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Monday, July 25, 2011

A Twin Nightmare Called STC And Mobily

"If you happen to come across a slogan from a 'reputed' firm that says they have conquered the world by their technologies and their services, think again, for there is more to it than meets the eye."

And if you happen to be an expatriate living in Saudi Arabia, and you think your life revolves around the internet, and you're feeling extremely grossed-out by the filthy computers at the nearest cafe compounded by a suffocating cigarette smoke that automatically guarantees you a shorter life span, then take comfort in this: You are not alone.

Understandably, the next natural thing to do would follow. My decision to apply for internet connection however, was a milestone so to speak, considering the would-be hefty monthly bill that for me is equivalent to a house and lot's worth in the province. To a person not easily hyped-up by a barrage of notifications on my facebook, two hours at the internet cafe every other day serves up my cause. The downside however, is walking on foot can be likened to a pilgrimage especially when it's sweaty day. All things considered, I chose Saudi Telecom or STC to be my service provider.

I don't know if rumors were true that these telecom companies are charging up extra amount (or they term it as hidden charges) from their subscribers, but as far as I know my monthly bill should only be 274 saudi riyals (choice package) because we rarely use our telephone for local calls. What puzzles me every time is, in less than two months, STC would send me a text containing my latest bill amounting to more than worth of 2-month consumption, which when you do the math is utterly excessive and questionable. I'm sure about it because I keep track of the time gap between the first and latest text messages they send me. I am also prompt in paying up the bill so there's no reason it would be that astronomical. Though I'm a bit worried, we are two people sharing the  bill so it does not bother me that much.

There was hardly a fuss the past two years over billing schemes I call it, but the past couple of weeks we were shocked one morning when our internet connection had already been cut. There's no way they did it for non-payment because the bill was still zero when I called 906. They had not yet sent the latest bill through text, for me to be punished for not paying up promptly. So when I called up 906, I was told to settle my bill first worth 587sr, for which I was totally unaware of. I am sure I paid the last bill 3 weeks before, so why slap me with another bill for another worth of over two months unconsumed subscription? Is it for real? Have the leeches already mutated into human form, that their bloated bellies extend to the deepest pockets of the hapless expatriates handicapped by their inability to speak the local language?

At any rate, you stand to lose the battle if you think you have every right to scream out injustice. You are at the mercies of these gentle scammers. Without much ado, and blood shooting up, we trooped to the nearest bank and  paid 600sr, 13sr more than the bloodsuckers wanted from us. Yet the agony did not end there. Another yet agonizing episode of pleading to the rogue 906 agent to restore the connection for which it took forever. And one final decision I thought could appease me as my patience completely dried out. Enough of the bloodsucking incompetent rogue entities creating havoc to their willing yet reluctant victims. But before I could brag about the bank invoice I'm waving stipulating a supposed gift of 13sr to further advance their avarice, I was slapped again with a disconnection fee of 300sr after opting to cancel my subscription for good. Shocked in horror of a glaring daylight robbery, still we painfully complied to get STC out of our system.

The Mobily, as their slogan shouts, is reputed to have one of the best GSM technologies in the world. Hmmm. Sounds the answer to our ordeal from our oppressor. Finally there comes a better option.

Leaving no doubts in our mind, we tried to purge ourselves of the skeptics in us as we concurred this could be it. The main office on Tahliya Street looks impressive and orderly, more spacious and in a sense world-class. But think again before you actually hit the first step. As we approached the dispensing machine to take our number, a Saudi staff leaning on the machine, with both hands perched on top of it interrupted us and said "What, what, what?" in a rude manner. Obviously he does not speak  English and that's all  he could muster to  assert his authority. We could have understood him but the stare and manner has racial undertone. If he wanted to inquire of our purpose we could have communicated well with him. But whether you agree or not, obviously there's a horrific double-standard going on here. We could have ranted at him and gave him some lectures about proper conduct in public let alone to a customer, rather we opted to zip our mouths and convinced ourselves of him being an imposing lump of blubber privileged to be called a citizen of this country. 

At the sales desk minutes after our number was called out, the staff seemed oblivious of our presence as he  smilingly continues romancing his cellphone despite my barking at him "good afternoon". Even as we double-checked our appearance, whether we looked like stupid and tattered to convince him that we might have landed in a wrong place, I still cannot comprehend why he appeared to be lethargic and too lazy to talk, except if he had shown some signs of a previous night's bout with diarrhea. The caveman emerged finally, caught up in a situation where he had no choice but to face a waiting client. And if I did not start the conversation, he would have not known that we actually wanted to buy their product. So cold and rude, but quick to grab the 500sr note from my hand as payment for a broadband package we were buying. There was no chance to inquire about the product as he obviously was not interested in queries but the cash piling up in his drawer. Except that he nodded his head when I inquired if it is easy to install.

