Telstra: The Longest Complaint Letter Ever?

This is a complaint letter on an epic scale.  It was written  by blogger Cloaker Josh to Australia’s largest telecommunications company, Telstra Corporation, after they put a bar on outgoing calls on Josh’s phone.  Getting the bar lifted proved to be just about the most difficult thing that Josh had ever done.

At over 11,000 words, this letter takes a bit of getting through so I suggest you get a cup of good coffee or, as this is an Australian letter, a nice cool tinny, put your feet up and be very very glad that this didn’t happen to you!

Josh’s excellent blog can be found at:

Dear Customer Relations,

My name is Cloaker Josh, and my date of birth is 01/01/19001 .  I’m fairly sick of saying that, at this stage, as I have reiterated these facts many times on request. Let me explain the series of events which has caused me to write this letter.

Call One – 07/09/09  12:32, 7 minutes

I noticed my mobile phone service had been disconnected, a ‘bar’ placed on my outgoing calls – a direct result of my forgetfulness to pay my phone bill. For this action, I have nobody to blame but myself.  Eager to resolve the situation and to get my phone returned to a status that I am able to use it for daily operation, I call the Billing department immediately. I spoke to a girl who of course asked me to confirm who I was:
“Sure!” I replied kindly, “My name is Cloaker Josh”
“And your date of birth, please sir?”
“My date of birth is 01/01/1900.”
After a short interlude she took payment for all outstanding funds on the account via credit card, and asked if there was anything else she could do today.
“Yes,” I replied, “Can you please remove the out-going call bar from my account?”
She returned with a positive, and told me, “It usually takes about 2-4 hours, but can take up to 24 hours.”
Now, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the turnaround time, but again, this was my fault – not theirs.
“Sure,” I tentatively replied, “Thanks for your time.”

Call Two – 08/09/09  14:41, 8 minutes

I decided to follow this up, as I was still unable to make outgoing calls. I was a little annoyed, but, working in a call centre environment myself, I realised mistakes happen. I called through to Billing again. Again, I was asked to confirm my identity.

“My name is Cloaker Josh, and my date of birth 01/01/1900.”

I explained that I was placing a followup call to get them to lift the bar from my outgoing calls. I received an apology for the mistake, and was told it would be rectified in the next 4 hours. This was before beginning my eight-hour shift at work, and I reconfirmed I would have the ability to make calls in 4 hours (my lunchtime). I was confirmed this was correct.

Call Three – 08/09/09  19:11, 6 minutes

My lunch break. I call 125111 again, asking for Billing.
“Can I please just confirm your identity before continuing?”
“Yes,” I state. “My name is Cloaker Josh, date of birth 01/01/1900.”
I proceed to point out this is my third call about removing my call barring. She asked if my account was up-to-date – Yes. She placed me on hold to perform a few checks. After a couple of minutes, she returns to me and states there is definitely no bar on my account. Had I tried turning my phone on and off? No, actually I haven’t. She told me this would be all that was required to fix the issue. I thanked her for her time, and did exactly as requested. This did not work – it wasn’t allowing me to SMS/call anybody but the Telstra 125111 number. I cursed, and ordered my dinner.

Call Four – 08/09/09  19:26, 7 minutes

“Can I please…?”
“Yes!” I grumble, “Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900.”
I proceed to explain – rather deliberately – what the goings on were thus far, and why wanted my service restored?! The consultant put me on hold, and checked some things (apparently). He came back, apologising for the delay. It seems that the ‘other consultants’ were ‘checking the wrong system’ and not seeing the bar. He, however, can see it in the ‘right’ system and will remove the call bar. 10-15 minutes TOPS. I reconfirmed this back to him, that I would be able to make calls in 30 minutes, safely. “
Absolutely.” He stated.

Absolutely. What a word.

absolutely |ˌabsəˈloōtlē|
1 with no qualification, restriction, or limitation; totally : she trusted him absolutely | [as submodifier ] you’re absolutely right.
2 used to emphasize the truth or appropriateness of a very strong or exaggerated statement : he absolutely adores that car [as submodifier ] : Dad was absolutely furious.

I felt great, I felt much better. I would be able to call my sister, to organise the finer details of booking her flights to see me in months to come. Hopefully the Dream Theater tickets hadn’t sold out yet – we haven’t been able to nail down the other details yet. But it would be fine, I’d speak to her tonight about it. Absolutely. It felt irrefutable. Little did I know, I hadn’t even called half-as-many times about this issue as I would need to.

Call Five – 09/09/09  11:50, 6 minutes

Much to my dismay, the Sales and Billing department had closed at 9pm, and I would not be able to converse with them tonight, which is why I had to call again before work on 09/09/09, as the service was still not restored. I call Billing, and speak to Michelle in Melbourne. I’m on my way to work, I haven’t got much time but I will not stand for this any longer.
“Can I…”
“Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900.” I growled, “This is what I need you to do, Michelle.”
I proceeded to say to her something along the lines of: You’re going to remove the bar placed on my outgoing calls. My bill is up to date, as you can see, but I have this restriction. I am about to begin work, and I cannot remain on the phone while you investigate this – I simply haven’t got the time, as I begin work at 12:00pm. I will call back in 4 hours if this hasn’t been done. She began to protest but I cut her off, I had held on every other time, but don’t have that luxury of time today – however, I need this fixed. I thanked her for her time and ended the call, to log into my own work phone.

Call Six – 09/09/09  16:04, 35 minutes

Surprise, surprise – my phone was still unable to make outgoing calls, or send texts. It does allow 3G internet access, for some reason. I am pissed.
I call 125111, the automated voice begins, “Tha…”
“BILLING.” I say with anger. “YES, OPERATOR” (The next required keywords to get through to a Billing consultant, as I was well versed in doing.)
“How can I help you?” is the enquiry after a brief wait on hold.
“Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900. I need to speak with a supervisor, please.”
“Oo-kay.” comes the startled response, “Can I please get some details as to what it is about?”
I run through the story again, I’m fairly sick of telling it by now, but point out this is my sixth call in relation to this one issue, without resolution. She places me on hold to seek one (a supervisor that is, not a resolution). After 10 minutes on hold, she comes back and explains that her Supervisor is in a meeting and is currently unavailable. After hearing this, I say to her that she needs to take care of this problem, in that case. That I require her to get this fixed, and that she needs to call me back when it’s sorted out. She protests, saying that I’m required to stay on the phone if I want this problem resolved – I snap.
“Listen, I work in a f**king call centre too, okay? I know it’s not your job to call customers back about stuff. But this is the sixth f**king call I’ve made about this! Surely after five calls you can make an exception?! I’m sorry for my language, I shouldn’t have sworn, but I’m extremely upset! I need this fixed, okay!?”

There’s a moment of silence. Then she speaks, her voice cold, emotionless.
“SIR. I understand you’re upset, but I’m sorry – I NEED you to remain on the line. I’ll place you on hold while I look into this, I won’t be too long.”
Damn it.
“I’ve got fifteen minutes left of thirty minute meal break,” I begrudging state, “if I haven’t got enough time to eat some lunch after this I’ll be extremely agitated.”
I won’t be too long, she’d said. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t ask her to convert that vague statement into a tangible figure of time. As it was, I stood outside my work building, mobile to ear, hearing hold music… for 25 minutes. Not so much as a peep from the consultant I spoke to. I am FURIOUS. I want to PUNCH A BRICK WALL. To bring up the point again, I also work in a call centre – and TWENTY FIVE MINUTES on hold without coming back and checking up on me is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. There’s that word again, ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. I hang up. I’m ten minutes over my break, and hurry back to my workstation – hoping my supervisor was too distracted to notice my stats all out of whack for the day. Not to mention notice me eating Subway at my desk – which is not permitted at my workplace. No afternoon break for me, I think to myself as I sit back down at my desk – foul mood.

