Thursday, January 27, 2011

Righting the ship

Munch - The screamIt’s never easy to return to Maastricht after a couple of weeks away.  Inevitably, entropy sets in while I’m gone and there are maintenance tasks that need to be done to get everything running smoothly again.

This time, I returned to find the internet down, my bank inaccessible, and a broken generator on my bike lights.

I took advantage of a KPN offer over the holidays to update my communications to television, phone, and Internet for less than the cost of Internet, alone.  The upgrade took place while I was away, including activation of the new DSL box.  The problem was, the new box was delivered then returned because I wasn’t home.

KPN promised to send a new box to arrive Wednesday, two days later, but then delivered it to the bar next door when nobody answered my doorbell.  Once I discovered that and then spent a couple of hours installing cables and access codes, I was (finally) back online.

ING similarly promised to have my business Internet Banking online by the 15th, two months (!) after taking down my electronic payment services when they reconfigured.  The process required receiving two separate sheets of paper, one with access codes and another with an activation code to present to the bank.  I found one, but there was no tracking to help me find the other.

I asked the landlord to open the other mailboxes for the empty apartments in the building, and someone had tossed a pile of my mail in one of them.  Access codes surfaced, the bank flipped their switches, I completed the online procedures, and my accountant was (gratefully) paid.

The reliance on TNT mail delivery for these crucial connections is a real problem: mail carriers do their best, but behave in unpredictable ways and there’s no ‘plan B’ if they miss a connection.  In either case, it would have been more reliable for me to take my ID to the KPN and ING offices and pick up the items.  But neither company has a process that allows that.

It’s frustrating to resend things; it just replicates the problem using a system that has already failed.

It’s also exasperating that both companies change their access procedures on the assumption that the new credentials have arrived, rather than waiting for confirmation.

It all leads to a weird form of service lock-in: once things are running, I’m just try not to change anything, lest I kick off another month of disruptions.

Oh, and the generator.

In the Netherlands, it’s said that you should buy a lock worth at least as much as your bike.  So, fittingly, someone stole my lock last night but left the bike (the chain was on the back frame, unlocked, while I was in a store).

So, now I’m off to buy both a chain and a generator.


Jules: said...

Quite true, that bit about the bike lock.

It's also why I pay the station 13 euros/month to park there whenever I wish. It's only 110 a year, so if you're gone for more than 1/3 of the year, it's pretty worthwhile.

Dave Hampton said...

Hi, Jules, and thanks. That's actually a good idea: the bike shop guy out along the river charged me 15 euro for a new chain (I still had the lock) so I'm back in business. The other advantage to your suggestion is that the seat doesn't fall apart after a year's worth of weather.