Thursday, July 22, 2004

Ma Bell Heck

I don't have good luck with phone companies...I've mentioned this before. Last week our home phone service was out for two days because of what SBC called a "major cable cut".

It started like a sugary breakfast cereal...snap, crackle, pop but quickly progressed to the dead zone, which I believe is also the title of a bad Don Johnson movie - I realize that's redundant since I don't believe Don Johnson ever made a good movie, but that's besides the point.

Anyway, today Amy emails me at work to inform me that our phone service is out again. When I came home I used SBC's handy automated system to report the problem and found out that our phones may be out until Monday night...because of a "major cable cut."

Having learned nothing from my previous experience with Tmobile, I then attempted to speak to a human being at SBC, no easy task since the company has laid off like18 zillion workers in the past two years while paying the firm's chairman, Ed Whitacre, some 20 million dollars.

After wading through the automated assistance system: 1- yes I want English, 2- no I don't want to hear about special offers, 1-yes I want to report a problem - I finally got through to a person. Not a nice person. Not an intelligent person, but a person nonetheless. She told me, "it's a major cable cut" and seemed a little disappointed at my lack of surprise. I then explained that I was dissatisfied with the prospect of not having phone service to my home for up to five days since I have a wife with health problems and I work in a business where occasionally people call me. I asked what they could do to alleviate my concerns.

Her response?

"It's a major cable cut"

I then asked if I was speaking with someone from customer service and was assured that was the case. As politely as I could possibly be at this point I said, "Well, I'm a customer and I need service of some form."

She told me there was nothing she could do guessed it, "it's a major cable cut."

Sensing that perhaps SBC should have laid off 18 zillion and one workers, I decided that this woman wasn't an "idea person" so I suggested that perhaps the company could put a message on my line, or temporarily give me their CallNotes ® service. She thought that was a great idea. She connected me with a young gentleman who offered to sell me CallNotes ®....on a line that doesn't work. I explained that I wasn't interested in buying anything from a company that wasn't providing me with any service at the moment and his response was, "Well, I am in new service activation, I'm not authorized to give anything away."

I resisted the temptation to explain that giving away good customer service might actually prove beneficial and asked if I might speak with someone who could authorize such an outlandish request. He connected me to a woman I assume was a supervisor of some sort. I explained the entire story again and asked if she was the person with the power to do something with my phone service so that when people called my home they didn't think we were dead like Don Johnson's movie career.

Her reply?

"It's a major cable cut...we can't put CallNotes ® on a line that's cut."

By this point I have already started searching the Internet for other local phone service providers. I ask, admittedly not very politely, if there is anyone at SBC who can do anything for me and her response was, "I'm sorry...but it's a major cable cut"

I had to hang up.

I stormed downstairs...tried to take out my anger on Amy who not so politely informed me that she was not the phone company, and then I stormed back upstairs to call SBC on my cell phone again.

This time my intent was only to find out how much we pay for phone service each month ($36.39 for one stinking phone line with Caller ID and the ability to make long distance calls) and to have our bill credited for the two days last week when we didn't have service.

I waded through the automation again and got a kid in billing. I say a kid with a great deal of respect. He had to have been a kid because he obviously hadn't worked for SBC long enough to think of excuses.

I laid out my sad story to him one more time, emphasizing the sick wife bit, that doctors might be calling any minute, etc. fully expecting to hear, "Well, it's a major cable cut"

Instead I heard something unusual...someone thinking. He said, "Well, first off I can credit you for the days you were out of service last week, but I can't put CallNotes ® on your line. However maybe we could give you call forwarding to your cell phone."

I was speechless.

It took some doing; he literally had to call people out in the field repairing "the major cable cut" and have them forward the calls but within 10 minutes we had phone service.

He also made sure to instruct me on how to turn off call forwarding once the major cable cut was fixed, and assured me that he was crediting our bill for the call forwarding service which we could cancel once everything was back to normal.

This was a kid in billing, not customer service.

I didn't get his name, but I'm betting it wasn't Ed Whitacre.