Crossed Lines ~ PT or SAPO?

After traveling over, 5400km across Portugal, Spain, England and France plus two ferry crossings and five weeks away the “Grandparents Tour of Europe” (as our friends aptly named it) is over and we are now home! Exhausted we must now return to the treadmill of normality, whatever “normal” is here in this la la land of sunshine and bureaucracy.

On arriving home and before the car was even unpacked I ran round the garden like a woman possessed to check my plants were still alive and then into the house to turn on the PC and catch up on my emails and blog – no internet. I tried all methods of persuasion. Nothing! I pick up the telephone and the line was dead, my heart sunk.

I detest ringing our telephone provider PT (Portugal Telecom) from a mobile phone as it is such a long-winded process. It’s bad enough ringing companies and listening to the numerous options on the recorded message press 1 for this, 2 for that and 3 for the other etc in English, but in a foreign language no chance. Goodbye 20 euros of pay-as-you go mobile credit! After several attempts I finally spoke to an operator who could speak English. Yay, result!

Possivel Fala Ingles?”
Yes, a little if you speak slowly
Our telephone line is not working. The line is “dead”…errr not working
May I have the telephone number you are calling from?”
I give him my mobile number and he gave me our landline number. Scary!
Do you have a TV?”
Do you have a TV?”
Yes, I had heard correctly. What the heck has my TV got to do with my telephone? I thought.
Two” Be nice Piglet. Patience!
My telephone line is dead and I can’t get internet” I repeated hopefully.
What channels do you receive?”
Am I being a bit slow here?

I don’t know Portuguese channels. Why, is this relevant?” I have now been on the line 10 minutes and I’m feeling frustrated.
I am ringing from a pay-as-you-go mobile phone; please can you ring me back as I don’t have much credit?”
No, that is not possible
Why? It is your line that is not working and I am paying a fortune to report it
I am sorry but we are unable to call you back
OK, I need to report a fault on the line
How many telephones do you have?”
Can you unplug it?” I now need super human strength to move a cabinet so I can reach the socket. More minutes tick by and more of my precious credit. Mr. Piglet arrives to help and starts issuing warnings about how long I’ve been on the line. “Can PT ring you back?” “NO!”

Further huffing and puffing. “The phone is now unplugged” I triumphantly report to the operator.
OK, please leave for 30 seconds and plug back in as it may reset itself
I start counting. Then a further two minutes lapse as we have a domestic trying to get the plug back in the socket. Success!
Is the line working?”
It is ringing this end so it must be your ADSL
But it’s not ringing this end and if we have no telephone line how can it be the internet? Surely, you need a line before you can have internet
Was I stating the obvious or has technology moved on and I am mistaken? Sensing I was being fobbed off I tried again. Despite my protestations the operator was adamant it was my ADSL.
Who is your internet provider?”
You must ring them to report the fault
I sensed the futility of the argument as Mr. Piglet was now doing a war dance beside me pointing at his watch and frantically waving his arms like a windmill in a hurricane
Which number do I have to ring?”
Yes, I know but what’s their number?” Eventually, I extract the number and exasperated passed the phone to Mr. Piglet. I pour myself a glass of wine and sit in the sunshine to unwind.

Twenty minutes later Mr. Piglet reports the really helpful guy at SAPO confirms the fault is down to an unstable telephone line and it could be 36 hours before it is fixed. He has reported the fault to PT. I may have seen the funny side of the above situation had I not driven over 1000 km plus detour due to road works.
However, I am still intrigued as to the relevance of TVs and the channels you receive if you phone line that is not working.
Has anyone had a similar experience?
Thirty six hours elapse and still no phone connection. I ring SAPO again from my mobile.
Fala Ingles?”
I hold for what seems an eternity and I am then connected to an English-speaking operator.
Please can you help me, thirty-six hours have elapsed since I reported the fault and I still don’t have a phone line or internet.”
Can you connect to the internet?”
No” “Can you connect to the internet I want to test the router
But I have no telephone line
At this point, frustrated, I thrust the mobile at Mr. Piglet who was hovering in the background. “You deal with it!”
The type of router identified, unplugged and plugged in. A new IP address is typed in the browser box, and Mr. Piglet relays the contents on the screen. Silence Apparently our username did not match our telephone line. Mr. Piglet then volunteered the house opposite had a telephone line installed sometime during our absence. The operator, who I have to say must have the patience of Jobe, concluded we had a cross line. He would report it. It is now my turn to start “bouncing off the walls”.
How long, please ask him how long before the fault is rectified. We have been without internet now for over 36 hours
I hear Mr. Piglet thank the guy for his patience and reiterate the engineer will call us sometime today.

