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Ok, this is very annoying. I wrote this whole post and then I hit Publish. Except I wasn’t connected to the Internet so I couldn’t really publish and now, I have to write the whole damn thing again. Now this is particularly poignant, because the post is about my internet connection. Since I can’t recover the post I had written (grrr…), here we go again…

So some time in January, I toddled up to the Reliance Web World that is within spitting distance of my residence and got me a 3G connection. This meant I was now in possession of something that looked to me like a USB, was called a “dongle” by the Reliance chaps and had a SIM card in it (just like phones do). Courtesy this nifty device, I would be able to surf the net at 3G speeds, once my connection had been activated. Do I know what 3G means? Not really. All I knew was that it was supposed to be super fast, which is why I was a little taken aback when I discovered that upon activation, the USB/dongle was allowing me to surf the net at a crazy speed of 64kbps. This resulted in call no. 1 to the Reliance Helpline.

“Good morning, ma’am. This is Reliance Helpline. How may I help you?”

“Hello. I just bought a 3G connection from you but the speed is really slow. Can you do something about this?”

“Definitely, ma’am. What is the speed that you’re getting?”

“About 64kbps.”

“How do you know that this is the speed?”

“It says so in your dialogue box.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You know the dialogue box that opens up when one plugs in the USB, I mean the dongle. The one that has the “Connect” button on it and shows you the speed and other details of data transfer.”

“Oh, that may not be the real thing. Please go to http://www.speedtest.in and check.”

“Wait, you’re telling me that the dialogue box that your dongle opens up is lying.”

“Not lying, ma’am. It’s just not aware of the truth.”

“That’s what the Nazis’ defense was at Nuremberg.”

“Sorry ma’am?”

“Nothing. Well, the website says it’s about 68kbps.”

“Ok, madam. Your Internet speed is not as fast it should be.”

“Yes, I know. Can you help me with this?”

“No madam. You are currently talking to Customer Care. You need to talk to someone from the technical department.”

“Can you transfer me?”

“No madam. I’m not sure how to transfer calls since I’m in Customer Care and am not a technical person. Please call the Helpline again and ask for the technical department.”

“What if I end up getting you again?”

“No worries madam. It is very unlikely that will happen.”

The speed matter did eventually get sorted out and I was happily surfing away. When January turned into February, it struck me that I hadn’t received a bill for the month. I decided to not question the gift of 3G Internet until the middle of last week when I discovered I couldn’t connect to the Internet. Yet again, I dialled the Reliance helpline number.

“Good morning, ma’am. This is the Reliance Helpline. How can I help you?”

“Hello, I have 3G connection from you but I’m not able to connect to the Internet.”

“Have you plugged in the dongle and then hit connect?”

“Er, yes.”

“What is the message that you’re getting when you’re trying to connect?”

“Only that it can’t make a connection.”

“But why are you not able to connect if you have plugged in the dongle and then tried to connect?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

“According the system, your services have been barred. Is there something you have done that could have caused this?”

“Um, I haven’t received a bill from Reliance so maybe there’s some payment due?”

“Non-payment of dues will result in services being temporarily suspended. Please make the requisite payment at your nearest Reliance Web World immediately. Services will be restored within 20 minutes of payment.”

“Ok. Can you tell me what the amount is?”

“No, madam. This is Customer Care. For matters pertaining to billing, please get in touch with the billing department.”

“I don’t have an issue with the bill. I just want to know how much I have to pay.”

“The bill was created on January 22 and should have reached you shortly afterwards.”

“Well, as I mentioned before, I haven’t got it.”

“I will email a copy of the bill to you.”

“But so long as services to my dongle are barred, I can’t open my email. Can’t you tell me the amount?”

“No ma’am. This is Customer Care. For matters pertaining to billing —”

“Yes, I get it. Billing department. Is there any other way I can find out the amount?”

“You can go to your nearest Reliance Web World and the Reliance staff there will guide you.”

This ended up being true. I went to the Reliance Web World near home and the Reliance staff did indeed guide me. The girl at the cashier told me the amount due, took the payment from me and gave me a receipt. Four hours later, still no connectivity. Since it was getting late, I decided to tackle Reliance the following day and so the next morning, I called the Reliance Helpline.

