll let me swap it... but I'm not sure what else there is that fits the bill.

The program 'evolution' received an X Window System error.
This probably reflects a bug in the program.
The error was 'BadAlloc (insufficient resources for operation)'.


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