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Archive for July, 2021

Workers Should Never be Forced to Work in an Office (for Jobs That Can be Done Equally Well From Home)

Think of the environment, too (commuting should be minimised)

You can't defeat me: coming to the office; you; COVID-19

TWO years ago I took a train down south and traveled to the office, probably for the first time in about a year (usually that’s the interval to be expected, owing mostly to company Xmas parties; that annual ritual of socialising with colleagues). I did not know it would be the last time. Last July we shut down the physical office, due to COVID-19, without intentions of ever reopening it. There was not much practical use for it anymore (regardless). That was almost exactly one year after I went there to sign some papers. I started working from home around 2007. Back then there wasn’t much need for me (anymore) to have physical (face-to-face) meetings, so I could get stuff done from home and occasionally travel if a meeting was strictly necessary. It took another 13 years before that sort of ‘work style’ (or ‘lifestyle’) became sort of ‘normal’.

Companies which try to compel staff to return to the office or force people to get vaccinated risk losing that staff altogether. Some companies that planned to pull staff back in (where bosses can oppress them from behind their shoulders, physically/literally) keep pushing back the dates, seeing that COVID-19 isn’t going away, with new waves and/or variants showing a resurgence. Here in the UK we’ve totally lost control of the thing — a subject I’ve written about extensively in this blog lately.

Working from home, for my kind of job, makes sense. It’s a lot better for me physically and mentally. I’m close to our pet fish, I can cook proper food (not some junk), and I can dress as it suits me (for comfort, not looks). I bathe every time I need to (no communal showers), I have privacy when I take or make voice calls, and I can run in nearby parks, far away from busy centres of towns (where there’s no safe place to run — away from pollution and traffic).

I totally understand why those who invested heavily in office estate are panicking. But they took a risk by gambling the money on a future of so-called ‘open offices’ with very steep rents; let them suffer from their poor investments/decisions. Don’t compel workers to lower their standards of work (and living) to ‘retrofit’ someone else’s bad investments.

27 Minutes to Cancel BT Order (Even Though I Was Very Clear It Needs to be Done as Soon as Possible), But Still Not Done on Compensation

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

IT has been confirmed that my order is now canceled. I’ve had enough! I was so patient and forthcoming; I was willing to wait and forgive, but everybody has limits and this is well past the “third strike”…

I phoned BT at 8AM when the lines opened. I spoke to a guy to whom I made very clear it needs to get done as soon as possible and I don’t want delays and obstruction; he attempted to pass me to the “customer retention” team (cancellation team; they use other euphemisms) and I made it clear to him it would need to take less than 5 minutes.

As advised, he said he would speak to them about it first.

I waited on the line for 7 minutes before giving up and hanging up.

I phoned the number again.

It did not go through to an advisor.

I phone the number again (third time).

Once again, it did not go through to an advisor.

Weird. Is that like some ‘DDOS protection’ or something?

I phoned a fourth time and finally got through to a lady, who after further questions said that the order has been canceled. But then we proceeded to cancellations and finally, after 27 minutes, she said she would need to speak to a manager.

I said she would need to settle that and would phone me back when it’s all confirmed.

So, in summary, it took half an hour, even in a rush (I made it clear several time it needs to be done quickly) just to cancel an already-problematic order. That’s not even counting the compensation.

They make it really hard for people to cancel things like impending orders, even if they are assertive yet polite. I kept apologising to the lady in case that seemed tone-dead, knowing it was not her fault and nothing for her to take personally. I know they’re subjected to tough working standards. Here’s a new article about it. They’re human beings, unlike the corporations.

