Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting the Runaround

(Note: This saga updated at the end)

You often hear people talk about service in Japan in glowing terms and act as though the Japanese will bend over and kiss the boots of their customers to keep them happy. This is an interesting myth but, if you actually live in Japan, you find that good service, by and large, is a function of how much money the customer spends just like it is in every other country. If you go to an expensive place, you get treated like gold. If you go to a cheap place, you are treated in a relatively adequate but unimpressive fashion.

I'm disappointed to say that the same goes for dealing with places like the cable company. As I previously posted, J-Com (Japanese cable company) completely lied to us about the service we'd get. Their salesman displayed behavior I am very familiar with from working at my former company. That is, they tell the customer whatever it takes to get the customer to buy the product/service whether what they're telling you is the truth or not. Once you've agreed, they figure you'll put up with it rather than go through the trouble to get out of it.

The internet service J-Com has offered has been abysmal by anyone's standards. The speeds we get when doing a speed test are around 280-350 kbps. This is supposed to be with a 30 Mbps connection. With NTT's FLETS 1.5 Mbps, the same speed test gets us between 500-800 kbps. J-Com has tried to dismiss this by saying they only regard tests done on a Japanese speed test site as valid.

When they run a test on a site they put their seal of approval on, we get 16 Mbps but I'm pretty sure this is a test ran on internal servers to create the illusion of speed. It's either that or their speeds are horrible when connecting to any site or server outside of Japan which is pretty useless for us and something we should have been told about before being sold a 6-month contract. It's a pretty ridiculous situation, especially since no reputable ISP would sell a service based on getting good connection speeds in a very limited geographical area.

I did contact tech support and they took control remotely of my computer to see if they could fix it up. There was nothing they could do but they were preoccupied with the idea that I had Bitlord installed and kept asking me if torrents were running while I ran tests. Of course, they inappropriately used their access to my computer to troubleshoot my connection to investigate my installed applications to find this out. The thing is, I ran the test and showed it to the tech. fellow while he could see my screen and he saw the abysmal stats for himself and could clearly see no torrents were running. The only thing running was Internet Explorer.

Once the tech person couldn't improve my speed, he then changed his approach and claimed that 16 Mbps was "better than most Japanese households get". I told him the salesman promised each unit in our apartment building would be getting 30 Mbps when he pitched the service. I also asked him why the test was so pathetic with J-Com despite his test saying we had a 16 Mbps test and he had no answer for that.

Since that interaction 2 days ago, I was called again and told that the case was going to be referred back to the sales section and someone would be calling me this morning to discuss it. Instead of someone calling me, a technician showed up at my door and wanted to mess with my hardware. The problem is that I had private lessons and was not in a position to have him do anything. My attempts this afternoon to get anyone from J-Com on the line to talk about it failed.

I'm essentially being given the runaround. They're hoping that avoiding the problem will make it go away. This would be on par with the way in which a lot of problems get dealt with in Japan for a variety of reasons. One is that no one wants to be responsible for making the decisions that would result in a resolution. The other is that they don't want me to break the contract and figure I'll eventually get fed up and just pay out the contract rather than deal with the aggravation of trying to get them to talk to me and deal with the problem. This is how a Japanese person would respond in most cases.

My experiences with J-Com to this point have been very negative and I would strongly advise anyone considering using their internet services to avoid them at all costs and to not believe anything they are told in regards to the quality of their services. Unless you are on a dial-up, you will likely not see much improvement in your internet speed through them, particularly when compared to even the lowest level ADSL access.

Update: Several hours after writing this post, I wrote an extremely irate letter (using words like "lie" and "cheat" relatively liberally) to J-Com and they finally contacted me by phone. They transferred our case over to a different salesperson (a woman) who is arranging to have the offensive technology removed next Tuesday. She said they wouldn't charge us for the internet or phone service for the 3 days they were installed. I'll keep my fingers crossed but I'm not holding my breath (yes, two cliches in one!).


Roy said...

Is there a reason why you haven't just upgraded to hikari-fiber 100Mbps? It's usually free for the first 3 months and there's no installation charge. While I don't get 100Mbps it's still fast as hell. I average around 40Mbps but sometimes my uploads will be 2Mbps.

CMUwriter said...

I didn't know that there were such problems with Internet service in Japan. I figured they were at the cutting edge of technology.

Shari said...

Roy: One reason is, I never heard of hikari-fiber 100 Mbps. ;-) Another reason is that, up until recently, my husband and I were satisfied with the connection we had. When he started using a web cam concurrent with Skype and we got our first device with wireless capability, the idea of upgrading came up. I guess a salesman showed up at the door at just about the right time (or wrong time depending on how you look at it) and we figured that we'd give it a go since they were going to install a cable T.V. upgrade anyway.

cmuwriter: I think that internet technology in Japan initially lagged behind the U.S. for awhile, particularly in terms of DSL connections. I believe they're caught up at this point (though I'm not sure if they're on the cutting edge) and they have more pervasive penetration because the population more localized in various areas and the country is so much smaller.

However, in this case, I think its not the technology but rather the implementation. It is possible that cable connections aren't as good as some others on the whole but it'd be unfair to conclude that based on our experience alone. I think J-Com's salesperson simply oversold his product out of ignorance and a desire to meet his quota.

Roy said...

Shari, you ought to check out the broadband offering they have now. I don't think there's anyone signing up for cable or ADSL unless their building can't have the FiberOptic which is becoming more or less standard.

Shari said...

Once all this cable mess dies down, my husband is going to make a few phone calls though we're a bit wary now about an upgrade given how badly we were burned this time.

Is this fiber optic thing from NTT or some other company?

Roy said...

I guess you don't go out to Bic Camera or Yodobashi much these days.

Basically, all the infrastructure companies (NTT, KDDI, Tepco, YahooBB, Usen) offer 100Mbps up/downstream Fiber-Optic services. NTT, KDDI, Tepco you have to sign up through via a provider like BigGlobe, Sonet, Golcom etc since they only provide the line and not the service. They also offer various TV on demand and other content services where you can hook up a box and watch shows on your PC or TV. As well as IP phone and sometime added hotspot roaming accounts. It's very confusing when you start to see what's offered out there because providers are hooked up with more than one service. For example just look at the links on the left nav of this providers website

I use OCN/NTT B'Flets and pay about 6000yen/month for 100Mbps into my house. A few years ago the installation fee was about 40000yen but now because of the competition all the services waive that fee and almost all of them offer the first 3 months free. If you sign up the guys will come and install the fiber optic line into your apartment and when you leave they will come and take it out. I'm sure if you asked your landlord he would not object. From the time you apply to get the line started it may take a month though.

When I bought my house the first thing I did when I confirmed that I would get the loan was to apply for the Internet connection. I couldn't live a month without broadband!!