back to article Have you tried restarting? Reinstalling? Upgrading? Moving house and changing your identity?

Go away. I've had enough of you. We no longer connect like we used to. After all this time together, it's as you don't even know who I am. <click> Right, that's got rid of that annoying pop-up. On with the… oh, FFS, here it is again. This content is for subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. It's a "fremium" paywall …

  1. A K Stiles

    Ah the joy of customer service scripts

    I can remember years ago when I was trying to move broadband provider and they (eventually) said they would email me a code (PAC?) to enable the new provider to take over, or something like that. 3 or 4 days later and no email has arrived, so I call the customer services to enquire and they say "We sent you the code 3 days ago", "well I didn't receive it". Confirm email address (that they were providing / hosting) "Okay, I've sent it again just now" "Okay, well I've just refreshed my inbox and there's no email from you, though one from elsewhere". "You need to clear your browser cache", "erm... I'm not using webmail, it's a POP3 client". "You need to clear your browser cache" [repeat for 5 minutes]. I don't remember how it was ultimately solved, though I know I managed to change provider soon after.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

      Let me guess, your old provider had a name that rhymes with "stalk chalk"?

      1. A K Stiles

        Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

        Surprisingly not one I've ever had the misfortune of having to deal with. Something to do with Fish by the time I left and multiple buy-outs / mergers

        1. terrythetech
          Unhappy

          Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

          Yeah, now Plusnet, frequently screws up. I now discover from the forum (no I didn't find an answer to my problem there) that they are intending to drop email in March. FSCKers!

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

      Similar experience trying to recover a password. Script had me enter my email and promised to send a link. They did, a half hour later, with a link that expired 15 minutes after the request was made, not after the the email was sent. Rinse and repeat until my desire to ever deal with the site again had shrunk to nothing.

    3. ThatOne Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

      > "You need to clear your browser cache" [repeat for 5 minutes]

      Oh, written procedures! Follow the steps, don't stray. Don't leave the path!

      It means you're in for a long waste of time, till you tire and go away swearing to never ever buy anything from that company again...

      But the big advantage and the reason you see it so often is that it doesn't require training any staff, or even to use staff speaking your clients' language: They just have to detect catchwords and phonetically read off some page the corresponding part! Don't snigger, it has happened to me: The support people I was speaking to clearly weren't understanding a single word of what I (or themselves!) were saying, but they soldiered on, reading completely unrelated stuff off some "Most common blunders" instruction page till I eventually hang up.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

        That's why we dropped Citrix Netscalers like a hot rock. Script reading tech who was so firmly latched onto the wrong root cause of the problem that even when we proved it TWICE to them, still refused to do anything outside the script or troubleshooting tree, not even to escalate the problem to their engineering staff.

  2. Real Ale is Best

    After similar experiences with websites, I now just avoid freemium and paywall sites and apps that do this.

    Sorry, my sanity and time are not worth it.

    1. Andy Non

      Ditto that. As soon as I hit a paywall I exit the site and never return. Life's too short to deal with such crap. There are usually plenty of alternate sites offering the same content without the hoops and hurdles to jump through.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        The dirtbag that I am, I usually interpret such paywalls as a challenge. Usually, a half-minute of CSS tinkering later I've found a way to strip away the offending paywall.

        I found that you can set CSS overrides in Chrome earlier this week, I'm looking forward to creating some permanent paywall-breakers when I next run into the issue.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          It's a feature I really wish FF would implement. A per-site cache of user CSS overrides should be trivial to implement.

          1. My-Handle Silver badge

            Ironically, I found the feature because of The Register.

            I was stepping through one of the old yearly archives of BOFH stories and found I couldn't tell the difference between a link (red) and a visited link (slightly darker red). I am colour-blind, which may hinder matters.

            So I found and wrote a small override that set visited links as purple instead. Not quite as aesthetically pleasing, but much easier to find my place again :)

          2. ShadowSystems Silver badge

            At Loyal Commenter.

            Look under your browser's accessibility options for the ability to ignore site-defined elements (fonts, colours, etc) in favour of your system-native ones instead.

            It won't be a site-specific toggle, it would be "internet wide", but the ability to thumb your nose at all those funky site designs may provide a (slightly?) better surfing experience.

            *Hands you a pint*

            Cheers! =-)

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      After similar experiences with websites, I now just avoid freemium and paywall sites and apps that do this.

      Sorry, my sanity and time are not worth it.

      Exactly how I feel. Plus, I've noticed that even if you pay, you still get the ads.... seems to be a waste of time and money if they'll still spam the hell out of their content. But then, they want income as the CEO probably needs a new yacht or something.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        I suspect that a lot of these kind of sites suffer from the same old problem of just doing more of something that's not working rather than understand why it's not working.

        Revenue from ads dropping? Easy! Put more ads on the page. Revenue from ads is still dropping? Aha! Put more ads on the page... and repeat.

        In the end we wind up with a site where about the only appreciable non-advert content on the page is the website name and logo at the top of the page, and good luck finding something that isn't an advert or just spam click-bait link "articles".

  3. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

    Would be funnier if...

    Yeah but imagine if you burned your house down and then it started working.

  4. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Occasionally, you get a straight answer

    I've just changed mobile phone providers, partly because the new one claims to offer Wi-Fi calling. It's an MVNO and I'd already checked that Wi-Fi calling worked on my handset with the real network provider used by the MVNO (the real network being significantly more expensive). And, obviously, it mysteriously didn't work on the MVNO. After trying the "your handset isn't compatible" line, their customer support was commendably honest: "we're a new project and we haven't got everything set up yet". I'll stick with them on that basis alone.

