Friday, September 22, 2006

Customer Service at its best

I have friends who think I'm this great computer person. They also assume that great computer people do not have serious issues with computers. For those of you who think the same, I share my recent "issue" with you.

My internet connection went down Tuesday. It happens. Normally, I call my ISP, I get transferred once or twice, until I get someone who knows what "ping the modem" means. He resets at his end, I fiddle around with stuff at my end, and I'm good to go. Down time, less than an hour. There have been times in the midst of wind storms, or wind-and-rain storms that cable internet and tv have gone down. I call to let them know I'm down to give them an idea of how big the area without service is. But I don't sweat it. I'm usually back up within 12 hours at most. No big.

Tuesday's outage was different.

I called my ISP and got their brand new voice-response customer service menu system. The first voice said "press one for service in english, press two for ser...*beep*" as I pressed one. The next voice said "Say one for technical support, blah blah blah."

I said "one."

The voice said, "Say two for accounting, blah blah blah blah."

I said "one!"

The voice said, "Say three for blah blahblah blah blah blahblah blah blah blah."

I said forcefully, "ONE!" (could it not hear me?)

The voice said, "Say four for blah blahblah blah blah blahblah blah blah blah."

I shouted, "ONE!"

The voice daid, "Say five for...blah blah ..."

"ONE!" (Was it broken?)













"Say eight..."


"to repeat..." (dear ghods no)


"this menu..."


The system gave a strangled squawk.


And then processed my command.

I then got another menu."Say one for complete outage."

Outage or outrage? "ONE!"

"Say two if your tv ..."


"reception is blah blah"


"You can reset your tv box"


"by holding down the"


"power key on the "


"front of the box until"


"the word 'reboot' appears on the display."

This does not belong as part of the menu. Especially a menu I have to sit through in its entirety. "ONE!"

"Say three if it's..."

"ONE!" It's gotten to be a habit now, shouting "ONE" at the phone.

"regarding email."


"Say four to repeat..."


"this menu." Followed by another strangled squawk.


Unfortunately, the system misheard my "ONE!" and proceeded to run thru the entire menu again. This time I realized the strangled squawk at the end of the menu was the prompt to speak, so I waited until it came around again. It would have been nice to have been told at the beginning that the voice-response system only listened after it bored you to tears with its entire menu. I would still have been irritated, but I wouldn't have added severe frustration to the mix. I was not anywhere close to being a happy camper.


"Please hold while we transfer you to the next available representative."

Well, now I was at least in line. I got to listen to scratchy music-on-hold, occassional ads for additional services from my ISP, and a voice saying "we're so sorry you're still on hold...."

I got the usual first-filter person, who passed me on to tech support. I spoke with Donovan, who walked me thru various reset procedures, none of which worked. I realized later, I never saw the all-lights-flash-at-once reaction of someone at the other end sending a reset to my modem (see end of story). Donovan passed me to the next person, reassuring me that he had made notes in the file so I wouldn't have to do this all again.


The next person, who's name I don't remember, but who had less patience than I did at that point, proceeded to run me thru the exact same set of reset processed I'd just gone thru with Donovan.

I said, "I just did these with Donovan."

She said, "I need you to...."

I said, "Didn't Donovan write all this in my file?" If I didn't sound annoyed, I should have.

She said, "I have your file. I need you to..."

Fine. Whatever. I'll do it again. Happy-camper quotient going into negative numbers.

She said, "I need you to unplug your modem."

Did that.

She said, "Turn your modem over..."

I said, "There's a lot of cables back here. so this will take a minute or two. It's not an easy process." I was annoyed and made no effort to hide it. She started getting a bit sharp in return.

She said, "I need you to take the backup battery out of the modem. The door to the battery is on the bottom."

I said, "This will take a bit of work. I've got a lot of cables back here."

