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I had been looking forward to a working ADSL connection when I returned home from work today.  After all, TOT's "customer service" center had promised us yesterday that it would certainly be hooked up today.  But, as usual with dealing with this company, our expectations were shattered by being told we'd have to wait another two months and possibly more!

Here's a brief summary of our "adventures" with the only phone company that services our part of Phuket:

On March 22, my wife submitted our application for a phone line and ADSL broadband service at TOT's office in Central Festival.  This was several days after we filled out the application at the large TOT center on Chaofa West Road in Chalong (located less than one kilometer from our home and where all the service calls for southern Phuket originate from).  They had told us that we'd have to pay the deposits and installation charges at the Central office.  At the time, they were running a promotion where the router was included in the installation charge.  Dtim paid fees of more than 5800 baht and upon returning home told me that the phone line and ADSL would be hooked up in a few days.

Workers arrived on March 29, stringing phone cable along the front of the entire row of shophouses (including three soi gaps) before reaching our home.  One worker leaned a very tall bamboo ladder up the side of the house and drilled a hole right under the third floor window in the master bedroom.  The phone line was run straight up the wall, nailed to hold it in place, and run through the hole on the third floor before being tied off in a messy loop and a phone jack attached to the end (just hanging there without being attached).

The leader of this trio of workers (whom Dtim had corralled into putting up two wall fans as well) gave me a sheet of paper listing our new telephone number and the number of the guy who hooks up the ADSL.  He told me to wait 24 hours before calling this other person.  When we called the next day, we were told he'd be out later in the week.

A week went by and we were into the second before I had my wife call and find out what was going on with the Internet hookup.  She was told that the guy who does this (apparently, TOT only has one employee who installs ADSL) had gone home for the Songkran (Thai New Year's) holiday and would be out the following week.  Another week and Dtim called again.  Tomorrow.  Another call.  If not by Friday, definitely on Monday.

Yesterday (April 24th — mind you, we paid our money on March 22), I had Dtim call again.  The ADSL hookup guy asked her if we had a modem.  TOT never gave her one when she paid the installation fees despite the then-current promotion that said the router was free.  She was told she'd have to buy one from him at a cost of 3000 baht!  I told her that was bunk and proceeded to dig out the original flyer from the promotion plus the receipt of what she'd paid (itemized, but it was in Thai).  There was nothing about a modem on the receipt but there was a phone number to the customer center at Central Festival.  She called them was told that the promotion had finished on March 30th (we signed up on March 22) but we could buy a modem there for 1,470 baht and that they would "definitely install tomorrow."  Again, I said that was bunk (not my exact words, of course) that they were trying to sell us the modem since the promotion was in existence when we applied and they needed to honor that.

We decided to go down to the customer service center in person since we were getting nowhere on the phone.  There was A LOT of confusion while we were there in that there was no record of us even having telephone service in their computer and various employees would come over to the cubicle we were sitting in, fiddle with the computer, and leave.  Dtim did all the talking and they only spoke Thai so I was fairly lost except for the occasional phrase such as mai dai ("cannot") and mai kao jai ("don't understand").  Every once in a while, someone would bring over a large looseleaf binder and flip furiously through it; I assumed they were looking for our application.  At first, I would occasionally ask Dtim what was going on but she told me to remain quiet.  So I spent two hours siting there — grinning like a bewildered idiot so as to demonstrate jai dee ("cool heart") because getting angry in public is a sure-fire way to loose face in Thailand — wondering if the fate of our first-born was being decided.

Sometime in the middle of this confusion and negotiation, a fellow farang barged into the center screaming at the various employees about how his business had been ruined because he's been without internet for a week despite his repeated calls and their repeated promises of help.  He soon left muttering how he'd be writing letters to The Phuket Gazette about the terrible service TOT provides.  It seems that this is very common as TOT has many complaints againt the company on a regular basis.  If we were able to have TT&T or somebody else provide home phone service, we'd jump ship in a second.

Anyway, the end result yesterday was the discovery that our service had been (conveniently) cancelled out of the computer so they couldn't give us the "promotion" since they had to enter a new service contract.  This despite Dtim repeatedly pointing out the dates on the desposit/fees reciept and our copy of the invoice when they had installed the phone line (both of which fell BEFORE the promotion ended).  In fact, the TOT people didn't believe we actually had a workng phone until they called our home!  We ended up paying 1,470 baht for a router; my wife later told me that the girl who had taken over the computer for the last stage of our drama was actually going to honor the promotion and give us the modem but Dtim overheard the center's manager saying to charge us since I was a farang.  Dtim was very angry at this obvious example of corruption (there's a new series of commercials on TV educating the Thai people about the evils of corruption) but I just accepted it as one more form of two-tiered pricing.

We left with the "promise" that they would be out to setup the modem the following day (I told Dtim that I could probably do it myself if only they would give me the username and password for our account).

Today, it was a different story.  TOT called Dtim sometime in the morning saying that it would take between another week to a month.  She couldn't explain to me what the lady had told her (I wasn't sure if Dtim was saying they needed a "part" or a "port") so I called them back after work.  At first, the "customer service" agent wouldn't tell me anything.  She kept saying, "I talk to Khun Sangwan this morning."  When I asked her to tell me what she'd told my wife the response was, "I tell Khun Sangwan already."  "Well, can you tell me what you told her?"  Finally, she said that the ADSL department didn't have a "part" or "port" — again, I couldn't quite understand until she told me "they full port" and that I was on a waiting list.  When I asked how long this waiting list was, I was told "two month, maybe three month."

This is just totally unacceptible.  They happily took our deposit and installation fees, failed to honor a promotion and collected more money for a modem over a month later and still won't hook up the broadband for at least another couple of months!  And it's not like we have a choice of providers here otherwise I'd switch in a heartbeat.  I'm tempted to cancel the entire service, including the phone line, but we'd end up without anything at all (refunds are nonexistent in Thailand) — I did purchase a dial-up service card (unlimited for 30 days at 320 baht) but the speed is so slow (just meausured at 8.10kbps using the bandwidth meter at DG Shipping) as to be completely useless.  At the time being, I suppose I'll remain reliant on internet cafes (the nearest one is quite a drive from our new home) or occasional computer time at work (which I feel guilty about using for non-school purposes, even to check email).

I just can't understand how a company which has such a consistant record of poor service (back issues of Phuket Gazette and the various expat online forums are full of complaints against TOT) can remain in business.  In the West, this type of incompetence would not be tolerated.  Sometimes the mai pen rai and sabai sabai attitudes are not so endearing...