    As regards Mr. Dabb's difficulty of the week, then, obviously with the proviso that he has a valid subscription and is legally entitled to view the content - and that simply disabling JavaScript doesn't work - this may be more effective than a chat with customer services. At least they don't require you to put your brain in a jar and delete all other remnants of your material existence before proceeding.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

      "their customer support was commendably honest"

      Whilst it's good to find people like that in business I can't help thinking "If only they'd gone into politics instead."

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

        Unfortunately anyone 'honest' who goes into politics either never rises to a level where we, as members of the public, ever become aware of them, or gradually becomes as corrupt as the rest of the twunts that we already have to put up with.

        1. tel130y
          Thumb Up

          Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

          Upvoted for twunts !!!

      2. brotherelf

        Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

        Germany might have a freshly-dismissed admiral for you.

        1. Precordial thump

          Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

          He went into the military, which as von Clausewitz will tell you, is politics by other than political means.

          At least Carl had the sense to be published posthumously.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

      - which is also a part of the script. When I inquired about dreadful Three network coverage in my area (that's London), they said something along the lines of 'oh, so sorry, we're upgrading / building / cementing / tuning / re-designing / thinking about / installing our towers in your area. So sorry again, please be patient, give it a month or so, it'll be worth the wait. So, I thanked them for being honest (to the script) in their Indian sub-sub-sub-sub-contracting business partner cattle truck house, and put the phone down. Over a year later dreadful reception was just as dreadful, I called them back, I was given the beginning of the same script, cut it short, took vodafone. At least I know what I pay for (dearly) - I get reception.

      But hey, 'straight answer script' WORKS - Three had an extra year of MY money for their NON-service option 'provided' to specific type of suckers (me).

      1. Andy A Bronze badge

        Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

        To be honest, coverage for 3 is OK where I live. It improved a lot when they installed another cell, and I can now get about 12 Mb/s inside my house.

        However they are in the habit of restarting vital equipment when they think nobody is watching.

        23:59:59 - continuous ping reporting well.

        00:00:04 - Reply timed out

        ...

        00:10:35 - Reply from....

        Similar shenanigans just after 09:00 too.

    3. Andy A Bronze badge
      Happy

      Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

      Handily, I picked up an aluminium extension ladder just a couple of weeks ago. Cost me 50p per foot.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

        Grand, £1 sounds like a steal!

        I only have 2 feet :D

        1. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

          This sounds like a Spike Milligoon script.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

        The link might be useful for more the paywalls. Sometimes there's a search result quoting some of the page but the link goes nowhere and it's not on archive.org. It might well retrieve content there as well.

      3. molletts

        50p per foot

        Does it cost more when you extend it? :-P

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

      "Mr. Dabb's difficulty of the week"

      Sounds like a better title for the series rather then SFTW :-)

      On the other hand, the trials and tribulations he's gone through over the last few years, I'm a little surprised it's not submitting his articles from Bedlam!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

      I kept a customer once by honesty. Was head of tech support, we mad a mail server totally down with a serious hardware issue and an irate customer was passed to me by a tech support minion who had been fobbing him off with 'we are working on it, it will be sorted soon' ....

      The gentleman said 'look, I have a legal contract I have to get to a lawyer by 4pm. All I want to know is if you can guarantee that your server will be fixed by them. I admitted that I could not. "THANK YOU!" he said "I WILL FAX IT INSTEAD!."

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Occasionally, you get a straight answer

        been fobbing him off with 'we are working on it, it will be sorted soon' .

        Surely the point is that doing this to customers is a stupid, pointless and ultimately self-defeating strategy.

        Why was said minion even trying to fob off customers? They're not going to look back at several hours/days of frustration and think "I'm glad they didn't tell me".

  5. RockBurner

    Ona similar vein... trying to get a new BB connection for a new home in a relatively rural location, I was advised by the BT operator, genuinely "If you want internet, move somewhere else".

    How's that for a big FU.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      In a similarly similar vein, two decades ago I lived 6km from my local telephone exchange which managed to provide a massive 256k connection via overhead wires. On good days.

      The lights on my "Green Frog" ADSL modem would flash sympathetically as the dodgy cable joints across the fields attempted to pass the signal across 60 years worth of corrosion.

      When I got through to someone at BT to ask if they could fix it, pretty please, I was told that if I wanted to formally complain then they would reserve the right to remove ADSL and return the line to speech only. What was it to be?

      (For the curious, that's when I switched to Andrew & Arnold who sorted out all the issues on my behalf)

      1. Precordial thump

        1689, I think

        That it is the Right of the Subjects to petition the King and all Commitments and Prosecutions for such Petitioning are Illegall.

    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      >> "If you want internet, move somewhere else"

      Half a lifetime ago, I also lived in a relatively rural location, a cabin rather than a house, albeit with electricity, running water and a freshly dug septic tank. Then, at my tentative request, France Telecom went out of their way to run a telephone cable and plant the necessary poles for a mile or so right up to my front door. All for no charge.

      1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
        Pint

        Free? From France Telecom.....

        We must presume that France Telecom read El Reg comments and are very afraid. Or are you an 'influencer' for them?

        1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

          Re: Free? From France Telecom.....

          At Sam not the Viking.