After the modem got rebooted and configured at their Technical Support counter, we were convinced that our patience paid off. We were advised however that it will take 24 to 36 hours before we could be connected to the internet, to our astonishment. When 36 hours became 5 days and after countless calls to their customer care agents in India even at midnight, the problem remained unresolved. No internet because the network coverage was so poor even though we are located at the heart of the civilization. I wonder how they could brag about their world-class technologies despite the evidence of a long queue of customers, either returning their modems for refund or  re-configuring them endlessly to no avail, when the problem is actually the weak coverage especially if your location is at the ground floor of your building.

The madness just would not end as I almost hit the rope. If I went to return the modem it would be as if I gifted them an early Ramadan present as I wouldn't be taking my money back because refund will only be given within 24 hours from the date of purchase. Though they will eloquently educate you of their 24-hour return policy, they will also shamelessly announce to your face that you will get your connection after a period of 24-36 hours which in my case reached up to seven days still without connection. 

Luckily for us, somebody in my area who happens to live on a rooftop bought that piece of crap named Mobily broadband modem but for a much lower price. This is just basics. The glaring misinformation and unprofessional staff all the more aggravated to the headache of those who returned their modems. Not only  twelve or thirteen of us that morning complained, there were many, mostly furious. I mean if this scenario occurs everyday, did it not dawn on them that customers feel cheated and dissatisfied?

If the Mobily people were only keen and professional enough to advise prospective customers that their broadband services only cater to those living close to the skies, there would have been no problems like this. But of course, not every dissatisfied customer will have the balls to confront the scammers, some would actually opt to throw the shit-ly modems away than wasting precious time waiting their numbers to be called out only to confront the staff and get hypertensive. They would however appease you by sending you an SMS informing you that your complaint will be taken cared of within 24 hours yet again - an SOP invariably used to shun an upset customer away.

With the juggernaut stature that they are, both STC and Mobily don't have to fret about the enormous complaints from customers reaching their tables.  If you think their bad services can cause a customer backlash, think again, these humongous Telecom companies in Saudi Arabia have the stranglehold of virtually the entire telecommunication business in the kingdom. And if you think you cannot live another day without checking the notifications in your facebook, then you have to swallow sheepishly the harsh reality confronting your sanity - accept that applying for internet connection is a process fraught with anxiety - re you're being cheated on your bills and on the services you are buying, and making your case means putting on an armor of virtues when dealing with a bunch of slackers that feel pestered when a 'second-class' human being approaches their table.

Truth be told, whining over institutionalized garbage brings no impact or benefit, I should understand by then. This is Saudi Arabia, I should know. And if you happen to come across a slogan from a 'reputed' firm that says they have conquered the world by their technologies, think again, for there is more to it than meets the eye. Or better yet, live with it if you have no choice. Guess what? I do!


DonPepe1972 said...

Sana mag karoon pa ng ibang ka- kompetensya ang STC bukod sa Mobily at bukod sa GO na maganda ang servicio para hindi nila ma-monopolize ang buong industria ng internet sa Saudi Arabia.

an_indecent_mind said...

i have my own stories nung ginagamit ko pa lang noon e modem na prepaid 1GB ng mobily, which is good for one month. monitored ko ang usage ko in every MB, since ginagamit ko lang naman yan e for chatting sa gabi at fridays. there were instances na mapuputol na lang ang connection in the mid of the month kahit di ko pa naconsume ang 1GB na allotment nila and ang tanging sagot na maririnig mo sa staff nila e "kalas" na daw!

and meron pang isang beses na after 3 days naputol ang net ko na ang sabi, void daw ung subscription ko dahil not existing daw ung sim number!

nakakatawa na lang! no choice kasi tayo e...

Noel said...

That is how they conquer the world, by charging you so much.

Landline ba gamit niyo or SIM card. Di naman ako nagkaka-problema ng ganito sa bills ko which is DSL sa landline.

Ang package ko ay 199SR per month + 65 for phone charge (di pa kasama tawag doon).

Tapos kapag di pa me nakakabayad ay yung phone calls lang ang disabled pero gumagana pa rin yung DSL.

Hope maayos niyo problem niyo.

Siock said...

@ Pepe, yaan mo maghahire ako ng competitor nila para wla ng monopoly yun nga lang ganun pa rin mga aso pa rin ang nanjajan lol!

@ indecent mind, kakatawa din pla experience mo sa knila, ganun tlaga talo pa rin tayong subscribers, but as u said, no choice nga lng tau, leche! lol!

@ Noel, landline kmi, ok na sana yung sobra-sobra yung bill eh zero pa nga nkasaad dun sa 906 but pinuputol na agad di mn lng nagsend ng sms kng mgkano bill ko panibago wc is unconsumed pa coz prompt ako mgbayad. kaya nakakapikon.

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