“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.



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.


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:


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…”


“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,



dino ash tray

Apparently there’s a meme eruption ongoing on Twitter about how Gen X reacts to both Boomers and Millennials, sandwiched as Xers are between those two large and influential generations.

“Just remember, ” says the caption to a still from the Breakfast Club (“Brat Pack”), for every Boomer that hates a Millennial, there’s a generation in between that hates you both.”

There are reminders of Boomers trying to squash heavy metal music (remember Tipper Gore and Dee Snider?) and GIFs of Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller subtly smirking.

I’ve never determined exactly which generation I identify with, or as. Technically, I’m supposed to be a Boomer, but I’m at the tail end of that very broad generation. I’m told I’m “Generation Jones,” exhausted by the sheer mass of the older Boomers (my eldest brother’s cohort) scorching the earth ahead of me, and leaving me with…the late ’70s. Feh.

I also identify with older Xers – the John Hughes movie generation, like Molly Ringwald as the kid whose birthday was forgotten because all the focus was on an older sibling. The in-between feeling has always been there: I remember exactly where I was when John Kennedy, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain, and Chris Farley died. Where does that put me on the generational spectrum?

Like Jonesers or Xers or whatever I am, I tended to keep my head down, and just got on with it. My older brother’s cohort made so much noise that there just wasn’t any point to it by the time I was old enough to vote. My absentee ballot arrived in Oxford, England, where I was on a program of study abroad, after Ronald Reagan had already been elected. I rode my bike to the Old Bodley (Bodleian Library) in tears that day.

I got good grades, did what I thought would make my parents happy, and went to an exceptional liberal arts college with such an eclectic student body that I graduated with only one friend, since vanished from my life. I went on to make a lot of choices that delayed gratification, put me on a painful career track that was all wrong for me, and left me as the “on call” adult child for parental care giving (with the notable exception of my Mother’s last year of life, when my eldest brother stepped in because, even though I was closest, my own responsibilities made it impossible for me to be there daily for her.)

But something interesting has happened with the younger Millennials/older Gen Zers, (who make up a large portion of my work colleagues.) I’ve felt very little generational tension, if any. Sure, when the “question of the day” comes up around 2:30 in the afternoon as a brief break in a relentlessly busy day, my answers are often recognizable to my coworkers as something their grandparents might say, but nobody ever gives me grief about it. The only reaction I get is one of genuine interest, appreciation, or non-judgmental curiosity.

Of course, I’m clueless about a lot the the stuff they’re into – I know nothing about multiplayer videogames, and I’ve usually never heard of the cartoons, TV programs or toys they remember fondly. But I jump in with an answer that is generation-specific. Favorite cartoons? Why, Looney Tunes, of course–the Bugs Bunny show!

“Overture, coit-an lights!
Dis is it, da night of nights!
No more re-hoising, or noissing a paht!
We know every paht by haht!”

(the Mel Blanc-voiced, Brooklyn-accented Bugs!)

Road Runner, Yosemite Sam, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha! Thanks to YouTube, maybe some of my colleagues will discover these older cartoons, from the era where Saturday morning cartoons were uproariously funny, full of double entendre for parents who were watching (“I’ll unhorse thee, Sir Loin of Pork!” “I’ll run you through, Sir Hosis of the Liver!”) and much too violent to get by today–but hey, they were cartoons!

One question last week was about the relative coolness of particular dinosaurs. I was not among the generation of children who became obsessed with dinosaurs. We were more obsessed with astronauts–and my interest stretched from Flash Gordon to Star Trek to Star Wars. But I was able to offer a little quiz with a photo of the object pictured above. Identify the company and the business it was in, and bonus points for what the object was. Of course, Google solved the riddle almost immediately, and one of my colleagues even found a picture of a gas station with a giant green dinosaur mascot on a lawn next to the pumps. These places are gone in my area, but apparently still exist out west. Who knew?

Did you come of age feeling sandwiched between generations? Tell me your story.

Until then, I remain,

your generationally confused, but not particularly worried about it,