Saturday, June 13, 2009

Etisalat, I try to understand you, but you make it so very difficult OR long and probably crazy rant about how I can't get an internet connection

Living in the UAE tests the patience from time to time - most of us who have moved here accept that and do our best to cope. But in the 14 months I've lived here nothing has quite tested my patience – not to be too dramatic, but at times my very sanity – like trying to get an internet connection. Etisalat is, quite simply, the most discombobulated company I have ever had the misfortune to become involved with.

Some 3.5 months ago I wandered into the Etisalat offices on Muroor Road to sign up for a wireless connection. As the fellow behind the big, granite desk filled in my user card I had an intuitive moment. "This isn't going to happen," something deep inside said.

And it didn't. I called. I called again. I called more times. I yelled into the phone. When I can flip open my lap top to see a half-dozen of my neighbours' connections (locked - I would steal them to avoid aggravation, oh yes I would, in a heartbeat), when the fellow who lived in the apartment just 3.5 months ago had a wireless connection, hearing "there is a problem with your port, ma'am" over and over started to turn me into a mentalist.

On one particularly memorable call, I had this exchange with an attendant:

ME: "So a technician will be coming?"

HIM: "Yes."

ME: "When?"

HIM: "Tomorrow. (pause) Or next week (longer pause) - "

ME: (Thinking) Don't you dare say it

HIM: "Inshallah."

I went down to the Virgin counter in Abu Dhabi Mall, because my friends told me the Filipino guy with the shaved head who works there really knows what's going on - perhaps more than any of Etisalat's own employees. He told me I should go to the head office, cancel my first service, and then come back down to him and sign up again. Can't you just cancel it? I asked. No ma'am, he replied. Then, the morning after I returned from Australia, a knock on the door.

"We're here to hook up your internet ma'am". Filled with hope, I set to making coffee and let them get to work. Several minutes passed. "Ma'am?" I heard. "Ma'am, we cannot hook up your internet."

ME: "Why?"

THEM: "Because you have no connection."

ME: "Yyou can't hook up my internet connection, because I have no connection?"

THEM: "Yes ma'am."

Turns out the dudes were from an Etisalat team that is switching the building over from copper to fibreoptics. I cannot get either, apparently.

I spent 2.5 hours at Etisalat's head office on Airport Road last week, which was eye-opening, if not fruitful or resulting in an internet connection. As you can see, it's a shiny lovely building. That's nice, I thought, as I was shuttling between the fourth and third floors. Third floor to sign up, fourth floor to see about the application, third floor so they can call the engineer.

"I am sorry," I overheard a weary-looking expat man say to one of the attendants. "It's just that I spend so many hours here."

For awhile, I chatted with Fayyed. He was there with his little boy, and told me he has been paying monthly visits for more than a year now. In May 2008, Etisalat overcharged him for 610 dirhams - about $150 Cdn. It has never been repaid. Are you ever going to give up? I asked.

"Maybe," he said, looking at his seven-year-old, who sat swinging his legs under the chair. "But I am better off with it. I'll buy a toy for my kid. He likes yo-yos."

I watched as another woman gathered up her bags and stormed off from her wicket, rolling her eyes, shaking her head and exhaling loudly. Having a total strop, basically.

The morning after the head office marathon, as my blood pressure levels had just started to return to normal, I had an early morning knock on the door. Three men holding boxes of things were outside. "We are from Etisalat ma'am," said their leader. "We are here about the internet connection."

Instantly hopeful again, I let them straight in, failing to realise I was still in pyjamas. Again, I set about making coffee, perhaps whistled a snippet of a happy tune. Until ...

THEM: "Ma'am?"

ME: "Yes?"

THEM: "Ma'am, we cannot hook up the internet connection."

ME: "Why?"

THEM: "Because ma'am you don't have an internet connection."

An hour later as I headed out to go to the gym, another Etisalat fibre-optic enabler approached me. "I need to set up your internet connection," he said. "You are this flat?"

"Please don't knock on my door again," I said, wearily. Defeated, even.

He knocked on my neighbour Tom's next, and as the elevator doors closed, I could hear Tom saying "you've already been here – you've already hooked it up."

I spent a half-hour on the phone this week, alternately yelling - yes I was yelling - and pleading with the woman on the other end. This is where my sanity really started to waver, as I heard myself saying things like "I am very far from home and I need internet" and "can I just ask you, YOU, to care about my case and make sure something is done?" She explained it appeared as though I had just signed up for it the day before, and not in March, and it would be at least 10 days before I would see a technician. That's when I, a grown woman who more than a year ago got on an airplane with four suitcases for parts unknown all by myself, hung up the phone. And cried.

"That's it," I told my friend at work. "I give up. I am never getting it."