Call Seven – 09/09/09  20:00, 3 minutes

It’s 8pm – I finish work. I’ve been dreading calling again, because I’ll be on the phone for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. These guys must have a pretty crappy AHT (Average Handling Time), I remember thinking to myself. The call centre manager must be pissed about the stats. I call the number, and say,
“Billing. Yes. Consultant” as quickly as the system possibly will accept.
I’m put into a queue. A few minutes pass (it must be a little bit busy). The phone then begins to ring. And then engaged.
“Argh!” I cry out in rage, venom running through my veins.

Call Eight – 09/09/09  20:04, 1 hour 14 minutes

I redial the number. “BILLING!!” I bark at my handset, earning a few strange looks in the street, “Yes. CON-SUL-TANT.”
“C…” begins the consultant, “Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900.” I spit out, and then I begin along the lines of, “I need you to get a supervisor. Now. This is my eighth call.”
He enquired what it was about, “Read the file.” I coldly retort, gravel in my tone.
He took a moment to familiarise himself with the situation, and reconfirmed the information back to me. Affirmative. Now, get me a supervisor.
I’m placed on hold for about 10 minutes. A voice come on,
“Yes, hello – who is this?” I demanded. The adolescent voice returns,
“This is Gary. How can I help you?”

Now, I’m 23 years old myself, and this guy sounded younger than me. Call me close-minded, but if I’m being 100% honest (which I have been thus far), but I immediately didn’t get filled with confidence. Even his beginning tone seemed to suggest mock my complaint. These words here are just musings, but being an experienced phone operator myself, I think I have an aptitude for tone of voice, and to have some idea how to decipher meaning from verbal language and tonal cues.
This subconscious act manifests itself in different ways for different people. For me, on this occasion, gave me a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. He wasn’t on the phone to assist me, but rather to ‘defend’ the company. I’m certain I didn’t help change this about him, I probably brought the worst out of him in terms of stubbornness or being belligerent, but he certainly didn’t disappoint.
That is to say, he didn’t disappoint me in his ability to disappoint.

I stated my case, accents on most words, honestly trying to remain calm but not achieving my goal very successfully. He told me after looking at my file that there was no bar on my account and that there must be a fault either with the handset, or the service itself – all of this delivered with an infuriatingly defensive tone. He said, almost with triumph, that I would need to speak to Faults. I stopped him right there.

“That is not acceptable, Gary. In your opinion, how many calls should need to make about this one issue? Well, how many?”
“…One.” was the sheepish reply
“Did I point out how many times I’d called already, Gary?”
He said no, I hadn’t (I knew this to be incorrect, he either wasn’t listening at the beginning of the call or he was playing dumb).
“Eight times, Gary… Eight times. I need you to take ownership of this issue. I need you to call me when the problem has been resolved.” I’m seeing red.
“I can’t.” he says simply.
“No Gary, you CAN. It is that you WON’T”
“No, I can’t.” He corrected me. I’m fuming, and say something I probably shouldn’t have. “Are YOU saying, GARY, that you’re PHYSICALLY unable to pick up a phone and CALL ME after you’ve FIXED the problem?”
“Yes,” he says, “That is correct. You’ll need to call Faults.”
“Are you an amputee, Gary?” I ask, which I knew was wrong as soon as I asked it. I was so angry at this little twerp who called himself a ‘Supervisor’, but was unwilling to take responsibility for any of the company’s short-fallings. Who was this guy to state he was PHYSICALLY unable?
“ that’s not an appropriate question.” he stammered.
“I was just asking you a straight-forward question, Gary, you don’t have to an-”
“No, I’m not an amputee.”
“O-kay, so you’re trying to tell me you’re PROCEDURALLY UNABLE and not PHYSICALLY UNABLE to perform the task, is that correct, Gary?” I state matter-of-factly (again, I’m not pleasant to deal with at this point, I realise this.)
“Yes, I’m procedurally unable.”
I point out, again, that they “are two distinctly different concepts.” I try again.
“Surely, there isn’t a procedure for somebody calling back about the same problem eight times. This is not an acceptable resolution.” Again, he refused to take on the problem.

“What is your Staff Number, Gary?” I demanded.
“…[redacted].” I speak to him about all the phone calls I’ve had to make to Telstra regarding this. I wanted him to waive the call costs. Firstly, he said that calling Telstra was a free number. I pointed out that a consultant had already told me that is DOES cost money if you’re calling from a Mobile. Then, after quietly accepting that information, not admitting his mistake said that he didn’t have the authority to waive any fees.
“Gary, I want you to please clarify that point. You say you don’t have the authority to waive any fees?! You’re a supervisor! What the f**k do you do, Gary?”
“Sir, there’s no reason to swear at me – if you do it again, I’ll terminate this call.”
“I want you to provide me with the first name, and Staff Number, of every one who has left remarks on my account.”
“No, I can’t do that.”
“I’m not asking for their personal details, or surname. I believe I’m entitled to that information.”
“No, you’re not. I can provide only my Staff Number.”
“Okay,” I say, “Can you please give me their first name, and the city they work in?”
“No, I am unable to provide those details.”
Again, I am angry enough to start screaming and cursing, but – I take a deep breath, and demand the details to the Telecommunications Ombudsman, as I will be forwarding this letter as a complaint. He suddenly changed tone, and I swear I almost detected fear in his timbre. He provided the details after a moments hesitation, and asked, “Are you recording this call?”
“No, I am not recording this call.” I stated, and immediately thought to myself; Crap, I should have!

After obtaining the Ombudsman details, I again say, “Let’s pretend for a moment Gary, that it is the fault of the handset – which I KNOW to be incorrect because I tried it with a different SIM today, AND I’m CALLING YOU from it now. But, for the sake of the example, let’s pretend it’s the handset. I called earlier today and was on hold for more than twenty five minutes before having to hang up as I had to go. Now, I don’t know what your procedures are at Telstra, but at my workplace that is a disgusting level of service. You and I both know, that holding on the phone for five actual minutes feels like fifteen. I was on hold for more than twenty five ACTUAL minutes. This was not in queue, but rather at the hand of a consultant. We have policies about going back and checking on customers, making sure they know we ‘haven’t forgotten them’ would be the best way to put it.”
He was silent for a moment and then said, “The amount of calls that you made couldn’t have been more that ten dollars, so I’ll put a ten dollar credit on your account.”

TEN DOLLARS?! At this point in time, I’d clocked more than an hour and a half of Telstra “Support” (try to picture the quotation marks around the word support as a sarcastic hand gesture as you read it), and I was offered TEN DOLLARS in compensation? I earn anywhere between $24-$48 an hour in my line of employment, it’s not a scholar wage – and frankly, I value the small amount of FREE time I enjoy worth a whole lot more to me than that. Yet, here it was: My combined free time (again, valued by myself as more than my hourly work wage, but feel free to get a second opinion), blood pressure, anxiety and all the CALLS apparently equated to less than the price of a movie ticket. That, was probably the biggest insult at all.

