Archive for July 6, 2011

Ode To The Rotary Phone (Written While On Hold Due To The Usual Unusually High Call Volume)

Relocating after living in the same place for 24 years is, to say the least, a major upheaval.  The packing and unpacking of a life is in parts exciting, sad, exhausting and surprising (“I was wondering where those snow boots had gone to”, uttered just this evening when I found them in a box labeled “wicker”).  I expected all this and I knew that the thing that was going to make me the most crazy was dealing with connecting new utilities and getting new phone and cable service.

That part of the process has surpassed my worst expectations. By my count, I have spent about 20 hours waiting and holding. Plenty of time to meditate on the the meaning of customer service and to write a blog about it (sweet revenge she said cradling the phone to her ear while she’s on hold).

As I sit here listening to muzak that should be considered a public nuisance, it occurs to me that the invention of the touchtone phone has had a significantly negative impact on our lives.  The beauty of the dial phone was that there was no way for a recording to tell you to dial one for more options, someone actually had to talk to you and ask you what you wanted.  And what with the cost of overseas calls back then, there was no chance of that person being at a call center in Bangalore.  No one asked for the last four digits of your “social” or threw trick questions at you like where you banked 10 years ago (information that is all too available in public records but which most of us have long since all but forgotten).

While I’m still on hold, I want to give a couple of special shoutouts.  First, kudos to the local sanitation department that actually had a “press one to speak to someone” option.  When I pressed the one button, someone actually took the call.  I almost hung up and did it again just to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

The worst service award goes to Verizon which gave me an 8 hour window for a service call and then showed up an hour after that.  All this to connect an old fashioned landline (not one of these new fangled digital phones that won’t survive an extended power outage yet is somehow supposed to be a huge improvement).  And at that, they screwed up and I had a phone that I could get calls on (I know this because it had not dawned on me to put the number on the Do Not Call list in advance and I got inundated with marketing calls within an hour of service being established.  But if I wanted to make a call?  Nope.  They had to come back the following day for that.

Second prize goes to Comcast.  After scheduling internet and cable installation, I realized I’d have to change the appointment day.  The phone number on the confirm letter didn’t work (I couldn’t make that up if I tried) so I decided to do it via the Live Chat option online.  Here is how the conversation should have gone:

Comcast:  How can we help you Ms. Marshall?
Me:  I’d like to change my service appointment.
Comcast:  Sure when would be a more convenient time?
Me:  Wednesday at 11.
Comcast:  Sure, no problem, see you then.

Suffice to say, my 45 minute conversation with Tricee didn’t quite go like that.  On the plus side, because it was online, I have the whole fricking transcript in all its absurdity which can be read below, but here is one of Tricee’s best utterances to peak your interest:

Tricee: I understand that you want to reschedule your service installation, Lucinda. No worries. As your Comcast service representative, I want you to know that issue resolution and your satisfaction are my top priorities for today. By the end or this chat we will be able to address your concern properly. Together, we can work this out, Lucinda.

You have to love her Rosie the Riveter-esque approach. Like Verizon, Comcast also missed their service window.  For this, the guy on the phone when I called to find out where the heck they were told me I would get free HBO for 3 months, but when the service tech hooked it up, no HBO.  I called again and was told there was no record of my being promised the HBO and that they never offered that.  But the next week I got a bill and apparently it was part of the package I got in the first place and now I’m getting HBO. Some deal offering me what I’d already paid for and then denying that they offered it.  They also told me they’d give me a router.  Yeah.  No.  Called about that and was told I’d have to pay for shipping and it would take a few weeks.  File that in the Another Hour On Hold Department.

Finally, there is a special place in hell for cell phone companies with their inexcusable return policies and 2-year contracts and the latest obscenity, tiered data plans (the best part of this is that phones can use up your data allowance without you knowing it, and you have no way to control it).  Before embarking on this move, I went to Verizon Wireless and replaced my older and sometimes erratic Blackberry with a new one, which of course got me stuck in another 2-year contract. All was well until 20 days later (6 days after the window to return it ran out) when it quit functioning and the battery heated up.  So I headed for the nearest Verizon store where I had to wait half an hour before anyone could help me (did I mention there wasn’t enough seating for all the people who were waiting?).

First they told me I could either upgrade or wait for a replacement via mail.  At that point I asked for a manager and told him I wasn’t upgrading a 20 day old phone and leaving me without a working cell phone until a new one arrived was not okay.  I think by that point I was looking a bit wild eyed, possibly even foaming at the mouth and the manager took the point and swapped it out.  Which is what should have happened at least 20 minutes sooner.  All told another hour and a half at Verizon.

I spent another hour getting the settings on Son of Blackberry tweaked and then last night apparently its bad genetic makeup kicked in and it started acting like its predecessor. This morning I spent yet another hour and a half at Verizon and am now learning to use an IPhone.