I kept my manners and composure and went through it as fast as I can. I knew they would probably try to slow things down, tire me, and so on. As I type this she has phoned me back to confirm the compensation, assuring I will hear nothing more about this case and won’t be bothered by it. Time will tell if that promise is kept. I want to spend not a moment more on this. I never even asked for this service. BT pushed it onto me. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Don’t become an early adopter or an experiment of corporations. They’d lie to people for their consent.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part VI (I’m Canceling my Order and Why You Should Never Make the Mistake I Made)

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV, Part V

IN Part V some correspondence from BT has been shown/shared (with sensible redaction; no names and addresses included), basically explaining what a rollercoaster ride it can become when you get things wired up for fibre in 2021. In many regions/areas you become their experiment. The sales people, who try to compel you to move to fibre, make it sound like a quick and painless job (even when you challenge them on such a claim, as I did). After arguing for almost an hour on the phone (there would be more hour-long conversations with BT after that) they managed to fool me into accepting the offer by giving discounts*. Little did I know what I was truly getting myself into…

Unfulfilled promises of calls, requests that I call them, waiting at home for a person to show up at unspecified times (this limits what you can do on the day), several entirely pointless scheduled downtimes, not counting all the time spent corresponding, the hole in the wall, and strangers inside the house at a time of a major pandemic. Yes, pandemic. Which then means having to clean things up afterwards (sanitising).

People showing up without the required (and promised) equipment, contradictory advice (they cannot even keep a consistent story), lousy compensation that’s a drop in the ocean compared to what I pay, and still no end in sight. The last thing one needs during a heatwave. I could, instead, write dozens of articles or record videos — the type of stuff I really want to do instead of making calls to phantoms and ghosts with their false promises. Closing complaints without resolutions (or without addressing the underlying issue) was the cream on the cake and serves to show a certain degree of arrogance (as if it’s for them to decide if the customer is satisfied or not).

After further considerations, taking into account the inability to reach anyone over the phone (details below in the footnote), I seriously consider just canceling the entire order. But that won’t stop there; I will actively discourage other people from falling into the trap of potentially empty promises and remorse/regret. Maybe it’s a BT problem, maybe British Internet issue (maybe Openreach), but whatever it is, I very much doubt we’re truly prepared for a smooth transition to fibre. We’re no South Korea; declaring “freedom day” (mass infection) and “independence day” (brexit for racist reasons) isn’t the same as technical excellence. And heck, even from a customer support perspective there are many failures all along the way, as hopefully documented already in Parts 1-5. If cancellation of my order goes through, this will hopefully be my last post in the series, which can instead be summed up in long video form. This 7-part series wasn’t pre-planned or anything; I sincerely hoped things would work out and go smoothly (the tone in earlier parts was a lot more understanding too; I was being very patient). As for the price of compensation, it’s not negotiable from my point of view and the level of compensation was stated very clearly over the phone (they record all the calls) by the person who assured me things would work out. They didn’t. Strike three; you’re the weakest link, goodbye.

* Technically speaking, copper works well enough for me and for many others. It’s not a great technology, but as many people still depend on it the support for it can be better. Sure, it can be expensive/hard to the ISP, but that’s their problem, not ours. I never asked for an upgrade and didn’t even petition for it to become available here (it only very recently got extended to our part of town and they hand-picked me). Someone told me that “no one makes the switching equipment for copper anymore” and so even though they market fibre as ultimate benefit to clients the reality is that those ISPs look after their own interests. Judging by the way it went on so far, “they sound like they are being run by Americans,” one person told me. I told them on July 6th (on the phone) that I would be first in my area — a claim that they decline to comment on but later turned out to be true, based on what Openreach told me. I asked them, what if there’s an issue and it affects only fibre (i.e. me)? I said something along the lines us, would you fix that within minutes? I am safer with “the herd” (copper users). Sure, it’s more economic for them, not for me, to put me on a new kind of service. After speaking to the managers, oddly in the background (caused awkwardness), the sales representative said copper would be more expensive than me moving to fibre, basically convincing me to judge and decide against my intuition/gut feeling only after a discount (they said it would save me about 80 pounds in 2 years). It’s funny how fast they are to make/secure sales, but after that it goes downhill (“our advisors are available 8AM,” said an automated message/voice when I tried phoning at 5AM; I guess the sales team they have not yet sent to call centres in Asia because when it comes to money, not technical issues, they want better spokespeople/reps). Red flags all over this! What if fibre breaks down? Or the wiring has issues? I can phone any time, 24/7, and get a useless kind of technical help (person who follows a template/manual and solves nothing). Remember that a faster connection does not imply it is also more reliable. Speed and reliability aren’t opposites, but choosing something just for speed doesn’t somehow (magically) ensure it’s stable and available 100% of the time. Each time we move or transition from one generation of technology to the next there’s a period of flux with retraining, tuning, and addition of failsafe/redundancy to ameliorate/prevent future recurrence. The trade-offs may be elusive in this case (lack of data at early phases of adoption), but there’s risk associated with changes. As the saying goes, don’t try to fix what’s not broken (many sayings along those lines). From a customer service perspective, it already seems apparent that there’s a considerable gap and poor handling of a situation that’s likely to recur (e.g. if any of my neighbours tried the same, it’s guaranteed they’d go through the same pains). I wish they hadn’t picked me; make sure they don’t pick you, either. It was “planned” or “designed” to fail.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part V

