Friday, December 14, 2012

Telekom and Telecom

Whereas the mobile phone company Telecom in the States is a somewhat marginal enterprise its mother DeutscheTelekom is the strongest player on the phone market in Germany. This has historical reasons for all telecommunication was once run by our national mail service. The Deutsche Reichs- later Bundespost was a giant running bank, mail, and telephone services - the latter two without competition - that accordingly were sometimes lousy. However, Die Post was not always to blame. Since in the 1950s  the cable infrastructure could not keep up with the increasing demand for telephone lines people sometimes had to wait "in line" for months before being lined up. With time this bottleneck disappeared and our government decided to open up the telecommunication market to competitors. Still, people generally are lazy and remained true to their old provider.

Returning to Germany following my thirty-two years in Switzerland I had a free choice. For me the reasoning to re-join the Deutsche Telekom was as follows: In 2000 it was the only company offering both telephone and internet services. In addition even nowadays Telekom still operates all hardware infrastructure that the new companies are exploiting.

My relation with Telekom was not without marital conflicts. The correspondence with my provider fills a thick ring binder. In particular the speed of my internet connection is a permanent subject of dispute. My latest grievance was about a limitation in the number of e-mails I was allowed to sent. When I tried to send messages to a number of groups I sometimes got the following message: 550 5.7.1 Send quota exceeded, try again in 25436 seconds which meant that the following morning I was OK again. Still, this was annoying so I had my contract with Telekom changed. For a modest monthly fee of 1.5 euros they increased the size of my mailbox (what I do not need) and raised my limit for sending e-mails to a number that I shall never even come close to.

Taken as a screen shot. You may not be able to read this.
So it came somewhat as a surprise that when the other day I wanted to announce two new blogs to you I got the following message: 550 5.7.1 Send quota exceeded, try again in 4294967295 seconds. Since I did not want you to wait for more than a million hours I called up Telekom's hot line.

And suddenly I felt myself beamed back into the 1990s when on RTL-television the comedians The Three with Their Caps (Die drei mit der [Telekom] M├╝tze) teased Telekom's lousy service and blunders. I spent nearly one hour on the line where they first told me that their colleagues had sold me the wrong product. That I denied for I had read all the small print with the promise of a nearly unlimited number of e-mails to be sent. Talking to a second guy he claimed that they had simply forgotten to change my e-mail account to the new rate. A third person said that they had not done anything at all up to now.

The following morning I stepped into one of Freiburg's four Telekom's local service points. It took the lady behind the counter half an hour to sort out the mess with the promise that in three days everything will be in order. And it was.

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