Friday, February 11, 2005

A Fight with the Phone Company, Part II

Friday morning, 7:00 a.m. We’re at 4 full days and counting with no toll calling capability. My company is now in danger of losing some business and has already incurred extra costs to communicate through alternate means (cell phones).

I had a message on my phone this morning from one of the repair departments I’d called yesterday. They wanted clarification about the problem.

What’s to clarify? You turned off my long distance access — turn it back on!

I called the number and was surprised when someone (Sylvia) answered. I was further surprised to learn that she was in California where it’s 5:00 a.m.

After I “clarified” the problem for her, Sylvia determined that this was not a “repair” issue, it was simply an issue of getting my long distance service turned back on. I informed her, not in a kindly tone, that I knew THAT back on Tuesday. Further, that Travis had promised me on Tuesday that he would enter a work order in their system to accomplish that simple act.

Sylvia began speaking to me more slowly, enunciating each word. “Sir, there is no order in the system. There is nothing else I can do from this office. You need to call our long distance department and initiate an order. Please write this down…”

I was being patronized. I wanted so much to scream, “No, Sylvia, YOU write THIS down!”

I held my emotions in check and wrote. Next stop, the long distance department. Oh, but they don’t open until 8:00 a.m. Central time and it’s only 7:10.

I waited. I managed not to snap at several co-workers who came by to wish me a cheery “Good morning!” Followed with, “Oh, hey, are the phones fixed yet?”

8:30 a.m. I’m on hold waiting for someone from the Large Business Accounts department to answer the phone. At least their music on hold — provided by an oldies radio station — is classic 60s rock. That’s better than listening to a loop tape of the same song over and over. Or, worse, listening to a loop of company advertisements and promotions for their services!

In case you’re wondering, the long distance department referred me to the Large Business Accounts people. (I wonder if the Business Accounts are large, or the people?)

I’ve been holding for almost 15 miuntes, just to get a customer service rep on the line. And this is the line for Large Business Accounts! I wonder how long it takes a residential customer to get a human being to talk to.

Ha! Someone answered. I demanded a supervisor. I’m on hold again waiting for one.

Got the supervisor! Now she’s got me on hold waiting to “conference in” someone from their Long Distance department. I’m refusing to let her pass me on to anybody. She is going to stay on the line with me until we get the problem resolved. Oh, THIS is cool! It turns out she is Travis’ boss! I gave her an earful about her employee who read my emails but didn’t bother to respond to them.

“Heat Wave”
“Stop, in the Name of Love”
“Dancin’ in the Street”
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”
“Farmer John”
“You Really Got Me Goin’”

Man, the hits just keep on coming! But the supervisor (Kim) doesn’t.

Oh, here’s one I haven’t heard in years! “Abraham, Martin and John.”

“He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good, they die young.
I just looked around, and he was gone.”

Darn. Kim came back on the line in the middle of that one to tell me she’s frustrated (“Join the club,” I told her) and trying to get management personnel to escalate this problem and get it fixed. She’ll call me back, she says. OK.

9:30 a.m. Kim called back from a speaker phone in a room with several people. Her boss, “Bud,” asked me for the exact text of the error message I get when I dial long distance. I put him on hold, used the other line to listen to it, and carefully repeated it back to him. Ah! That told him that the problem was in their system, not my local switch. I knew that, but he had to convince himself.

They put me on “Mute” so they could talk about my problem without letting me hear them.
Their next offering was, “OK, try this for a workaround while we work on the solution to your real problem. Dial ten-ten-5483 — that’s the Verizon long distance code — then the area code and number.”

I tried. I got a rapid busy that the phone company calls a reorder tone. The had me try other variations of ten-ten codes. Nothing works. They’ll call me back.

I’m waiting, and now I don’t even get to listen to their classic rock. Darn again.

Time passes. My local repair tech Bill called and asked me to try a long distance call again. He tells me he is connected remotely to my plant’s phone system, and he can track what happens to my call. I try a call and get the same recording. He confirms that my call made it through my plant’s switch and got hung up in Verizon’s system somewhere else. He’ll keep working on it.

Bill just called back and asked me to try another series of ten-ten codes. He’s sure they will work now because he has just reprogrammed the Central Office switch. They don’t. He tells me he’ll be at my plant in 30 minutes to see if my switch needs some kind of programming.

I remain patient and supportive of Bill. He’s trying everything he can think of, even though he and I are both pretty sure the problem lies elsewhere.

12:30 p.m. Bill is here, talking on the phone with technicians in other locations while programming our switch. Nothing has any effect. I go to the lunch room to eat.

1:00 p.m. I’m reminded of the song “No News” from Lone Star.

“I prefer a bad excuse, to no news.”

1:20 p.m. I’m tired of waiting. I call for Kim at the Large Business Accounts number. I learn that Kim is out of the office. (Probably enjoying lunch. Or, maybe she’s huddled with some higher-ups trying to solve my long distance problem. Yeah, right; it’s gotta be lunch.) I asked for and was given her email address! I’ll see if SHE will respond to an email.

2:15 p.m. Kim just opened my email. Let’s see if she calls me or emails me back…

2:30 p.m. Ah! An email from Kim. She assures me that while she was out several other managers were working on the problem. She further assures me that she will be in touch as soon as she hears something. How comforting.

It’s now clear to me that this problem is NOT going to be resolved today. (Hey, I’m slow, but even I can intuit some things!) And, I’ll venture a guess that on Monday morning it won’t be fixed either.

I need to leave a few minutes early to drive to a local supermarket and send two faxes (long distance) that just HAVE to go out today.

On the positive side, my back isn’t hurting any more. That’s totally irrelevant to this posting, but it’s the only positive note I can come up with now.

3:15 p.m. WAIT!! Late breaking news! Bill just called and asked who my Long Distance Provider of choice would be, after Verizon. I told him, “At this point, NOBODY is after Verizon. They’re all AHEAD of Verizon. But if I have to choose one, AT&T.”

He spoke into another phone, “Jeff, AT&T.” He paused for maybe 10 seconds and told me, “Try it now.” IT WORKED!

Bill told me, “What I just did is probably illegal, and AT&T may cut you off. If they do I’ll switch you to MCI or somebody else until Verizon can get you fixed up.”

3:16 p.m. I can now call and fax long distance. I notified everybody at the plant via mass email. Then I left for the rest of the week. Hey, it’s Friday. I need a beer.

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