Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ahhhh, High Speed Internet, How We've Missed You

They say you don't appreciate things until they're gone, but I don't agree. I've always appreciated my high speed internet for the connection it gives me. Facebook for my news - everything from the Sochi Olympic sweater commentary to family illnesses and celebrations - it's a lifeline back home. Abu Dhabi Women's discussion board for information - everything from where the new traffic cameras are located to where the best Friday brunch can be found. And of course email and Skype to keep in touch directly. Needless to say, it's been a hard month of limited access and slow connection speed.

And of course, there's a story to go along with it! ;) So, grab a cup of coffee, settle into a comfy chair and let me tell you of the saga I'm calling, "Brian versus Etisalat".

First, let's meet our opponents. In one corner we have Brian, a mild-mannered, rational and logical man with infinite amounts of patience and charm. In the other corner, we have the evil Etisalat, a huge monopoly corporation that controls all telephony service in the region. I'm sure it's run by a bald man with a monocle who carries a hairless cat.

In early January, about a month before our planned move, Brian began the arduous process of trying to change our phone, internet and TV service to our new location. He started this early for two reasons: 1) he read somewhere that if you didn't advise them a month in advance, they would charge a penalty (we're still not clear on whether that's true), and 2) we moved to a new development and had been warned that the Etisalat service wasn't yet up and running. The woman at the counter couldn't quite understand why we were there so far in advance of our move, but took down our information and told us a technician would contact us closer to the move date. Great - settled.

A few weeks later, Brian checks in with our Property Management and Etisalat and finds out that service still isn't available in our area. We brace ourselves for up to a month of no high speed internet or TV and decide this is a great excuse to start an exercise program.  (yeah, that didn't really happen, but we did have good intentions)

About two weeks ago Brian received an email from the Property Management company that Etisalat was ready and there would be a representative on site to help us with the installation procedures. Brian got pretty excited (I would say giddy, but I know that those of you who know Brian think I exaggerate when I use that word) and called within minutes of receiving the email and was told we could probably get the service installed the next day (which was Friday, our weekend).

On Friday two weeks ago, Brian got even more "giddy" when he saw an Etisalat truck in the compound. So giddy, in fact, that he tracked them down to find out when they were coming to our villa. That was the first of many disappointments to come - they didn't have us on their list.

But our hero was not deterred. He called the contact person, he called the Etisalat call center and on Saturday, he made another trip to the office (a 50 minute drive) to get answers and a date for installation. The challenge, apparently, was that the others were new installs and we were a service move. After a few days and many calls later, Brian received a text saying the technician would arrive to install service between 10am and 6pm the following day. (I know, telecom time frames are truly universal, aren't they?)

Luckily, Brian has a relatively flexible work arrangement, plus, he had come down with a horrible cold and cough so he decided to stay home, work offline a bit and be available for the technician. ... Yes, you guessed it, after 5 phone calls to the call center, Brian was told that the technician tried to call, but no one was at home so they didn't come. Tried to call? Brian was next to his phone all day and right there at the house, so there is no way the technician couldn't have reached him! This was now starting to get irritating.

Next day, Brian is working in Dubai so he asks me to go the Etisalat office after work to try and get things moving again. Now this was a flawed plan. I am not mild-mannered, patient or charming and after battling Thursday evening traffic for 40 minutes, I was in no mood to "kill anyone with kindness". Loaded for bear, I approached the counter and explained what had happened.

"I'm sorry madam, all the system is down so no one can help you. Come back Sunday morning at 8."

I leaped over the counter, grabbed her by the throat and squeezed.

No, that's only what happened in my head. In real life, I strongly asked to speak to a supervisor. Got the same response from him and joined the chorus of other customers begging for help. At one point, I was sitting in the Etisalat office and talking to the Etisalat call center on the phone (ironic, I know) and didn't get much farther except to open another complaint and stress the urgency of the request. I then went home and shared the sad news with our hero who wasn't anything close to giddy that night.

We tried a bit on Friday - called the call center again - but knew there wasn't much hope as things just don't really happen on Fridays around here. On Saturday, we were up at the crack of dawn to reach the office by 8am. That was a brilliant move as we were third in line and only waited about 20 minutes (while we watched about 10 agents slowly get their computers started, and their morning coffee and chit chat - seriously, if you open at 8am, shouldn't that mean you start WORKING at 8am?) Brian suggested I let him handle the conversation.

We didn't get a technician, but did get some additional information on the hold up. Apparently, there were a few technical issues which were slowing down the installations in the development. We were promised a call within the next few days to schedule a time for installation. We were also told to flag down any technicians we saw in the area, give them our service number and ask them to help. Our hero was again hopeful.

And clever. When we got home, Brian gave the security guards at the gate our names and numbers and asked them to call us if they saw an Etisalat car or truck enter the development. We'd gotten to know them since moving in and they were happy to help. He also brought them cookies.

On Monday, Brian got a call from the guy who put in our patio. The security guard had lost our number, but knew we had used this guy for garden landscaping and figured he might have Brian's phone number. The Etisalat technicians were in the compound! We rushed home (Brian was in Abu Dhabi that day so picked me up on the way) and drove around looking for the Etisalat logo. Success! The technician was super nice even though he'd been there all day with no food (there aren't any nearby amenities yet). It was after 6pm but he and his crew came right over and got things set up. (We gave them some sodas and snacks for their trouble.) 15 minutes later, we had high speed internet, phone and TV and the technician told us it was the easiest installation he'd had all day. Our hero had prevailed and I kid you not, did a happy dance in the middle of the living room as soon as the technicians left.

And what did our hero do first online? Pay the Etisalat bill, of course!

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