It’s incredible how reliant we have become on the internet for information, emails and VOIP as a cheap and easy way to communicate with family and friends back home. Did we have a life before the internet? How on earth did we manage? Another day passes, still no phone line, no internet and no call from engineer. Mr Piglet rings PT who still maintains it’s an internet problem and a call for an engineer has been logged. There is nothing further they can do. At this point I want to drive down to our nearest PT shop about 25km away to make a complaint. Mr. Piglet is not keen as we have a problem with the car and does not want to journey far from home and create another problem should the car break down.

Another two days pass and still no internet or phone line and no call from engineer. We try our local internet café in desperation, but it is shut! I try a friend but she is away in England and her husband who is Portuguese informed me that a refuse collection lorry had knocked down one of the telephone poles last week and several people had lost connection.
Frustrated, Mr Piglet rings Sapo (Internet provider) again and is put through to a really helpful guy. He tells Mr Piglet it’s a problem with router and as in previous calls wants to test the router. Mr. Piglet then completely looses the plot and his cool “You deal with it!” and throws the phone at me.
Bom dia” I coo hoping to keep the operator on side but at the same time I need to now take control of the situation.
Our complaint has dragged on long enough. This is our third call and I would like to speak to a Manager please
There is no English speaking manager here at the moment. Please let me see if I can help
Checkmate! I can’t speak Portuguese. My assertive moment crumbles and I sense defeat.
Are you on the internet?” The operator asks politely.
No, that’s why I am calling you. We have not had internet or a phone line since Monday, it’s now Friday!” My voice rising and only just suppressing the anger I am feeling inside.
Please clear your browser and type in xx xxxxxx x x” He gives me an IP address to type in. This is the third time we have typed this in but I comply. We now access the router. Silence!
He then gives me a series of instructions and to relay to him what I see on screen. It tells me I am connected! But I’m not connected!
I think the problem is your router
No, I was previously told the problem was a cross line. We are registering as connected but we are not!” Close to tears and feeling we are going round in ever decreasing circles, I beg!
Please help me, my Mother is in hospital (this is actually true) and our only method of contact is through Skype and our phone line. Mobile phone calls to the UK/Portugal are so expensive. We have been without internet and phone since Monday. This is the third time I have rang and we are no nearer resolving the problem than we were on Monday
I hear him tapping at his keyboard.
I have logged your complaint
Please can you ask someone to call us back today?”
I will try
No, I need someone to call me back today….please
Is there anything else I can help you with?”
No, I just want my internet and phone line. I await the call from the technician

