“On Us” – or, How Not to Customer Service, Part 2

A major cellular company is running ads featuring SNL star Kate McKinnon announcing that in celebration of establishing their 5G service, they’re giving everyone a new phone, “on us.”

The fine print at the bottom of the ad is so fine you can’t possibly read it, unless you freeze the screen and get a magnifying glass.

But hey, we all know that with the exception of rescuing a chipmunk and helping a lady stranded in a jeep that won’t move, there’s no such thing as a free lunch – or a free phone, in this case.

So I wasn’t surprised when the phone store guy immediately agreed that although he hadn’t seen the ad, they aren’t in the business of giving away free stuff. There’s always a cost. But I hated the phone I had chosen hastily when my previous phone died. I wanted a new one. I expected to have to pay something.

$280.60 later (pay off old phone I hate) I became the proud owner of a really nice, sleek, 5G phone. The “on us” part allegedly took the form of a $200 “discount” on the new phone.

Yeah.

Right.

When one obtains a new phone, one must find a way to transfer all the contacts, files, messages, photos, downloads, etc. held captive on the old phone. There’s an app for that. Then you have to re-download all t he apps that for one reason or another won’t transfer that way.

Three hours later, after accomplishing said transfer on both my new phone and the new phone for Angelic Daughter, who kept asking for a new phone although she didn’t need one (close to an upgrade, though, only $46 and change to get her new “on us” phone), I got several messages confirming all my transactions and plans, including, I think, one showing me what my next bill would be.

And that’s when the real fun began!

I pay my phone bill through my cellular provider’s app.

Opened the app and logged in.

Or not.

I was absolutely positive I had entered the correct password.

Sigh.

OK, tap “reset password”

Wait for the push notification with a reset link.

Didn’t come.

Asked for an email instead.

Didn’t come.

Back to the Assistant.

Um, no, I can’t. That’s why I’m asking for help resetting my password. Let’s try again to get this bot to understand the help I need.

Oh, to hell with it. I know my password. Maybe I just typed it wrong. Try again.

Given my recent experience with my ISP, I wasn’t hopeful that I could penetrate this cellular company’s technical defenses and get connected to a human being. But, what the heck, worth a shot, right?

Note the onset of my gradual descent into madness. “Pasdwot” indeed.

OK, let’s get creative. Ask for help using the app itself. Let’s try that!

Not quite sure what a “password teset” is, but it sounds like a good design idea for a pot, cup, and saucer to brew and drink something soothing to regain sanity.

Eventually I tried the phone tree, and we all know how that goes. Probably tried the ploy of “billing question” because when it comes to anything having to do with money, I’m guessing these bots are coded to respond more rationally – like getting me to a HUMAN AGENT.

After ten minutes or so on hold I made it through to a HUMAN BEING!

After the usual confirmations of name, address, etc., the HUMAN BEING asked:

“PIN?”

Oh. Oh God. What fresh hell is this?

“I don’t remember a PIN. I just need help resetting my password.”

“I can set a pin for you.”

OK, four random numbers later:

“Login in to your account…”

“I’M CALLING BECAUSE I CAN’T LOG IN AND NEED TO RESET MY PASSWORD!!!”

“Use the PIN we just set and then you should get a prompt to reset your password…”

Oh. OK. Maybe I should have tried calling first.

Suffice it to say that eventually, I succeeded in resetting my password.

I never write passwords down.

Let’s try a little test, shall we?

Stunned that I remembered it and got through to the “welcome” screen, I remain,

Your memorable password choosing, bot defeating, logged-in, human-being contact seeking,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not to Customer Service

Them (automated-phone-system):

“In a few words, tell me what we can help you with today.”

Me:

“Internet.”

“OK, I see that your modem requires a reset. May I send a signal to reset your modem?”

Me:

“I just did that, but OK.”

Them:

“Sending a signal now. This should take just ten minutes. We’ll call you…”

Me:

“Ten minutes? I already lost two hours of work with signal interruptions, and I just reset it myself, and ….”

Them:

“…back when your modem has been successfully reset.”

Me:

“Wait…”

Them:

Hung up.

Ten minutes later:

Me:

“Hello?”

Them:

“This is your internet service provider. We have successfully reset your modem. Did this solve your problem?

Me:

“No, there are still constant intermittent interruptions in the signal…”

Them:

“In a few words, tell me how we can help you today. You can say, cable TV, Internet, billing questions, or something else.”

Me:

“Agent.”

Them:

“You can say, cable TV, Internet, billing questions, or something else.”

Me:

“Something else.”

Them:

“OK, in a few words, tell me how we can help you today.”

Me:

“Internet.”

Them:

“We have successfully reset your modem. Thanks for being a loyal ISP customer. We appreciate your business…”

Me:

“AGENT!”

Them:

“Before we transfer you to an agent, tell me in a few words what we can help you with today.”

Me:

“Internet.”

Them:

“I see that we recently reset your modem. Did that solve the problem?”