          They figured that Dabbs might ask a favour of the BOFH whom would then make their lives a living hell.

          *Hands you a pint*

          Here's to fates worse than death, like a Vogon poetry reading! =-)p

      2. Dr_N Silver badge

        Mr Dabbs> All for no charge.

        They knew they'd make it all back on Minitel Rose fees.

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        France Telecom went out of their way to run a telephone cable and plant the necessary poles for a mile or so right up to my front door. All for no charge.

        In the pre-internet days, BT would have done that too, as part of the Universal Service rules. They'd install something like 5 poles for free, after that they'd ask for a contribution.

        Of course, the rules back then for data specified that the line had only to support a 200bit/s modem...

    3. Franco Silver badge

      A few years ago after BeUnlimited had crossed to the dark side I got BT FTTC, as at the time it was very cheap, came with the TV package and there were no small and reliable ISPs operating in my area (since switched to Origin as BT were shite).

      I had frequent DNS issues on my computers and Xbox, and the YouView box frequently missed recordings. According to BT first and second line support, seeing as I refused to factory default the router on the grounds of this being as useful as turning it off and on again, it was my problem and all of my equipment had the same fault.

      When I finally got to speak to someone more senior they admitted it was a router issue (BT Home Hub 3) and recommended I upgraded to the 5, as the 3 had been discontinued. And then demanded £40 for the privelege, despite admitting the equipment they supplied was the issue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And? So you went for the cheapest and got burned. And?

        1. Franco Silver badge

          "and there were no small and reliable ISPs operating in my area"

          Sometimes you have to take what there is in the absence of what you would like.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        And then demanded £40 for the privelege, despite admitting the equipment they supplied was the issue.

        You didn't try the phrase "Not of merchantable quality"?

        When I was on Be their router stayed in its box, I had an existing ADSL router which I kept using. On moving to FTTC I switched to the PlusNet provided fibre modem and router. However they subsequently tied down the router which stopped me updating my DHCP settings, something I reckoned was none of their business so I've replaced both with my own fibre modem/router.

        On the whole I prefer to buy my own H/W provided it's not the ISP's branded home hub type of box. It removes it from the ISPs control and makes it easier to switch ISP should that become necessary. It's rather like owning a domain for email; I might use an MSP to serve the domain but I can switch registrar and/or MSP if things start to go downhill.

        1. Franco Silver badge

          I never used the BeBox either, but when FTTC was a new thing VDSL routers were only available at premium prices, but I can't complain as I bought a Draytek 2860 which I still use to this day. Arguing with BT is a bit like arguing with your local council, not worth the effort or the blood pressure issues.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "It's rather like owning a domain for email"

          And I just got a reminder of why this is a good idea.

          A spam on one of my domain mailboxes. Hmmm. Who did I give that one to? Obviously set up in December but I can't find any emails sent to it. Then I had a vague recollection of being asked for an email address in the course of a phone call but neither SWMBO nor I can remember which of us was asked let alone who by. Pity as now I don't know who to hold a grudge against but if whoever it was actually does need to contact us they'll get their email bounced with advice that flogging an email address you need to a spammer isn't good for business.

          If they really need to get in touch they'll need to find some other way of doing it. Very apologetically.

    4. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Hm. ISTR that it was on this august forum quite recently that someone asked why anyone would want something like Starlink.

      I think this answers that quite nicely.

      I don't care if I have to contract with Satan or Elon Musk (any they may be the same) as long as my internet doesn't quite so resemble a wet string.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm wondering what sort of latency those Starlink links have. I can see it being quite good for streaming, but I wonder if latency gets in the way of things like video and voice conferencing.

        Does anyone have any actual experience with this? Their marketing will most likely claim it will all work, so I prefer to hear it from someone who lives in the real world :).

        The reason I'm asking is because I may have to get something like that going for a friend in a rural part of Portugal. If they're not prewired there, adding a dish might be the quickest way to get at least a circuit instead of waiting for a local telco to get their act together, with a couple of Netgear Orbis hanging off it to make sure it's usable via WiFi everywhere.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Their stats imply it's much better than geosynchronous which does have some latency issues. However, it will end up depending heavily on where they have downlink and whether they start doing satellite-to-satellite paths as well. The latency observed in the U.S. where they have a higher concentration of downlink facilities may be better than in other regions. Statistics reported by the providers in Portugal are likely to be more usable than those reported in other countries. You may also want to check the delay in getting signed up as they only started their beta service for Portugal in August.

        2. TonyJewell

          Does anyone have any actual experience with this

          Google: youtube jeff geerling starlink

  6. imanidiot Silver badge
    Facepalm

    And this

    Is why I don't pay for paywalled content. Because you STILL have to deal with the shit and your data STILL gets peddled.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Trollface

    Grumpy Ol' Dude

    Now every Friday in your weekly column! :-P

    1. A. Coatsworth
      Alert

      Re: Grumpy Ol' Dude

      "Now"? what do you mean "Now"? He has been doing it (teehee!) for nigh a decade.

      The grumpier, the better!

      [EDIT]: According to the site's search, the first SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND, SIR? was published on April 6, 2012, so we are about to celebrate 10 years of Grumpy McDoubleEntendre here!

      1. Down not across Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Grumpy Ol' Dude

        Thoroughly enjoyable decade it has been too.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          Re: Grumpy Ol' Dude

          Just a shame Lester isn't still here with his special brand of weekend madness. Damn, I still miss them (and him, of course).