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV

BT has failed, after 16 days, to deliver what it promised would be a trivial job. It was BT pushing me to accept the offer, which I wish I never accepted (their sales people were super-eager for me to move to fibre; I never asked for it!). In this part I want to show segments of communications, excluding addresses but not reference numbers (which BT has anyway and only BT can make sense of).

My hope is that for the many people who are going to have similarly bad experiences there will be more information available online. Yesterday even Openreach took note of my complaint and sought to intervene:

Openreach tweet

Openreach in an ‘outreach’ (PR-ish)? This is only a day old.

In part 4 I explained that there was poor communication with the client. BT was supposed to get back to me later in the day. That never happened. Instead, the following day (as before) I was asked to phone them, probably for a very long call.

BT reply
BT: Just phone us because we’re too busy to phone you and please speak to a machine until you get through to an actual person (who likely knows nothing about your case, so wait on the line some more and get ready to tell us stories)

The prior message to the same effect (a week earlier):

BT first reach
I’ve already had to explain my case to about 5 different members of staff (BT and Openreach)

This is quite telling:

BT complaint
They keep closing complaints without actually solving the problem and without asking for the client’s consent to do so

They think dozens of hours of my time (and two scheduled downtimes, in vain) are worth a couple dozen quid:

Nowhere near enough to compensate for loss of time, nuisance, and many other things. Bear in mind I’ve paid BT about 5,000 pounds this past decade.

They have sent several such messages already:

BT engineer
It’s tiring to have appointments in vain (waiting for up to 5 hours for a person to show up and get nothing done)

BT install
As if it’ll get done this time around

As noted before, they didn’t even bother sending the bag/envelope for this until I phoned them to request one (we finally got it only a couple of days ago or about a week late).

The message caused confusion on numerous levels; in fact, it contradicts what the sales people from BT said (they don’t like disclosing the less convenient facts that allude to future hassle)

Then there’s this:

BT feedback
Oh, trust me, you don’t really want me to do this

It has now been 16 days (mind date of this E-mail). I’m still waiting.

16 days and counting

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part IV

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III

BT and I have talked on the phone 2 times since Openreach had left. I spoke to two people; one of them twice already with another call soon to follow. It seems to have been escalated further up, knowing it might become a PR disaster to their “Fibre” team, apparently wholly or partly based in Scotland.

They now say they have additional equipment they may be able to use to complete the job, but the last time they said they’d send a person with a hoist they sent out a person without it. Very serious oversight.

I asked the lady whether they can complete it by day’s end, noting that scheduled downtime happened twice already in vain. She said it would be almost impossible to complete today, especially if additional equipment becomes necessary.

Regarding compensation, I stressed to her this wasn’t really the point; I’ve lost so much time over the past 2 weeks due to all this and I have a massive hole in the wall, along with equipment I do not need. I probably wasted well over 10 hours already on this ‘project’ and this isn’t how it was initially marketed to me if not pushed onto me (I resisted for a long time and then they started offering managers’ discounts).

If they do complete the job at the end, which is probably inevitable, I still would not recommend anyone agrees to fibre, not this year anyway. There’s poor coordination between Openreach (infrastructure) and ISPs and what may seem like a simple installation can soon develop into a nightmare. They’re just really desperate to move people off copper — to the point of trying to convince people to ‘upgrade’ to something they would barely use. Copper is fast enough for most people. For me, personally, the benefits would be rather small though I can learn to take more advantage of higher throughput in due course. For example, remote nightly backups of my sites would be nice. For most people, the benefits would be less practical and almost impractical; the nuisance and trouble they risk going through simply isn’t worth it. My father told me they keep trying to get him to switch to fibre and he always turns them down (albeit mostly because that would entail a price increase).