Niceties and formalities over, we end the call. Two hours later we receive a call on the mobile. Mr. Piglet takes the call from a confident/cocky operator who insists he WILL resolve the problem. He starts going through the “router procedure” again. Mr. Piglet loses his cool and passes me the mobile phone mid sentence. I humor the guy while Mr. Piglet makes rude gestures.
I introduce myself. The operator continues “
Please clear your browser and type in xx xxxxxx x x” He gives me an IP address to type in (the same as before).
But, this is the fourth time I have tried this
The problem is with your router
But we do not have a telephone line
I don’t deal with telephone lines only the internet
OK, I have typed in the IP address and logged into my router
We need to reset the router
I comply with his various requests and the router is eventually reset. We still have a problem. Silence…
Hello, what seems to be the problem?”
Please can you hold the line a moment
Five minutes pass and I listen to soothing music.
Sorry to keep you do you mind holding?” “No
After all he is paying for the call why would I? I would hold until Christmas if he could fix the internet. More music,  I continue to hold, and more apologies. Finally!
We will send a technician” I wait
Yes, can you be in for the technician between 9am and 13.00pm on the 25th?”
What, I can’t wait that long. We have had a problem since Monday and no one has taken it seriously. I want a technician today or Monday
It is not possivel if I could make an earlier appointment I would. There is no technician in your area until Tuesday
I repeat the date and time in confirmation. As they say a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” At this point Mr. Piglet re enters the room and I sense he is about to expire in anger as he realizes we have to wait another 5 days. He explodes! I cover the phone while frantically waving Mr. Piglet away. I confirm the appointment.
Is there anything else I can help you with?” The operator asks, sensing there was a domestic brewing in the background. I was tempted to reply, “Yes, you can peel my husband off the ceiling” but English humour does not always translate!
Yes, I assume SAPO will not have the audacity to charge me for a month’s internet, plus who will pay for all our mobile telephone calls?”
You need to speak to finance support. Their telephone number is 16200 and your ticket number is xxxx
I note the number along with the ticket number which he thought may be useful to support our claim.
OK, thank you and Bom fim da semana
I end the call and silence Mr. Piglet with a menacing glare. Until Tuesday!

It’s Saturday evening and I pick up the phone to see if by some miracle we have a dial-tone. Nothing! “What are you doing?” Mr. Piglet enquired. “Checking the line to see if it is working” “hummmph, fat chance” “Yes, but I am an optimist!” I reply. Well you have to remain positive don’t you? Stranger things do happen and this is Portugal, after all.

Monday afternoon we hit the jackpot. Our mobile phones rings and a lady from Sapo asked if the engineer could come this afternoon. “YaY!” Two hours later the mobile rings again.
This is the engineer from SAPO don’t you answer your home phone?”
Mr. Piglet turns three different shades of purple before he replies. (Hovering in the background I the background I wonder what on earth is being said?)
NO, it’s not working. We have been trying to TELL your call centre that all week but no one will listen!”
Yes, I will meet you at the hotel in 10 minutes

Forty minutes later for what should have been a two-minute drive Mr. Piglet returns with engineer in tow. They are late because the engineer had a “brainwave” en route, went to the telephone control centre and twiddled a few wires. Mr. Piglet picks up the phone and we now have a telephone line. I could have wept for joy! Apparently, and this may have been lost in translation, we had a crossed line.

I show the engineer the router which he re-programs and departs.

It was not an ADSL problem after just a simple line fault.
Next stop “billing” to extract a rebate on our line rental and internet!

10/10 to SAPO for taking responsibility for the fault and seeing it through to its conclusion!

Internet restored life returns to normal. Whatever “normal” is!

Dealing with phone and internet providers is probably the same the world over, but adding a foreign language to the mix certainly takes frustration and increased blood pressure readings to a new level!


63 thoughts on “Crossed Lines ~ PT or SAPO?

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    1. Hi Rui,

      I’ve studied Portuguese on ond off for 8years. Both private lessons and school. In the end I concluded I was just too thick as I could not string a sentence together, and if i did, I could not understand the response!
      Recently I hit on another idea to learn Portuguese. Basically, I translate Portuguese recipes then cook. I have a new teacher and binned the grammar books as I know enough of the basics to get by. I asked her to just discuss food and cooking. Hopefully, my passion for food will spur me on to learn new verbs and vocabulary and many recipes are tied in to Portuguese culture and way of life.

      One thing though, please can you tell me what q.b. means? Cheers


  1. The funny thing about your post is that I’m am an engineer in IT, specialized in communications, and i know I would have solved your problem the very same day by going to your house and checking what the problem was. I speak 8 languages, and I can’t get work in Portugal. I’m now in Norway.
    Rui from Lisbon


    1. Hi Rui,
      You must have stamina if you read to the end of this sorry tale!
      8 Languages, wow I’m impressed. Portugal has produced many fine talented people but is unable to follow through with jobs. You are well out of Portugal at the moment, there is such a feeling of despair and despondentcy amongst the people. I feel so sad, but helpless. We all struggle. I see you love cooking. I want to make Bola da bolacha to post to my blog – do you know a recipe you could recommend, pelase. I have several but they are all different and I’m confused as to which is the best.