          1. JustAnotherBadger

            Re: Grumpy Ol' Dude

            As a longtime lurker, and I think this may be my first post, there is no better reason to make it than acknowledgement of Lester.

            Damn, I missed the pub tonight, but I need the nosh that Mr Haines inspired.

            So many wonderful options, but is it the Scottish heritage that shouts "Kapsalon"

    2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: Grumpy Ol’ Dude

      Now every Friday in your weekly column! :-P

      Now every time that I glance at the blessèd mirror. Get off of my lawn! ಠ_ಠ

  8. Lon24 Silver badge

    A is for a certain online bank

    Yep, I'm a sucker for new gizmo app-only banks. Used this bank infrequently for several years with no issue until it stopped working. Rang CS. Oh - it's because you are using Android 6. We've stopped supporting that. It would have been nice to give warning ... I ventured but lucky me I had an Android 8 tablet handy. Installed app. Sign in asked for my email and would send me verification code to proceed. Nothing received. Again, and again, spamfilters gutted - even monitored the mailserver log - absolutely zilch.

    Back to CS (many times). It was my problem I wasn't getting it. Then I found a techie who must have been stepping in for the day. He looked at my record and explained that generic address are no longer allowed. Oh, it would have been nice to tell me so I could have changed it in advance. He conceded they might have informed me after they had banned sending emails to generics. Great. Anyway he could change it now - he just needed to go through some extra security:

    "What was the last transaction you made?".

    "I need to access my account to tell you that as you don't do paper copies" cut no ice. No security , no deal, no access. And there was a lot of dosh in that account. No matter what security system we went through it always included a question to which the answer required you to have access to your account.

    The solution was just to keep ringing CS until, I guess, I happened to find someone who was leaving/just got fired and who could see the paradox and was, at least, half-human. So he did the change and all was restored. My money is elsewhere now and I cracked how to print out a screenshot of my phone transactions just in case. But really ...

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: A is for a certain online bank

      Out of interest, what do you mean by a "generic address"? I certainly won't do business with anyone who declines to accept my chosen email address, whatever it is. But I am wondering what they are actually complaining about.

      1. TiredNConfused80

        Re: A is for a certain online bank

        Maybe they use mailchimp for their mailings. They have a list of addresses that you can;t send to (admin@ sales@ etc...)

      2. Franco Silver badge

        Re: A is for a certain online bank

        I've seen it with some free trials of things where they will only accept a business email address. E.g. if you tried to signup for a trial of PatchSee cables you would be rejected if using Hotmail/Outlook/Yahoo etc. I can only assume they had a high rate of spammers wanting freebies as opposed to genuine businesses looking to sample the product.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: A is for a certain online bank

          OTOH if I were signing up for a trial I'd want to give them a disposable email address in case they turn out to be spammers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A is for a certain online bank

            Unless you own your own domain (I'm surprised not everybody here does) and then you can quickly create a forward like "trialwebsite@mydomain.com" -> "myrealname@mydomain.com". Not only will you know for sure if and when they spam you, but it also will take you mere seconds to definitely scuttle the spammed address.

            1. styx-tdo

              Re: A is for a certain online bank

              actually, subadressing helps.

              myname+sitename@mydomain.com

              With Sieve, you can file them in individual folders; if you start with that, you can just filter myname@mydomain.com to your spam filter directly, as there cannot be any mail legally sent there.

              also works for quickes like being asked for an address - myname+whoeverannoysme@...

              very nice thing. And there are ppl who say technology doesn't solve issues... :)

              we wouldn't have without technology.. well

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Andy A Bronze badge
    WTF?

    There are plenty of sites out there where you sign up for a service, then find that the useful or interesting stuff is only available if you pay extra for a further subscription. Some, such as Ancestry, take things a stage further. They have decided to move some records which used to be included into a completely separate site, for which (of course) you have to pay yet another subscription.

    This "charge as many people extra as you can" is appearing in other spheres as well. Toyota have decided that using the heated seats in their cars requires a yearly subscription. Buy an exercise bike or treadmill from Peloton, and you find that its brakes are locked on unless your account is in credit.

    1. Hero Protagonist

      Buy a treadmill from Peloton and you’ll find yourself on two treadmills: one’s a piece of equipment and one involves your bank account.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Toyota have decided that using the heated seats in their cars requires a yearly subscription."

      That possessive pronoun tells you a lot about Toyota.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Buy an exercise bike or treadmill from Peloton, and you find that its brakes are locked on unless your account is in credit."

      If true, is that even legal?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        They can sell a subscription product. It's unethical, annoying, and worthless, but if they tell you that's what you're buying when you buy it, it is legal.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Joke

          Me, lazy???

          For the price they seem to charge for the things (even leaving out the subscription), I'd expect them to come with someone to pedal it for me too...

      2. Fred Dibnah
        WTF?

        Brakes on an exercise bike

        Icon -->

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Brakes on an exercise bike

          It makes them feel safer when "descending the alps".

          The speeds attained are horrendous; It shouldn't be allowed!

    4. jake Silver badge

      "Toyota have decided that using the heated seats in their cars requires a yearly subscription."

      From what I've read it'll be monthly. And you can add remote start to that, too. And whatever else they feel they can get away with.

      For those of you who already own Toyotas, have no fear, they haven't forgotten you. Apparently, they are planning on turning off those features unless you pay the monthly fee. That's right, they are going to turn off features that you have already paid for, and have been using! This control is built into their software. Still think Internet connected cars are a good idea?

