The iiNet Mobile Broadband Order Experience (2014)

Alternative post title: The Power of Social Media. TL;DR summary of events at the bottom of the entry. This post is tagged #firstworldproblems like the other one for obvious reasons.

31 August 2014 (Sunday)

It is not possible to get a phone line at my current place and there’s no NBN access yet (boo), so I decided to order 4G mobile broadband service from iiNet in the morning — in the super early morning, 2 am. I hadn’t cancelled my naked DSL service with them at my previous place, so I still had an active account and received my confirmation email very shortly. I went to bed expecting this to be a very smooth experience. Well, my naked DSL service did take a good month and a half before it became active, but surely mobile broadband wouldn’t be so complicated, I thought.

1 September 2014 (Monday)

I logged in to Toolbox to discover this note in the task:

31 Aug 2014 10:12AM – by Customer Service Melbourne

Mobile Tasking:
– hardware order hasn’t been generated, however service has been created
– this was only submitted today, however fairly sure that this will fail because the company name in the delivery address is too long
– manual hardware orders in RUMBA appear to be working again, however not sure whether creating the installment works yet…
– deferring till tomorrow, if hardware order still hasn’t generated we will either need to order hardware manually, or delete the unactivated service and do a new signup

I was more amused than annoyed to see the comment that the company name I provided in the delivery address was too long — it wasn’t even the full thing. It seemed like the staff were working hard to get this done for me, so I shall wait patiently.

Sidenote: I also called in to support to cancel my naked DSL and to change the username for my mobile broadband service. Christopher was the staff who helped me. He initially thought it was impossible to change the username, but instead of disregarding me, he checked with another staff and found the right tool to do so. It took a while before I could use that username to log in, but I was quite impressed with his service.

2 September 2014 (Tuesday)

I logged in to find this:

01 Sep 2014 03:11PM – by Customer Service Melbourne

MOBILE TASKING
– Ordering 12 month installment hotspot in rumba as per above notes.
– Activated in rumba
– Defer 7 for delivery

“Defer 7 for delivery”? I was suitably worried, so I fired up a support ticket mentioning that I would be very happy to submit a new order with a shorter company name in the delivery address. I also mentioned the fact that I had changed the username of the service just in case it caused further complications. Shortly, I received a text from iiWarehouse that my hardware order has been dispatched and a staff wrote back to tell me the same. Hooray!

3 September 2014 (Wednesday)

I was given a tracking link and a reference number. I didn’t use the iiNet tracking site; I went straight to their courier of choice, StarTrack. I saw this:

02 Sep 2014 00:00 Freight Manifest Transmitted
02 Sep 2014 19:25 Sydney DFPC Arrived at StarTrack Location for processing
02 Sep 2014 22:58 Sydney DFPC Arrived at StarTrack Location for processing
03 Sep 2014 07:05 Sydney DFPC Onboard with driver for delivery
03 Sep 2014 13:42 [home suburb] Receiver not available Attempted Delivery Advice No [#]
03 Sep 2014 14:05 [home suburb] Delivered and ready for collection at Post Office: [PO address]

StarTrack attempted to deliver to my home address, even though I provided my work address for delivery at sign-up so that I could actually be there to sign for it. (I’ve also heard that many couriers won’t bother with residential addresses.) The iiNet staff who did the manual order must have plugged in the billing address — the wrong address. I wrote another ticket to ask what was going on while staying calm and polite.

Inside, I was getting quite annoyed because it’s been almost 3 days of what I perceived to be unnecessary delay and I was still out of internet. I posted on Twitter:

To which an iiNet staff responded within an hour:

I wrote back with a huge rant so long I had to use TwitLonger:

A couple of hours later, a CSR from Cape Town replied to my ticket:

Hello Vickie,
Thank you for your email.
I have wonderful news for you, your hardware is delivered and ready for collection at the post office: [PO address].
Thank you so much for being part of iinet family.
If you have any further questions please feel free to respond to the email or call 132258.
Kind regards,

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Later, I saw that Customer Service Perth updated the task ticket with my social media activity, with my long rant attached.

Note: I will not have access to the mailbox until Saturday, so I wasn’t able to pick up my delivery card.

