As I stood in a queue in the town centre in Swansea, Wales (UK) waiting for my bus to arrive, I over heard two women in front of me grumbling angrily about having to speak to some person in Bangalore who actually knew nothing about her TV complaint and she was not sure if anything would finally get done over the weekend. Ooh, typical white metality I thought till I got slammed by the same problem by Airtel.
Well I have been ‘Bangalored’ by the Airtel Broadband service in the so called silicon valley of India. I suddenly woke up yesterday to a notice in typical polite I-have –slammed-you-in-your-ribs parlance – across my screen saying ‘Dear Customer, your broad band service is currently blocked due to non payment’.
- For the restoration of your service please click here to make payment from your credit card / Listed debit cards (click here for list) and call 121 for service restoration.
- Visit your nearest Airtel Relationship Center (KARNATAKA) to make payment through Cash/Cheque/Credit Card.
- Drop your cheque at nearest Airtel Dropbox (KARNATAKA), service restoration will take 48hrs.
So I promptly went to use the fixed landline which comes with the broadband connection to make the complaint as directed. I was told by a polite female voice that I could not make the call as my payment had not been made and so the phone was blocked as well! A little friendly advice: relax, so what if you need to make that all important visa booking, or you need to send a hurried story that has a deadline to that magazine in Hyderabad, and you need to connect with your sister in Australia who is on her way to visit, or you just have to get to work in the next 20 minutes. Airtel is not in any hurry – you finally call 12190 from your cell phone and you get this voice trying to drum up your enthusiam about Airtel’s ‘exciting broadband service’. She goes through this speil of press one and press two right up to press nine if you want a ‘customer care executive’.
After trying for around 10 minutes you finally get a real voice at the end of the line who calmly listens to your complaint and says in response, this will take 48 hours to rectify. Why will something that is not my fault take 48 hours I shout as I am at the end of my patience? They have to verify if you have paid or not I am told. But I am not a teenager who had spent my bill money on a trip to the mall I say – I have sent in my cheque way back on the 6th of June. Like he is speaking to a dumb child, he repeats, it will take 48 hours to check and your connection will definitely be restored by the 28th of June!
My mind boggles, the 28th of June? That’s a whole week away while visions of using the cramped and smelly little café up the road flash past my mind. I rush off to college hoping something will get done miraculously by the time I return at 1 pm. No such luck- the screen still flashes the same annoying message that my connection is blocked.
I call desperately again to be told by an implacable voice that your complaint has been checked and your problem will be rectified. She then tells me to note down request no. 47893646. By then I am more than desperate, as I realise the call I made at 9:30 am has not been even registered.
So I write out another cheque and a letter and look up the ‘Airtel Relationship Centres’ finding Centre Point on Residency Road as the closest to me. I decide to walk in the hot sun because the traffic outside looks impossible to navigate. Reaching Centre Point I find there is no such office. "Airtel closed their office here one year ago or more Madam," explains the travel agent on the first floor. So why then is it on their website I ask angrily?
Phew! what do I do now I think? So I walk to the drop box where I put my cheque on the 6th on King Street. I ask the guard there if they have changed their rules about Airtel cheques and he says "no, madam please put your cheque in there". So dutifully the second cheque for the month of June goes into the box with a photo copy of the bill attached. To my luck there is a number on the box – Suresh: 9242302273. I call him desperately and say did you take my cheque to Airtel which was dropped in the box on King Street. He replies in the affirmative but could not help any further.
I phone my husband and say please come home and let’s go to an Airtel Relationship centre personally. So we manouver through the crazy Hosur Road traffic to get to Koramanagala (Yes, Airtel has closed all offices on Richmond or Residency Road).
There the place is swarming with clients and I think no wonder they don’t care, they have grown so big in the 6 years, you took a broad band connection with them. After waiting in a queue for 20 minutes we were told that yes the cheque given on the 6th had reached and had been credited to another party since the number on it was wrong. He was also able to tell me that I had made a complaint at 12:30pm. The 9:30 complaint had been lost due to my fault of not getting a ‘request number’. Grrrr, the politeness is enough to kill.
Your connection will be fixed by 10 pm tonight says the guy in the brilliant red Airtel shirt across the counter with an implaccable face. I say, if you know that there has been an error of crediting someone else with my payment, can you not rectify it immediately? N o Madam, we will do it by 10 pm he says and we leave. I check at 10 pm and again at 11 pmand then exhausted by the events of the day I go to sleep.
I wake up on the 22nd morning to acess the net, to find the same hateful message across my screen. I need to send that urgent story to Energy Next with a deadline today. I need to download some material for my PG class which I will have to rush to college and work out of the media lab. I need to check if my sister’s plans are as per schedule, so I will have to make that expensive call to Australia since I have no idea when Airtel will reconnect my line.
I am writing this to say that we pride ourselves to be one of the fastest developing economy’s along with China, but basic support systems do not exist in our country because we cannot hold people accountable.
Airtel of course has taken the smartest way out – it will take 48 hours or latest by 28th June I am told.
I will not go to the ‘relationship centre’ yet again and waste half my day. We have to work to pay for the broadband we get from you Airtel, so what do you have to say in response? Your service is dismal.
Update 28th June: It took two days of hounding and running around and phoning and explaining personally at the Koramangala service centre, and putting a second cheque into the drop box before they ‘released’ it. The original cheque had been credited to another account.
I am upset as I have had this broadband account for around 10 years. The least they could have done is call and check with me before disconnection.