TOORA is emerging from a three-week long telephone and ETPOS blackout, during the peak of the busy summer tourist season.
For Toora newsagent Irene Spooner it was a financial disaster. Irene spoke to The Mirrorlast Friday (January 11), just as her EFTPOS machine came back to life. She was still without a phone, a problem she blamed on a slow response from Telstra.
“My phone has been out since Christmas day – that’s both business and home phone. It came on for about three hours a week later. Then the EFTPOS went as well. I’ve had no EFTPOS since virtually the start of the year. It’s been totally frustrating, especially with the EFTPOS,” she said.
“Customers have been coming to pay for their items and then…out comes the card. Sorry, we’ve got no EFTPOS and we don’t have an ATM in town. They leave it on the counter and walk away.
“No EFTPOS means that anyone who wants a V/Line ticket misses out if they’ve only got a card. They can’t get them off the driver with a card either. The same problem occurred with Citilink and phone recharges. It’s been totally frustrating for so many reasons.”
Among those people Irene was forced to turn away were two travelers who needed to catch the bus to make a flight from Tullamarine.
Irene said she had seen potential tourist dollars march right out the door. She estimated the loss in sales at about $1000.
“There’s been so many people in the area, they’re coming into the town and they can’t buy anything if they have a card,” she said.
She said many elderly customers had complained to her that if they needed to phone for medical help they didn’t “have the means to do it”.
“Those people who had called Telstra to notify them that their lines were down or find out how long it was going to take before they were up, were on hold for more than an hour,” she said.
Service technicians worked on the problem, with mixed results, Irene said. A number of businesses and residents had one line back, but not another. Repairs were completed and promises were made that normal services had been returned.
‘“But that only lasted about three hours. And when it went down again, even more phone lines went down,” she said.
Toora Hotel publican Amy Robson said it had been a time of high stress. She was forced to have the pub’s phone diverted through to her mobile. It meant she was constantly bombarded with calls, even taking them in the shower and at 1am in the morning.
“Essentially what’s it meant, is that I was the only one able to take the calls. The responsibility for bookings and enquiries and everything else, instead of being shared, was all down to me. It was an incredibly stressful experience, to be honest,” she said.
“I had to be surgically attached to my mobile phone 24/7.” Amy said it was fortunate that the business’s EFTPOS facilities are supplied through another carrier, a quirk of circumstance that came about after previous difficulties with Telstra.
It was a time of confusion too, she said, with customers who left messages on her mobile not knowing whether they were speaking to someone at the hotel or had dialed the wrong number. When she was on deck and taking lunch and dinner orders she was on her phone at the same time, taking bookings and enquiries.
“I had to explain to people what was going on, in case they thought I was rude and was just talking to a friend,” she said.
But in the end, her main complaint was Telstra’s response to the issue.
“Lack of communication and the fact it was an outage for so long – essentially crippling the business in the busiest time of year. I understand if there’s an outage they can’t do much. But you can’t tell me they needed to take three weeks,” she said.
Telstra did not respond to questions from The Mirrorbefore deadline.