      Have fun.

      Now ask me why I restore and drive pre-1970 vehicles.

      1. Dwarf Silver badge

        Make it backfire

        As heated seats are only necessary in the cold months, then a coordinated effort to turn off the subscription in spring and turn it back on mid autumn may make them reconsider

        I’d also consider a wiring change to the heated seats or disabling any network connection in a similar manner

    5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      There are plenty of sites out there where you sign up for a service, then find that the useful or interesting stuff is only available if you pay extra for a further subscription.

      When Musescore was sold to a bunch of Russians, all the scores which had been contributed by users and had been available for free were moved behind a firewall. It will be a cold day in hell before I enter into a financial relationship with Russians. See also: Revolut.

    6. Woza
      Headmaster

      Dumb question from a lazy bastard: why does an exercise bike need brakes?

      1. Shooter
        Happy

        So that you can be locked out if you don't pay the subscription.

        Duh!

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        @Woza - I know some of the bikes do race type scenarios where you are following a particular course and so might want to brake for a bend etc - maybe software good enough to make you "crash" if you take a corner too fast. Just my guess.

        ... not wasting my cash on an indoor bike, those things cost more than bog standard normal cycle that actually gets me from A to B

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Not strictly true; you can get some very reasonably priced "basic" exercise bikes that also fold up so that they don't take up a whole room like a Peletoff bike. You'll also find that you can actually burn more calories by going outside for a walk.

  10. nichomach
    Mushroom

    Not identical, but...

    We have a firewall manufacturer, let's call them...TonicFall. They also provide a host-based content filter, which is actually pretty good in itself, but the management portal for it has become increasingly unreliable. Reports don't work at all ("this content requires Adobe Flash..."), and increasingly has just refused to load in multiple browsers on multiple machines. If you want to open a support ticket, you are prompted to use their portal - which automatically registers the fault as a P3 ("We really don't give a toss, now go away"). To raise a P2 or P1 you are advised to call them on one of the local support numbers on <link>. Link goes to a page of phone numbers where the support number...is a link back to the portal you just came from. And this is one of the reasons we're changing manufacurers.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Not identical, but...

      Support costs money, so if they can reduce it to a couple recursive links they'll do it. Even more so when they see all the others doing it successfully.

      Now of course someone will come and tell me about "customer satisfaction" and "retaining one's customers". Sorry, those are quaint, outdated notions: "Shareholder value" is the only metric important these days (just look around!). Customer support is just a bottomless pit no manager wanting a bonus would dare throwing good money down.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Not identical, but...

        Sadly, almost certainly true. Since shareholder value is calculated on a short term investment basis, will share rise before the fund managers trade them.Or more to the point, whether fund managers think they will.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Customer Retention

    Clearly you were trying to contact the wrong department within the business. The customer service department in a lot of companies has now been renamed to the "Customer Retention" department. It's the only language they understand.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Help

    I recently moved. When checking out places, I found this one had FTTP and could be supplied by Zen. I'd been with Virgin for a few years because ... speed.

    Openretch installed it a couple of weeks early so I phoned Zen up to get the connection info. Not using their router? No problem. Set this and this. "I can see you're connected now".

    Ah. It feels good to be back. Managed the IPv6 without their help, but it's nice to know that they're there.

    1. Franco Silver badge

      Re: Help

      Had exactly the same with Origin. I bought a Draytek router when I was stuck with BT (as mentioned above, and I wasn't giving them my momey plus wanted 5GHz Wifi as I was in a block of flats at the time) and when I went to Origin they said their settings were the same as BT, here's the username and password and job done.

  13. CuChulainn Silver badge
    Happy

    Ask other users in our forums...

    Oooh, I hate that one.

    Assuming you had the temerity to create a forum account after the regulars, which you obviously did, you're invariably greeted by the resident Forum A'hole (aka 'expert').

    A'hole: Please use the search function as that question has been asked before

    Me: I have used it, and none of the questions have been resolved or are not the same as the problem I'm having

    A'hole: Please post in the relevant section - this one is for [something else]

    Me: This section concerns [product], and I am enquiring about [product]. Is there anyone else who has any ideas about what, might be wrong?

    After various exchanges, all involving the A'hole specifically not answering the question, I've snapped on at least a handful of occasions over the years. The last time I remember (and he was an A'hole to everyone who posted)...

    Me: Look, do you actually do anything to help people on here, or do you just like to demonstrate how you're the biggest rooster in the hen house to everyone? Would it really be so much trouble to provide a link to these alleged 'answers' you keep alluding to instead of being a prick?

    I was amazed they left that one in.

    1. Sam Liddicott

      Re: Ask other users in our forums...

      > I was amazed they left that one in.

      After snorting coffee all over the keyboard they probably hadn't the facilities left to remove it

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Ask other users in our forums...

        To be fair the people on the end of the phone are mostly told to go through a script which sorts out most of the problems for most of their customers. They probably have to tick off that the customer has tried all the obvious remedies before suggesting you try the user forums (which I always interpret to mean "I haven't a clue, good luck.")

        1. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: Ask other users in our forums...

          We certainly had to use an initial 'script' to eliminate the obvious (PSU switch in the 'off' position, screen brightness dialled right down, Windows crash (so reboot), and so on). It was amazing how often 'the obvious' was actually the solution, and even more amazing how many callers had allegedly 'already done or checked all that' - though they clearly hadn't.

