Does Telstra/Sensis just not get it or are they cunning? Musings on a phone book

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TelephoneI couldn't tell you the last time I looked up a name in the hard copy of the Telstra/Sensis White Pages. It sits in our garage, under a box full of plant seeds. If I want to know a number I usually look it up online or ring the free Australian service 1223. Don't ring 1234, it costs you a bomb. My mother, however, is in her eighties and just can't get the hang of computers. For her, the phone book is King. With the hard copy she can see who's missing from the new edition; at her age her friends aren't as plentiful as they used to be and if she hasn't heard they've gone into a nursing home or the great beyond, the phone book is a source of intel. So she was horrified to learn that households no longer automatically receive a free copy of the White Pages on their doorstep every July. Now that most people use either the internet or one of Sensis' directory lines (remember 1223, people!), phone books have passed their use-by date. If you want one, you have to phone Sensis and order one. So Mum did. She was cheerfully told that the directory she'd receive would be one book rather than two, and in a new, more useful compact form so it didn't take up as much space. It duly arrived and the reason for its compact size was obvious - the font used is so tiny that even I, who can read perfectly, had trouble focussing on it at first. Mum, recovering at that point from a cataract operation two days earlier, was only able to read it using a magnifying glass and a torch shining onto it. (Why a torch? Oh, those blasted low-wattage energy saver lights we all have to use these days. You can't read anything in her kitchen/living room let alone the phone book.) Now sit back and think of this. Who doesn't use their computer or a smart phone to look up  The likelihood is, seniors like my Mum. They are the prime audience for the hard copy phone book, but Sensis in its wisdom hasn't taken into account failing eyesight, cataracts and the other eye diseases older people are prone to. It has completely misread its main audience. Or has it? Could it be a more cunning plot? Did the smart marketing people at Sensis, keen to save a buck or two on printing costs, decide on the tiny print, realise oldies couldn't read it and then think, "Oh, wait! That's not a problem at all. They'll just ring 1234 Directory Assistance if they can't read the book and we can charge them a couple of dollars out of them every time they do." Call me cynical, but I bet the previous para is a pretty close précis of what went on in the Sensis marketing meeting.  What do you think?

On the road with the iPad

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Before Christmas I set out on a road trip to Melbourne armed with my iPad rather than my laptop. I'd intended to blog about the iPad's mobile wonders while I was there, and I did. Except the apparently trusty WordPress app froze when I tried to save my post and my blog post was consigned to the great beyond. At that point I couldn't bring myself to slowly tap the whole thing out again on the touchscreen keyboard. Which was one of the little problems I had taking this admirable device away from home territory. The other was that my email failed halfway through the trip. After a day and a half in Melbourne I could receive, but not send. At home our broadband is with Telstra, but I have an Optus prepaid card for the iPad as Optus offered the better deal. I checked the configuration of my outgoing mail server and ensured it pointed to my own domain rather than Bigpond. Still no joy. Even my Gmail account stood me up. I resorted to using webmail on my iPhone ( problems), using my webhost server on the iPad using Safari, and the email program on my husband's MacBook Air (which also had sending problems for a day or two but mysteriously righted itself. It has Vodafone for travelling). I could have phoned Optus but realistically, I was on holiday and trying very hard NOT to respond to emails. The only button I hadn't pressed was the one that uses Optus as the outward mail server, because I didn't have my username and password with me. Had I phoned Optus after all I would have learned that I didn't need the password and all would have been well. One to remember for next time. Now I *know* this, the 3G capability works a treat for mail. There are limitations to travelling with the iPad if you're in my line of business. There were quite a few things I couldn't do for clients on the back ends of their websites; I needed a computer. I'm sure apps will appear in the future giving us a very similar capability on the iPad as on the Mac I'm typing this on; I could have done with them while I was away. As a travelling companion the iPad was great. I'd loaded the Smart Maps app for Melbourne so we didn't need a street directory. We don't have a GPS in the car as we have Luddite tendencies in that department and both love poring over maps, atlases and street directories. My husband has started to collect compasses. Smart Maps is a hefty app and takes up a few MBs, but doesn't need to use your 3G allocation to work. It simply loads the maps onto your device. Getting around Melbourne was a breeze with Smart Maps. I also have it on my iPhone. Catching up with news and weather was easy on both the iPad and iPhone. I haven't yet bought a newspaper app for the iPad but simply browsing the newspaper sites over breakfast was easy. I missed doing the crossword and word wheel though! I'm a voracious reader and usually find time to relax with a book no matter how busy the holiday or business trip. I'd loaded some free books from the iBooks store onto the iPad and saved myself luggage space to bring back Christmas presents. Reading on the iPad is easy; I use three readers, iBooks, Kindle and Kobo, and have found many free book downloads that look interesting. Yes, you can read books on the iPhone too but with the big screen it's much easier on the iPad. Likewise the big screen made it easier to research some of the towns we visited or passed through. Interested in the history of Kyneton, Victoria? We stopped there for a pie and I can recommend the bakery in the high street; their pies are excellent (The other great meat pies on the journey are at the Holbrook Bakery on the Hume Highway in Holbrook - do try them if you're driving that way). Kyneton didn't look like a typical gold rush town compared to nearby Castlemaine and Bendigo, and two minutes later the iPad and Wikipedia gave us its history so we explored briefly before heading on - it's a lovely place to visit as are the other two. Despite the email issues travelling with the iPad rather than the laptop was a liberating and positive experience. I actually felt like I had a holiday without having to take my mobile desk with me, even though I did have to do some client work on the trip. This is usual; I haven't had a proper holiday where I can simply switch off and pass the buck to someone else in ten years. As a small business owner I don't think I'm alone here. The iPad can't replace a desktop or a laptop, but it is powerful enough to keep you in touch, let you communicate, and give you the ability to make the most of your leisure time away from the desk. It will certainly be my 'holiday computer' in the future.