I think I almost would have preferred it if he kept up with the whole, “I’m a supervisor, and yet I a) cannot take ownership of company short-fallings b) won’t converse with other departments, let the customer do the legwork and c) don’t have the authority to waive fees.” charade. Instead, he thought he might change his mind and value this schmucks time, energy and almost unbridled rage as $10.00. Oh, and don’t forget to deduct the money for the calls he made to US to FIX the problem WE created. At the end of my tether, I state he “Obviously cannot assist me any further, can [you] get me in touch with Faults.”

…And that was the last I heard of him.

I was placed on hold, at this stage the time was about 8:25pm. Then, I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I got thinking: I didn’t hear the sound of a transfer to a different line. I waited on hold for 47 minutes, nobody came back to say anything. My veins feel like they’re going to burst through my skin, like the Incredible Hulk. I can’t recall being so furious. I think back – I think it may have been high school. A bully had thrown me into a wall outside IT class. I saw red, and punched him as hard as I could. That was the last time I saw the knuckle for my ring finger on my righthand. Somebody picks up the phone, and answers.

“GARY?!” I ask incredulously, thinking for sure it was him.
“Er, sorry sir?” It was some poor other bloke, who apparently hadn’t been introduced to the situation. Cold transfer – you’re a bloody champion Gary, Staff Number [redacted].
“Which department are you in?”
“I’m in Faults.”
“RIGHT! I’ve been directed to your department to remove the outgoing call restriction on my phone.”
“Okay sir, let me just look into that for you. What is yo…”
“Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900!” He places the phone down, and I hear some talking. Now, I cannot place context, but I can testify to the fact I heard the words, “Amanda” muffle muffle “hang-up?” muffle muffle. I then heard some conversation in another language, it might have been Indian but truthfully, I couldn’t properly say. Finally, the line went dead.

The time was 9:17pm, and at that point in time I honestly felt like I was at risk of having a brain aneurysm. Words cannot begin to translate my fury-fueled brainwaves. I had been on hold for forty-seven minutes, the perfect end to a phone call that lasted over an hour. My Telstra support time now clocks in at nearly two and a half hours. My dinner is cold, and I literally am too upset to eat anyway. I’ve got a lump in my throat that feels like an actual lump. I put my phone on the charger (I’ve put it under a lot of stress, apparently) and stand there awkwardly in a half stooping position to reattempt to get hold of the Faults department. It’s important to reiterate that the time is now 9:17pm, and Sales and Billing close at 9pm. You’ll need to remember that for the following call.

Call Nine – 09/09/09  21:18, 44 minutes

I wait 32 minutes for service. The call is answered.
“Sorry for the delay, my name is John.”
“Which department are you in, John?”
“I’m in Faults.”
“Can I please take down your Staff Number, John?”
“Er, yes. It’s [redacted].”
“Thank you John, now – I apologise in advance if I raise my voice, you have no idea how badly I’ve been f**ked around.”
“Oh, well, what seems to be the problem?”
I proceed to explain the phantom call barring noted by Sales and Billing. That they swear their is no bar on their end, and it must be a fault. He politely places me on hold after being warned that, “However long I’m placed on hold without you coming to check on me after a long delay is equally proportionate to how angry I will be when you return.” He stated politely that he’ll obviously need to put me on hold to resolve the situation, but won’t keep me long.” I waited for him to return with a resolution to this problem. A short, and not unreasonable amount of time passed. John returned.

“I’ve looked into the problem, and I’ve discovered what seems to be the cause,”
“Go on.” (the next is not verbatim, but rather what I understood after his explanation.)
“It appears that the original bar had been placed by our old system. Since then, your account has been in the process of getting migrated to the new system, as the systems are getting upgraded. The call bar, when your bill was paid, was removed in the old system, but not removed in the new system.”
“Okay – so, can you remove it from the new system?”
“…No. I’m sorry, but unfortunately we in Faults are unable to remove call barring-”
“No, no no no, don’t say….”
“Only Sales and Billing are able to remove the bar. Which closed at 9pm.” I think of Gary, smug Gary who was so sure it was a fault with the handset. I mean, how could 9 DIFFERENT PEOPLE miss something so simple? Occam’s Razor would suggest that Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900, was the one with the problem, as 9 DIFFERENT PEOPLE can’t get something SO SIMPLE WRONG.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll need to call back…”
“WHOA, John! I KNOW you didn’t just suggest I hit double figures with my call backs! I need this to be resolved, and I am so far past furious I can’t even articulate it.”
“…Okay. My shift is from 8am-8pm tomorrow. I will call Sales and Billing to get the bar lifted when they open, and I will call you once I have gotten it fixed.”
“I extremely appreciate your assistance in resolving this matter, John. I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”

Wow! Firstly, let me say for John to come through like that was a big relief. I expected that to happen after the third call or so. Fourth or fifth, even. But – I’d lost faith in Telstra so badly by the ninth call that I no longer expected what I previously had felt was a basic right of service – to not have to be tied to the phone while the company fixes a problem the company has. After that last 44 minute phone call, I was very near the three hour mark of waiting on a phone line alone. At this time I felt like somebody was taking care of it. It was on it’s way to being resolved.

My sister called me shortly afterward. Brilliant, she works for Telstra – I’ll tell her about my problem. She was shocked, appalled and in general disbelief as to how poor the service I’d received was. She agreed that there was some number between one and nine times that somebody might have offered to take this on board. I explain I want to put my complaint through to an area that’ll actually listen (that sounds rather trite, doesn’t it?). She tells me that the head honcho of Telstra has opened a new elite department for complaints. It’s a trial run for staff and family of staff only. Brilliant, I’ll send this to them. I’ll see what happens with John (Staff Number [redacted]) tomorrow, and proceed accordingly.

I begin to chronicle my complaint, I want somebody to know not just the bare facts, but rather how I felt during the ordeal. Now, for those who have read up to this point and do not agree the word ‘ordeal’ is appropriate, I sincerely disagree. It brought up anger I didn’t know I had. I suppose I should thank Telstra also, in a strange way. They’ve made me learn more about myself than any other single experience in the last couple of years.

I’m squinting, the time is 4:18am. I’d better get to sleep.

10/09/09  – 15:29

The ringing phone awakes my from my nap. I reach over and answer groggily
It was my sister. She was at work and had looked into my problem for me. She stated that she’s checked both systems and that neither are showing a call bar. She confirmed that in Service they’d label it a Fault. I explained that John (Staff Number [redacted]) was supposed to call me when he’d gotten it removed.
“Ah, I know!” she said, “I’ll send him an email! What his staff number?” She put it into the system, but it didn’t work.
“Hmmm, that’s weird. Hang on, I’ll put you on hold.” I’m blinking my eyes, stretching out – John’d better not have fleeced me. Better not have. She comes back.
“I checked his Staff Number in Native and..” she began.
“…he doesn’t exist, right?”
“…Right. Um, I don’t suppose he gave you his… surname?”
“Would you?” I ask sourly.
“Good point.”

I’m back to square one. It was Monday that the bar was placed on my calls – it is now Thursday afternoon. For some reason I’m strangely calm. I might have severed my fury muscle from overuse, and now I’m just cynical. The once-bright optimist seeing nothing but failure and disappointment.

I’ve lost faith in Telstra.  Even with my sister working there, I feel like I never want to deal with this company ever again.

I’ve lost faith in Telstra.