“Good morning, this is Reliance Helpline. How may I help you?”

“Hi. I got a 3G connection from you recently. Despite having paid the bill yesterday, I’m still not able to connect to the Internet. I’d like to know why.”

“According to the system, services to your account have been barred. Have you paid your bill?”

“As I just told you, yes I have.”

“Services are restored within 20 minutes of payment. Please be patient.”

“It’s been almost 12 hours since I made the payment.”

“You made the payment yesterday for your billed amount, yes?”

“Yes.”

“But you have not made the payment for the unbilled amount.”

“The unbilled amount?”

“Yes.”

“As in the amount for which there is no bill?”

“Correct.”

“Why would I pay an amount for which there is no bill?”

“Because if you don’t pay this amount, your services can’t be restored.”

“But why do I have to you this amount in the first place?”

“Because this is your usage for the month of February.”

“Shouldn’t that be in the February bill?”

“If it was in a bill, it would be the billed amount.”

“Well, why isn’t it?”

“Because the February bill will only be drawn up ten days later.”

“So why can’t I pay it then?”

“Because you’ve used it all up now. Please go to Reliance Web World and make this payment at the earliest.”

So it was back to Reliance Web World, and my luck being what it is, at the cashier was the same girl as yesterday.

“Hello madam. You are back.”

“Hi. I’m here to make a payment.”

“But you made payment yesterday.”

“Yes, I know. But I have to make the payment for an unbilled amount.”

“Why are you making payment for an unbilled amount?”

“Because your helpline guy told me to.”

“But madam, you have a credit of Rs. 866 in your account.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I’ve been told I need to make a payment to get my Internet connectivity restored so will you tell me how much I need to pay?”

“Madam, there is no amount due. You have paid your January bill.”

“I know. But there’s the unbilled amount.”

“There is no unbilled amount. There is only credit of Rs. 866.”

“But I was told there is an unbilled amount I need to pay to get my Internet back.”

“Madam, how can I take money from you when there is no bill and there is actually a credit amount in your account?”

“But if I don’t pay you, I don’t have Internet!”

“But I can’t take money from you when technically I owe you Rs. 866. Plus there is no bill.”

At this point, I desperately wanted the old India back. The one in which I could have bribed a guy to have sorted this whole mess for me. In the new India, I can’t bribe the call centre chap because I’ve no idea who or where s/he is; I could bribe the cashier but that’s pretty pointless given she’s got zero power… All I have is a tangle of helpline executives, floor managers, division managers, account managers and other such poncy but pointless titles. Oh for that that pre-3G, pre-8%-growth India where there was always one guy who promised to get things done. It’s another matter that there were almost no things and pretty much nothing got done, but at least it was easier to figure out who one should bribe.

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7 thoughts on “Only (Don’t) Connect

  1. I would have loved to, except I don’t know where and which call centre I’d been talking to and it seemed silly to murder the woman who’s saying I owe Reliance nothing. Let’s see what happens when it’s time to pay the February bill.

  2. What is sad, is when you write it down, all your nice BIWI attitude is lost 😉
    There is one thing that used to sometimes work in old India and maybe you should try and see if it still works… Pujas… maybe you should try a puja to the 3G…
    Ganesha : because it’s him and because you need obstacles to be removed.
    Gayatri: because she’s a she and because sh’es 3G herself (Lakshmi, Parvati, Sarasvati)
    Garuda: because you need some impetuous violent force to fight the Reliance illogical logic.

  3. During one of my many conversations with the Helpline guys, I believe I said the following:
    “Customer ko toh murga samajh ke rakha hai.” (literal translation: You think the customer is a chicken.)
    “Main aapki bank dikhti hoon?” (literal translation: Do I look like your bank?)
    “Aap sab call centre waalon ko agar psychological problems hain, aur bhugatna par raha mujhe.” (literal translation: All you call centre chaps have psychological problems, and I’m the one who has to suffer for it.)

    Can you tell I learnt Hindi from Bollywood films and the old Mahabharat teleserial?

    • Apparently, if I was really legit, I would have said, “Customer ko toh chutiya samajh rakha hai.” Or so I have been led to believe by that other fluent Hindi speaker, Leo.

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