  2. LOL And I thought it only happened in South Africa…and Telkom speak Inglish…after a fashion.
    After years of dealing with the mortgage departments of banks one develops the knack of anticipating all the questions the person on the other end of the phone will ask.
    I empathise with Mister Piglet. My Missus acts the same!


  3. Our internet provider – I’m in southeastern US – is also through the phone company who are currently installing new fiber watt lines to provide high speed service and even an option to cable. Our phone service has been uninterrupted, but my internet was down for two days – just two days. I had your opposite problem. I kept thinking if I had telephone, what could that have to do with the internet? Finally, my own computer diagnosed the problem and asked me to reset the modem. It’s official – my computer is doing the thinking around here. Loved this post and feel much sympathy. Glad your are back on line.


    1. Hi Writing feemail and welcome 🙂
      Yep, computers will have the last say I’ms sure. thank God for the on off switch. LOL
      Our telephone lines are above ground and hang from wooden poles. Not very high tech here in our part of Portugal 🙂


  4. Boy if you think you are having a hard time here in Australia we get connect to someone in India if are internet goes down… can go on for days and days so far we have changed our provided three times in one year when we were in Portugal we found it easy (I guess speaking Portuguese helps).


    1. Hi ailsa,
      OMG I remember having to speak to call centres in India only too well! You poor thing I can really empathise with you. I suppose the Portuguese language is so difficult they could not outsource to foreign call centres!
      SAPO are good on the whole. It’s just a shame the people who provide the line some of the call centre staff are so disinterested in the customer service.


  5. This is the sort of situation where it’s extremely handy to be married to one of the natives.
    Although I speak Dutch as a 2nd language, I sometimes lack the finer nuances that produce the signs needed to let Customer “service” (it’s in inverted commas because saying the word “service” in the same breath as the name of many Dutch companies is an oxymoron) know that I am a serious bill paying customer who doesn’t want platitudes and “we never had anyone with this problem before” (yeah right!) or to be fobbed off, I’ve rung 3 times, been on hold for between 10 and 18 minutes for each call on a “09” pay per minute “help” (HA! ) line and noooo… I WILL not just hang up and try re-booting my computer (already done 10 times in desperation anyway) (in the days when you could only use the phone if no one was on the internet and visa versa).
    Himself is expert at using ultra polite but thinly veiled comments that make it crystal clear that he’s not in any mood to be messed with.
    Next week our new TV contract starts.. digital, The new system will leave analogue behind and far more cheaply combine our phone, internet and TV with one company instead of the present three. They will come and fiddle with connections and have to mess with the router…
    I’ve got extra blog posts in the schedule for auto posting should the worst happen and the internet goes down whilst they make the transfer.
    I’m hoping that nothing goes wrong… YEAH that your problem finally got fixed but ouch I feel your pain in getting there.


  6. Wow. I feel for you. I’ve been in that telephone ring-a-round more times than I’d like to remember. Then they want you to unplug something that has been tucked away under or behind furniture. I know exactly what you mean.

    I’ve never had to endure the frustration for so long, however. What a shame after all your lovely travels to come home to such a pain.

    Glad you finally found someone who could fix it.


  7. I’m sure you know BT in Britain is just as bad. I had trouble with my pc and i phoned 3 – 4 times and always got put through to India, not having any contact here i could not understand them so i got feed up got hung up. I asked a friend for a number here for help so she gave me one happy days a British voice, new router in 2 days all fixed.


  8. You are correct that telephone and internet companies are the same all over. We have the same issue here in the States. You get the runaround! I so can understand you frustration. I hope everything stays up and running!

    Welcome home!