Me:

“NO. AGENT!..AGENT AGENT AGENT AGENT!!!!”

Them:

“Before I transfer you to an agent, tell me in a few words how we can help you today. You can say internet, cable TV, billing questions, or something else.”

Me:

“SOMETHING ELSE.”

Them:

“Ok, transferring you to an agent.”

Agent:

“Hello, thank you for calling. We appreciate your business. How can I help you today?”

Me:

“My internet service keeps winking on and off and you have reset it three times after I already reset it twice and that’s not fixing it.”

Agent:

“I understand that can be frustrating. Before we get started may I confirm some details about your account?”

Me:

“Oh, alright – for heaven’s sake it’s right in front of you but alright. (confirm details.)

Agent:

“Thank you. I see that we recently reset your modem…”

Me:

“Yes I just told you it has been reset several times….”

Agent:

“OK I’m going to send a test signal…this should take under 5 minutes.”

Me:

“I’ve lost three hours of work so I expect you to prorate my bill…”

Agent:

“Of course. Sending the signal now. It’s at about 36%.”

Me:

“OK I’ll wait.”

Agent:

“The signal has been sent. It appears your modem isn’t receiving the full signal. I’ll give you the number for support for your modem brand.”

An hour later, after three signals sent from the modem brand support person and a speed test that required me to go down in the basement and connect my laptop directly to the modem with an Ethernet cable, whereupon it was discovered that I was receiving 19 mbps when it is supposed to be 200:

Modem support service person:

“It appears your modem isn’t receiving the entire signal correctly. I’m sorry.”

Me:

“But I bought it less than two years ago! How could it just fry out?”

Modem support person:

“I’m sorry, it happens sometimes. We can send a technician or we can replace it.”

Me:

“I’ll take the replacement.”

Modem support person:

“Ok, I’ll send you an email with instructions on what to do to receive your replacement.”

Two hours and $183.12 later, after making a last minute request for the day off, because I already lost half of it and will lose the rest replacing the modem, I get back home from the big box electronics store where I purchased a replacement modem, thinking the maker will reimburse me, having left the old modem at the big box store to be recycled, I read the email with instructions telling me to send the modem maker the original receipt, and ship back the old modem at my own expense to have a new one shipped to me.

Me:

Sigh.

Trudge down to the basement to install the new modem. Read instructions about activating it. Log on to ISP app. Ask the help chat to activate new modem.

Them-bot:

“I see there is a service outage in your area. We are working on the problem. Service should be restored (an hour from now). An agent will not be able to help you until service is restored.”

Me:

AUGGGGHGHH!!!!

“If you are not a human being, let me talk to a human being.”

Thembot:

“I see there is a service outage in your area. We are working on the problem. Service should be restored (an hour from now). An agent will not be able to help you until service is restored.”

Log off. Log back on and restart the chat.

Them:

“How can we assist you today?”

Me:

“Activate modem.”

Thembot:

“I see there is a service outage in your area. We are working on the problem. Service should be restored (an hour from now. An agent will not be able to help you until service is restored.”

Me:

“Billing question.”

Thembot:

“Please wait while I transfer you to an agent.”

Agent:

“Hello and thank you for being a loyal ISP customer. We appreciate your business. How may I assist you today?”

Me:

“I’m tired of being told I’m appreciated. Please just ACTIVATE MY NEW MODEM!!!”

Agent:

“I will be happy to assist you with that. First can you confirm some details for me?”

Me:

“Oh, God, alright. (confirm details.)

Agent:

“I see that there is an outage in your area…”

Me:

“Can you PLEASE just activate the new modem?”

Agent:

…But it is after the time when service should have been restored. I will activate your new modem. Please give me the model number…”

Me:

(Provide model and serial number).

Agent:

“I am sending the signal to activate your new modem. This should take only a few minutes. We are currently at 26%.”

Me:

“I have lost an entire day over this. I know this isn’t your fault and I’m sorry you have to sit there in what is probably the middle of the night wherever you are and listen to ENORMOUSLY FRUSTRATED PEOPLE LIKE ME YELL AT YOU BECAUSE YOUR EMPLOYER MAKES EVERYTHING SO DIFFICULT. You don’t have to read me your script about appreciating me just ACTIVATE MY DAMN MODEM!”

Agent:

“I understand how frustrating this can be. Just a few months ago, I had a similar problem…”

Me:

“I don’t need your life story, I just need you to ACTIVATE MY MODEM! PLEASE!”

Agent:

“Yes, Miss Anne, I am not speaking from a script, this is from my heart…”

Me:

“Please….”

Agent:

“Ok, I understand. we are at 90%. Ok, 100%. Please describe the status of the modem.”

Me:

“All the lights are on and steady. Thank you. I’m sorry I got so testy. I know it must be the middle of the night wherever you are…”

Agent:

“It’s four a.m., actually.”

Me:

“Well, I know the last thing people in the part of the world where it’s 4 a.m. right now need is someone screaming at you over something that’s not your fault.”