4 September 2014 (Thursday)

The Cape Town CSR called me in the afternoon to apologise on behalf of iiNet, as well as to tell me they will credit me for the service I never got to use. It was… an awkward phone conversation, but I was glad to hear that the issue might finally be resolved. I told her I wouldn’t be able to pick up the router until Saturday, and she had agreed to set the service start date to that date instead.

5 September 2014 (Friday)

Nothing happened because I couldn’t pick up the router yet.

6 September 2014 (Saturday)

iiNet MobiiHotspot 4G I went to pick up my pocket wifi router in the morning, but it wouldn’t work when I tried to activate my SIM card. I tethered, logged in to Toolbox, and noticed that a CSR from Melbourne just wrote in the morning that they would call me to activate the service in 5 days if I hadn’t called already. I did that immediately. The phone call took 17 minutes before the support staff got to the mobile team to figure out what to do from there. He told me my service would be ready when I receive the confirmation text.

I waited for almost 8 hours before writing another ticket to ask politely what’s going on again. No response.

7 September 2014 (Sunday)

So I realise it’s Sunday and it’s Father’s Day in Australia, but I did expect something from support especially since iiNet outsource some of their staff to Cape Town. I was quite unhappy that it’s been over 24 hours and my SIM card still hasn’t been activated or heard back from my open ticket. That’s until I checked again in the afternoon: that new ticket has been closed and the existing task hasn’t been updated. So much for crediting me for days I never used.

8 September 2014 (Monday)

Over 48 hours and counting, I hadn’t heard a pip from iiNet since discovering that ticket being closed. I had no choice but went back to Twitter and posted a reply to the previous thread.

In about 15 minutes, a staff replied.

So I wrote back, providing the task and ETS reference numbers.

And then, magic happened. Within an hour, I received a text and a tweet reply that my service had been pre-activated and would be available in 2 hours. I went home that night to find that the service has indeed started to work and after almost 8 days from sign-up, I finally had internet to use.

2 October 2014 (Thursday)

Fast forward to today, I received my first invoice and can confirm that even though my data usage resets on the 1st of each month, they didn’t charge me for the days before successful activation as promised. I know they use Optus’ 4G network and their hardware is the Huawei E5776, so I’ll leave the performance out of this order experience.

Table Summary of Events

31 Aug 2014 (Sun) Order placed
1 Sep 2014 (Mon) Company name in delivery address too long; defer one day for manual hardware order
2 Sep 2014 (Tue) [ nothing happened ]
3 Sep 2014 (Wed) Hardware delivery attempted at wrong address due to staff error — used home address instead of work address supplied; I ranted on Twitter
4 Sep 2014 (Thu) Cape Town staff called to apologise and said I will be credited for unused days
5 Sep 2014 (Fri) [ nothing happened ]
6 Sep 2014 (Sat) Picked up router but self-activation unsuccessful; attempted to activate service through phone support
7 Sep 2014 (Sun) [ nothing happened ]
8 Sep 2014 (Mon) No news until I turned to Twitter again; within an hour, received text and email that my service would work in 2 hours; confirmed mobile broadband finally works
2 Oct 2014 (Thu) First invoice received; confirmed no charge for pre-activation days

Epilogue

Looking back, this was almost a funny experience; all of this happened because the company name I provided at sign-up was too long. Though I continue to wonder how long I would have to wait if I’d never gone to Twitter.

Coffee: Campos Panama Ironman Geisha

Back before Richard introduced me to better coffee, I’d just been an instant person. To me, there were only a couple of requirements for coffee in the morning:

  1. The coffee must be caffeinated.
  2. The coffee must be black.

I suppose for the large part that hasn’t changed. Some thought I would be really picky about my coffee because I drink it black.

The other day, Richard grabbed the Ironman Geisha, an apparently much more expensive, limited-edition roast. This isn’t my first coffee from Campos; I’ve been getting my caffeine supplies through Richard back when they still had the bigger and easier-to-open packages. I only never kept a record because I didn’t have as strong an opinion about the earlier standard roasts and blends I tried.

Panama Ironman Geisha
Farm Auromar Estate Campos Coffee: Ironman Geisha
Farmer Roberto Brenes
Region Candela, Volcan
Altitude 1600m
Varietal Geisha
Processing Natural Sundried

What do I think about this coffee? Well, let me share this conversation we had while we were having our caffeine dose this morning:

Me: I know what the taste reminds me of now.
Richard: What is it?
Me: Black bean sauce.
Richard: … Now I can’t untaste it.