The reason it’s called faith is not because they provide a phone service when you’re paying for a phone service. It’s called faith because when this service is interrupted you have ‘faith’ that they’ll rectify the issue. So, it’s very fair at this point to say that it would need to be a very special act indeed that would restore my ‘faith’ in Telstra. We’re talking about a full blown faith pipeline hemorrhage. All the faith is drained out, it’s all gone. I realise I’m going to have to call again, and my heart sinks. I was really hoping I could finish on nine, too. When I retell this story, I wanted to be able to say, “I had to call then nine times!”. The moment I start saying, “I had to call them ten times!” It sounds like I’m exaggerating!

Call Ten – 10/09/09  17:06, 2 hours 23 minutes

I’m on hold to the Faults department for ten minutes. The phone begins to ring, and my ears prick up. It rings, and rings. And then, hold music again. I slump. Excellent. Another 6 minutes pass. I speak clearly and calmly.
“Hello sir, can I confirm your mobile number as [redecated]?
“Correct. I’m sorry, what is your name?
“Thank you, JB. And what is your Staff Number, please?”
“Er.. sir?”
“What is your Staff Number?”
“Er. Um. Is there a Fault with your Mobile?”
“Yes, there is. But I would appreciate it if you would give me your Staff Number, JB.”
I proceed to tell JB, very calmly and concisely the problem, which is that I cannot make outbound calls on my mobile. He places my on hold for a short time, and comes back. “Thank you for waiting patiently, sir – I’m going to have to transfer you to a differe…”
“Whoa! Before you finish that sentence, JB, please clarify: Are you intending to transfer me to Sales and Billing?”
“No sir – I’m only a Level 1 Support agent, and I’m needing to transfer you to a Level 2 Support agent, as I don’t have the knowledge or resources to fix your problem.”
“Is this a warm, or a cold transfer JB?
“…It’s a cold transfer.”
“How long is the hold time for this department, JB?”
“…I don’t know.”
“I’m asking this, because this is my tenth call about this issue. It may sound like an exaggerated number, but I have, in fact, called nine times before this call. I really don’t want to be wasting much more time with this.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I’m unable to help. Thank you for calling Telstra, please stay on the line.”

And I wait.

As I’m waiting, I’m thinking, Did I cause this? Did I do something that karma was upset about? Or maybe it’s a test? To see if I will snap? Forty six minutes I wait. A girl answers.

Dee, [redacted].
Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900 – outgoing calls barred. No, it’s not a problem with handset. No, it’s not a problem with the bill. No, it’s not a problem with coverage in the area of 4000 – Brisbane City. (At least, for your sake I really hope not). Yes, I will hold. (I’m very polite at this point.) I’m on hold for several minutes. She come back and apologises for the delay, she is still looking into it. I thank her for checking on me, and give her leave to place me on hold again. She takes another couple of minutes. She returns,
“Thank you for your patience.” she begins, and I think to myself, another one of the apparent few consultants at Telstra with any skill at dealing with customers. She explains that INSI number [redacted] was placed to remove the Call Barring on 05/09/09. Now, this seems a little strange, given that I paid my bill on the 07/09/09. I don’t argue. She also tells me that because it’s a system automated process, she is unable to expedite its’ delivery. “Thank you for your assistance Dee, it’s appreciate you cannot do anything from your end, but I will need to speak to your supervisor.” I’m placed on hold. For fifteen minutes. Dee returns, and tells me the supervisor is on another escalated call, and is tied up. She also notes that the Supervisor has instructed her to raise a Fault TT1-[redacted]. She tells me the turnaround time is 24-48 hours. I put it to her, pleading, to get the supervisor to call back  – of course, a request met with the protest it is an inbound call centre and they don’t make calls. I explain hotly they I know that inbound call centres don’t generally make calls, but would you please make an exception in this case? I have held on the line for an hour and fifteen minutes at this point, and I really feel they should make an effort. She apologises, and tells me this is not possible, as her supervisor does not permit callbacks. I am placed on hold, again.

I feel my anger swelling up, blood boiling in my head. I clench my iPhone like a vice, clammy hands… and wait. Wait I did, striving for the Guinness World Record of holding. I muse some more; I wonder if the reports of mobile phones causing brain tumours are true? I bloody hope not… I feel a headache coming on. Fifteen minutes go by, and Dee returns.

“I’m sorry for the delay, sir… my supervisor is still on the other call. I.. don’t know how long he’ll be.” Dee explains, meekly. Poor girl, she really didn’t deserve this sort of thing, but I need a resolution! I start ranting, but how 24-48 hours is not a good enough timeframe. She corrects me, quietly. I ask her to repeat herself.
“I… made a mistake, sir. It’s actually… 7-10 days for faults of this nature.” She states, her voice now a whisper.

I laugh hysterically.

“I’m not going to go crook at you, Dee. We all make mistakes. But understand this: That timeframe is unacceptable. Unacceptable. What am I supposed to do? I can’t text, I can’t make calls… For potentially 10 days?! I can’t accept this. I really do need to speak to your supervisor. I’ve been on the phone for an hour and a half now, Dee. That’s just one call – tonight! I going to need your supervisor to call me back. I feel that you guys need to make an effort. I work in an inbound call centre too, and believe me – I know. You’re there to answer call, not make them. But to harp on this point again, this is my tenth call, Dee. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. It’s more than it sounds. And this is one of those calls, just one. It’s been an hour and a half!”

Dee is silent for a short time. I picture her, sitting at her desk not knowing what to do. On one hand, her supervisor either a) actually on the phone or b) not actually on the phone but is telling Dee to say he is. On the other, this man on the phone whom she either empathises with or even despises for ruining her stats and her mood, she wants to be rid of with no visible means of doing so. I truly felt bad for her, she was only doing her job – doing her job well, I might add. This feeling, however, did not outweigh my dissatisfaction with Telstra, and I persisted.

“Put me on hold, Dee, and please get your supervisor to talk to me. I’m going to remain on the line as long as it takes for him to either get on the phone, or to offer to call me back – because this is beyond ridiculous.”
And I’m placed on hold. Again. To get this goddamn elusive supervisor. Bet his boss didn’t have so much difficulty getting him on the phone. I figure I’m in for a long one (as if it weren’t already), so I stick my headphones into my iPhone and jump on my computer. I figure I might do some research, and I booted up good old Hmmm, let’s put some search words into the bar… let’s say, “What are my rights as a customer?” + “telecommunications” + “ask to speak to a supervisor”. Several interesting links adorned the screen. Customer Service Guarantee, and TIO frequented these lists. I wonder what these say… Oh, here we go: ‘If you ask to speak to a supervisor, and the consultant says they’re not available, what then?’ began one of the articles, I read on. If you ask to speak to a supervisor, and there is not one available, you are entitled to ask for a callback.
They are legally obliged to comply with this request. Wow, I thought, that’s a powerful statement.

They are legally obliged!

