Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Airtel - Accursed Buggers

I can totally imagine how Rishis of yesteryear were trigger-happy when it came to curses. If any of the rishis had had a chat with these Airtel muppets that I have had for the past 3 hours, the entire Airtel organization might have been converted to Turtles or some such.

To cut a long story short, Airtel screwed me over. They basically told me I had used 12GB of broadband in the 10 days during which I had logged multiple complaints stating that my broadband was not working. They told me that their measuring device COULD NOT be wrong and I could rhythmically collide my head with a hard surface to see if that would make me feel better. I tried. It didn't.

The issue is not that Airtel took some money from me. (Those of you who know me will know that far less accomplished foes have taken money from me) The issue is not even that my broadband speed is going to be poor for the next 3 weeks. I am from India, we entrepreneurs have always seen worse. The issue is that I have wasted an entire day on this. The issue is that I will go to bed feeling bad that I let myself get fingered by these buggers again.  The issue is that my brain is not wired well enough to say "Dont talk to this call-center person. Buy broadband for 1000 bucks more this month. If you dont waste the next two hours talking to them. You can create more value than 1000 bucks."

I am still more the Yossarian from Catch-22 who says the immortal line "Oh, it doesn’t really upset me. What does upset me, though, is that they think I’m a sucker. They think that they’re smart, and that the rest of us are dumb". The longer conversation can be seen here (go on, read it.). I feel so aggrieved at being screwed over that it gets to me. Not the being screwed over monetarily part. But the vague feeling that this person screwing me over thinks he/she has all the answers; that gets to me.  

I am learning. Next time I will quit sooner. May be I will become savvy enough to set aside 2000 bucks a month in a bid to retain my productive hours. May be I will one day become mature enough to shrug this off without a humongous unfunny blog post. I am just afraid that when that level of maturity comes around - either I will no longer have the capability to actually create something new; or I would have had to become numb in order to build another cocoon around myself.

Already abject poverty barely moves me. Nor does government apathy. If I add Corporate arrogance to this list, I will soon have to worry about becoming overly dispassionate.

The only hope is that Karma catches up with these guys. May be 2G scam was just that. Perhaps I should say a silent thanks to the King for that.

The longer, more boring part of the Airtel saga

I have had issues with Airtel Broadband for 2 months now. The latest set of skirmishes started on the 4th of November when I had lodged a complaint. No one turned up for 2 days. When contacted again, the electronic voice said "Your complaint is still open. It will be resolved by 5th of November". This message was on on November 6th. Thankfully, service Engineer came and 'fixed' our broadband issue.

Within the next 24 hours, our broadband conked again; and we complained again the next day, this time on Nov 9th. After the same cycle, this issue was 'resolved' on Nov 13th. Out of curiosity, we asked the service engineer how to check our usage levels. Turns out we could, and the stat said that we had consumed 80% of our 15GB limit already. This usage cycle started on Nov 5th. Awesome.

By this time, I might have become an irate customer. But I was still some distance from the let-me-murder-someone-now-in-the-off-chance-that-he/she-might-have-something-to-do-with-Airtel state that I find myself in right about now. The next 2 hours of phone conversations took me there.

Airtel billing arrogance kicked in at about this time. The first dame that I spoke to asked me to check my usage statistic with the official Airtel site. Our conversation went somewhat like this.

Me: I have an issue with the broadband consumption statistic.
Airtel person: Whats the problem, Sir?
Me: I narrate the whole story.
AP: Go to Go to my account and check usage statistic.
Me: It says server down
AP: I can do nothing about this.
Me: I am not worried about what the stat will tell me. I am contesting the claim that we have used 80% of our usage limit
AP: You will be able to see how you have used 12GB if the report is there
Me: Is there a chance that the total usage will add to less than 12GB?
AP (huh): We have to see that.
Me (now slowly losing it): Is there a chance?! If the overall number says 12GB, then the individual components should add up to the same?
AP: The total will add up to 12 GB, Sir. But you can see how you have used 12GB.
Me: I HAVE NOT USED 12GB. How can I complain?
AP (more patronisingly): You have to check the usage levels through the website. This will tell you how your usage has been
Me: If I have to complain, whom do I speak to?
AP: Once you check, you can complain
Me: Assume I have checked. It adds up. Can you tell me whom I have to speak to

Call gets transferred. Repeat on loop two more times. The accursed buggers at Airtel have been programmed to not even acknowledge the possibility that there is an explanation beyond the customer being wrong about his usage. The senior person told me that the Modem would measure ONLY what has been used and send that to the Airtel server and I would be convinced after I saw my usage levels.

Airtel broadband has failed more than 5 times in 2 months now. Every time, they have fixed it only after the second call. Every time their server has said that the call will be fixed on a date that has gone by. The Airtel service-men who came by did not even know how I could check my usage stats. Airtel can commit ALL of these errors as mistakes can happen anywhere. However, their billing system CANNOT be wrong. Apparently, they have done some process to demonstrate that their billing is infallible. And so, I can check my usage levels if I so choose to, but they cannot be wrong.

The level of arrogance and the patronizing air these guys have is phenomenal.

Still, these guys should know that you cannot con your customers endlessly. The higher they seem perched, the harder they fall. This is why, for all its flaws when 2G scam unfolded, and ALL of us could see it for the perversity it was; not one person felt really sorry for the existing players who had been screwed over. We all felt, at some level, that the select few Corporates that paid the price probably had it coming. Certainly, Airtel did. In fact, I wish that some other scamster screws them over with 4G or 4.5G again. I, for one, wont feel bad if the company bites the dust and goes to zero.

I am still waiting for the day when one large corporate in the company starts treating its customers well.


  1. I can relate to the Yossarian comment so much, and this incident reminds me of the trouble I had with my cable operator couple of years ago. Now let's figure out a way to get this post to top Google searches on Airtel :-)

  2. So, paragraphs 5 and 6 of your post certainly raise most important and interesting questions here, isn't it? The notion that creative drive and the fierce impatience come from the same sort of restless energy source within you, and that if you find an equanimous way to deal with the latter, you risk losing the former. I definitely want to believe that is not true. There has to be another way...

    1. I agree that there has to be another way. The hope is that there is. In many ways, we believe that we can be numb to some things in order to retain our sanity and still have the drive to turn up and do something.

  3. B,
    Kavale padadhe....I have a very long "kari naaku" naa sabicha nadakum...Ask thalai and PT for previous instances. Friends have failed in univ exams after I cursed them for troubling me. oru bad curse vidaren....that usage statistic and all is dubukku thingie...I once screamed that neenga nasama povenge and it had the required effect, they rolled back the charges !!!!