I’m clearly not a coffee connoisseur. tongue

The oo.com.au Order Experience (2014)

I needed a laptop for my upcoming overseas trip at the end of this month but my funds were very tight, so I was thrilled when I saw the huge list of manufacturer refurbished laptops on sale at oo.com.au at the end of the financial year. After a lot of research, I found the laptop I wanted within my budget and everything indicated that oo.com.au was a trustworthy seller. I put in my order on 24 June 2014 and eagerly waited for my laptop to arrive, which it did on 26 June 2014.

The laptop looked perfect on the outside but the performance was sluggish. The machine was meant to come with 2gb RAM soldered on the motherboard plus a 4gb stick, but a quick look in System Properties revealed that there’s only 2gb onboard. Being a computer geek, I wasn’t afraid to open the case to check if the RAM was just not sitting properly in the slot, which would be a problem I could easily fix myself.

Empty Ram Slot
Inside the U840W from oo.com.au: a clearly empty RAM slot

Nope. The RAM slot was empty. I quickly fired up a support email to oo.com.au about the issue of the missing 4gb RAM stick, expecting them to rectify the situation efficiently. I received this response the next morning.

Hello Vickie,

Thankyou for your email.

The two gigabyte’s of memory are allocated to your graphics card, you should have four gigabytes of ram memory.

could you kindly right click on your “my computer” icon and select properties from the dropdown menu.

This will show the hardware installed on your computer as well as some other details.

Can you please take a screen shot of this information and email the screenshot to me.

To take a screenshot you click the “printscreen” button on your keyboard, then go to Microsoft paint and press “control and the letter V” on your keyboard to paste the screenshot into Microsoft paint.

You then need to save the file and attach it to an email back to us here.

If you cannot reply to this email, then email me at [redacted]

If you cannot do this we can have it returned back to us but there is a big chance that if we find that the laptop has been sent to you with the correct hardware that we will send it back as is, because this is more an issue of understanding what you are looking at.

Regards

Quickly followed by:

Hello Again Vickie,

This guide I found online may help with taking a screenshot if you are not sure.

http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/9717-screenshot-paint.html

Regards

My face flushed up from the perceived condescending tone and insult when I read the emails; but of course the staff wouldn’t have a clue that I write codes and build rigs in my free time. I took a deep breath and sent the screenshot as requested. An item return authorisation was shortly arranged, and my laptop was gone on 7 July 2014 (delay on my part) with a receipt confirmation on 10 July 2014. I expected the laptop to be replaced. 4 hours after the confirmation email, however, I received another email informing me of a refund sans shipping fees being processed. I wrote politely to support again about the situation including reference numbers, apologising that perhaps I didn’t state explicitly that I wanted the item replaced, not refunded.

Another staff responded the next morning:

Good morning Vickie,

Thank you for your email.

The reason that you were refunded is that as we are not a computer company and are simply re-sellers for this item we are unable to add parts to the laptops.

I have also requested that our Buyers confirm if this has 2, 4 or 6 GB of RAM which is free to use.

There is the possibility that the RAM is 6GB but the only available space is 4GB due to a graphics card being used and possibly other items using the RAM as well.

As such [first staff] determined that as we cannot add to the RAM on the laptop and have still to have the information about this confirmed a refund for you would have been the most viable option.

Kind regards,

No to the 2/4/6gb RAM comment, but fair enough about not being able to just plug in the missing RAM stick themselves. I revealed that I am in fact very computer hardware literate and what they suggested was probably incorrect, and that I would appreciate it if they could please replace the item.

Good afternoon Vickie,

We originally refunded you as we can not confirm what the 6GB is allocated to.

Our buyers have advised that the empty RAM slot is to allow for a further expansion of the memory and not for a card which is missing.

As such the 6GB of RAM may only have 2 GB free 2GB allocated to the graphics card and another 2 specifically dedicated.

If you still wish to have this replaced instead of the refund we are more than happy to accommodate you, however please be advised that the RAM slot is supposed to be empty on arrival to you.