If I’m reading this correctly, I infer that to not comply with this request was unlawful. Unlawful, of course, meaning illegal. Now, I’m not actually knee deep in the legislation, and as such cannot provide a paragraph code or anything like that, but I feel energised knowing I’m in the right in my request for a callback. I wait for an awfully long time, and look at the phone. My phone call has lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes. The line picks up. It’s Dee.
“I’ve been on hold for an awfully long time just now, Dee. I hope you have good news.”
“I.. I’m sorry.. for the delay, sir. I’ve just been trying to get my supervisor to come and take the call. I didn’t realise he was going straight into a meeting. He said he’d be at least half an hour.”
“Sorry Dee, so you’re saying he went from the last phone call he was on, straight into a meeting?”
“Yes sir, I.. I’m really sorry.” Well, honestly, at this point it is very clear that I was not going to be able to get him on the phone. Unless I’m an extremely unlucky bloke, who happened to ask to speak to a supervisor at the exact wrong time, I think this is getting nowhere fast. I got the distinct impression Dee was a victim of circumstances here, unable to comply with my request due to her dodging supervisor.
“I had a little time to browse the internet in your absence, Dee. I found out something pretty interesting. Did you know that if I ask to speak to a supervisor, and there isn’t one available to take my call, that I am entitled to a callback? Not doing so is in direct violation of the Customer Service Guarantee, set by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman? Now, I do appreciate that this is not your fault, Dee, but I am invoking that right. I’m also going to need to take their name and Staff Number, because it is, in fact, them that is violating the standard.”

…And the line went dead.


“NO!!” I screamed at my phone, staring at it incredulously facing me in my tightly clenched fist. She wouldn’t dare! She couldn’t!! I just slumped in my chair, and my face fell. I might never get to the bottom of this problem. I just sat there in disbelief, looking at my phone. Until it rang 60 seconds later.
“Hello?” I ask the phone, not daring to let the fleeting hope I just felt creep into my heart. It was Dee.
“Hello sir, I’m sorry, but the line suddenly disconnected.”
She’d called me back. She was the first one to ever dial my number back after a disconnection. I was in sheer awe of her courage to be able to do this, given what had happened so far, it was incredible. I continued.
“If I could get the name and Staff Number of your supervisor, please, Dee.”
She explained to me that she could provide me with his first name, Ivan, and that she and himself were in the Manila office. She couldn’t, however, get his Staff Number.
“I need him to call me back as soon as he is able,” I instructed Dee, “This phone number is the only one I have, so he will be able to reach me on it. I want to apologise for you being to one to receive this call, as if I had gotten me on the phone, I’d be really angry at the random act of fate that allow that to happen. You’ve provided all the service you’ve been able, but somebody had to get this call. And as I’ve reiterated several times, I will not stand for this situation.”
She was silent for a moment. And then she said,
“I’m frustrated by this situation, also. I feel your frustration, and if I were in your shoes, I feel like I feel exactly as you do.”
“Thank you for your empathy, Dee. Please pass on to your supervisor that I require a call back from him tonight. Again, my apologies for making your night tough. Thanks again Dee, take care.”

And that was it. Dee really stood out from the pack by being able to empathise with me, and by apologising profusely for what I’d gone through thus far. Good intentions aside, however, at that exact moment I knew that even though Ivan in Manila would be forwarded my details by Dee directly, he would never call me.

I was going to have to place another call tomorrow, as I simply don’t have the energy to do it tonight. I feel like this experience has aged me at an increased rate. I am so angry at the abysmal service that Telstra have provided me over the last couple of days that I sincerely want to just change to a different service provider. How is it fair to me that I am contractually obliged to remain a Telstra customer for another twelve or so months? Yet, this supervisor who is legally obliged to call me back after f**king me around for so long isn’t going to call back, and I have to suffer for it?

TWO HOURS, TWENTY-THREE MINUTES I waited on the phone, and STILL no satisfaction. I’ve tried patience, I’ve tried being bossy, I’ve tried being a prick, I’ve tried being calm and reasoning, I’ve tried to offload the problem onto somebody to fix it and I’ve even tried sticking on the phone until it’s fixed. NOTHING works. As it stands now, the time is 11:05pm, and I have not received a call from the gutless wonder IVAN. Hmph, ANOTHER call will need to be placed. I think I’ll title it Call Eleven. Seems appropriate, somehow.

I’m no mathematician, but do have the ability to add up minutes with the use of my trusty calculator. According to it’s old school Liquid Crystal Display, I’ve spent 5.55 hours on the phone, waiting for Telstra for the most part. Some talking, some shouting, but mostly waiting. That’s five and a half hours. If I were at work, I’d be getting paid double time (overtime) for doing more than the usual 76 hour fortnight. Might I remind you that if I valued my free time as worth equal to or less than that amount, I would do overtime? But I don’t, because to me – It’s not worth it. On the bright side, eleven sounds like less of a made-up number than ten. Dark clouds and silver linings.

Time to get some sleep, I’ve got an equally infuriating day ahead of me tomorrow.


It’s now Friday and I still don’t have resolution to this problem. Furthermore, I haven’t been called back by either of the two that were supposed to. I’ve been lied to. Several times. Even though at this point even I’m starting to see the humorous side to this story, the tightness in the pit of my stomach is yet to subside. My anxiety is affecting my mood permanently now, and I’m truly dreading the task at hand. I reach for my phone, sigh deeply, and dial that infernal number, 125111. My intention today is not to try and get the consultant to assist me, as – really – this have been proven as a useless means of enquiry. Instead, I’m going to have to get them to transfer me to the Customer Relations department

Call Eleven – 11/09/09  10:54, 2 hours 58 minutes

“Thank you for calling Telstra, this is Mike!”
“Yes, thank you Mike. Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900. I don’t even know where to begin. I cannot make calls at the moment, and I need you to dial a number for me. It’s the Complaints Department. I am going to lodge a complaint about not be able to dial, and the Customer Service I’ve received thus far. Then, if you would be so kind, transfer me through to that number. It’s 1800644569.”
Mike takes a moment to familiarise himself with the situation by looking at the notes on the profile, and it’s obvious by reading only a few of them he doesn’t want to get involved. He kindly obliges my request. I wait only a short time (compared to normal) before the call is answered by Karen.

“Hello, can I please start with your Complaint Reference Number, please?”
Well, that tripped me up. I didn’t follow.
“I… er, don’t have a Complaint Reference.. Number. I want to file a complaint.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I only deal with customers with Complaint Reference Numbers, I’m going to need to transfer you over to somebody else that will be able to assist with this enquiry.”
I sigh a heavy sigh, and resign to the fact my waiting is not over for today, oh no. Not by a long shot.
“Okay,” I say, defeated, “Transfer me through.”
Again, I am placed on hold. I have heard these hold tapes more than the ones at my own place of employment. I am feeling the dread creep over my body. This is like a bad dream.

“Hello, This is Luke in New South Wales – how can I help you today?”
“Hi Luke, I’d like to file a complaint.”
“Ooo-kay, what’s the problem? First, can I just…”
“Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900.”
I proceed to tell him – goddamn it. You know what I told him, if you’ve read until this point. I’ve told him about the call barring. I’ve told him about the fact that this is my eleventh call. I’ve told him that I’m fed up, and that this service has been appalling! He listens. He empathises. He apologises. I finish.
“I’ve certainly noted all of what you’ve said on your account, Cloaker Josh,” Oh my God! He’s the first one that’s used my name, I’m pretty sure! “We will investigate the fault, and should call you in a couple of days.”
My enthusiasm plummets. A couple of days.
“What is my Complaint Reference Number?”
“Oh sorry, I can’t raise new complaints.”
“Exc- blhhg hermbl?” I splutter out, suffering from temporary spasmodic dysphonia, “I’m sorry? I thought I was… speaking with… Complaints!?” I finally manage to spit out, choking on my words.
“I’m sorry, no. I’m in Service, I’ve remarked your account with what you’ve said, but I cannot raise new complaints.”
My heart skipped a beat. No…. surely not. Couldn’t be.
“I want to raise an official complaint, Luke. I was transferred to you to do that. Where can I send my complaint, Luke?”
“I’ll give you the address. It’s PO Box-”
“No, I’ll have the email address, please Luke.”
“…It’s only by post.”
My ears deceive me. They must have, as clearly this wasn’t the case.
“I need an email address, Luke.
“I’m sorry – our email is internal use only. You can’t send email from the outside.”
“Luke, you’re a good consultant. But, please don’t insult my intelligence. If it’s not policy to give out email addresses, I certainly understand. But, to say that it couldn’t be sent from the outside is obviously not factual.”
“… I can put you through to Complaints..? Somebody there might be able to provide one?”
I thanked Luke for his time, asked for his Staff Number, [redacted], pointing out it was only a formality at this point – you understand? He accepted and put me through to Complaints, saying to me before transferring me, “I sincerely hope they are able to help you.”
Again, another word I let slip by without clarification.


