Taxman tops the pile while Telkom simply torments us

By Brendan Seery Time of article published Dec 5, 2011

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Dealing with parastatal organisations is, at the best of times, painful. And when they use taxpayers’ money on ads to try to persuade people they are doing a good job, it is like salt being thrown into the wounds.

This week’s column is a tale of two different kinds of pain at the hands of two very different parastatals.

Yet, interestingly, it is the one which causes me the most actual (financial) pain which gets the Orchid.

I have previously awarded the SA Revenue Services (Sars) Orchids for its “taking the eish out of taxation” campaign, and the wrap-up TV ad – which thanks taxpayers for complying and filling in their tax returns – is more of the same.

The whole campaign sets the right moral tone – paying your taxes is the right thing to do – but at the same time emphasises the Sars carrot-and-stick approach: don’t do what you should and you will certainly feel the “eish”.

But it is also humble in thanking people and reminding them what their money can be used for: schools, hospitals, basic services (let’s not worry too much about the odd presidential jet or hi-tech submarine).

So, even though I am looking at a R9 000 tax bill (eish!) I somehow don’t mind. It’s what I owe. It’s my duty to pay it.

And at least Sars said thank you. For that, it gets an Orchid from me.

Almost in the same TV ad break, there was a nice feel-good ad which, in any other week, might well have got an Orchid.

It showed a rural school with young pupils taking their first steps into the terrifying world of education – learning that “A is for apple, B is for banana”.

The ad was for Telkom, punting how its technology is helping previously disadvantaged communities into the economic mainstream.

The problem for me was that when I watched I shouted at the TV screen: “And what about C is for Customer?”

Since November 7, we have been trying to get Telkom to restore our telephone and ADSL line to its full functionality. It’s either been totally dead all day or, more recently, has developed the strange habit of dying in the afternoon between lunchtime and about 6pm.

No amount of official fault reports, shouting at the poor people in the call centre, or even accosting a repair team in the street outside (they were fixing another fault and had no idea we had a problem… great organisation) has done any good.

Every day we come home in the afternoon to a dead phone. As the sun sets, the line mysteriously comes back on.

(And I have to wonder, seriously, whether Telkom has a “load shedding” policy where it shuts off little-used suburban lines when the pressure gets too much.)

The problem is that no one at Telkom is listening to us when we complain, either by phone (when the line works, but more often using expensive cellphone airtime) or on the internet (accessed courtesy of a Cell C data bundle).

The more we have to contact Telkom using its competitors’ services, the more we wonder whether we shouldn’t just ditch it altogether.

And the really sad part of this story is I know many of you Telkom customers reading this will have had similar experiences.

So, in awarding you an Onion for the salt-in-the-wound TV ad, Telkom, let me offer the following suggestion: C is for customer; C is for change (as in network); C is for cellular; C is for Cell C.

And if you carry on as you have been, it won’t be long before C also stands for catastrophic collapse of company.

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