    1. Hi Shell,

      thanks it’s great to be back! I think the problem is, the staff in the call centres may be targeted with the number of calls they handle. This is what happened to me when I had to work in a call centre part time for a few months. As far as I was concerned (stubborn old piglet) they could stuff their stats where the sun did not shine! I was dealing with people with problms and if possible I sorted them 🙂


  9. I’m sure it wasn’t at the time, but it definitely was in the re-telling. FUNNY! …so it’s probably a bit late to suggest using Algarve WiFi to get a temporary connection…? 🙂


  10. Your description of such a maddening experience is the funniest thing I have read in ages. I could picture you and Mr P taking it in turns to ‘deal with it’ along with the windmill arms.
    I used to experience network problems when I was working from home – I had to contact our business helpdesk based in another country. It was so frustrating trying to communicate about ‘techy’ stuff with them.
    Glad your back online.


    1. Hi Clara,
      It’s funny looking back, but at the time we had steam coming out of our ears! I wrote this post as a diary day by day 🙂
      It’s good to be back on line and hope to catch up with everyone properely over the next few days
      PiP 🙂


  11. A few years ago I couldn’t connect to the internet. Call the ISP. After much resetting, typing IPs into the browser, etc etc, he advises me to take the PC to the computer shop becasue it is a computer problem. I knew it was not, but I couldn’t convince him. Off to the computer shop just to prove the point. No problem with the computer,

    Back home I call the ISP again and get a different guy. Staight away HE says “I know what the problem is” – I can’t remember what now, but it was fixed in about 30 seconds. I suggest he contacts the first guy I spoke to, to provide feedback to him about the REAL problem so he knows for next time.

    “No, we are not allowed to do that”. WTF???????

    So I feel your frustration. At least I had a phone and it was all in English!

    Glad you are back on-line!


    1. I love the “No, we are not allowed to do that”. WTF???????
      The origianl guy at SAPO had it sussed straight away if only these guys could talk to each other. I worked in a call centre part imew when the children were small so I could empathise with the guys who tried to help but were tied by the “system”

      Great to be back on my own PC and will catch up with everyones news soon 🙂

      We knew it was not our internet, but the only reason we stuck with that line of investigation was they were th only ones who tried to help! It makes me so angry just thinking about it.


  12. Fala Ingles?! Do you have a TV? What? Are you kidding me!!! I was right there with you…when we moved to the country we decided to forgo the land line and only use our cell phones. When we connected our TV one of the cable boxes had gone bad. As this was new equipment we had to call the service desk for a replacement. Our cell phone reception was not the best and we would loose the connection with the service tech. Forcing us to call back and begin the process all over again. They would have none of skipping the first 4 or 5 steps and pick up where we had left off…so very frustrating.
    So glad you are back home and back on line! You have been missed!!


    1. Hi Jeanne it is all the options that got to me! Trouble was I could understand the numbers but not understand the options LOL 🙂 so was just pressing buttons on the phone randomly!

      Glad to be back and will catch up properly soon 🙂


  13. I got stressed just reading your story Piglet.

    I’ve had simiar problems in the UK and losing the Internet is like losing an arm for us.

    Add the language problem, the laid back portuguese attitude and the repuation of PT in the customer service department – I think you deserve an endurance medal!


    1. Hi David,
      Endurance medal is right! Where do we join the queue? You can imagine me losing the internet and phone felt I had lost part of me! Still I caught up on the weeding and cooked some nice meals and drank some wine and then paced up and down!


  14. Hi.Pip. If my experiances are any thing to go by the real fun will start once you try to get a Rebate from Sapo.
    I pay my Sapo account by MB & never pay until they send a SMS saying it “overdue” which arrived & I paid 15.98€
    2 days later got another SMS saying I had UNDER paid & now next payment will be 20.98€
    Well this is Portugal


    1. Hi Les,
      I think Mr P took a call from SAPO finance department as my parting shot with the operator when he asked if there was anything he could help us with was “Yes, I want a reduction on our bill” Think Mr P agreed something but I have yet to call PT. I need to refuel with patience first!


  15. We have had a similar saga and you feel like killing someone. How dependent we have become on the the internet! Coincidentally, we lost phone, internet and tv last night for a while (post coming up), but at least there was no language barrier!