          The best ones were when it wasn't, though. They were much more fun to deal with, although it depended on who the caller had been put through to.

          Someone like me, who wanted to fix problems, or someone like that agent who embraced Capita's directive of an average call duration of under 1 minute (seriously) being the target. He managed it once, too, by taking several hundred calls average in a shift.

          What Capita didn't take into account was the fact that the rest of us had to take the hit when the customer inevitably called back shortly after.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Ask other users in our forums...

          It's a bit annoying that you have to explain to an ISP help desk what Usenet is, that it's not a web site but has its own protocol and that it is actually part of their bundle of services.

          And, yes, there were one or two very old posts on the forum with a slight hint that it might be DNS - which it was.

          1. Ken Shabby
            Mushroom

            Re: Ask other users in our forums...

            Of course it was DNS, it's always DNS, even when you *know* it isn't.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Ask other users in our forums...

        Or there was n "they" to remove it. The point of these forums is to avoid having to pay staff.

        1. CuChulainn Silver badge

          Re: Ask other users in our forums...

          You've got a good point there.

          Larger companies often have so many customers that there isn't enough room on the planet for the call centre that would be big enough to deal with them (which is why finding a number for Amazon is so difficult and you get the 'virtual assistant' thing, and ditto UPS).

          Smaller companies (often online software vendors) are too small to be able to afford one. Those are the ones who have the forums often populated by A'holes. In the past, even the software authors have been the A'holes (a particular Wordpress editing plugin springs readily to mind on that, which I stopped using as a result).

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Ask other users in our forums...

            "Larger companies often have so many customers that there isn't enough room on the planet for the call centre that would be big enough to deal with them"

            The solution to that is to get stuff right first time enough times that the calls per customer are few enough that you can find room for a call centre.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Ask other users in our forums...

      CuChulainn

      Can I use that, please?

      1. CuChulainn Silver badge

        Re: Ask other users in our forums...

        It's all yours.

        1. Sub 20 Pilot

          Re: Ask other users in our forums...

          Must thank you. That is the comment of the week.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Ask other users in our forums...

          Thanks

    3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: Ask other users in our forums...

      My favorite is when I can't get to the site at all: multiple computers, multiple browsers, multiple devices, all return the same server error. Phone up the company to ask if they have an ETA for restoration. Get placed on hold where they play the recording "Did you know you can get it all done faster if you use our site? Visit URL & log in to get the speediest experience!"

      Ummm, no, that is not correct and I wouldn't be calling if your site were available at all. How about you use a different on hold recording giving us actual, current, usefull information instead?

      *Sigh*

      And then, as if you haven't heard the same bullocks from the recording enough as it is, the human CSR happily regurgitates the same smoke-up-the-arse shite. It's enough to make you want to reach through the phone, grab the script spewing shitstain by the neck & choke them unconscious.

      *Deep calming breath*

      Sometimes I think I need stronger doses of Dried Frog Pills...

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Ask other users in our forums...

        No point wanting to strangle the phone jockey. They're probably being gas lighted by their own management, who've given them the same bollocks information they're passing on to us. At least if Virgin Media is typical. If VM's servers were being attacked by Martian invaders the service status would still say there were no problems ( though to be fair in that circumstance they could probably be excused) and the phone support staff would still be wanting to test your Hub's connections, being completely unaware of the chaos raging.

    4. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Ask other users in our forums...

      Assuming you had the temerity to create a forum account after the regulars, which you obviously did, you're invariably greeted by the resident Forum A'hole (aka 'expert').

      A'hole: Please use the search function as that question has been asked before.

      etc.

      .

      You middled out the smug favourite of the superior regulars:

      'Google is your friend'

      Or the adjacent: Look it up on the internet, which is maybe what the questioner did and which then brought them there.

      .

      .

      On the other hand, on the Stack Exchange mob, the weirdos will prefer to close questions because someone, somewhere asked the same question, or something vaguely near, a decade before.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Ask other users in our forums...

        something vaguely near,

        Oh yes, the forum favourite. Referring you to a link that has a related keyword or two.

        Q) How do I resolve the menu section of the programme going black with a black font when I select an item from the screen?

        A) Read this page xyz.com/how-to-select-menu-items....

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ask other users in our forums...

        Looking stuff up on t'Net has worked for me (for esoteric Linux error messages), but never for generic web stuff. I usually give up and try again a week later, assuming their systems are stuffed and that a week is enough time for their techs to unstuff them. This works most of the time...

    5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Ask other users in our forums...

      SOP on Stackexchange, in my experience.

  14. phicoh

    Hot fruit

    Similar thing with a macbook. The macbook decided to completely overheat and basically refuse to do anything after connecting an external monitor. No matter have low the resolution of some of the old monitors I tried. This being a work laptop, work said, please ask apple.

    Apple customer service knows about dozens of ways to clear settings. Apple customer service doesn't know about boot passwords, so then they get really confused when there is one. But in the end, nothing worked. So they resorted to, just completely wipe the disk and re-install macos. That's where I gave up.

    (then a colleague remarked, did you clean the fans? After cleaning the fans, the macbook gets insanely hot even at low resolutions, but it doesn't overheat anyore)

  15. msobkow Silver badge

    As soon as I see such messages, I close the tab, mutter "F-you" and don't go back to that site.