Kind regards,

Your buyers were wrong. Very wrong. I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall, and then thought perhaps the manufacturer’s tech support’s words would carry more weight. The next day, I forwarded that email correspondence to oo.com.au and, once again, requested the item replacement at no extra cost than what I originally paid for.

Good afternoon Vickie,

Thanks for forwarding this on to us.

Just to confirm you did advise the Toshiba tech support that this is a refurbished item correct?

Kind regards,

Facepalm. But before I could respond, I received this 10 minutes after:

Good afternoon,

I have confirmed with our buyer that this should have the 2GB on board and the 4GB as a card in the RAM slot.

As such I am more than happy to send this out to you at the original cost that you paid for it.

If you have the same problem again and discover the RAM slot is empty, perhaps contact Toshiba as the laptop will be under warranty and as such they are responsible for placing the RAM into the laptop prior to them sending them to us as we are simply re-sellers and cannot do the work ourselves.

Kind regards,

I finally received my laptop on 17 July 2014, this time with all 6gb of RAM, but the sides of the screen had light but noticeable scratches all over. I sighed and convinced myself that the cosmetic damage would probably happen over time regardless… which is actually quite unlikely.

If I hadn’t been a geek, I would have used this laptop thinking it was a slow piece of junk without knowing that it had a defect. The customer service staff might be right that I could have gone to the manufacturer if there’s a missing part in a refurbished item that came in a sealed box, but I expected a reseller to be so, so much better.

You get what you paid for, I guess.

Garden Villa Ishiuchi, Niigata, Japan

For my second ski trip, we went to Ishiuchi Maruyama and stayed at Garden Villa Ishiuchi (ガーデンヴィラ石打). The lodge was only a 10-minute taxi trip from Echigoyuzawa Station (越後湯沢駅) and was located very close to the ski fields (5 minutes of walking?), so we never wasted any time travelling to and from the place.

We got a third-floor room with ensuite toilet and shower. This time I learnt my lesson and travelled very light, so even though the lodge didn’t have a lift, going up and down three floors wasn’t an issue even after all the workout from skiing.

The room itself might have been meant for three but only the brother and I stayed there; Kenneth squeezed into the other room of similar size opposite us with the other three so I could get some privacy (thank you!). Like last time, breakfast and dinner were provided daily at the lodge.

I never took pictures of it, but the room wasn’t as spacious as the one at Yamasanso in Nozawa Onsen, and would definitely feel too cramped even for three. Imagine what the four in the other room had to do; one of them had to sleep partially in the cupboards!

It was a Japanese-style room with tatami flooring and a kotatsu (heated table). It’s already March so the weather probably wasn’t as brutal, but the kotatsu was still very appreciated. I also loved the ensuite toilet and shower for obvious reasons.

While we stayed there, breakfast was the same each morning: traditional Japanese with rice, miso soup, natto and a different piece of fish. I do love my fish, but it got boring very quickly.

Coffee wasn’t part of traditional Japanese breakfast so, as expected, it wasn’t served there, but there was a vending machine inside the dining area. Sadly, no black coffee; I had to settle for canned cold coffee with a little bit of sugar in it until Kenneth went out to the shops and got me several bottles of black coffee (thank you again!).

I actually think there was a small pantry area that served hot boiling water and possibly tea on our / each floor, but I never looked after I got my coffee stock.

The dinners weren’t traditional Japanese, but they also weren’t very exciting (read: not enough meat for Vickie). We had dinner out in town on half the nights. From what we could tell while walking past the dining area, they served almost the same food every other night.

Our room was a non-smoking room but that didn’t mean anything. There was a small metal mesh balcony outside our room and a smoking area in the corridor next to the stairs. We smelt smoke each and every day and night. I still can’t get over how much the Japanese folks seem to love to smoke, and how they just wouldn’t make it better for the non-smoking population. These are supposed active people who ski and snowboard, too.

Kenneth, Jacky and I checked out after 5 days, but Donny, Deddy and Benny stayed for a few more. After we left, Benny posted these on Facebook:

Different breakfast. Meat at dinner. Second round of meat at dinner (Benny: “We even had our 2nd round. So full here.. if only Vickie was around…“).