To their credit, the store personnel did the right thing, the manager told me he would waive the re-stocking fee (for a phone that mal-functioned after a week?  Really?) . But it shouldn’t be that complicated, and having to stand at a counter with numerous other customers where everyone is trying to talk louder than the next guy to be heard for a long period of time isn’t customer service, it is deliberately designed to wear customers down which is the same rationale behind press 27 numbers to be put on hold to speak to someone who speaks an indecipherable version of English who tells you that a solution to whatever it is you called about if you can even remember why you called by that time will cost you an arm and a leg or there is no solution and you are shit out of luck but is there anything else they can help you with and would you like to hear about today’s special and take a short survey.

Wait, what happened to the muzak?  They disconnected me?? I miss my rotary phone.


Transcript of my Comcast Live Chat (redacting and emphasis mine):

user Lucinda has entered room

Lucinda: I want to change my installation appointment but your phone number doesn’t work.  Please call me Wednesday to see if we can schedule an appt. for this Friday instead of next Monday.

analyst Tricee has entered room

Tricee: Hello Lucinda, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Tricee. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Tricee: I understand how frustrating this might be, I apologize for the inconvenience. Rest assured I will do everything within my means to address your concern today, Lucinda.
Tricee:  How are you doing today, Lucinda?
Lucinda:  I just want to change my appointment time
Tricee:  I understand.
Tricee:  May I know for what service will be installed and on what date was it scheduled.
Lucinda: internet and cable on June 20
Tricee:  Thank you.
Tricee: I understand that you want to reschedule your service installation, Lucinda. No worries. As your Comcast service representative, I want you to know that issue resolution and your satisfaction are my top priorities for today. By the end or this chat we will be able to address your concern properly. Together, we can work this out, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Also can you give me a real phone number, 800-266-2278 keeps saying the call can’t be connected.
Tricee: Our Comcast hotline is 1-800 XFINITY – 1-800-934-6489, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Can you reschedule it for June 17?
Lucinda: Thank you for the phone number.
Tricee: We will check for the schedule, Lucinda.
Tricee: Thank you for providing your account information. Would you please verify the information I received is correct?  First name Lucinda  Last name Marshall  Phone Number XXXXXXXXXX (for the obvious reasons redacted by me)
Tricee: Your’e welcome.
Lucinda: correct
Tricee: Thank you.
Tricee: For security purposes, may I have the account holders name and the account number.
Lucinda: Lucinda Marshall, acct. ends in XXXX, I have no idea what the rest of it is, it isn’t in the email they sent me, this is for new service.
Tricee: Thank you. It’s alright.
Tricee: May I have your complete service address.
Lucinda: (Removed to protect my privacy)
Tricee: Thank you.
Tricee: I sincerely appreciate your effort for providing me with all the necessary information that I need, Lucinda. Please allow me 1-2 minutes to verify your account.
Tricee: Lucinda , while waiting, I’d also like to tell you that music lovers and enthusiasts can now enjoy original shows, interviews, music videos organized by genre, 16 video and forty six audio channels, create customized playlists and music channels. To access all these simply log-on to 
Lucinda: I am not interested in any sales pitches, just changing my appt. which should not be this complicated.
Lucinda: Or take this long.
Tricee: I understand, Lucinda.
Tricee: Thank you for patiently waiting, Lucinda. I have successfully pulled-up your account.
Tricee: Let me check if June 17, 2011 is available.
Lucinda: Thank you.
Tricee: Your’e welcome.
Lucinda: So is it available? (A ridiculously long pause happened here)
Lucinda: Hello?
Tricee: Sorry for the delay, Lucinda.
Tricee: I am still waiting for the dates to load. (It took everything I had not to ask if he, she or it was using Comcast internet)
Tricee: Great!
Tricee: All is set, Lucinda.
Lucinda:  Can they come in the morning?
Tricee: Your installation date is now on June 17, 2011.
Tricee:  Yes, that’s 8:00 – 11:00 AM.
Lucinda: Excellent, thank you very much, will you send me a confirmation email please.
Tricee: Before we finish up, Lucinda, I want to remind you that we have rescheduled your installation date. I have left a note on your account for the next representative that will assist you.
Tricee:  You are most welcome, Lucinda.
Tricee: By the way, Lucinda, can you do me a little favor? At the end of this chat there will be a short survey. I would appreciate it if you would spare a moment to complete it so we can continue to improve the service we provide you.
Lucinda: Please send me a confirmation email.
Tricee: Will do, Lucinda.
Tricee:I’m glad I was able to help you. Do you have any other questions or concerns I can help you with today, Lucinda? I will be more than happy to assist you further.
Lucinda: Sorry, this has taken too long, I have to go to bed.
Tricee: It’s alright, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Goodnight.
Tricee: Lucincda  , (sic) it is with gratitude to have you as my customer on this chat and I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us today to resolve your issue. Thank you for choosing Comcast as your service provider and have a great day! Comcast appreciates your business and values you as a customer. Our goal is to provide you with excellent service. If you need further assistance, you can chat with one of our Customer Support Specialists 24 hour a day, 7 days a week at
Tricee: Please click the `Exit chat` button to properly close the chat and take the survey. Have a great day! Take care, Lucinda!