“Optus”, or “The Little Girl who Could”

Posted on February 24, 2011

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a girl named Hannah. She was a pretty normal kind of girl – liked to hang out with friends, watch silly movies and write romance novels. Her house was actually a big castle called Ormond, and that’s where she spent most of her time, blissfully unaware of the dangers which lurked outside those high, sandstone walls.

Until one fateful day.

David and Goliath…gedddit??

My relationship with Optus began about three months ago, when my housemates and I – yessir, the very Will Kay and Matilda D-S who edit this blog – first moved out of college. A day after signing the lease to our house, we got this call from DirectConnect asking if we wanted them to organise our gas, electricity, water and internet for us. My innocent and naïve nineteen-year-old self thought this sounded like a very good idea, and agreed. I told the guy on the phone straight up that I knew JACK about internet plans (why oh why did I do this? Why did I give him a licence to exploit?) and he said, “Take this one.” So I took it. The lesson: let them do your gas, water and electricity. Those are hard to fuck up. Do NOT let them touch your internet.

The next week, our internet “modem” was delivered: One of those stupid USB things which can only be used by one person at a time, and which charges you about a squillion dollars for seven gig of downloads. Not cool. We love the internet! We love downloads! We are the sort of people who like to write blogs! This was clearly not the “broadband, you know, the normal thing you get if you want internet at your house” which I had so cannily asked for.

ENTER THE BEAST. I called Optus, told them about the fuck up, and asked for something better. The guy on the phone (after I was redirected around various “departments” for about half an hour, thereby using up almost all my phone credit) was all, “I feel ya’, dw, I’ll sort shit out.” He said we would have internet by the following Wednesday. I felt a little better.

Fast forward ONE MONTH and a series of escalatingly embarrassing (for Optus) mishaps, which are too many, complicated and boring to explain here. Suffice it to say that for ONE MONTH, we had to USE THE FREE INTERNET AT MCDONALDS. So not cool. We got really fat, to the point where I started ordering MCDONALDS COFFEE instead of my usual chicken nuggets (okay, AND chips. I did once win a team-based McDonalds-value-meal-eating-competition).

Then, one dark, dark day, it happened. We received: Our First Bill.

$450.

Oooooooookay. Why was our bill $450? Why? Why? I looked over my notes from my conversation with the first guy-on-the-phone from Optus, the day we received the stupid USB instead of a modem. He had said that our plan would cost “$60 per month, plus a one-off installation fee of $120.”

So I called Optus again.

Hannah: “Hi, Optus, why did you charge us this crazy amount?”

Optus: “I’m not authorised to tell you that.”

Hannah: “Who is authorised?”

Optus: “I’m not authorised to tell you that.”

Hannah: “You guys are FUCKED IN THE HEAD.”

Optus: “I am not authorised to reply to that statement.”

Etc. etc. etc.

Things reached a bit of a standstill at that point. What could we do? Nothing, except pay the bill, and we certainly weren’t going to do that.

The impasse was breached at – of all places! – the leathergoods boutique to which I refer in an earlier post. A man named Chuck (I know, right!) walked into the store to look at briefcases. We got chatting, and he revealed that he worked for Optus. “I don’t know if we can still be friends,” I thought. But that’s not what I said. What I said was, “Hey Chuck, I’ve got a billing problem. Can you give my housemates and me a hand?”

And Chuck, being the total babe that he is, was all, “yeah, sure.”

In the following month, I had about three meetings with Chuck, in which, basically, it was revealed to me that not only had the guy-on-the-phone seriously downplayed the length of the installation process, he had also failed to set up a proper contract for our house, and outright LIED about the cost of our plan. The $60 per month thing was accurate. The $120, “one-off” installation fee was NOT. This $120 fee was actually the cost of purchasing the modem. On TOP of that there was a $240 installation fee, a $20 delivery fee, and miscellaneous “administrative costs.”

So I said, “Look, Chuck, we aren’t paying.”

And he said, “I get what you’re saying, but the thing is, if you don’t pay, your internet will be disconnected.”

And as much as I hated Optus, the thought of going through this whole thing AGAIN with another company was just too much to handle. So I had a bright idea.

“Chuck, when I talked to the guy-on-the-phone, he said our conversation would be recorded for quality-monitoring purposes. And I took down the receipt number of the conversation.”

“Yes…”

“If I give you the number, you guys can dig up the conversation, right? And I can prove that I wasn’t told the proper costs, and then, legally, you guys have to cancel everything BUT what you quoted originally, yeah?”

“Yes…”

“OK, well, we’ll do that then.”

I felt VERY VERY VERY Elle Woods right about then.

Apparently, Chuck explained, this would involve an uber-secret, he-who-cannot-be-named, S.W.A.T.-style department hidden very deep within the recesses of the Optus Machine. It was the Chamber of Secrets of telecommunications. Chuck himself was not authorised to speak to these people, but he had the Optus equivalent of a “man on the inside” – a friend who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone… You catch my drift. Basically, they want to make it AS DIFFICULT AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE for you to catch Optus out.

“They do it on purpose,” a friend told me over coffee. “To make you think you’re crazy.”

“Oh dear,” I said, a shiver running down my spine. Because I was actually starting to doubt myself. Should I just pay the bill? Had I been quoted the right price after all, and simply “forgotten” about hundreds of dollars? Was I crazy?

Two weeks later, at 7:00AM (I’m not kidding: I was only up because I had work, and had stayed at the BF’s place, and had to go back home to pick up my uniform), I got a call.

“We’d like to ask you a few questions,” the voice said, ever so cryptically.

“Okey-dokey,” I said.

After answering the questions, I said, “But isn’t there a recording? Why are you asking me this?”

“What recording?” the voice said, in deep, mysterious tones. “There is no recording.”

“But I-”

“There is. No. Recording. Your claim will now be processed. That is all-”

And then my phone battery cut out. It was creepy. It was like the Dark Wizards at Optus had magically removed all my battery power, leaving no trace of the conversation we’d just had.

Meanwhile, our second bill arrived (we still hadn’t paid our first), and Will Kay, the TRAITOR, got a job telemarketing for Optus. Optus was showing us that it was all-powerful. It could even claim one of our own.

And then, two weeks later, I got another phone call.

“Your claim has been successful. We will remove the additional fees from your account. That will be all.”

(Well, he didn’t actually say “that will be all”, but you get what I’m saying, right?)

Two months of hassle, and all for what? For approx. $250, people. That kind of money doesn’t grow on trees.

Hannah 1, Optus 0.

Game on.

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