Why I’ve got the *(&^s with Telstra

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Bad Telstra story. I know iPhone 4s are in short supply but how long do we have to wait? On or about 3 August this year my husband got a call from Telstra, our current service provider for home, mobile and internet. My husband was offered a fantastic deal - new iPhone 4 for no cost, bundled capped deal on our home phone, more download on our internet connection, all for far less than we're paying now. They'd send it to us as soon as they got one in stock. We're still waiting for the iPhone. As I write this, it's nearly October. Telstra's contracts department itself, whose representative contacted us, doesn't have any in stock. Priority shipments of this still apparently scarce bit of kit (which I see people using all the time lately) go to Telstra shops. They don't appear to put any aside to send out to existing long-term clients who have agreed to a new contract. We spoke to the Telstra contracts/sales people ten days ago. Their advice was to go to the nearest Telstra shop, explain the situation, produce a phone bill so they could verify our account details and we'd get the iPhone there and then. So we went to the overwhelming retail hell of Westfield Parramatta, only to be told - you know what's coming - they had no phones in stock. They get deliveries on Wednesday afternoons apparently and by the time we got there on Saturday they were sold out. We rang up on Wednesday this week but the shipment was running late. After explaining the situation once again to the nice people at the shop they agreed to put us on a list to receive the phone since we'd been waiting several weeks. They don't, they said, put people like us on shop waiting lists as we're already on a list with the Telstra sales office. However...they'd ring when it was in stock. That was two days ago. My husband rang them ten minutes ago figuring they must have received their shipment. The phones came in and went out. We were down the bottom of the list. No phone for us. Better luck next time. This is pathetic customer service. We have no choice with our internet connection as we're too far from the local exchange to get ADSL so we're stuck with cable - in this case, Telstra. We don't have a wide choice of reputable suppliers. It makes sense to bundle our bills with one supplier who can give us a discount. We do like the 3G coverage my husband gets with his current Telstra iPhone3 (which I'll be getting when he gets his iPhone 4, which may possibly be when iPhone5 is released). That's one good thing Telstra has got going for it which the other phone companies can't quite match yet. But I am so *&%^%^ annoyed with Telstra. They are messing us around. They promise but they can't deliver. Has anyone out there experienced the same waiting time, wasted journeys and sheer ineptitude?

Update, 3 October 2010

My husband finally got his iPhone on 30 September. Phew! It's a fab piece of kit. He loves it, and I'm over the moon with his old iPhone3. I had an interesting experience upgrading my Telstra mobile phone account to my chosen 3G bundled account for the iPhone3 when we were in the Telstra shop, however. Because my phone is under my business name the guys in the shop couldn't simply upgrade me and give me a new SIM card as they needed a signed letter on letterhead by me authorising me to make upgrades to the account. It's been a long time since I bought something in a Telstra shop. Probably ten years. I can't remember what hoops I had to jump through back then. Since then I've done upgrades with Telstra by telephone, usually when they've rung me offering a special deal. No letterhead required. After almost two hours in the Telstra shop getting the paperwork sorted for both phones and filling in a raft of forms, this was exasperating. I really didn't want to have to go back there the next day. (Did I ever mention how much I hate going to Westfield shopping centres? They are too big and too hard to find a parking space in.) I had a full day of work with clients needing things done urgently and the thought of another hour and a half away from it all was distinctly unpleasant. I had a current telephone account with me. I had taken the precaution of bringing a copy of my company registration with me, which stated my ABN. I had a driver's licence, Medicare card, and a photo of my cats. None of those combined or or singular made any difference (guess the guy didn't like cats). They weren't a letterhead. Having mentioned through gritted teeth my happy experiences with upgrading my account via telephone, Telstra said I could do that. I could ring up tomorrow and they'd send a SIM through the post. In the meantime I could use my existing SIM but wouldn't have the 3G capability. That sounded great... I didn't mind waiting, anything to avoid another blasted trip to Westfield Parramatta. The manager then suggested an even better workaround. If I was able to fax them a letterhead that night when I got home, they'd let me take the SIM and activate it on receipt of the fax. Being late night shopping night this was ideal. I agreed. We galloped out of the shop, and they had the fax by 8pm. I had an active phone ten minutes later. So all's well that ends well. Next time I go into a Telstra shop I'll have a letterhead to hand.