  16. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Subscriptions

    > "Savvy content publishers know that customers will be prepared to pay for access to their content if given a compelling reason"

    Well, Dominic Cummings' blog* costs £10 per month if you want to post a comment. Strangely I have managed to resist that temptation. Although there is a 'let me read it first' option.

    * https://dominiccummings.substack.com

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Subscriptions

      What a shabby grifter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Subscriptions

      A thoroughly unpleasant little man, it's a shame (but not a surprise) that the BBC is enabling his revenge vendetta.

  17. Sub 20 Pilot

    Brilliant column as always Sir.

    As the reluctant unpaid and unqualified IT support bod for our emergency first responder team here in the UK I am currently dealing with the unfortunate sale of an excellent mapping utility to a much larger and foreign company who I assume wanted the user list and good bits of the utility.

    The previous owner and administrator of the company was the most helpful person in the world and I wish him the very best in his retirement, for all he did for us.

    The new owners are a bag of fucking shite. A clusterfuck that makes Boris and his lot look like fucking amateurs. Everything you have listed here is duplicated in their infernal ''log in'' system, which does not work and which takes 10 minutes for each and every person I try to sign up, even though 99.9% of the info I have to type in is the bloody same as it is one fking organisation.

    If they want money, just fucking ASK for it, we will pay if reasonable or will tell you to piss off if not. Don't keep pissing on us and tell us it is raining. Or as they say in your neck of the woods: ''ne me pisse pas dessus et ne me dis pas qu'il pleut.''

    Have a bloody good weekend Sir.

  18. stiine Silver badge
    Pint

    Not much we can do, is there...

    You've compressed the entire customer experience, uh, experience into a nutshell, and its a little cramped in here.

    Cheers.

  19. Da Weezil

    I love the response I got from the developers of the NHS site when I queried why navigating from a link on their site took me to a page that claimed the server didn't understand where I wanted to go, despite the link being clear about its intended destination.

    2 days later I got the " How did we do?" Email asking me to rate support.

    3 months and counting I've still not heard from support regarding that issue.

    But then this is the same outfit that insists it is correct to be sending everyone trying to log in to the site to an account sign up page, despite the fact that this page is only useful for initial sign up with a one time code, and no matter how you butcher the URL you can't game the site to take you to a straight forward "existing users" log in.

    Very annoying when you are trying to set up dyslexic users who struggle with things at the best of times.

  20. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Workaround for Web

    http://12ft.io/ is your friend.

    Paywall? Click at start of URL, type 12ft.io/<RTN>, and you're usually through.

    (Or for afr.com.au, just disable JavaScript. Which is too vastly incompetent for it NOT to be deliberate management-fooling malicious compliance by the devteam :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Workaround for Web

      Thanks for that tip of 12ft.io.

      Can you also suggest a similar workaround to ban Cookie pop ups. Thats really gettting everyone wound up no end.

      Serious issue now. Every fucking website gives a few pop ups before we can even see the damn site.

      HELP

  21. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Um

    Perhaps I've misunderstood the requirement, or perhaps it's only me, but, is this meant to be funny, and, I'll say it: why is it not?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um

      Satire is always a biting criticism - that makes you laugh when you feel like crying. IIRC as Joseph Conrad said about 19th century London - "nothing quite works".

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT can be like that on a landline.fault. They Insist you try every handset you possess at the master socket - even though you tell them the house extension cable has been unplugged from the master socket. Eventually they grudgingly condescend to log a fault. Road is dug up - corroded cables, flooded pavement box. After repeated prompts they eventually find the reported problem - at the exchange where two circuits are shorted.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Eventually they grudgingly condescend to log a fault.

      The sting in the tail is that they insist on making a recording of you agreeing to eye-watering charges if no fault is found, or the fault is due to a problem with non-BT equipment. How many people bail at that point and put up with the problem?

      I've been called upon many times to go through the hoops and effectively take responsibility for such charges, if incurred.

      Normally I'm confident about this, but there was one case where someone had decided to upgrade from copper to fibre. The broadband promptly stopped working completely. So I was called to sort it out. The problem was that this customer had had someone in to fix fancy brass telephone sockets all over the property, including the master socket. I warned the customer that potentially BT could say that the problem was with the non-standard infrastructure, and charge even more to make it standard, before attempting to fix the problem. So it was agreed for me to house-sit until the engineer arrived (8am - 1pm potentially) and make sure the engineer did not go down that easy path.

      Engineer arrived. I explained that the customer had upgraded from copper to broadband and broadband had stopped working. He straight away laughed and said that the installs in that area were done by subbies and they were total muppets. A quick visit to the green box and everything was fixed.

    2. CuChulainn Silver badge
      Happy

      Not that many years ago my VM cable internet went down. I called support and they said there was a known fault and it was being dealt with.

      The outage lasted for close to a week in the end. I called repeatedly, and was told the same thing, with apologies.

      Then, about three days in, I saw a VM engineer at the box near my house. I popped out and said 'are you here to sort out my internet connection?'

      He said 'no'. I mentioned my problem.

      He then explained that some kid on my estate had taken his mum's car one morning a couple of days earlier without asking, spun it into VM's main box less than a quarter of mile from my house, and it had taken out the entire area. They were having to reinstall the whole box.

      And no one would give me the little dickhead's name and address.

      To be fair to VM, they did pay compensation after I complained.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "And no one would give me the little dickhead's name and address."

        I'd have asked down the pub, and probably would have been told the little prat had been sorted ...