The next day at 7am I had a call from Matthew, an Etisalat employee. He was wondering when he could come back to hook me up. For real - not a fibreoptic pipe dream.

I'd like to tell you I have internet access. I don't. Matthew did spend two hours at my apartment on Thursday, installing gadgets and boxes and wires that don't seem to be connected to anything or communicating with my laptop in any discernable manner. At one point he asked how to find his USB stick on my desktop; I sighed and showed him, and then told him I had to get back to work. Ducking out for what was promised to be a 20-minute endeavor and failing to return had severely spiked my cortisol levels.

Nonetheless, I have his mobile number, and he assures me he will come back, at my convenience, and sort this *&^%ing (profanity mine) business out. Parting words, from dear, sweet Matthew?

"Etisalat is working for you."


samuraisam said...

I've been in your situation!
I managed to write 10,000 words about how they failed to upgrade my internet connection for 43 days. In the end I did manage a refund from them and I suggest you do the same if they have made you pay anything so far.

The best hope you have is trying to call around the corporate or head offices and reaching level 3 support or a manager (a manager at the call centre is not a real manager).
After weeks of being told I was on the phone to top level technical support it turned out to be a lie--there is actually another secret office that no one at Etisalat seems to know about and that is completely separate to the 101 number and seems to deal with severe problems from a higher level. Best of luck finding that office though because I probably spent the good part of 100 hours on the phone with them and even though they acknowledged the problem was from within Etisalat, they never gave me to any higher support level.

Here are some tips:
Forget calling the call centre, visiting the kiosks or even visiting the head office as they are all equally useless.

You could try visiting their head office, although when I did that the gentleman who gave me his personal mobile number and promised to get my situation sorted out stopped answering his mobile.

And if you do get an apology letter from them, make sure you frame it and put it on your wall.

And Etisalat isn't working for you: Etisalat is up your service.

Best of luck.

rosh said...

I'm pretty sure, there's nothing of consolation I can offer or say, except, you've written the post brilliantly. I felt (almost) every pain and angst you'd been through, and probably are going through.

Hang in there!

rosh said...

'Hang in there!' - as in chin up!


Anonymous said...

just go get an etisalat 3g mobile thinga-ma-jig. those little white things that plug into your computer and can be used anywhere in the country. bout 400dhs/month. be sure to get the unlimited data plan.

the speeds are fast enough to watch videos, make a skype call, get your email, surf the web, blog.

no hook-ups, no BS, no problems. just plug it in and go.

Jayne said...

I feel truly blessed. I moved apartments last November. 24hrs after applying to have our phone transferred & the internet hooked up, we were connected with both!
(Please don't hunt me down & kill me!)

Andrew Webber said...

Oh that it should be so easy to purchase a dongle-ly thing to plug in to your computer.

We are without hard wired internet here in Mushrif, Abu Dhabi as well, for reasons I don't yet understand as there seems to be an Etislag substation around the corner from here. Maybe 100 metres.

"Easy" Says I. Dongle - plug it in - pay the 400 a month - no big deal.

Except that the drop out rate is prolific, comparatively slow, and at times makes me have cruel thoughts toward those that are supplying the service.

It is the only thing I can't be zen about.

Traffic trying to kill me at every chance - fine.

Extortionate rent - fine.

Parking when I go into town DIABOLICAL - still fine.

Not being able to hold my wife's hand in public - not fine but I get it.

Not being able to get usable service from my internet connection- n..o...t FINE..NOT FINE..NOT EFFERS FINE..SOOOOOOO not FINE.

..oops.. frustration vent overload...

in short - I really feel your pain.

Why not said...

ufff what a nightmare! It is really so difficult??

The advertisement is kinda IKEA's joke.. the employee says , hi I work in Ikea - and the clients answer, no, the ones who work at ikea are us!

Ann Marie said...

I've been told dongals are unreliable, they are stupid expensive and my friend was once handed a bill for Dh60,000 for one month that took forever to sort out, and that has permanently scared me off.

Andrew Webber, you crack me right up. Jayne I am just happy for you...:)

Graeme said...

It might be an idea to find out who has a wireless connection in your building and then offer to share their password for a slice of the monthly fee.

Grumpy Goat said...

They switched off my email today.

Two hours after logging on, I checked my inbox again, to be told that my username or password was invalid. Apparently, according to the knuckle-dragging slack-jawed imbecile at 101, the system has disabled the account because it hasn't been used in four months.

Now check how true this is by referring above to the bit in italics.

Anonymous said...

You should marry a Local, I had my net connection set up within 24 hours of ordering it hah, best of luck ;)

Anonymous said...

I know recently Etisalat is behaving very badly with customers, overcharging them false bills. Kindly complain to TRA at

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