Village Idiot

Jim Mullen





The worst telephone connection you will ever have in your entire life is when you call your telephone company with a problem. The call is scratchy, you can't understand the person on the other end of the line, and when they transfer you to a supervisor, they drop the call.

I spent two hours on the phone last night with a phone company that I don't even use for phone service. Due to a merger, they are now my cable TV company -- even though they don't do that very well, either. I'm calling because, like everyone else in the world, I'm cutting the cord. I no longer want to pay for the 110 channels I never watch.

The whole calling experience was awful. I knew the zombie apocalypse was coming, but I thought the brain-eaters would be out on the street, not on the other end of my phone.

More inside

The first problem was the menu: Are you calling to pay your bill with a credit card or a debit card? Are you calling to upgrade your plan? Are you calling to switch to a plan that includes phone calls that actually get through? Are you calling because you have absolutely nothing else to do, no family, no friends, no children to feed and just want to kill a few hours? Press three.

None of these choices addressed my problem or told me how to get it resolved. I used to just press zero a few times when confronted with this kind of phone menu, and that would switch me to a live person, but companies are on to that now. They will do anything to keep you from talking to a human. Because you have to pay humans, you see. Not very much, because that would cut into the CEO's bonuses, but you do have to pay them something, which is sooo annoying.

So now, instead of hitting zero, I say the word "representative." That gets me a live person. The connection is thin, tinny and crackling. It seems this phone company is spending all its money on TV commercials instead of cell towers. You'd think I was calling India. In 1950. For help with my party line. I spoke to a friend in the Congo last week, and the call was as clear as a bell, but the four calls I made to my phone company last night (since they kept dropping the connection) were almost unintelligible.

Now, no one expects every business transaction to be perfect. We've all returned things, or purchased something that looked good online, but wasn't what we wanted when we saw it in person. But there is nothing quite like phone companies and cable companies for being on the wrong side of a transaction and refusing to address it.

My problem, which took an hour to identify, was that my address was not "findable," so the computer couldn't automatically close my account. The computer was still able to automatically bill my credit card, though. Funny how that works.

"Hold on, I'll switch you to a supervisor," they said. Except they don't say "supervisor," anymore, it's a "Level 2" person. "Just hold on."

Click. The phone call drops.

I call back, go through the menu, say "representative," and tell the same sad story all over again to a new person over the same terrible connection.

"Don't worry, I can help you!" Another 45 minutes and guess what? My address can't be confirmed by their computer. "Hold on, I'm switching you to a Level 2 person."

Wash, rinse, repeat. This time, the Level 1 person couldn't even reach a Level 2. Between the clicks and cut-outs, Level 1 told me there were many notes on my file from the monthly phone calls I have made canceling the account, and not to worry, it would all be taken care of.

Today, bright and early, I got a robocall from them, telling me that if I didn't pay the bill immediately, it would go to collections.

They'll have to talk to my Level 2 person about that.

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

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