  23. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Forgot...

    Buy the upgrade. It's fixed there. No, we swear this isn't an infinite loop. We value our customers. Anything else I can do to give you excellent service today?

  24. Captain_Cretin

    Sounds like you got Shadow Banned, same as El Reg did to my old account a few years ago.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safe NT

    Here in the Northern Territory, we have the Working with Children Clearance or "Ochre card" which is required if you work or volunteer at any organisation that works with children. It largely seems to be a pointless exercise as they appear to issue them to just about anyone, but it raises revenue for the NT Govt and allows them to say "well we did something!" if anything bad happens.

    The company I work for asked all staff to get them on the off chance that we needed to go to anywhere that required one. I got mine and in two years never had any need for it. It expired in 2017 and I tried to renew it online.

    For some reason, to renew online you have to have a renewal reference number. Your personal details and the card number are not enough. I managed to lose my renewal notice, so tried to contact their support to find out what it was. Getting through on the phone was impossible, so I tried to contact support by email. This was the experience and I am seriously not making this up.

    ---

    To: 'safent.police@nt.gov.au'

    Sent: Monday, 3rd July 2017 8:31 AM

    Hi,

    My Ochre card has expired and I need to renew it. My details are:

    <DETAILS OMITTED>

    When I go to the renew section on the website, I am asked for the ochre card number and a renewal reference. Can you let me know the renewal reference please?

    Regards,

    XXXXXX

    ---

    From: SAFE NT [mailto:Police.SafeNT@pfes.nt.gov.au]

    Sent: Monday, 3 July 2017 8:32 AM

    Dear Sir/Madam

    Your request has been received by SAFE NT and will be actioned promptly by our Customer Service Officers.

    If you wish to follow up on the progress of this matter, or provide additional information regarding this issue, please reply to this email and quote reference number #nnnnnnn in the subject line.

    SCREENING ASSESSMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT (SAFE NT)

    Incorporating Working With Children Screening unit

    Email: safent.police@nt.gov.au

    ---

    Sent: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 2:31 PM

    To: 'SAFE NT' <Police.SafeNT@pfes.nt.gov.au>

    Hi,

    I haven’t heard anything back regarding this request yet.

    ---

    Sent: Tuesday, 29 August 2017 1:45 PM

    To: 'SAFE NT' <Police.SafeNT@pfes.nt.gov.au>

    Hello,

    Can somebody please action this request.

    I need to renew my card, but do not know my renewal reference.

    ---

    Sent: Wednesday, 20 September 2017 1:45 PM

    To: 'SAFE NT' <SafeNT.Police@nt.gov.au>

    Hello,

    I still have not heard anything in response to this email and its multiple follow-ups. Of course, It has only been 11 weeks since my initial email which received an automated response stating that it would be actioned "promptly". This does leave me wondering what the SAFE NT definition of promptly is.

    I did notice some apparent confusion in the email addresses used. My initial email went to safent.police@nt.gov.au. The response came back from police.safent@pfes.nt.gov.au. I foolishly responded to this (as advised by the automated response) expecting a reply. I am now attempting the original email address again to see if there is anybody there.

    Assuming anybody ever actually reads this email and can be bothered to respond, can you tell me which method of communication I should attempt to use to contact you in future as I cannot get through on the phone and my emails are apparently ignored.

    Do you use smoke signals, carrier pigeons or ham radio?

    Regards,

    XXXXXX

    ---

    From: SAFE NT [mailto:Police.SafeNT@pfes.nt.gov.au]

    Sent: Friday, 1 December 2017 10:49 AM

    Dear XXXXXX,

    We are very sorry that we have not responded to your emails.

    Unfortunately your card has been expired for more than 2 months and we are unable to renew it, if you still require a Working with Children Clearance then you will need to apply for a new application.

    Regards

    XXXXXX

    ---

    To: 'SAFE NT' <Police.SafeNT@pfes.nt.gov.au>

    Sent: Friday, 1 December 2017 11:03 AM

    Hi XXXXXX,

    Thank you for (finally) responding.

    Had my initial request been responded to "promptly" (as I understand the meaning of the word) on the 3rd July as promised by the auto response, then I would have been 3 weeks within the 2 month window.

    However, it seems the SAFE NT definition of promptly is about 22 weeks. I won’t bother getting a new card.

    Regards,

    XXXXXX

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Safe NT

      The UK's equivalent (DBS) has had a few difficulties over the years.

      On the whole it seems ok now. It seems to work by checking your entry on the various black lists etc.. It has to be renewed every few years but I don't know why and there's also an annual auto-renewal system which deducts £13 direct debit.

      Which is fine, but begs the question of what is a renewal for. (However you define "begging the question").

      Is it just to make sure we're still alive? Or is that the only time it's updated and the lists checked? Renewing it seems to be an end in itself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Safe NT

        The ochre card needs to be renewed annually. I assume they are supposed to re-check against any blacklists. However, my wife works in social services and she tells me that she has been amazed at some of the people that have been issued with them as they have known criminal histories for assault and domestic violence. It appears to be a box ticking and revenue raising exercise more than an actual child protection effort.

        Many employers will ask for a full criminal history check AND an ochre card, so NT Govt gets two lots of cash, with the ochre card effectively being an annual subscription, assuming you can actually renew it.

        I imagine to myself that every 1st December is "Email Day" at the SAFE NT office, where they go through the support mailbox for the year. Get it cleared before Christmas.

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