I consider myself a fairly patient patient person. When the Internet service I had installed at my new house the end of June began having glitches a month ago; kicking me off mid-e-mail, not allowing us to stream movies through the Amazon Prime service I pay for, taking several attempts to get on…well, I called several times and got through to a real human who attempted to address the issues on their end. They even sent a repair person who replaced a cable from house to street last Saturday, which didn’t fix it. When I was informed the problem was likely with the inside cable hook-up and I could pay an additional $4.95 a month and have someone come in and check those cables, no one could explain to me why cables installed just two months previously could have problems. Consulting local friends, I discovered they were having the same issues and had changed companies from the Internet provider that shall remain nameless, so I did the same, cancelling a service just days shy of the 90-day guarantee.
Their shoddy service now looks amazing in hindsight. The same fifteen-year-old daughter who’d questioned my sanity for putting up with such terrible service for a month, was begging me to go back to them last night.
Backtrack three days ago to the promise from a different company that not only would my new service be up and running in twenty-four hours, but I wouldn’t even need to be home for the installation and could save $65 to set up the modem with the very clear directions that would come in the box. And I would never, ever have trouble with them.
The promises held true at first. I was at work when the installation occurred. I easily hooked up the modem. The green power button came on with no problem. The DSL one remained red. I called the handy little number on the direction booklet and reached a robot that questioned me before transferring me. After yet a few call transfers I was able to speak to a friendly woman who walked me through the steps again, finally conceding that something must be wrong with the wiring because on their end, my Internet was working. She informed me that someone would need to be home in case the technicians needed to get into the house. I made it clear it would need to be an afternoon appointment in order for me to let someone inside. We set up an appointment for Thursday afternoon between 1:00 and 5:00.
“1:00-5:00,” I reiterated. “I will take off early to be here.”
“Yes, 1:00-5:00,” she confirmed.
And the saga begins…
I get up two hours early to head to work. My phone dings at 10:00 a.m. and I see a message that I will need to reschedule my appointment since the service technician did not have access into my house. I need to follow the link to reschedule over the Internet. Only the link doesn’t work.
Okay, people make mistakes. Miscommunication, and all that. I get it. I go online to “chat” with a representative. I don’t want to be on the phone at work. The chat is going fairly well. She will look into the problem. Ten minutes and twenty questions later…Their records show the appointment was between 8:00 a.m. and noon, and they did not have access to the house because no one was there. I need to reschedule the appointment. I’m done with the chat~Her answers are too pat, too similar to the robot I initially talked to the evening before. I pull out my phone to talk to a human, and after several transfers, beginning with, yes, a robot, I get someone on the line who can help me.
An apology and assurance there will be a service person at my house between 1:00 and 5:00. I leave work early. My phone rings on the way home so I pull over to take the call from an unknown number. It’s the Internet provider asking how my service call went. I tell them about the mix-up, all the time thinking how quickly they respond to the error. We’re good. They’ll fix this. She assures me someone will be there between 1:00 and 5:00, but informs me that the original appointment was scheduled for between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. I feel the first inklings of doubt creeping in. Why would I have confirmation from one representative that the appointment would be for afternoon, and get two different appointment times from two other representatives?
Once home, I see the “sorry we missed you” sign hanging on my doorknob, along with a note from “Rod” that there is “a lot of work” to do inside and outside the house, and I need to reschedule. My cell phone rings and yet another representative is on the line, informing me that I need to reschedule my appointment since I was not available when the technician came, and he needs to do work inside. “You do realize that if they find wiring problems inside the house, you will be charged extra, right?” she clarifies. As we are talking, I see a van with the company logo driving slowly by my house. I step to the front door so the driver can see me wave. “They are driving by. I don’t know why they didn’t stop,” I tell her.
“Wait five minutes. I will get a hold of them and tell them you are waiting,” she assures me. “Just five minutes and you will get a phone call with an estimated arrival time.”
I hang up. Wait five minutes, then ten. Fifteen minutes later, I’m in the bathroom and my daughter informs me she spotted a man in a bright-colored vest at the side of the house, and hears some noises. Yay, they are here!
