Cogito, ergo sum... (I think, therefore I am)

Friday, July 29, 2005


My Ufone service has been blocked again! When will these people learn! Or rather, when will we, as customers, learn our rights? We ought to boycott everything for a couple of days. Everyone turn their cellphone off and not use it for 2 days. Then we'll see who's boss!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Only in Pakistan...

Here's another tale of woe to add to the thousands (if not millions) out there, regarding the pathetic cellphone operators in our country.

I'm a pretty heavy user of my cellphone (service from Ufone), and my monthly bill is around 3000-4000 Pakistani Rupees. I thought that since I am spending so much, why not opt for a postpaid connection, as it will cost me less. I had done the math, and estimated that postpaid is good for anyone whose monthly bill exceeds 700PKR.

But before I start my rant, I'll fill you in on another fact. I have submitted lots of complaints to Ufone for the last 2 months or so. A summary of my complaints is given below:

  • No coverage in my home! I get a measly single bar of coverage, and all my calls are dropped, and if not dropped, then either I can't hear the caller, or the caller can't hear me! What's the use of such a cellphone? Nevertheless, my complaints have not fallen on deaf ears, and some engineers were sent over to my place for a diagnostic. It seems that my home has cell towers on all 4 sides, but none of them reach my home! They are planning to install one soon, but how soon? No one knows! And I don't know how I was getting good service for the last 3.5 years I have been using Ufone! The towers were providing me signals, but 6 months ago they stopped for some unknown reason.
  • No CLI on calls from Dubai. My family is in Dubai, and my office also. So I pretty darn well need CLI for Dubai. Calling Ufone helpline reveals the fact that these people do provide CLI for Dubai, but it's available on neither my number, nor on my mom's or sister's cellphone (all of whom use Ufone). When I switched over to postpaid, the CLI started working. Maybe it only works on postpaid, who knows? It's certainly beyond the Ufone staff!
  • GPRS doesn't always connect! You spend 50,000PKR on a cellphone so that you can be "always-connected", even "on-the-move". But all these dreams are dashed to pieces when you realise that your cellphone operator doesn't want you to be connected at all times! Trying to check my email while waiting in the doctor's office, I am greeted by error messages saying "The answering modem disconnected". And do Ufone people have a clue why? No! It starts working again after a couple of hours, and hey, what's a couple of hours downtime in a country which had to live without internet for 2 weeks, right? Oh and I wouldn't have mentioned this is it hadn't happened to me for the 25794th time!
  • Calls don't go through! Forget GPRS baby! Cellphone operators in Pakistan have trouble letting voice calls through! You can keep on dialing, and God forbid that your phone should connect! Don't be frustrated! These cellphone operators have your best interests at stake of course. They don't want you to be charged for phone calls, so the best way is to not let you make any phone calls! They take customer service to new levels I tell you!

These are the complaints which were already pending. I couldn't change my operator, because in Pakistan we don't have number portability (yet!) and we are stuck with our lousy service if we don't want to change our number. And my number is very dear to me as I have been using it for around 4 years, and everyone has it; all my friends, and all my associates and colleagues.

So on the eve of 26th of July I went to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Ufone service center (located opposite Urdu University, on University Road). I requested them to change my prepaid line to postpaid (Universe package, which has 99PKR line rent per month). For that I had to produce my mom's ID card copy (my number is in my mother's name), her passport copy showing that she is not in the country, a letter of authority signed by my mother, a copy of my ID card, and a utility bill in my mother's name. I had all the necessary documents, so they said that I should pay 1114PKR at the counte. 1114 because 1000PKR is the security deposit, 99PKR is the line rent, and applying 15% CED on the line rent gives us 15PKR, which totals to 1114. Anyway, I got my package changed, and got home. Didn't make many calls that day (just a couple). By chance, the next day (27th) was also a bit slack, so I didn't make a lot of calls. Imagine my surprise that when I wake up on the 28th, I get an SMS saying that my account has reached 92% of my limit, which is equal to 924PKR, and my outgoing calls are barred. Anyway, my sister had a LASIK surgery that day, so I couldn't go to the service center in the morning. I called up their helpline, and got a whiny female who said that "Our system does not make any mistakes and we do not make any false charges and anything in your bill is right nad you must have made these phone calls and please pay the bill for your outgoing calls to be allowed and you cannot get details for the calls you have made right now but have to wait till the end of the month for your bill cycle and then you can claim anything". I was amazed! I mean it was obvious to me that the billing was completely wrong, but I hadn't said as much to the lady. I had just asked the lady to tell me if there was any call in my call history which stood out as being too costly. She started being defensive! And what's the use of postpaid if I can't get a minute-by-minute record of all my calls? This is stupid!

Anyway, I went to the afore-mentioned service center in the evening, and told them my problem. Turns out that they have two systems which have he customers billed amount. In the main system, it was showing that my bill was 924PKR. And in the backup system, it was showing that I had used up airtime worth 35PKR only! Add up all the tax and interconnect charges and what-not and it still wouldn't come to more than 60PKR! So my actual bill was 60PKR, and I was being billed 924PKR! If I hadn't gone in and checked, who knows, they might have billed this to me and I wouldn't even have noticed!

What can I say about an operator who cannot provide proper services, proper customer support, and even has the gall to bill you incorrectly! Only in Pakistan...