Chicken Laksa and…Telstra

I am exhausted.  And it’s not because of I’ve run a marathon or because of work or the kids or the accountant who’s constantly reminding me of my overdue tax returns, it’s because I’m trying to have a phone connected in an apartment for a new a new tenant who has just moved in.

I’d really love to spare you a story that is so boring and mind-numbing but what I have been through in trying to get a connection has almost been enough to put me in an institution and I believe purging the story will be almost therapeutic.

It all started innocently enough because I assumed that in the 21st century, having a phone connected would be a simple task – silly me.

This is how it unraveled.

Chicken Laksa

The tenant moved into the property.  Noticed the phone point was damaged.  Asked me to have it repaired.  I called the electrician.  He came to the property and repaired it but advised the line was dead.  He told me I needed to call Telstra because he believed the line was cut somewhere between the street and the property.  I phoned Telstra and asked for a technician to come to the property.  They told me a technician would be there the next day and that if he needed access he would text to advise.

No text message was received.

At the end of the day however, a ‘no reply’ text message did come through that said, ‘A technician was unable to gain site access today.  If your service is still faulty please call your fault centre’.  (On the ‘no reply’ number that hasn’t been supplied).


At the same time I received a text from the increasingly hostile tenant demanding the issue with the phone immediately be remedied because it is causing him to lose business.  (I have no idea how that can be the case seeing he is a tradesman working for an employer but anyway!)

I phoned Telstra and was put through to an off-shore non-English speaking person who asked me to spell my name three times.  Once we had that sorted I asked her why the technician had said he needed access when the advice I had been given was that the problem was between the street and the property.

Dinner is served

The woman didn’t answer that question but instead stated that a technician should never have been sent to the property because due to privacy laws no technician could be called out until the last used phone number at the property had been verified.  As I was unable to verify the last known phone number at the property, Telstra would not be able to fix the line.

I said, ‘There was a line installed 15 years ago.  Not all tenants have used it.  Some don’t want a fixed line, they just use their mobile.  But now there is a tenant who wants a fixed line.  Would you like me to make up a number so that then you can come down and flick the switch?’

She then told me that she understood my problem but that there was no way she could solve it.

I said, ‘Put me through to someone else’.

Thirteen minutes later I ended up in the business sector.  ‘What am I doing here?’ I asked.

‘The last known phone number was a business number so you need to speak with the business department’.

‘I have a residential tenant in a residential area who is having kittens.  Are you able to get the phone on?’

‘Sure.  Can you give me the phone number?’

‘There isn’t a phone number because the phone isn’t connected’.

‘I’m very sorry Ma’am but we can’t connect a phone without a number’.

Comfort food

I swear to God this went on for 50 minutes.  After speaking with three foreigners who all asked me to spell my name and who all asked me the address of the property and who all asked me to provide the last known number at the property, I was tipped over the edge and demanded to speak with someone within Australia.  That woman looked up the property on the computer and said she could see that two lines had been previously installed at the property so this whole issue could be simply resolved by the tenant phoning to ask to have the line connected – just a flick of the switch at the exchange.  This would cost him the total sum of $49.00.  If after that the phone was not working, he could then phone the faults department and have the line fixed for free.

‘Thank you’, I said in a very relieved tone.  I phoned the tenant and gave him this news.  I went home from work nursing my tension headache and called into the local supermarket and bought ingredients to make Laksa for dinner – something very comforting after wasting so much time on the phone to Telstra.

However, once I had that Laksa paste and coconut milk in my trolley my mobile rang.  It was the tenant.  He said he had been on the phone to Telstra who had advised that there was no evidence of any line ever being provided at the property and as such the landlord would need to pay a fee of $300.00 to have the phone connected.  I was reeling.  This was in complete conflict with what I had been told at the end of my 50 minute conversation with Telstra.

We are back at Square One.  The tenant doesn’t believe he needs to pay for a line that has never before been connected.  The landlord doesn’t believe he needs to pay for a line he has previously paid for.  The phone line remains dead.