hope |hōp|
2. archaic; a feeling of trust.
verb [ intrans. ]
wanting something to happen or be the case : he’s hoping for an offer of compensation | [with clause ] I hope that the kids are OK.
• [with infinitive ] intend if possible to do something : we’re hoping to address all these issues.

Oh, how we let our disillusionment console us. And, boy was I disillusioned. And I wait. I look at my phone display, 40 minutes so far. We’re going to top an hour again today, I think to myself, I obviously haven’t got anything better to do.
The phone picks up, and I scramble to pick the phone off of the desk.

“He-hello?” I say.
“Hello, this is Rudi.”
“Hi Rudi, what is your Staff Number, please?
“It’s… [redacted].”
“Thank you, Rudi.”
Now, can you guess what she said next? I speak no word of a lie.
“What is your Complaint Reference Number?”
I was speechless, I truly was. No words could communicate my emotions. I composed myself.
“I’m calling to raise a complaint! I WANT TO FILE A COMPLAINT.”
“I’m sorry sir, I only deal with escalated situations…”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, sir. I’ll go and find a consultant that can assist you. You’re having problems making outgoing calls? Yes, okay – Their supervisor will be able to raise a complaint.”
“Then, can I please speak to their supervisor?! I need to speak to somebody about raising a complaint!”
“I’m sorry sir, but I’ll need to get a consultant on the line who can assist with your problem.”
I’m on hold again. I look at my phone. 47 minutes. Wow, just wow. I clench my left fist, close my eyes, and rest against my forehead on the wall. I don’t believe this is happening again. A few minutes later, a consultant answers the phone.

“Hello sir, my name is Linen, you are having a problem with your service?”
“Yes, I am, Linen. What is your Staff Number, please?”
“It’s [redacted]. Can I jus…”
“Cloaker Josh. 01/01/1900.”
“Okay, I’m just looking into your account…” Oh boy.
“Certainly.” I reply sharply. She takes a moment.
“It appears all call barring has been removed, we have done everything required on this end. Have you tried turning your phone off and on again?”

Sincerely, I couldn’t make this up. They say truth is stranger than fiction. Well, it’s definitely more frustrating than fiction! My emotions briefly spike, and then calm.
“Sorry Linen, obviously the situation hasn’t been explained to you properly. I cannot make calls from my mobile, except for this one. This has been happening for 5 days now. This is my eleventh call about this one issue! There’s apparently no problem on the Sales end. There’s no problem with the handset. There’s no problem with the coverage. There is a Fault, and I’ve called to file a complaint.” I’ve gotten it off of my chest, and immediately felt lighter. Linen takes a moment, and then says, “I just need you to turn off your phone-” I ABSOLUTELY LOSE IT!

“I DIDN’T ASK YOU TO REPEAT YOURSELF  – I WANT TO FILE AN OFFICIAL COMPLAINT! YES! I’VE TRIED POWER CYCLING MY PHONE! HAVE YOU LISTENED TO ANYTHING I JUST SAID?” I yell, my fist shaking in the air like an old man scolding the neighborhood kids to get off his perfectly manicured lawn, “I apologise for getting angry at you, it’s not your fault – It’s Telstra’s crappy infrastructure that doesn’t properly facilitate the distribution of information. Can you please get a supervisor, now?”
My voice lowering, but still on edge. This poor girl truly didn’t get properly prepared for this situation. It seems to be the story of my week. I’m placed promptly on mute, while she attempts to get a supervisor to speak to me. That’s okay, I think to myself, the supervisor will be able to raise a complaint, give me a Complaint Reference Number, and I’ll be able to get off of the phone. I look at the time on my phone. 58 minutes so far, STILL haven’t spoken to somebody who can file a complaint. I impatiently drum my fingers on the table. I hear slight scratching noises, every 30 seconds or so. Ten minutes pass. I recognise those scratching noises.
“You know, hold would have been better than mute, as I can hear the jack moving it’s socket, whenever you move your head. So, I’d appreciate it if you came back to me and told me what was taking so long.” That will get their attention. 10 seconds pass, and somebody picks up the phone.
“Hello? This is (Bettie?). What is your problem?
“Bettie, is it? What is your Staff Number, Bettie?”
“… I’m sorry?”
“Your Employee Number, please Bettie.”
“I want to lodge an official complaint.”
“What is your complaint?”
“Well, it’s multi-faceted. My service disruption, not being able to make calls, but also the service! This is the eleventh call I’ve had to place to Telstra. I’ve spent over 6 hours on the phone!
“I need to speak to Technical Support about your issue, please hold the line.”
“Okay.” I state through gritted teeth, sweating for the amount of pacing I’d been doing. Calling Telstra is pretty good for cardiovascular fitness, apparently. And, like that, I am hearing that bloody hold music again.


In order to calm my nerves while I wait AGAIN, I decide to look at pictures of cute kittens, Bettie comes back on the line.
“I have spoken to a Technical Support Officer,” she says.
Yeah, and a dishwasher is an Underwater Ceramic Technician, I think to myself;
“You shouldn’t need to call us back about this, as we’ve raised a fault.”
“I wanted to lodge a complaint, Bettie, nobody has given me a complaint number.”
“I have it here,” She says, and I quickly reach for my pen. “Okay, it’s 1-20483…”
I’m writing down this number, and tune out for a moment as it seems awfully familiar, as I used the same piece of paper to write down the ‘Fault’ number that was raised yesterday by Dee. She continues, “…58. Also, at the beginning it starts with double T for Tango.”
“Bettie, I’ve been told this number is a job number.”
“That’s correct.” She confirms.
“…But if I am to deal directly with the ‘Complaints’ department, I need a ‘Complaint Number’.”
“Yes, that is a ‘Complaint Number’, it lists the fault that you’re having, and we will use this to track the fault.”
“Bettie, if I give this number to Complaints, will they accept this as a Complaint Reference Number?”
“Yes, yes they will.”
“I need somewhere I can send my letter. Nobody has yet provided me with details to email my letter!”
“Yes, okay. The postal…”
“No. I do not accept that a telecommunications and internet service provider cannot provide me with an electronic means of sending my complaint. This is unacceptable.”

I feel my blood boil to the surface.