I will follow up again when there’s additional information, but after 3 strikes (“you’re out!) all I can say to people is, do not move to fibre (UK residential), at least not yet. Also do not ever believe what their salesman say about it on the phone; they’re just desparately trying to secure the “sale”, leaving aside all the chaos that might thereafter come.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part III

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like

BT shows its true colours… again. False promises, bad service, time wasted.

Today we have had an Openreach engineer over to complete the setup job (context above, “The Optical Fibre Experience”). I’ve not taken any photographs of the equipment set up indoors and outdoors as I assume there’s nothing particularly unique about it. It’s just some standard gear, which I’m assuming deals with signal modulation and other things I’ve got a poor grasp/understanding of (it’s well outside my professional field/domain).

The initial timeline (for when the service will/should be installed) could not be met, so they reimbursed us for the trouble. I appreciate their acknowledgement and apology (not many companies do that; in fact, many just attempt to blame the customer for every unforeseen mishap). It is expected that in the coming years more homes across the UK (maybe millions, even tens of millions in the coming decade) will have such a service installed, so it’s important to understand reliability aspects, both technical and bureaucratic. As it turned out last week, much more work was required than initially specified (like consent from neighbours to pass new wires). The upside of such migrations is that copper is always a fallback; if installation cannot succeed, it’s possible to use the old system in the interim.

As noted in the last post, I asked them about OpenWRT or similarly freedom-respecting systems at the endpoints, but they don’t support that in any way. In fact, OpenWRT would likely give them an excuse to deny customer support. They just assume uniformity among clients and would not tolerate deviation; instead of just supplying packets (like water suppliers provide water) they want to control everything including the hub/router, i.e. inside the home.

Today’s Events (So Far)

Said both verbally (on the phone) and in E-mail: Openreach will carry out maintenance between 8am and 1pm. I started losing my patience when it was almost midday (knowing that the job would certainly not be completed on time and quite possibly not even commence). Nobody had phoned or shown up by that stage!

They eventually came late, just minutes before 1AM (so the job could be completed on time). But yet worse — it could not be completed at all. They didn’t bring the equipment which over the phone BT insisted would be there to install the wires, even though we spoke about that at least 3 times on the call and BT even had Openreach on the line to confirm a person with such equipment (hoist) would be dispatched and assigned to complete the job.

Whose fault it is or maybe miscommunication alone, both the lateness and coming unprepared shows that something fails rather badly and the customers suffer again and again. I didn’t realise it would become such an agonising experience as it went along; so it is a good thing that I documented the whole thing in writing, starting with the first blunder rather than the first point of contact.

Upon further investigation, a hoist isn’t accessible to the said building, so it’s inapplicable to us and BT should have certainly checked before saying a hoist would tackle the issue; in fact, the person who showed up had no hoist at all, so it’s looking like they’re just guessing and hoping for luck. That all comes at the expense of customers, who weren’t told about such complexities in the first place.

A Morbid Society Cannot Exercise Freedom

BORISNARO says we now have “freedom”; freedom of what kind? The freedom to spread a virus? I want the freedom to not catch this virus. I want safety from people who think they’re invulnerable and therefore free to engage in “mass infection”. Today we have no option but to have a guest in the house — an Openreach technician [1, 2, 3]. Can I have the freedom to not presume risk? There’s a big difference between 55 cases a day, 550 cases a day, and 55,000 cases a day. At the moment we’re just expected to assume that many people around us are carriers and there’s nothing to be done about it. There’s no intention whatsoever to contain or reduce the spread. What kind of “freedom” is that?

As a result of those insane policies of Borisnaro and his chums we’ve decided to embrace more of a ‘bunker mode’ at home, in effect enjoying less freedom than ever before. No more gym, only particular stores for food (ones with very few people inside, sometimes tellers alone).

So now, in July 2021, I can honestly say that when my government says “Freedom” it means the exact opposite of that.

This is the same government (and person) that called racism/xenophobia “independence”. Yes, I’m talking about brexit. With the mass infection we have in the UK it seems like Europe is the beneficiary of brexit.

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