Precious copper wires

Called up Telstra today to organise a new phone connection in our new house. The lady I first talked to said she was having some problems with her computer system so she transferred me back in the queue. My call was picked up by a man named Kingsley who then asked me the usual questions like my name, Gj’s name, birthdays, address, alternative contact number (mobile numbers) and if there’s an existing phone line in the house. I should have suspected something fishy might be going on when he asked for an alternative contact number but thought that maybe there’s a valid reason for it. What if they have problems connecting the home phone and need to let me know?

Alarm bells didn’t start to ring until we got to the part where he asked if I have a credit card. Hmmm… why, oh why, would the phone company care if I have a credit card? I asked him why he need to know this bit of information and he said that he doesn’t need to know the number. Fine, yes. Mastercard or Visa? I answered, all this time thinking that maybe I should have said no, that I’ve lived all my life on top of a mountain and have no need for a rectangular piece of plastic as a mode of payment. Next, he asked how many people would be living in the house and what sort of work I do. Again, I gave my answer. I have a nasty feeling that I was being profiled for those telemarketers who’d be calling this new phone line soon.

After several more questions, he started asking about my calling habits. What sort of calls do I make? Uh, local calls. But truth be told, I don’t make many phone calls at all. I only need the blasted phone to connect to the internet and I need Telstra’s copper lines to do it. But of course I didn’t say that. He was pushing one of two phone plans, HomeLine Plus, which has the most expensive monthly phone rental but has cheaper call rates and HomeLine Complete, which has a slightly cheaper monthly rental but pricier call rates. What the guy didn’t know is that I’ve already checked out the phone plans at their website and know of one more phone plan that he never mentioned, the HomeLine Budget. It has the cheapest monthly rental by far but the most expensive call rates. For someone like me who doesn’t make much calls, this is the ideal plan to subscribe to. I asked for it and he said he’ll organise it.

He then proceeded to say that there would be a $59 connection fee (ouch), to which I agreed (no choice). Next, I was asked if I’d like the number to be unlisted in the phonebook and the number to not show up in caller IDs. Hmmm… nifty feature, I’ll get me one of those. Okay, that would be another $2.93 tacked on to my monthly bill. By now, I’m beginning to understand why some people love to hate Telstra, every single thing has a dollar value and if my experience is any indication, customer service equates to targeted tele-marketing with some “service” thrown in.

After talking to him for about 20 minutes for a call that should have taken half the time, the man finally said that the phone line would be activated on Monday, gave me the new phone number and then asked one more question. Do you have an internet connection? I thought the question laughable since the only way I could get my internet connection is by getting a phone line through them (unless I get a cable or wireless connection). Is this a trick question? Out loud I said no, not yet. Big mistake, as this caused him to launch into a sales pitch for BigPond broadband (which is also owned by Telstra). I said I’ll think about it. Needless to say, I was much relieved after we hanged up. Maybe I should have given the man a fictional phone number as my alternative contact number after all.

Published in: on December 2, 2005 at 2:36 pm  Comments (1)  


Van Tuong Nguyen was hanged this morning at Singapore’s Changi Prison for smuggling heroin into the country while in transit to Australia. There is no doubt as to his guilt, the bag of heroin, after all, was strapped to his body. He claimed that he agreed to be a mule to pay off his debts owed by his twin brother (a former heroin addict). It was his first and last run-in with the law.

The bell tolled 25 times for him (one for each year of his life) at precisely 9 A.M. local time, the time of his execution. Yes, he did wrong. Yes, he could have ruined a lot of lives had he been successful in bringing in the heroin he was carrying into Australia and the drugs he was carrying was sold in the streets. Yes, he was foolish. Yes, he should have been punished for his crime. Yes, it was unfortunate that Singapore penalises drug traffickers with death. Yes, the government seemed to have done everything it could for him. Yes, I was glad that his mother was able to hold his hand during her last visit.

On the other hand, no, I don’t agree that he should be honoured as there was nothing honourable in what he did. No, I don’t think a boycott of Singapore’s products and services is the right thing to do. No, I don’t think one country should dictate nor attempt to bend a neighbouring country’s laws just because one of its citizens got in trouble. No, I don’t think the Howard government could have done anything more for him. No, I don’t believe in making a scapegoat out of him. Saying that a drug trafficker is responsible for the deaths of the many addicts that they supply drugs to is almost akin to saying that gun sellers should be held responsible for all the murders or suicide of people who died from the use of a gun.

After all has been said and done, I’m not sure if I support the type of punishment he got or not. I’ve heard and read about the views of both sides and understand each camp’s reasons for supporting or not supporting his hanging. What I do know is that people learn by making mistakes and that people could change.

I’m deeply saddened that Nguyen would never have the chance to redeem himself. My sympathies to his family and friends.

Published in: on December 2, 2005 at 12:00 pm  Comments (6)