Agent:

“I can take it. You have to have a thick skin to do this job.”

Me:

“Well, I hope you and everyone you love are well, safe, and vaccinated.”

Agent:

“Actually we have a shortage of vaccines, so everyone is working from home.”

Me (feeling embarrassed for acting like a total privileged jerk):

“I’m so sorry. I hope that gets sorted out soon. My modem is on now. Thanks for your help.”

Agent:

“I appreciate your cooperation and we appreciate your business. Would you like to participate in a short survey at the end of this call?

Me:

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. Thanks again. Stay well. Bye.”

I just checked my signal speed. My ISP allegedly upgraded my speed for free, to somewhere between 200 and 400 Mbps.

My speed on their speed checker is 96 Mbps.

Sigh.

Preparing to tell you the saga of my new 5G phone advertised as being “on us” with the fine print so fine at the bottom of the ad you couldn’t possibly read it even if you froze the screen, I remain,

Your technically adept, frequently frustrated, gratuitously “appreciated” ISP customer who is not getting the signal speed she is supposed to get but getting speeds that are better than they used to be and who is deeply ashamed of herself for yelling at a hapless call center customer service person half a world away in an area with low vaccination rates,

Ridiculouswoman



Independence

“See you next year, Fourth of July!” says Angelic Daughter, as she removes the special magnet denoting the day from her perpetual calendar.

For the second year in a row, we didn’t attend The Parade (our little town’s annual event that in years past has quintupled the population for a day). It just didn’t seem like fun to watch a vehicles-only, socially distanced, spread-out “parade” with no decorated bikes, no sometimes-funny-but-always-offensive lawn mower drill team, and no marching bands. I suppose the inevitable high school garage band appeared on a truck this year as always, playing “Louie Louie” just like my brother’s band did fifty years ago, but this year I would have had trouble seeing the charm.

We’ve always called the holiday just “the 4th” or “the 4th of July,” but Angelic Daughter also knows the day as Independence Day (though I’m not sure she understands that beyond “America’s birthday” – birthdays are one of her “things,” and if you tell her yours, she’ll never forget it).

I think about independence a lot, in the context of trying to prepare Angelic Daughter for it. A parent’s only real job is to enable their children eventually to live without them.

For those who are not the parent of an autistic person, or other person with different needs, “independence” means something else. Unfortunately, it seems the idea of “independence” has gotten warped in some sectors of America into a notion of freedom defined as “every person for themselves.” Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who refuse to accept their responsibility as members of a community larger than themselves, and don’t seem to care about the impact their decisions have on others, invoke “freedom” as their rationale.

We used to care about each other more. That intensifies my worry about the inevitable, and preparing Angelic Daughter for it, and finding caring, loving people who will stand up for and with her, to keep her safe and help her have a full and happy life.

Among Angelic Daughter’s many beautiful qualities is that she is innately incapable of holding a grudge. Her first response to a slight or a disappointment inflicted thoughtlessly by a friend or family member is to forgive, and to send wishes that everyone get over their “upsetnesses,” anger, and frustration, and feel better soon. She wants everyone to get along, and be happy.

Of the many lessons learned from losing Mike, letting go of resentment, anger, and feeling wronged was probably the most important. A few years ago, I had lunch with two high school classmates I hadn’t seen in decades – and came away burdened with stories of harm inflicted and pain suffered that persisted long after both these friends had been divorced. One offered to stay with Angelic Daughter occasionally, but I don’t want grudgey, put-upon, unforgiving, angry, vindictive people around my daughter.

Which is why the available pool of family members who might participate in future care for Angelic Daughter got reduced by one this weekend. Out of the blue, this person spewed personal invective into a family chat used for upbeat updates about what everyone’s up to.

And persisted in it even after a reminder that Angelic Daughter was a part of the chat.

This person is older than I am, so it’s not very realistic to think they would have been involved in Angelic Daughter’s life for very long in the future. Nevertheless, the willingness to disregard the effect on innocent bystanders of insults directed at another family member in a family chat is an instant disqualification.

It makes me sad when anyone allows themselves to be controlled by, motivated by, or mired in past wrongs, real or perceived. Letting go is one of the best ways to gain independence I know. Learning how to let go before letting go is forced upon you by loss is an opportunity not to be squandered. Wallowing warps what you have left of life; why would you want to do that? What’s the point of hanging onto hurt and making it the center of your existence? That’s not independence, that’s a trap.

I wish you independence, even if it means completely reinventing your life. It’s the one life you have, so wasting it fixated on resentment and settling scores will fill you with regret when you suddenly realize you’re out of time. Do you really know life at all? (an amazing version of Both Sides Now sung by Seal, who takes that song way, way down deep, making you respect Joni’s genius and the song’s lasting profundity. If you don’t think of it as profound, his version will change your mind).

Striving (often failing, but trying) to live and speak each day as if any moment could be my last, I remain,

your imperfectly independent,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by John Hain from Pixabay