Expletives work well in times such as this.

As does Laksa.  It’s great comfort food.  Warm food in a bowl is very comforting especially when washed down with wine.  Wine and Telstra go hand in hand!

Chicken Laksa

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is a very affordable family meal.

  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, sliced
  • 1/3 cup (100G) laksa paste
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock
  • 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, very finely shredded
  • 1 tbspn grated palm sugar
  • 1 tbspn fish sauce
  • 1-2 tbspns lime juice
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 200gm dried vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat.  Season chicken, then stir-fry, in batches, for 3-4 minutes until just golden.  Add laksa paste and stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add stock, coconut, milk, kaffir lime and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes until chicken is cooked.  Stir in sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to taste.

Meanwhile, place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil over high heat and cook for 5-7 minutes until hard-boiled.  Rinse under cold water, then peel, halve and set aside.

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, then drain and divide among  serving bowls.  Ladle over laksa and top with the bean sprouts, Thai basil, coriander, eggs and chilli.

This recipe has been adapted from Taste.



  1. I hate all telco’s. Great Laksa tonight!

  2. I’m not sure whether this is comforting or not but it seems that all phone services are totally useless no matter which country you’re in. Thank goodness for good food to calm us down!

  3. Maybe this is why cell phones were invented. I am just now learning to appreciate the culinary delight of eggs cooked that way. This looks like a great way to recover from an incident with customer (non)service.

  4. I feel your frustration. Been there myself a few times in trying to deal with issues. Whatever happened to good customer service? Or any customer service in your case?

  5. Look Pad Thai-ish … but does the coconut milk give it a coconut taste?

  6. You are not alone my friend! We suffer through similar incompetencies on this side of the world too. Our most recent was with the phone company whom we asked to shut a line down which they did, gave us useless case numbers and to this day continues to bill us (5th month now!). And then there was the cable company whom after three very long and frustrating calls JT just told them to shut it down! After 25 years with the same company, no one has called to ask us why! THIS is why monopolies are BAD!
    That curry looks wonderful, I’m making an Indian themed dinner party on Saturday, looking forward to it as they are predicting flurries!

  7. how awful! sounds like you needed a good glass of wine with that situation! this is the third time in 24 hours that I’ve see laksa, something I’ve never previously heard of I think the universe is trying to tell me something!

  8. Ahhh I remember those days when you had to deal with Telstra. Thankfully they are days past and life is much lighter! Sorry to hear that you still have to deal with them though Charlie. They must have a support group around for people that had gone through the process of getting a line connected or disconnected!

  9. I feel your pain Charlie!
    🙂 Mandy

  10. The whole phone issue sounds like a nightmare. The chicken dish is the only good thing about the end of that day. I’d never heard of laksa and will have to research. I also need to buy some coconut milk. 🙂

    The phone is in my dad’s name from when we bought the the house in 1984. When I tried to get it switched into my name about 10 yrs ago, cause my mom and dad moved out of town, the hassle that was described to me wasn’t worth doing it. It’s still in my dad’s name. My dad is no longer with us.

  11. Ugh Telstra has given my family much pain too, they are ridiculous with customer service!
    I hope you relaxed by downing much of this delicious laksa!

    Choc Chip Uru

  12. Telstra…they’ve driven us completely bonkers on more than one occasion, so you have my complete empathy. Laksa looks wonderful! 🙂

  13. Ergh! I’ve had similar issues with my new place. Far too many hours of my life have been eaten by Telstra. Great top-down photo, btw.

  14. Its been a long while since I had to deal with a utility company. Don’t you guys have wireless option (not mobile) that works just like a fixed line?
    Outsourcing to a lower wage country to save costs but it takes them longer to fix the problem, if they succeed at all. I wonder if it works out cheaper at the end?

