Older blog entries for dwmw2 (starting at number 151)

Heh. Why do I find it so ironically amusing that the SPF morons, after trying to retroactively redefine the way that email works after a few decades of history, are now whining that their own silly scheme is itself being misused; just as their own incompatible idiocy goes against the way we've implemented RFC821 and then RFC2821 all these years.

SPF was always a bad idea; the fact that other nutters are abusing SPF records to mean something other than what the original set of nutters intend them to mean, and thus lose even more perfectly valid mail in the process, is just tragically funny.

Wheee. With a little bit of hacking to provide NPTL support in qemu, nspluginwrapper can now run the i386 flash plugin inside firefox on PowerPC machines.

The colours seem wrong-endian (just as when we run the standalone flash player in qemu-i386), and on some content it'll crash after a couple of clone() calls so I suspect the TLS stuff isn't quite right -- but it's getting there...

I am shocked and dismayed that the Pope has offered an apology for the fact that he quoted a mediæval text in an academic lecture while discussing the relationship between religion and violence. There was no need for such an apology, and to offer one merely promulgates the trend of political correctness which increasingly blights our lives; restricting our right to speak freely in both private and public communication without fear of reprisal.

I am so offended, in fact, that I think I'll go down to the local church and firebomb it. That kind of behaviour should ensure he retracts his original apology, and apologises instead to those who think like myself -- right?

Aug 18 10:19:56 sage postfix/smtp[7785]: 583A53A756: to=<dwmw2@infradead.org>, relay=phoenix.ipv6.infradead.org[xxx.24.250.200], delay=3, status=bounced (host phoenix.ipv6.infradead.org[xxx.24.250.200] said: 550 relay not permitted (in reply to RCPT TO command))

Yay for Postfix brain damage! Pick an IPv4 address out of thin air and pretend that it belongs to the IPv6-only primary MX host for the domain you're trying to deliver to. Then find that the host you chose doesn't relay for the domain in question, and thus declare that all mail to that domain is undeliverable.

I think freedesktop.org still has an explicit route set up for my mail because of this problem too.

$Reasons to stick to Exim++;

Despite chasing them again a fortnight ago, Travelocity still haven't refunded me for the tickets which they cancelled on me. I contacted the credit card company this morning, and we'll deal with it as fraud.

Joy. Upon arriving home and looking up my credit card statement, I find that Travelocity/Lastminute didn't even refund me for the flights which they cancelled after claiming that they couldn't use FedEx to deliver the tickets to me.

These were the tickets, you may recall, that Travelocity/Lastminute eventually did FedEx to me at my hotel when I rebooked -- despite the fact that their Mr Bablani Ritesh had assured me that it was not possible for them to do so. So they've been paid for the tickets twice.

FedEx get bonus fuckwit points too, for failing to deliver to the hotel, for failing to take my telephone number because it wasn't a US number, and for refusing to have the driver call me when he was about to deliver the package even when I did give an alternative local number.

Apparently FedEx drivers aren't capable of calling the recipient a few minutes before their arrival (such that the recipient can make his way back from the conference centre to the hotel to meet the driver). This is because they "do not carry telephones".

I did ask the lady to whom I was speaking if she was actually calling from the 21st Century.

She said no.

18 Jul 2006 (updated 18 Jul 2006 at 16:05 UTC) »

This week's prize for the absolute worst customer service by a non-telco has to go to Travelocity/Lastminute.com.

Last week, I realised that I was going to have to take a detour on my trip home from the Kernel Summit and OLS, and I booked some extra airline tickets with travelocity.co.uk. They were to be picked up from YOW airport on Sunday. Nice and simple, you'd think.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a gentleman by the name of Bablani Ritesh, from Travelocity. He claimed that it was not possible for my tickets to be made available at the airport as planned, and he had no option but to cancel the booking and refund my payment. I objected strongly to this, and suggested that FedEx would manage the task of delivering tickets to my hotel, but he refused to do this, claiming that the tickets had 'cash value' and could not be sent by courier.

I asked him to send me email to confirm this, and set about looking for alternative flights.

Not realising at this point that travelocity and lastminute.com are in fact the same company now, I went to lastminute.com and booked the same set of flights. Lastminute.com are entirely happy to send tickets by FedEx, although the field in the confirmation page which should have shown me the FedEx tracking number was concerningly blank. The FedEx form had refused to accept my telephone number for some reason, so if there was a problem, it wasn't clear they'd manage to contact me.

I then received the mail which I'd asked Mr. Ritesh to send, noticed that it was from a lastminute.com address, and remembered that the two companies had merged. I now feared for my new booking, since now I was relying on lastminute.com delivering my tickets by a method which they'd already insisted was absolutely impossible. I replied to Mr. Ritesh's email, explaining my concern, giving the new booking number, and asking what to expect -- asking if his earlier refusal to have my tickets delivered was merely because he was being unhelpful, or whether I should expect problems with my new booking too.

The email bounced -- he'd sent me email from an address which doesn't seem to accept mail! I forwarded the bounce to postmaster@lastminute.com asking for assistance, but nobody bothered to reply.

I then tried to use the enquiry form on their web site, but no answer seemed to be forthcoming to that either, so I telephoned instead. I spoke to a lady called Christine, who was unable to give me the FedEx tracking number immediately and reassure me that the tickets had actually been sent. She assured me that she would call me back within 5 minutes, though.

She failed to call me back, but eventually I did get a response to my enquiry through the web form. I do, thankfully, have a tracking number now and I can see that the tickets have reached the sorting facility in Ottawa already. I'm just waiting to see how they manage to screw it up now -- I half expect them to refuse to deliver to the hotel unless I'm there personally to receive the package; which will be hard to arrange since their form was too broken to accept a phone number starting '+44...'.

I have to say that they've really raised the bar for unhelpful and obstructive customer service. Refusing, point blank, to deliver tickets by either the pre-arranged method or by FedEx -- when that is part of the perfectly normal service that the company provides -- is quite impressive. Well done, Travelocity. When coupled with a total failure to communicate -- refusing to accept phone numbers, sending email from broken addresses, failing to return phone calls or email, you could almost be a telco.


Date/Time: Jul 18, 2006 10:57 AM
Activity: Delivery exception
Location: OTTAWA, ON
Details: Incorrect address

Daily faxes to Vodafone on +44 1635 45713 (sic) finally elicited a response from someone who could even manage to remember who I was when I replied to their email, which is an improvement on the muppets in their normal customer service department.

The good news is that they have finally agreed to cancel the 'outstanding balance' which presumably they know they would never have actually managed to recover had they been stupid enough to take it to court. Unfortunately, they are still refusing to remove the 'default' from my credit record.

I have gently reminded them that to demand money for unsolicited services is a criminal offence in the UK, and suggested that they might like to reconsider the latter. I've also contacted the credit reference agencies to check what's actually been recorded, and to note that it's disputed.

Despite Demon's previous similar behaviour when I cancelled a dialup account last year, they gain a few points back in my book -- firstly by at least managing to hold a coherent conversation about it and by backing down a lot quicker than Vodafone, and secondly by running the tpc.int fax service for (AFAICT) the whole of the UK, which meant I didn't have to muck about with Asterisk and SpanDSP for sending faxes -- although I really ought to play with that again some time. I'm sure I had it receiving faxes at some point in the past.

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.)

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