    An entertaining post 🙂


  16. Oh goodness Pip. I admire you and Mr P for being able to hold your cool for so long dealing with so many frustrations. Loosing my cool would have been only a minor formality had I of been in your shoes. I do admire you two.
    I’m so happy you’re phone and internet is back up and running. But I believe with all my heart that you & Mr P deserve a medal for patience above and beyond the call of tolerance. 🙂


  17. Glad you´re back home safe after all that travelling around! I laughed and laughed at your depiction of this situation. It seems to be the same the world over! In Australia it just gets sorted a bit faster…maybe! I remember about 2 years ago when someone at work cancelled one of the phone lines we no longer needed, and then we had no internet for 4 days. Of course that line
    was THE ONE with the internet connection!! Imagine a doctor´s clinic with no computers for 4 days, we were going crazy trying to book appointments not knowing when the doctors were available, and patients couldn´t pay either, as the credit/debit machine (called eftpos here) is connected to the internet. But how did we function without internet before?


    1. Hi Sami,

      It’s good to be home! I’ve done the odd email etc at an internet cafe however, my laptop is on a go slow as the virtual memory warning keeps appearing. I spend longer looking at the hourglass than doing anything constuctive! Will be round soon to catch up with everyone!

      I can imagine the chaos at surgery! Bet the patients were frustrated as well!

      IF we had a crossline it will be interesting to see if we are also charged for someone elsses calls! I’ve still to ring the finance department at PT and SAPO. As you can imagine I’ve lost the will to live at the moment re. telephones!

      Até logo!


  18. “This is the engineer from SAPO don’t you answer your home phone?”—-Oh my! I had to laugh out loud at the craziness while also feeling bad for your whole situation…I can only imagine how frustrating this whole mess was but hopefully you can laugh about it later on…


    1. Hi Sharon,
      I wrote this post like a diary which I updated everytime we spoke to them. Laughter at times verged on hysteria because we could not make anyone grasp the situation. I am still angry with PT whose fault it was as they would not accept responsibility and just passed the buck!

      Ha HA the blood pressure is beginning to boil over just thinking about it. 😦


  19. This story has a familiar ring. If you substituted “Chile” for “Portugal” and “Spanish” for “Portuguese,” this could be one of my stories! As you said, expat frustrations are universal. Welcome back, PiP!


    1. LOL Rose! I wish it was Spanish and not Portuguese. I so wish I could have spoken Portuguese when they said there was only a Portuguese speaking manager available! I hate grovelling in English!
      I will be over to check out your latest posts later!


  20. PiP, I have read every word of your amazing journey through this technological/bureaucratic nightmare. As always, your writing is so entertaining that I smile at your depictions, at the same time empathizing with Mr. Piglet’s and your pain and fury. Well done. I’m glad you’re reconnected!


    1. Crikey MWD, you need a medal if you read every word of my rant! This post was written over several days and in real time as I vented my frustration in diary form. It’s over 2500 words long; the longest post I’ve ever written! Did you need a drink after wards? We almost opened a bottle of champagne when the internet and phone line was reconnected!


    1. Hi Nancy,
      the language problem is a big barrier however, the guys at SAPO did well. It’s nice to be sitting back at my own PC rather than trying to get by on my laptop whose memory is shot away! Great to be back


  21. My Mum died in Barbados after a sudden illness. Dad is almost deaf, so I called the ISP to cancel her internet, advising that she had passed away. The tech said, “well I will need her to call me”. I said, “well, she’s deceased.” He put me on hold and came back to say, “My supervisor says it’s okay for you to close the account, if you can write us a letter.” I said, “great”. He said, “But we need your mother to sign the letter, okay?”


  22. Poor Piglet. My parents were living in Barbados and the internet services were in her name. After her sudden death I had to deal with all phone calls as our Dad is quite deaf. I finally got someone on the line and advised them I wanted to close the internet account in my mother’s name because she had passed away. The technician said she would have do it herself because the account was in her name. I said, well, she’s deceased! He put me on hold. Came back on the line and advised that his supervisor said it would be okay if I wrote to them requesting to have the service terminated, BUT my mother must sign the letter. What can you do?


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