“I DO NOT HAVE a printer. I would have to; Walk to the Post Office, buy an envelope, buy a stamp, walk to a print shop, print my document, put my document into that envelope, put that envelope into the post, wait for it to get to you, so you can open it and…. No, no! I will not accept that.”
Betty acknowledges this quietly and places me on hold to get an appropriate email address. In the meantime, whilst I’m waiting, I decide to log on to and search keyword ‘Complaint’. This brings up a seemingly appropriate response labelled ‘How to Make a Complaint’. Brilliant, even an idiot like me can understand that. A subsection, ‘By email’. Again, choice – sounds great. And…. there’s an online form.
Wait a second! THAT’S NOT EMAIL! An online form is not the same as email. Also, all my carefully and thoughtfully placed bold and italics will be lost! Unbelievable! Crap. Still, I suppose it’s something I can fall back on, if I have to. If it has a character limit, I will literally scream at the screen, and stab a fork into one of my eyes at random.
Still waiting, but at this point, who cares, right? It’s only destroyed my ability to enjoy my week. Both of my days off – wasted holding, and writing this epic tome of a complaint. I wipe my damp and furrowed brow with the back of my hand, and noticed its shaking from adrenaline.
What seems to  be an eternity passes, and a voice comes on the phone.
“Hello, this is (muffle), can I star…”
“Hello?!” I ask incredulously, using the word incredulously to describe this unique emotion for the third time in the last 5 years. Flabbergasted, dumbfounded and discombobulated don’t seem to have the same bite, the same punch. “I was waiting on hold to Bettie, a supervisor in Service for her to retrieve an email address that I can forward my complaint to!”
“Er… I’m sorry sir, but I’ve just been told you have a problem with the service, and that you were following up on this.” OMFG. Did “Bettie” just cold transfer me to this poor girl, (muffle)?! That’s an emotion for me now, OMFG. Think of it as a hybrid between shock, confusion and denial.
“Can I please get your name again, I’m sorry?”
“Ah, my name is Mia.”
“And your Employee Number, Mia?”
“Mia, was this call warm transferred to you?”
She explained that yes, this call was warm transferred to her, and that she had only informed that I was following up on a Fault.
I looked at the time on my phone, 1 hour 32 minutes. Goddamn it.
She told me that she was in Level 2 Faults, and that she would need to place me on hold to look into my account. I’m in an infinite loop! Arrrrrrrgh! It’s like if ‘Telstra’ was a computer program, some guy accidentally left out the else if { logic! Telstra apparently doesn’t account for this situation. Either that, or they are simply experts at antagonising the antagonised.
I’m going to have to invent a new word to explain the emotion for this. It’s got to encompass a few attributes; fury, agitation, horror, hate (a word I truly don’t use lightly), disbelief, aggravation, cynicism, dishonesty, pessimism, heinous, humiliation, miscarriage of service.
Hmmm, what word could possibly conjure up all that bile, all that hatred? Oh snap – I think I’ve got it. The perfect work to sum up all of that damage. Worse than all the filthy words I’ve ever said, knowing my mother wasn’t within earshot. It’ll be…


It has been one hour and forty-five minutes, Mia comes back on the phone.
“I’m very sorry sir, but I’m still looking into the problem. I do apologise for the wait, I shouldn’t be too much longer.”
“Mia, can you please call me back about this?” I plead, “I’ve been on the phone for… one hour, forty-six minutes and thirty-four seconds. This is my eleventh call.”
“…I am sorry sir, but I will need you to remain on the line. What is your number, just incase the line gets disconnected?” I figure, in hindsight, she was probably throwing me an unofficial lifeline here, but I couldn’t see the forest through the trees at the time. I reconfirmed my phone number – my ONLY phone number. She placed me on hold again.

For the most part, the staff I have dealt with were nice enough. But, where I think the true failing is, is the ability to a) make decisions and b) compromise. I feel if the consultants themselves were more empowered to do things for customers, i.e. Offer a callback after a certain amount of calls had been made about a particular problem. Maybe three, or something. Certainly something before eleven, anyway. It has been two hours and nineteen minutes now. Mia comes back onto the line.
“I’ve investigated the issue, sir, and I’ve found out a couple of things. Firstly, Sales and Billing cannot see anything in their systems. There seems to be a glitch with one of the other systems. I’ve emailed System Support Escalations, getting them to investigate the removal of the barring, which, from our system, refuses to cancel. I have provided them directly with my email address, so they’ll respond directly to myself, after which I will call you when I have an update. It may be two days before I hear back from them.” I reiterate this information back to her, to make sure I understood the situation perfectly. She confirms.
“Thank you, Mia! THANK YOU!” I say with joy in my voice, praising her profusely and sincerely, ”I really do sincerely appreciate you looking into this! Now, I am still wanting to file a complaint about the Service I have received up until this point.”
“I can transfer you directly to Complaints?”
“Whoa, no! I need something made very clear – I need somebody to file a complaint, not raise one. I’ve spoken to ‘Complaints’ twice already, and both times they asked me for a Complaint Reference Number which I don’t have.”
“Sir, the department I am referring to took a transfer from me earlier today, and there was no mention of any ‘Complaint Reference Number’. You can speak to one of the supervisors here to raise a complaint, but ‘Complaints’ will be able to raise a complaint for you.”
Now, I had no desire to speak to Mia’s supervisor, as ‘Faults’ wasn’t really where most of my issues were. Well, sure, there was Ivan, the supervisor that I picture hiding under a desk somewhere in the Philippines… maybe I just felt like I’d put Mia through enough for one day.
“Okay, Mia, if you say this other department can raise a complaint for me, then I will happily speak to that particular area.”
We said our goodbyes, and I was placed on hold. Two hours and twenty-six minutes. This time, I was a lot calmer – if I could just pry an email out of somebody, I would be able to get off of the phone. I figure this one will take an age, so I plug my headphones into my phone. Read some articles on the internet, which thankfully I have with another Internet Service Provider… make a coffee… more funny captions pictures of kittens. It is now two hours and fifty two minutes.

Lisa, [redacted].
“Can I raise a complaint with you, Lisa?” I ask in optimistic desperation.
“Yes sir, you can.”
A wave of relief washes over my nerves as I stand up joyously from my chair.
“Excellent! O-kay! Forgive me if I sound… exultant,” I say, walking around the room, gesturing wildly but not caring she can’t see it,”Thank you Lisa. I want to email a document through, and I would like to use this to raise my complaint.”
“Sure. Have you got a pen? It’s”
It’s… over? Is that all I needed..? I – think – that’s it. Let me process this information; I’ve been given a means of sending through this document. Oh my God – that’s all I need!
“So… if I send through a document to this email address, it will be turned into a complaint?”
“I’ll add it to your Complaint Reference Number.”
“Add it to my Com… no, I haven’t got one. I want to raise one.”
“Oh, I mean I’ll add it to this existing one.”
Is she meaning to say I’ve had one all along?
“So can I, er, have the number?”
“Sure – it’s 1-[redacted].”
“Just a question Lisa, I’m not asking you to wildly speculate. But – why was this email address so difficult to come by? As of now, I have been on the phone for more than a total of eight hours!”
“Well, that email address is my team’s email address, and other departments would have access to that information.” Yeah, well… fair enough. Still.
I thanked her for her assistance, and hung up the phone.

So, that’s how my week has gone. I have compiled a fun list of statistics, for your entertainment.

Number of people spoken to: 19
Minutes total on phone to Telstra: 511 minutes
Minutes converted into hours and minutes: 8 hours, 31 minutes
Number of times I was placed on hold: 24 times
Number of times I used the word incredulous to describe my mindset: 3
Number of words written in this page: 11,159

Now, as you can imagine, the amount of time I’ve put into this piece is substantial. It is, in fact more time than being on the phone, if that can be believed. A conservative estimate of time spent on this Complaint letter alone would be, 14 hours maybe? A high as 16, but definitely at least 13. Having stated that, I want somebody to read it. More then skim it for details, but to read the article.