I go to the door. I don’t see a van parked anywhere, but I hear muted conversation at the side of the house. I can’t see anyone when I look out the side window, but surely the man in the bright vest will come to the wide-open door and tell me what is going on. I sit down to drink my tea, but I can’t help but wonder as the minutes pass, why no one has yet come to the door. I go outside to talk to the workman. There, I see a box laying in the grass and wires sticking out of my house. No one in sight. Old wires, I note. Very old wires. No wonder the Internet doesn’t work. I get a sinking sensation, see the dollar signs adding up for work that might need to be done. I figure the service technician went to get more tools, or someone to help him. Two hours later, as the clock approaches 4:30, I wonder; Is this guy even coming back?
I call the new provider that had promised no problems. A robot answers. I’m transferred after the Robot claims there is no problem. Internet is working fine. First human transfers me to second human, who then transfers me again. With each human I am asked the same questions Robot asked. Account number. Check. Name. Check. Address. Check. Then to verify, last four digits of social security number. The repair ticket is still open, I am finally told. The repair person is scheduled to come before 5:00.
5:00 passes. 5:30. No sign of repair person. Tired of being transferred and on hold via phone, I revert to chatting online with Robot, then with “Carl.” Carl tells me my Internet is working, no problem. It is not working, has never worked, and neither has the phone, I tell him. We go back and forth, with him checking other departments. They will be there soon, I am informed. I question why a van with their logo would drive by, apparently not park in front of my house, and yet someone in a bright vest be by the side of my house and leave a mess.
“That was your appointment,” Carl tells me.
“That was my appointment?” My incredulity wouldn’t be conveyed through that typed question so I elaborate “Why didn’t he park the van near my house? Was my appointment a man ignoring the wide open door of the house, sneaking by the side of it and leaving a mess? Why didn’t he knock on the door and tell me what he was doing, or let me know there was a problem with wiring outside?”
“You need to educate yourself and go out to the van and ask who in it.”
I stare at the chat message. Educate myself? Go to the van? What van?
My daughter is observing me intently. I read the message out loud. I’m well aware of the hysterical rise of my voice “Abby? Is there a van outside? We need to educate ourselves and ask who is in it.”
She stands up, looks out the window. Shakes her head, looking carefully at me. Is Mom okay?
“We’re not getting Internet today, are we?” she states flatly.
“No, and we’re not dealing with this company, either,” I reply a little too fiercely. It isn’t her fault. It isn’t “Carl’s” fault that English is his second language and he is trying to make a living. It surely isn’t Robot’s fault.
I pick up my phone and request from Robot a transfer to cancellation services. Four transfers later, after relating the unending saga to four different people, I reach a human human. Was her name Susan? Was it Heidi? I don’t remember, but I won’t soon forget her soothing voice, her horror at the Carl message (I would have told him where to go, she sympathized) But that isn’t me. I don’t swear. I don’t yell. I am patient. Understanding.
Oh, the camaraderie she conveyed, the human connection. We’re in this together. I’ll fix this. No one should be treated like this. Ridiculously, tears spring to my eyes with her words. She gets it. She will fix it. She will tell me why the repairmen left a mess in my yard, wires exposed. I love you Susan/Heidi.
“Please hold on. I’m going to get some answers for you. We’ll get to the bottom of it,” she tells me before gently asking “Is it okay if I put you on hold while I do this?”
“Of course,” I tell her.
“I found the problem,” Susan/Heidi announces triumphantly when she comes back to the phone. “The repair ticket is still open! They will be there to fix it before 5:00. You’ll have your Internet working tonight.”
I look at the clock. “It’s 6:40 now,” I reply.
I hear a gasp on the other end of the line. “I didn’t know where you lived. It’s 6:40 there? Where are you?”
Silence. Then a woman with a foreign accent is on the line. “Ma’am, we can’t do anything while a repair ticket is open. Someone is coming to repair your line and we need you to be there since it looks like there are some major problems with your wiring.” I explain the entire saga, including the wires sticking out of my house, and how I no longer want their service, how I don’t want to pay more money to have wiring fixed, how no one seems to know what they are doing. How I am told three different things by three different representatives. And Carl, I tell her about Carl and his inane advice to educate myself and go to the van. Then I ask her where the other woman went, the one who cared.
“Heidi, are you still there?” she asks. Total silence. Heidi? Her name is Heidi? Why did you abandon me, Heidi?