Now that is just unfair. sad

Hotel Princess Garden, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan

Hotel Princess Garden (ホテル プリンセスガーデン) was a comfortable five-minute walk from Meguro Station (目黒駅), so even though we were tired from a whole three days of skiing and a long bus trip back, we weren’t complaining. We didn’t check in until after 10 pm so the stay at the hotel was brief. Our room was very small as expected, but at least it was clean, quiet and comfortable, and had all the amenities. We had a nice hot shower and a decent night of sleep.

Hotel Princess Garden: Twin Room
Hotel Princess Garden: Twin Room

Oh look, a space between the two beds, unlike some other hotel! tongue The room was 10,500 yen (~A$110) for the both of us for just that one night and no breakfast the next morning. Good enough for now!

Yamasanso, Nozawa, Nagano, Japan

Yamasanso (山三荘) in Nozawa Onsen (野沢温泉), Nagano Prefecture (長野県) is really a ryokan than a hotel, but you get the gist. We originally wanted to stay at another cheaper ski resort nearby that everyone else was at (Resort Inn Chitose), but they were fully booked out, so Yamasanso it was!

We got there too early in the morning and no rooms were available for us to do an early check-in, so we dropped our stuff at the other lodge and went skiing. There was quite a walk to the ski fields from Yamasanso. Now, I’ve seen some snow before, but it was my first time skiing and I have no experience walking on soft snow and slippery ice in ski boots. That walk to and from the ski fields, especially the first trip back in ski boots and carrying all the gear, was very exhausting.

Unfortunately, there were also only stairs at the resort and I had to carry quite a lot of luggage having already spent a whole week travelling to Hong Kong and a few more days around Tokyo. A lot of luggage up to our third floor room. I swear if I ever went skiing again, I would travel light. Very light.

Yamasanso: Our Ensuite Double Room
The knackered brother in our ensuite double room at Yamasanso

Our room was clean and tidy and came with a small ensuite toilet, which I didn’t appreciate as much until I visited the other lodge and walked into their small, stinky, unisex guest toilet. Otherwise, our room was Japanese-style with tatami floor and futons. We also had to use the public bath, which we didn’t mind too much at first because it’s all in the experience. The small stuffy baths didn’t open until 3 pm (I think) and closed at around 10 pm, so we really had to watch what we do and make sure we head back in time to get a much needed bath each night while avoiding the crowds as much as possible.

Daily breakfast and dinners were included and served in the dining room, laid out by the staff at each meal on tables allocated to each room. Breakfast was around 7:30 am and dinner at 6 pm. The food was a bit salty, but the dinners were especially cherished after a long tiring day of skiing.

We had a total of 4 meals there: dinner on the first night, breakfast and dinner on the next day, and finally breakfast on the last morning. We’d been trading pictures of our meals with the others at the other ryokan. Apparently our food was much better than theirs.

Altogether, it cost us 46,000 yen (almost A$500) per person at Yamasanso, over A$110 more than the other lodge. Was it worth it for the ensuite toilet and the better food? In my opinion, yes; it’s just better to have a non-stinky private toilet to use each morning. Would have been worth all of it if there were also ensuite shower facilities, and perhaps also being just a little bit closer to the ski fields — but now I just sound greedy.

Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

We stayed at Hotel Villa Fontaine – Ueno (ホテルヴィラフォンテーヌ上野) for two nights (our first two nights of the trip) as part of a custom package deal from Cathay Holidays that also came with return flight tickets from Hong Kong to Japan. Well, it was actually only the hotel for me, because I bought my single trip ticket through Qantas after I knew which flight the brother and friends intended to take, and found just the right flight to make up my Sydney-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Sydney multi-city deal.

Hotel Villa Fontaine – Ueno is normally a convenient five-minute walk away from Shinokachimachi Station (新御徒町駅), so we thought it would be easy for us. Except it was pouring outside when we arrived in the area in the evening, and the exit we got out from (A2) had an escalator up but only stairs down, so there was no easy turning back as soon as we stepped out.

We got two economy, non-smoking, twin rooms; the brother and I shared one, his two female friends shared the other. At the discount price we weren’t expecting much, especially since it also included breakfast buffet in the morning. This was what greeted us when we opened the door.

Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno: Economy Twin Room
Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno: Economy Twin Room with twin beds directly side by side

I suppose technically it’s still a twin room… and at least the room and the en-suite bathroom were very clean and tidy. Continue reading “Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno, Tokyo, Japan”