If you REALLY hate having customers, require them to buy wireless vouchers

Remember the story about unsuccessfully trying to find internet connectivity at Buenos Aires airport as part of my "genuine Latin American experience"? After the conference in Rosario ended last night, Fernanda Weiden, Alexandre Oliva and myself are currently back at Buenos Aires international airport, waiting for our flight to Porto Alegre.

Wanting to finally put the first pictures of FSFLA online, I hoped to find a way to get one of those vouchers once inside the boarding area. So I fired up the laptop, started Firefox and tried to connect to the net. As expected, this is what I saw:

Notice how this does not allow you to buy internet time online with your credit card or mobile phone bill? And in case you wonder: the "English Version" button of course does not work in Firefox. Amateurs running wild.

While looking for a place to buy the voucher, Alexandre and I had no luck at first, but then found a place that supposedly sold these vouchers and had an actual person there. She (like the web page) did not speak English, but fortunately Alexandre was capable of portunoling our desire across the language barrier.

My Portunol was good enough to understand she wanted to give us a voucher for 2 hours at the fantastic bargain of 30 Pesos. Yup. That is essentially 10 USD. Given that we would be boarding in only 45 minutes, it would be 10 USD for 45 minutes of internet. Fantastic.

Smaller vouchers were obviously not available: They only offered thirty minutes of Windows for 4 Pesos on one of their machines, but would not allow me to connect my laptop to download my email.

This was the moment when I decided it was too much and I would not be giving my money to a business that so obivously hates having customers and was getting ready to leave.

Alexandre however felt it was our duty to make ourselves understood to the manager of the facility, to let him know that we would not be buying any of their services because they made it positively impossible to do so in an acceptable way: who knows whether the 30 Pesos would not have been wasted because the login also did not work in Firefox?

Some more Portunol ensued, in the course of which Alexandre tried to get across that life existed outside the Windows world. The manager only gave him a blank stare and obviously just wanted us to go away.

Alexandre insisted to explain that indeed they were apparently running a GNU/Linux machine as their router (nmap had identified it as Linux kernel 2.4.x), so it was not clear why they should make it impossible for their customers to use GNU/Linux. More blank stares.

Finally we did the manager a favor and left, but not without Alexandre asking him to please relay what we had told him to the technical people.

Honestly: I admire Alexandre for having bothered. Maybe I am getting too cynical, but I am almost sure that nothing will ever come from this. At these times it seems that brain matter is a constant on this planet, only the population increases.

As a result of this, instead of getting work done, the three of us are now waiting for the boarding to begin, so we may have more luck with the internet in Brazil. And the thought of going to Brazil at least lightens my mood a bit.

And obviously this blog entry was posted after my isolation confinement finally ended in Porto Alegre.

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About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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