  15. Phone companies are as frustrating here too. Mr Glam has just discovered that he has a rolling 36 month phone contract for his office. Ie he has to give 36 months notice to get out of it. Should be illegal. I really empathise. I’m not sure a Laksa, even as tasty as this looks would make me feel better after the roundabout you’ve been on. GG

  16. Dear Charlie,

    Reading your Telstra escapade makes me want to pour myself a stiff drink at 8am in the morning. From my experience, I have told tenants that I will not connect a land line because the next tenant may not need one given that land lines are becoming obsolete. Tenants have to pay for it and they can get a refund (if possible) at the end of the lease. This seems to have worked for my rentals.

  17. How crazy! I now ask for the name, department and direct number for each person I’m directed to in these situations. When the person on the end of the line realizes they might be held too some type of accountability service often improves greatly 🙂 We had a private number for a few years, and after going back on the books it still comes up as unlisted on every caller ID despite many, many calls to customer service. If the computer says the job is done,apparently there’s no arguing with that…. Or accountability either 🙂

  18. Oops, forgot to say how lovely the recipe is and that overhead photo is beautiful xox

  19. LOL. Sounds just like Mexico’s Telmex, owned by the richest man in the world who passes nought on to his customers. But the Laksa (a favorite dish) recipe is a bright spot.

  20. Aren’t they a nightmare?!
    I had a good one when we wanted to upgrade our Foxtel to IQ. I knew the building was wired for it because my neighbour has IQ. Foxtel insisted it wasn’t. I told them this and they said ‘maybe the person in the building next to you does but that’s not the same.’
    Eventually we discovered that I was registered at 49 and the IQ was registered at 51 (our building is 49-51). In order to upgrade me they would have to disconnect our Foxtel, then someone would have to re-connect it. This was because I was ‘changing address.’ I nearly went out of my little mind in frustration but that’s what they had to do. It took a week for something that should have been instant.
    Could have done with Laksa that week!

  21. That’s horrible Charlie! I hate spending so much time on the phone waiting and at the end they aren’t even able to resolve your issue what the…that’s stupid as!!!!

    You should call the Telecommunications Ombudsman and complain and get them to sort it out for you! I really don’t think it’s fair!

  22. I hate incompetent people!!! This post stressed me out just from reading it. I dealt with people like that every step of the way in my wedding planning. So glad it’s done or I might have had a heart attack.

  23. OH MY GOSH bad telephone service is the worst. This is a little bit rude but very funny: reminded me of your experience!

    PS: that laksa looks divine! glad you had something yummy at the end of all that…

  24. OH MY GOSH bad telephone service is the worst. This is a little bit rude but very funny: reminded me of your experience!

    PS: that laksa looks divine! glad you had something yummy at the end of that call… hope it all gets resolved soon!!!

  25. I’m exhausted just from reading it.

  26. Are Americans running your phone company? Sounds like our people.

  27. There are two sides to each story 🙂 ! As I have severe heart disease, Telstra does have me on 24-hour service , I’ll not deny, BUT: a couple of months back: severe thunderstorm here in the country: one of the main ‘boxes’ 1/2 km away hit and almost destroyed. Some numbers working: got thru’ to an Indian call centre at a neighbours – various ladies there kept me on phone until emergency help arrived. They worked almost thru’ the night to bypass the box and get me a line. It took three days for the main line to be reconnected: during that time I never lost my connection and had no fewer than four technicians at the time check at the door: was I OK, did I need anything etc etc et al . . And two phone calls from the Indian call centre to check the same. It was not Telstra’s fault the ruddy lightning struck, but i could not have had more wonderful service – so for each bad one perhaps there is a balancing good episode 🙂 !

  28. Oh, you poor thing! We do understand and venting is good for the soul and the mind. Do keep us updated.

  29. You’re definitely in my head. I was just thinking to myself how I’d love to cuddle up with a bowl of laksa but unfortunately, there’s only once place that serves it here and it’s about 45 min away. After the Thanksgiving rush, I think I’ll give your beautiful recipe a go!

