At last, revenge on Belgian telecoms customer service
January 21, 2011 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Belgium's telecoms companies have a reputation for customer care that is only slightly better than the Gestapo's. Because of divisions among the linguistic areas, monopolies and a disinterest in oversight, the phone and internet companies are notorious for outstandingly poor customer service. Everyone has a tale to tell. In my case, I had a deal with one company and when my neighbour got connected with a rival firm, instead of putting in a new cable, they literally cut through mine and attached him. They then refused to reconnect me, on the grounds that I was not a customer of theirs. After five weeks of getting nowhere, I had to pay another company to install a new cable. Recently a Flemish TV show fought back for all of us. SLYT. A fine and elaborate prank that needs to be watched to the end. Yes it is a SLYT but for anyone who has ever had to deal with Belgian telecoms or internet companies, this is entirely justified payback.
posted by quarsan (32 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've had experience with copper pairs being yanked or doubled up, etc. in Manhattan, line testers being left on the punchdown blocks, you name it. I look forward to the war stories here.

I've had good experiences with the Belgians at Voxbone, but of course that is not residential.
posted by drowsy at 2:04 PM on January 21, 2011


An explanation would be helpful. I had similar experiences when living in the Netherlands, but this may have had a lot to do with my poor grasp of Dutch. All I can make out here is that some merry pranksters are pretending to be a poorly configured automated system that's sending a hapless maintenance man in circles.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2011


I highly recommend The President's Analyst from 1967 for a proper framing of the phone company. I already have said too much about the plot, but it really is worth it and relevant, even today with the film's take on the phone company.


Dr. Shaefer: "You know, the one thing I learned from my patients is they all hate the phone company. Even the stock holders of the phone company hate the phone company."

Kropotkin: "I know. Bedoins hate the phone company."

posted by chambers at 2:10 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Genius. Thanks.
posted by dobbs at 2:12 PM on January 21, 2011


Bedouins, I mean. I guess I should proof the stuff I copy and paste too.
posted by chambers at 2:13 PM on January 21, 2011


At last, revenge on a hapless security guard for a Belgian telephone company!
posted by sour cream at 2:14 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's a little info about the clip. The TV show parked a container at Mobistar's HQ one morning. On the outside was a phone number. Inside the contrainer was a 'call centre'. When Mobistar rung to complain, they used the same techniques that the phone company used on their customers...
posted by quarsan at 2:15 PM on January 21, 2011


I can't say much about telecom, but if this clip is any indication, American TV sure is better than Flemish TV.
posted by etc. at 2:16 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


All I can make out here is that some merry pranksters are pretending to be a poorly configured automated system that's sending a hapless maintenance man in circles.

This is basically the reality of trying to contact a phone company, at least here in the Netherlands (as in Belgium from what I've heard about the linked show in our media).

What do you want to know?

Thanks for posting this, quarsan.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:17 PM on January 21, 2011


Inside the contrainer was a 'call centre'.

Sorry if this is obvious, but: crucially, of course, the security guard didn't know that every single person he spoke with over the phone was actually inside the, what, 4x4x4 yard shipping container right in front of him.

This little stroke of sheer genius is what took the show from cleverly amusing to positively hilarious to me.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:21 PM on January 21, 2011


That was...beautiful
posted by jquinby at 2:24 PM on January 21, 2011


The being inside the container is superb, but personally, the last phone call elevates this to genius, a wonderful twist.
posted by quarsan at 2:30 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw this on Dutch TV last week, pretty funny.
posted by atrazine at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2011


My favorite part is when, after forcing the security guy to spend three hours of his morning dealing with their prank, they call him back, still in the guise of the container company, to offer him something by way of compensation for his time, and he politely declines, and they then proceed to put him through the wringer a second time anyway.

Pranks!
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2011


This would have been funnier if it was an executive they trolled rather than a security guard.
posted by Fraxas at 2:38 PM on January 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I highly recommend "The President's Analyst" for anyone. Period. Best social satire of the 1960's, notable for casting James Coburn, best known as the superspy Flint, as NOT the superspy, but rather black comedian Godfrey Cambridge as the superspy. In addition to "The Phone Company" (involving a bit of sci-fi tech that is close to possible today), it skewers psychoanalysis, racism, government secrecy, bureaucratic rivalries (through an often-deadly rivalry between the movie's substitutes for the CIA & FBI), the Soviets (best role ever for the sadly under-appreciated Severn Darden), gun culture (with a very young William "KITT" Daniels), hippies and everything else current then (more than half of which is still current today), written and directed by the future co-creator-and-writer-of-half-the-episodes of "Barney Miller", Theodore J. Flicker. And it contains one of the single greatest lines in motion picture history: "I'm not paranoid! They are all spies!"
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:45 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lionel Ritchie was a lovely flourish.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:49 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Successful troll is successful
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:51 PM on January 21, 2011


In my case, I had a deal with one company and when my neighbour got connected with a rival firm, instead of putting in a new cable, they literally cut through mine and attached him.

I had this exact thing happen to me in manhattan. It was a new building, about 10 years ago. Each new apt. would need to be connected, but there were like three companies sending techs in. Cut wires, theft ... it got nasty and mean. One of the few times in my life that I threatened someone. In the end I was saved by an independent tech who reminds me of a female version of the vigilante AC repairman in Brazil.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:00 PM on January 21, 2011


Very nicely done.
posted by ob at 3:05 PM on January 21, 2011


Surprisingly hilarious. The ending really kicks it through the uprights.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:02 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is not just telephone companies that have impenetrable help centers is it?
posted by Cranberry at 4:51 PM on January 21, 2011


*sigh*

When DSL came out, I tried to get a line set up via Speakeasy, before SBC offered theirs. It took about three to four months of back and forth at the Speakeasy level, at a third-party provider level, and at an installer level, before I finally got a determination that they would have to charge me $2000 for the install. Which ... I declined.

Not really Speakeasy's fault, to be sure, but I couldn't believe how many missed appointments, missed calls, lost customer-service order numbers, and whatnot were involved.

:(
posted by dhartung at 5:32 PM on January 21, 2011


impenetrable help centers

Fantastic! This is my new favorite phrase.

"I'm not in prison, I'm surrounded by an impenetrable help center!"

"It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it doesn't ever leave the impenetrable help center."
posted by chambers at 5:46 PM on January 21, 2011


if this clip is any indication, American TV sure is better than Flemish TV.

If what's on my TV is any indication, almost anything is better than American TV.
posted by Sutekh at 5:54 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So when is Belgium going to get dismantled and absorbed into France and the Netherlands? Also: are people still growing beards for Belgium?
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 6:13 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]




Having had to deal with Mobistar's customer "service", I was cheering through the whole video. BTW, some serious undercover investigative reporting by these same guys has also exposed sleazy phone-in games and managed to get them banned.
posted by Skeptic at 2:44 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brilliant!
posted by Duug at 4:29 AM on January 22, 2011


Hilarious, thanks for sharing!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:14 AM on January 22, 2011


This totally fails for me, as others have said, on the grounds that it was a security guard they were torturing. Not only isn't poor customer service his fault, he probably isn't even an employee of the company at all.

That and the fact they disrupted traffic on a dark, snowy road.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:02 PM on January 22, 2011


(A former resident of Evere) One of the funniest things I've seen in a long time, many thanks quarsan!
posted by ceri richard at 4:59 PM on January 22, 2011


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