“I want to cancel,” I say firmly. “Connect me with someone who can cancel my service.”
I am connected with Robot. Apparently, Robot can’t understand seething English spoken through gritted teeth. I must repeat myself. Twice. Human answers. Is this the 15th human I’ve been connected with that day? 20th? 25th? I’ve lost count.
“How can I help you?” Human asks. My daughter’s eyes widen with fear when her mother states, much too loudly and all in one breath, her address, account number, phone number, and last four digits of social security number, followed by a demand to cancel service that I never had, was never able to use, and never want to use.
Human hangs up on me. Meaning I must go through Robot, Human, Human, Human, repeating the day’s events each time, only to be transferred to Human Who Takes Cancellations, but I can’t cancel because an open repair ticket is pending, and they will be there by 5:00. It is well past 5:00, I tell them. It is getting dark out. No one is coming, I insist. I find myself pleading, no begging to cancel.
“Please, please, please, just let me cancel. Send someone here right now to clean up this mess and cover those wires and pick up this modem, and let this nightmare end.” (I know. I’m not proud of this.) I could literally feel my blood pressure rising. I think my head is going to explode. I am transferred to someone who really doesn’t want to hear what I have to say because “I’m just reading what they tell me to read, and you need to listen.”
I listen. Cancellation will take effect October 3. I will be charged a prorated charge, including the installation charges. I bite my tongue, waiting for her to finish “reading what she is told to read.” I don’t interrupt, but I must have a crazed look in my eyes, because I swear my daughter is moving away from me on the couch. I need to return the modem or I will be charged an additional $140 for that.
“You can’t be telling me that I am going to be charged for a service I never had and service I will continue not to have until October 3?”
“I’m sorry, but according to us, you have Internet service, and this is what I have to read,” she replies. “Here is your cancellation number. Please write this down. Do you have a pen?” Of course I have a pen. Of course I will write this down, and your name, and your little dog, too, I think, but don’t say. I am too polite, and she likely wouldn’t get the reference to the wicked witch in the “Wizard of Oz” speaking to Dorothy. I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too, I’m thinking, and when she says “D as in David,” I do speak, and I say with all the sarcasm I can muster, “Well, yes, of course we will begin with D as in David, for David my husband who died and would be handling all this and he’d never put up with it.” Her voice gets a little shaky as she continues, and I know I have gone too far, but I am so far gone, I am not sure there is a way back. I take a deep breath, and when she ends with “78” I bite my tongue and do not say “Of course this ends in 78 because I met my husband in 78, and he’s dead!” I say nothing instead, waiting for her to finish. Attempting to breathe. Take deep breaths.
“You may be getting a survey phone call or e-mail to tell us how we did today,”
I’m not sure what the noise is that comes out of my throat then. A chuckle? A half-laugh? Am I choking on words I dare not say? I look over at my daughter, and am reminded that each and every one of us is fighting our own private battle. That this fiasco doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. That it is just one very awful afternoon that will soon end.
“If I do, I will say that you were very friendly, and very nice,” I say quietly, and I think I hear a sigh on the other end. “But that my overall experience today was intolerable.”
“Thank you very much,” the relief in her voice is obvious. “Have a nice day.”
I look at the clock. It is now well past 7:00. My daughter wants to go to the library to use the Internet before it closes at 8:00. But I’m not going to pay those charges. Sighing, I pick up the phone one final time. I stop counting the transfers after Robot, until I reach Oh Powerful One Who Can Make All Charges Disappear. Oh Powerful One speaks broken English, but I won’t hold that against her. She promises there will be no charges. She states this emphatically, then adds “You will get a bill. It will be a bill with many, many charges (many, many charges? What did I miss in their sales spiel?). You will not pay that bill. Then there will be a bill with zero charge. That is the correct bill.”
I can breathe again. I take my daughter to the library.
I’m not convinced that zero charge bill will arrive. I know the one with many, many charges will, but I’m not certain about the other. I go to bed exhausted, but don’t sleep well. Tossing and turning, I relive the entire awful afternoon; the many phone calls, the robot, the repeated transfers. I wake up tired, but then remember: I do not have to deal with these people anymore. I have my confirmation number. I am relieved.
That is, until I pour my coffee, and I remember…
…there are still wires sticking out of the side of my house.