  30. Sadly our world isn’t perfect and our customer service is very poor, very very poor. I don’t even understand the benefit of making our customer service on Australia land offshore in overseas countries. Beats me.
    Anyways, really? Laksa is that easy to make? I always thought there was much more involved. Looks a treat.

  31. There is no Telstra. No AT&T. No MCI nor Télécom. There is just one gigantic nameless telephone company located deep in the bowels of the Earth somewhere, waiting to suck the life out of some hapless consumer.
    Sorry, Charlie. I hope by now you’ve been in contact with someone that helped you.

  32. I’m a huuuuge laksa fan! Of course, growing up in Southeast Asia, laksa is definitely a comfort food for me! 🙂 Sorry to hear about your terrible situation. It must be very frustrating. I can’t even imagine being on hold for so long gosh! 🙁

  33. I wish I found this harder to believe. It is a sad state of affairs when one company dictates most phone lines and that company has customer service like the sort you experienced!! (Actually, not even the customer service, but the apparent lack of ability to do their job and connect lines.)

    Laksa is definitely a better choice.

  34. What a nightmare! It sounds totally crazy. Do hope it gets resolved and sanity is restored all round.

  35. beautiful presentation on the soup. as for telstra, i’ve been experiencing issues with them. biggest pain in the butt ever! x

  36. We had a similar issue recently, where we had our Internet connected, recieved the modem in the mail but couldn’t activate anything because they’d spelt our name wrong the first time. 2 hours of both J and I on the phone, I finally figured it out and told them the problem!

  37. ough… I hate when that happens. My friend recently moved in my neighborehood and she wanted a phone connection to her new house. The telecommunication is on our property so we checked it out with them. They had to dig to make a connection to her house. All this took us 5 months. lol

    A landline is complicated nowadays because nobody uses them. Instead of going through such a thing again, we got one of those cordless home line phones. We recharge it like a mobile phone to call and I can put it off as well. There is no way maybe you could get that instead?

    But at least you made a delicious looking laksa. I just cooked come frenchbeans and ham etc, but I wish I had seen your recipe earlier, because I am getting the taste for it.

  38. I’m drooling over the gooeyness of your sliced egg!

  39. I was with my mom the other day when we had to have a similar go-round with someone in hospital administration. The conversation was every bit as convoluted as the one you’re describing. At the end, I was in a near shouting match, with people looking at me as though I had sprouted horns! I didn’t start out that way–dear goodness! What has happened to communication? I’m getting riled up just thinking about it…I need some of this gorgeous Laksa to calm me down! LOL!

  40. You should have just told the tenant to get a cell phone…(so many Americans don’t even have land lines any more).

  41. In my experience, there is nothing quite so soul-destroying as a long telephone session with a telecommunications company. It’s as if they’ve invented an new circle for Dante’s hell.

  42. Ugh. I have had similar conversations with my cell phone provider. I hope the situation works itself out soon. In the interim, the laksa is lovely!

  43. There are no words of comfort, just food and wine. I know your pain!!! :/

  44. I can relate! One word ‘jetstar’. I have never had a phone line and I never will. It all seems way too hard and paying for line rental – no thanks. Love your solution. Especially the wine bit 😛

  45. i refuse to get a phone line since every member of my family has a cell phone but i hope everything sorts out for you soon 🙂
    but, for now… this laksa would be a pleasant distraction!

  46. I don’t think there is one person who’s used telstra that doesn’t understand your pain. I’ll share trying to get adsl here at this house one day. We ended up sorting it out 6 weeks later by talking to the technician who had a mate who owed him a favor. Problem solved!

  47. I need a bowl of your comforting laksa, just from reading your post! It made the hairs on my neck stand on end.
    Had a similar experience with a hot water unit repair person, who spent over an hour fiddling around with it to no avail, THEN informed me that ‘actually we don’t work on this particular model’ (after I’d informed the receptionist of our model when booking the job, and spelled it out to her). I could go on…

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