This experience I’ve had at the hand of Telstra is not as bad as some of the Today/Tonight stories that pop up every couple of years. But rather an example of the level of staff complacency and faulty procedures suffered by customers on a daily basis. I want somebody to read what I have written and understand how I felt about the whole thing. Not even to agree with my emotions necessarily, but to acknowledge them. And to act on that acknowledgement.

So, after all that, one question remains. What is exactly that you’re trying to achieve, Cloaker Josh? What do you want? What are you getting at? Well, I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided I want to be free from the bonds of my mobile contract. Do not want. Now, I don’t know exactly what your empowerment is, or what is normally suggested in these circumstances. But, know that if you’re not prepared to allow a cancellation of my contract without penalty, I will listen to suggestion of compromise with a healthy dose of cynicism. Not to say I’m not open to other avenues, I’m just saying I can’t really see what you could offer me that would substitute a want of better poor interdepartmental communication and abysmal callback procedures.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, you can contact me one of three ways.

You can:

Phone me on [redacted]
Email me at
Write me at [redacted]

However, if your choice is the latter, please be advised asking me to reply by physical post is not an option.


Cloaker Josh, 01/01/1900


You made it all the way through.  Congratulations.  Now aren’t you glad you don’t have a phone contract with Telstra!


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Now check out another funny complaint letter to Telstra here

  1. Cloaker Josh isn’t Josh’s real name of course.  Nor is he over 113 years old.  His identity is being protected here 

11 thoughts on “Telstra: The Longest Complaint Letter Ever?”

  1. Hi josh, sorry that you’ve had a bad experience with Telstra. As a current outsourced call centre worker from the Philippines, this is definitely a learning curve for me. I am doing a lot of research on how I could better service my customers. In fact, i am the one who cannot go on break until my customer’s issue is fully resolved.

    Cheers mate!

  2. Jeeeesus!
    You poor sod. I have had some fairly bad experiences with phone cos.

    Mainly BT who I will not use any more. All the same kind of “there is a fault – but there isn’t a fault” type stuff, and it somehow must be something at my end. Of course the Freephone number is only via landline – not good when that is the line they have cut off……. And plenty of billing for a non-existent service etc etc

    You have done extremely well not to get that aneurysm, though I suspect that you have cost yourself a year or two of life expectancy.
    I hope it was resolved.
    If not, I would recommend my friend AK47 – no doubt it could be purchased easily enough, when you arrive in Manila for the show-down with Ivan……

  3. I used to work at Telstra and my first bit of advice when people ask me what the service is like and should they sign up is usually ‘you should go [abuse yourself] with glass because it’s more constructive and a lot less painful’.
    [my alteration – Anthony]

  4. I don’t have an account with Telstra – or at least I have not had one for over 10 years, never on my current number and never at my current address. This did not stop them from creating an account in my name at my new address and number – and apparently with my birth date – and attempting to bill me for a $50+ amount which they originally claimed had been outstanding since 2006. This was later changed to an accumulated amount over the period between 2007 and last month. When I challenged them to produce evidence of these calls, the bill was cancelled. However, to reach this point I had to go through an experience very similar to that of Cloaker Josh. It appears the staff of the Telstra call centre in Manila are very fond of guessing, suggesting and imagining what the problem is rather than actually discovering the real issue by investigation. Hats off to you, Josh.

  5. What was the outcome? Where is the reply back? You should have bean remunerated for the work and hours put in to sort this mess out. Cliff-hangers are a bitch sometimes…

  6. I love the last statement, “You made it all the way through. Congratulations. Now aren’t you glad you don’t have a phone contract with Telstra!”, with the unfortunate part being that I DO, in fact, have a phone contract with Telstra. My normal, month-to-month experience has been fine, as I’ve experienced no service issues similar to these (well, other than the crap, lying, full-signal-yet-the-wheels-keep-spinning nonsense).

    My worst experiences have come from attempting to use my phone overseas. The first five (yes, F-I-V-E) times I signed up for their international data roaming plans, it was not processed correctly and I received bills each time for $1000+, basically being charged the full price per MB for all data roaming. It took me MONTHS to resolve each time, so basically by the time I got one resolved, it was time for me to travel abroad again and repeat the lovely process all over. Finally, a friend said to me, “you should tweet about it.” So I tried that and behold, my situation was resolved the final 2 times (yes, if you’re doing the math, that equals bills being incorrectly processed S-E-V-E-N times) via Twitter support people. They were really good and responsive and never did I have to make a phone call!

    However, in the end, I figured after S-E-V-E-N times of this, Telstra just doesn’t know what the *&^% they’re doing. (I’ll spare you the gory details of my rage which ensued after a multitude of phone calls, condescending behavior, complete incompetence, accounting lessons I needed to teach their reps, etc. etc. etc.) For my last several travels abroad, I’ve skipped the data roaming plans entirely and have gone for exclusively using WiFi or getting a new SIM in said country, with my peace of mind now intact.

  7. Cloaker, Josh,

    Long comment, sorry, I actually cut a lot of it. As a former Telstra call centre employee, I had to read this through; I thoroughly enjoyed it, mainly because I have hatred toward all things Telstra, it’s pretty much the only thing I can say I hate. I completely feel for you, things don’t seem to have changed much since I was there around 2005, I did work as 2nd level support in broadband faults though.

    From my two years of service, I personally believe a lot of problems come from productivity focused stats/KPI’s (number of calls = good job) and organisational culture, one that creates employee segregation and work place silos. Aside from the stats/KPI’s (you’d be well familiar with), at Telstra, there are two types of employees, Telstra staff and agency/contracted staff; Telstra staff have all the perks and agency staff are disposable and they know it. It’s very easy to not give a shit about Telstra (and by extension, its customers) when Telstra openly doesn’t give a shit about most it’s staff, unless sales, sales staff are rewarded like gods (free tablet or smart phone? Be top sales for the month, free holiday to Hawaii anyone? Be top sales for the year etc.).

    I could go on (and I cut a lot), but the most stand out separation of Telstra and agency was Xmas lunch; no word of a lie, if you were agency, you were not ALLOWED in the lunch room to even fill your water bottle or eat your lunch! You had to actually get in the lift and go to a different level (multi story building) and use the sales floor lunch room. Now, that’s not the final insult, when the Telstra club was finished with their Woolworths chicken, bread and dips, an email would be sent out inviting agency staff to pick at the fucking scraps like DOGS! (in other word of course). Needless to say, I did not stand for this shit and did not win any Telstra club friends (I fill my fucking bottle! – hardcore!).

    My point is that there is no incentive as agency staff (and some Telstra staff, stats = everything) to even give a remote shit about Telstra, so most already don’t care, then there is customer after customer that is suffering the ‘Telstra condition’ before they even get to you; it’s easy to just ‘accidently’ drop the call for the sake of stats and less stress. I’ve just checked with a friend who was lucky to win a permanent position and it seems the silos and segregation are still present.

    Believe me Josh, double figure calls is not that uncommon, though your attitude is an exception, I would have called you back man!

    • DCR has just received another very funny complaint letter to Telstra which I’ll post on the site in the next few days.

    • Hahaha, thanks for the comment. I read your name as “Once Were Telstra”, and was immediately reminded of the Kiwi film “Once Were Warriors” and “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?”.


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