Monday, June 27, 2005

Damn Arminco...

If you thought the ongoing saga with ArmenTel was bad, there are unfortunately other areas in the telecommunications and related internet sphere that also sums up what's wrong with life in Armenia. One of those is Arminco, an Internet Service Provider who always moan about ArmenTel but since I arrived here in 1998 have always quickly shut up after making a deal with the dreaded telephone monopoly.

Anyway, although I've been a subscriber to Arminco for nearly five years now and maybe more, I've started to use pre-paid cards by as well because their internet connection is much better and also, you don't have to go through a proxy server. True to the western notions brand loyalty, however, I have continued to host my site,, on Arminco's servers for a few years now. However, that's all about to change.

The reason? The sloppy, sarchastic, rude and downright arrogant customer service (or actually lack of it) that Arminco offers. You would have thought that being a long-term customers of theirs for many years and forking out $20 / month for a sometimes unreliable dialup internet connection that works from the hours of 7pm to 9am on weekdays and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday would have at least earned me some courtesy but not so.

Instead, after accessing my email from my server and uploading a few different images from Saturday's day out for the kids from Vanadzor Children's Home I received a telephone call from UNICEF requesting that I upload the final version of the book I have written, photographed and designed for them. However, I had a meeting with another international organization and said I'd do it when I got back. However, when I returned, I couldn't access my email or my web server for uploading by ftp.

Fine. I'm used to Arminco's servers not working for a short period of time in any given month and so I waited... and waited and waited. I checked my emails for notices of whether their server was undergoing any routine maintenance or anything like that (not that they usually bother -- they instead apologize AFTERWARDS and shift the blame on someone else). I even checked their main web site and also their hosting server front page. Nothing.

So, in desperation, I sent an email at around 8pm and this is what I wrote:
My site,, has been down since at least 2pm. If it is a problem with your hosting server why haven't you posted a notice on Also, if it is a technical problem your end, please sort it out immediately and make sure it doesn't happen again because it disrupts people's work. You should also post an announcement on so people know what's happening.
Well, it turns out that I had paid for my server space only until 9 May but Arminco are meant to send out emails telling their customers of this. However, they hadn't. Not ONE email came to me alerting me to this deadline -- not ONE. And when I look up the AMNIC whois, I can see that in fact, despite my request for them to change the contact email from an arminco address to a oneworld address because of the damn spam they seem to want to get through, I find that their promise to do so was BROKEN. They didn't do what they said they'd do.

But, rather than write a normal email informing me of this in a way that companies should to their customers i.e. Dear Sir, The reason for your server being down is because our record show etc etc..., this is the sarcastic response I received from
Ed J. Aivazian at Arminco's hosting service.
Dear onnik,

Should I post it at as an announcement?
# whois

Domain name:
Status: on hold
------ OUTPUT SKIPPED ------

Registered: 2001-05-09
Last modified: 2005-06-27
Expires: 2005-05-09

Great! Deja Vu! The last time my server went off was for the same reason. That time, I had forgotten when my server subscription was to run out and I missed their emails because they had sent them to my arminco email address. Thing is that this address gets hundreds of spam emails a day I never used it. In fact, rather than install anti-spam software on their mail server I was convinced for a while (and still have my concerns) that they were selling their subscriber's email addresses to spamming lists.

That time, however, I was more fortunate. The person at the other end of the email was Vahan Yerkanian, who I knew from when I first arrived in Armenia from England. He promised to change my contact email from my arminco address to my address and also put my web site online temporarily so that I could get in to the office the next day to pay. Worth a try this time, I thought, especially as I had already been into the Arminco office today to renew my dialup account.

Certainly, I hadn't been told that I should pay for my server space as well but anyway, such things happen when it takes seeing three people to pay your internet connection fee at Arminco. First you go to the girl and tell her your user name. She prints out a form. Then you take that form to the woman in the next room who takes your money. She then tells you to go to another office to get the card that you then have to fill in online at home to renew your account. Man, were the soviet days this bad and full of such unnecessary bureaucracy as Arminco?

Okay, so maybe Arminco don't trust their staff which is why you have to go through three different people but even so, c'mon guys, it's the 21st Century and you're meant to be on the leading edge of the IT rejuvination that will solve some of Armenia's investment problems. Why can't you be like or Netsys and just have one person to take my money and give me a card. Hell, really be trend-setting and have that person punch a key and extend my account in the office there and then.

Instead, customers have to stand sometimes in 2 or 3 queues to do something that other ISPs in Armenia simplify. You get a better internet connection as well with the others.

But back to this arrogant tech support on the other end of the email tonight. I mention that I had received no email reminders, I mentioned that UNICEF were waiting for their artwork and could he please stick my site online because despite my request to update my contact email address, it would appear that they hadn't. I'd be in the office to pay tomorrow and if necessary was willing to jump in a taxi to do it now.

At the same time, given that internet connections through Arminco had delayed previous correspondence with UNICEF, I also cc-ed them so that they knew I wasn't making excuses for my server being down.

