Well, here I am. I still don’t have DSL. Let me tell you about AT&T, shall I?
I used to have Verizon, which I liked a lot. The customer service was always fast and the tech support was friendly and didn’t treat me like an idiot. When I started switching over my service, I called Verizon but they didn’t service my new area. “Well,” I said, “who does?” Ameritech.
Now, if you don’t know, Ameritech, AT&T, SBC, and Yahoo are all now essentially one great big entity. I got online to transfer service, and spent an hour choosing various packages. Wow, I thought, glad I could do this online: this would be horribly confusing over the phone. I get to the checkout button, press it (after an *hour* of filling out forms!) and get a “sorry, your order cannot be processed. Please call this number.” Hrmph.
So I called to have everything switched over. Phone, no problem. Long distance, no problem. DSL, no problem, although that’ll be a couple days. The whole process took another hour on the phone.
The modem came promptly. I waited patiently for the call, got it, hooked everything up, and it predictably didn’t work. So I called tech support and waited on hold for about twenty minutes. Finally, got a human who ran me through some some tests. “Is the gray cable connected to the wall outlet?” “Yes, I have connected the phone to the modem with the correct cable.” “Do you have a filter.” “Yes, I have a filter on the cable, as per the instructions in the booklet, the CD, and the recorded message that just kept me on hold for a good long while.” “Can you hold?” “Yes, I can hold.”
The phrase “can you hold?” was repeated about five times. Each time my answer moved down the politeness scale, ending finally with “do I have a choice?”
Two calls later, one of which involving a woman speaking fairly poor English who kept yelling at me to “speak up”: “I’m going to transfer you to a higher level of tech support. You may need a technician visit. That’ll be $150.”
Okay. I am calm. I am an adept of the western mystery tradition, a professional communicator and an educator. I have attained knowledge and conversation of my HGA (who, by the way, is mostly laughing at this point). I can endure a bit of the proud man’s contumbly, however you spell that.
“Hi, this is Steve. How can I help you?”
“I just ordered DSL. I got the modem and the call that I could hook it up. I have done so, and still do not have internet access.”
“Is the gray cable connected to the . . . ”
“Yes. I will check the cables again. Yes.”
“Do you have a pin or a paperclip?”
I smiled. Ah, revenge. “Yes, but it’s in a box. I just moved in, you see, and have not finished unpacking. Please hold.”
Long (very long) story short, he says there needs to be a technician visit. “I will not pay for that,” I said.
“Oh, you’re under warranty. No worries.”
Technician comes the next day, is very friendly and helpful. Makes sure the gray cable is plugged in. (I have to wonder, do they think we’re all idiots, or *are* most of their customers idiots?) Finally, he goes in search of the cables on the outside of the building, and comes back to tell me the situation.
“Apparently,” he says, “they hooked you up to the junction box downtown instead of the one 300 feet away. I’m sorry. It’s easy to fix, though. They just need to move a couple wires.”
“Oh, great! Well, that’s good news. When’ll they be able to do it?”
“Seven to ten days.”
A long and angry pause. “Seven to ten days? To move two wires? Show me where they are. I’ll do it now.”
“No, the order has to go through. It takes seven to ten days for an order to go through.”
If it took me a week to do the paperwork for my job, I would be fired. And I have a lot more paperwork than any one person working at AT&T, I suspect.
“I am — disappointed.”
“An apology implies an admission of error and an implicit promise not to repeat said error.”
“I’m saying that this is not my fault, and therefore I will not do without DSL for nearly two weeks. A few days I could see. Seven to ten is excessive.”
“Well, often it just takes a couple days, but you know, we like to give ourselves room . . . ”
“You had your room. Someone hooked up the wrong wires. That’s very unprofessional, but understandable. The thing that makes me a very unsatisfied customer is that there’s been no reasonable effort to fix that error.” Or something like that. Keep in mind that I liked this guy and wasn’t trying to be mean to him, but I probably sputtered a lot.
Finally, I pointed out that I have deadlines on Monday for which internet access is required (well, actually, it’s desirable, not required, but still — ).
“You can get dialup until then,” he said. “It’s not as fast as DSL but it’ll help you get your work done.”
“Ah, now you’re talking. Whom do I talk to about signing up for that?”
“You can call tech support.”
“Is there a direct number? I’m tired of listening to badly rendered inoffensive classical music.”
“Everyone wants a direct number.”
“Maybe that’s an indication that your phone system needs to be reworked. Fine, I’ll call.”
I call. I get put on hold. I hear something that might have been Ode to Joy. The fact that Ode to Joy could be made unfamiliar is, in and of itself, almost Lovecraftian. “Hi, I’m Sara!”
“Hi, Sara. I’m Patrick.” I explained the situation. “Can I get dialup?”
“Sure. Have you registered your DSL?”
Hmm. Maybe I should enter another line of business rather than communication. “No, because I do not yet have DSL.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, dialup is only for DSL customers who do not have access to their DSL.”
“Make no mistake, I have paid for DSL. I simply do not have it. Ergo, I fulfill your criteria.”
“Well, in that case, you can register online.”
I will chew your face off, Sara, and spit it on the street. No, wait, adept, calm, universal love. Panera! I have a laptop! I can do this.
“Give me the URL, please.”
“Can I get the access numbers now, please?”
“No, you can call back for those.”
Oh, Sara, I am so sorry. “I will not do that. I will not listen to your hold messages again, nor will I deal with the goddamned robot that offers me choices, none of which match the level of rage and frustration I’m feeling right now.”
Bark! Bark! Bark BARK BARK!
I’m barking at some sort of piano exercise.
“I have the numbers. Do you have a pen?”
“Pens are something I am well and completely supplied with, as is paper. Please read the numbers.”
She does. She ends with “Thank you for choosing AT&T.”
“I didn’t choose AT&T. I chose Verizon. But Verizon doesn’t serve my area. I miss Verizon very deeply. I’ve been an AT&T customer for less than a week, and already I pretty much loathe it.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I apologize for any inconvenience.”
“An apology implies an admission of error and an implicit promise not to repeat that error.”
“Have a good weekend.”
Today I sent in the postcard for the modem refund. On the outside there are three short lines to write an address. The card was covered in some sort of glossy finish that wouldn’t take ink properly. I had to laugh. It’s as if a genius deliberately designed every single element of AT&T’s DSL to be as obnoxious as possible.