EXCLUSIVE: Lifehacker just got off the phone with Laurence Kain, a small business owner who earlier this afternoon took the extreme step of chaining himself to the Canberra City Optus store. He said his “peaceful protest” was a last resort after unsuccessful attempts to switch the ownership of his iPad data account between his businesses, despite three previous store visits and five hours on hold. Updated
At around 1pm, Kain entered the store with a camera crew and a stop watch timer. The protest lasted 22 minutes and 47 seconds. As you’d expect, security were quick to arrive and watched the situation while a store employee spent 20 minutes on the phones with superiors to address the situation.
Speaking with Lifehacker, a still frustrated Kain laughed: "Spending time chaining myself to the counter in an Optus shop isn't high on my priority list for a Friday afternoon. I'm not a nutcase that enjoys going around chaining myself to shit."
"I have done everything over the past 3 months . . . the ownership of this account was starting to affect the accounting procedures of two of my companies and . . . drastic action was the only way I was confident this would be fixed."
Police soon arrived and Kain freed himself from the store’s counter once presented with the choice of leaving or being arrested for trespass. "I'm not going to break the law. I wasn’t there to be aggressive or to damage property. I felt I had exhausted every other avenue."
“The purpose wasn't just to fix my account, it was to make a statement to these big businesses, including Optus, that it's not OK to charge a premium for their service and not provide any after-sales support."
Contacted for comment, an Optus spokesperson said: "We are aware of the incident and understand that the customer's issue is in the process of being resolved."
Update 30/6 11AM: Optus has advised that "the issue has now been resolved and [Mr Kain] has been notified. We are now looking into why it wasn't actioned earlier/after repeated requests."
We had to ask him: Why didn’t you take the issue to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)? As Lifehacker reminded us today, any business with annual turnover of less than $3 million (and up to 20 employees) can have its complaints considered by the independent arbitrator.
Unfortunately, Kain hadn’t been aware of the TIO until after the protest. And that’s the takeaway here — not enough people are aware that they're not stuck dealing solely with terrible customer service staff. Whether you're a business owner or consumer, you’re generally not alone in these matters. Just don't take those matters into your own hands.