This is what I sent:
No, but basically, this happened last time when payment was last due. Why wasn't I informed by email. This is now twice. I received NO WARNING EMAILS about the date and so this is a little too much especially as I was in the Arminco office today. Can you please sort this out and at least check that you are sending to the correct address.

Last time I requested that warning messages are sent to [personal email address ommitted] but I repeat, I received none. Last time, Vahan Yerkanian stuck my site back up temporarily and I am requesting that you do this again now. I will be into Arminco office tomorrow to pay.

I also would like to once again request that to avoid further confusion that you request a read receipt on all email regarding final notices. This is now the second time this has happened and in both cases I HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY WARNING MESSAGES.

Do you think that this is fair? I am working for UNICEF and haven't been able to upload the artwork of a book that needs to be printed this week.

Thanks. I would appreciate your immediate response and an undertaking to request read-receipts in future so that you know the messages are getting through. As I said, I was in the Arminco office today and its ridiculous that no message got through to me so I could have paid it then and there. This is the twice time it's happened and I do not particularly want there to be a third time.

Anyway, no, I am not asking you to post an announcement on saying my server payment has expired but I do request that you send me notification before it does. Last time the problems was that you were sending to [personal email address ommitted] but I never use this email account because it attracts 100s of emails a day. I therefore requested that Vahan Yerkanian change the contact email address to [personal email address ommitted] which he did.

But I still never received anything and this needs to be sorted out. I URGENTLY need my server back up and as I said it is down because I WAS NOT informed about the deadline for payment which is hwo you usually warn people. If you want, I'll get in a taxi now and bring you the money this evening but I really need my server back up because it is down through no fault of my own.

Thank you.

Onnik Krikorian
Trouble is, I spelt the contact guy's name at UNICEF wrong so added some stuff to the email and sent it again. More trouble. Arminco's internet connection was playing up again -- although it could have been the nearly 4,000 spam emails in the account because they can't be bothered to put in anti-spam filters on their server -- so I hit the send button again. Result. Three emails sent. Obviously, the guy at Arminco who needs a few lessons in customer service had his chance to insult a customer again.
Dear onnik,

Does anything go wrong with your computer (or browser window you use to send emails)?

I have a dozen emails from you already (all with the same text but different timestamp/messageID) and I guess I'll not be surprised when I find some 6 234 865 more tomorrow morning.
Then, he sent another one and either the guy can't read, doesn't know his own system or is basically making it up as he goes along.
Dear onnik,

As you can see, your domain name has expired on 2005-05-09. Before (and after) this we have sent many email notifications and also hard-copy letters containing all the information about the terms and results of domain name expiration.

As you can guess, our team is not able to remember the expiration dates of all our clients' services (and it would be ridiculous if it would). Instead, we have automatic notification facilities which we use to keep our customers informed.

Unfortunately, I'll not put your domain name live again, please, visit (or give a phone call) your domain name registrar's office tomorrow to solve the problem.
Thing is, neither BEFORE or AFTER had I received any emails from Arminco and to be quite frank to suggest that they sent out a "hard-copy letter" is stretching reality to say the least. Not even HSBC do that with bank statements and in fact, I've never ONCE received a letter sent internally to Armenia from Arminco or indeed, anybody else here. Even the British Embassy hand delivers correspondence to my door because the postal system is not used.

Sorry Arminco can't sort out its automated email system but is that my fault? Is it also my fault that they employ too few staff with memory problems when I was actually in their office today? Should Arminco understand that their business should be reliant on being helpful and polite to their customers? You bet ya but of course, that is the western style of working and Arminco have been around too long and have grown complacent by being one of the first ISPs in Armenia.

Regardless, my site is down, I can't access my email, UNICEF don't get their book, the guys who wanted the photos for the kids at the Vanadzor Children's Home don't get those but I get cocky emails from a member of their staff who needs to go on a customer service and relations training course. Typical of Armenia and an article I should write in itself. In the meantime, however, the moral of the story is quite clear.

There are better ISPs in Armenia than Arminco who offer better internet connections and better customer service. Besides, you don't have to re-live the good old days of the Soviet Unon when dealing with three people was the preferred system even if you only needed one.

A word of advice. Boycott Arminco and let them understand customer service if they want to keep their clients. Until then, there are many better and friendlier ISPs in Yerevan such as Netsys and Use them. As for me, enough is enough and I'm now going to look into taking my custom elsewhere. I'd advise others to do the same.

At the very least, any decent and professional employee at Arminco would have understood what email they should have written. It would have been quite simply: sorry for the problems and if you didn't receive our warning emails. However, there's nothing we can do at present. Please come in to the office tomorrow and we will try to resolve the problem and to see what it was.

None of that, however. Just plain old arrogance, rudeness and sarcasm from someone who obviously doesn't give a damn about Arminco's customers. You have all been warned and until businesses learn that without respecting their customers the latter will go elsewhere nothing much is going to change for the better in Armenia. I also repeat again, their internet connection is lousy and their proxy server is again playing up tonight. Really, do yourself a favor and take your business elsewhere.

Disclaimer: The above opinions are my own and in no way represent that of any of the local and international publications and organizations that I work for on a freelance or contract basis.

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