I don't quite remember the exact words, but she wanted to know if I kept my modem under a bunch of cables. She sounded incredulous, like how stupid could I be. I have a modem, with cable from ISP, power cord and cable running to router. I have a router, with power cord and three more cables running to various computers. I have all this sitting on top of my computer, a Shuttle (it's so cute), which has a power cord, a monitor cable, a keyboard cable, a mouse cable, and a scanner cable. The camera hooks into the front. All of this sits on a rack in my closet. If I do not want to break or dislodge any of this, I have to move things carefully. I also have most of this stuff tied out of the way, so the cats don't dislodge things when they bang around back there (they like to climb into my lap by coming up over the back of my desk - it's a cat thing).

I said, "I don't see a door to the battery on the bottom of the modem."

She said, in a sharp tone, "There is a door there, on the bottom of the modem."

I said, gently, "I see four screws, a lot of little holes, but no door."

She said, testily, "There IS a door on the bottom."

I said, firmly and precisely, "I see no door or doorlike object on the bottom of the modem."

In a tone usually resevered for talking with the terminally stupid, she said, "There ... is... a ... door... on the bottom,... or the side of the modem."

Ahhh, the side. Guess what? There it was, quite obvious, on the side.

I said, "I found it on the side. It's quite easy to see on the side. It wasn't on the bottom."

She started to say something and I cut her off, since it didn't sound like an apology for insisting the door was on the bottom when there were other possibilities.

I said, "I have opened the door, and I'm taking the battery out. Ok, it's out now."

She said, "Wait a minute before putting..."

I cut her off again, and said, "Yes, so the capacitors can discharge."

After a moment, she said to put the battery back. I did. I told her what lights were flashing and what lights were steady. She asked if I had internet access. I said I did not. She said she couldn't do anything more, that a technician would have to come out and test the line at my end. I asked if there would be a problem if I took this modem by the office and swapped it for a new one. She said it wouldn't do any good (how supportive) and I needed (needed?) to make an appointment to have a technician come out. I asked if I could swap out my modem anyway, as I'd like to see if that worked. She said she didn't see how that would help, but I could do it if I wanted. She then said, wouldn't I like to make an appointment now, as a backup in case that didn't work. I made the appointment. Appointments available were: Stay home all day Wednesday and wait for someone (sorry, no good) or have a specific appointment on Thursday. I took the 3pm to 5pm slot on Thursday.

I then went by the office and got a new modem, just to see if that would help. Stranger things have been known to happen. Since I no longer had a cable phone, I got a much smaller modem, with no battery backup. I asked if I would have to have a reset or do something else to get it to work. The customer service rep said all I had to do was plug it in. Cool. I also left a complaint about the voice-lack-of-recognition system used for customer service. I told the man at the counter that he could tell management that if that system was still in place the next time I had to call customer service, I would be looking for a new ISP. It pissed me off that badly.

I took my modem home, plugged it in, and ... nothing. Still no connection. OK, the squirrels eat my telephone wire regularly, maybe they've moved over to cable wire. Let's wait until Thursday and see what the technician says.


Wedneday, for fun and games, I called customer service. I wanted to get dialup access, so I wouldn't be so cut off. I was going thru internet withdrawals. Guess what? They no longer had that nasty voice recognition system in place. I felt a bit better. However, to be able to use dialup, I had to download... yes, download... the dialup software. Um, I don't have cable right now. Gee, I should have gotten the dialup software before my system went down. If I'd known it was going to be down that long, I would have. Since the meaning of your communication is the response you get, I must have sounded like a raving lunatic, because the poor guy was very carefully telling me to go to a friend's house, download the software, put it on a disk, bring the disk home, put the disk in my computer.... Very carefully, very gently, very politely. I realized I was not in the best frame of mind to communicate rationally, humbly thanked him and went away.


Thursday, 5pm arrives. Technician has not. I call my ISP, wanting to know where my technician is. Customer service rep says the ticket has been closed out. Technician arrived, found nothing wrong, and left. Sorry, technician did not arrive. I'm still sitting here, waiting, without service. Customer service rep apologized and gave me a $20 credit for missing their "on-time guarantee." Great. So what about getting someone out here? This rep sent a query to dispatch to find out what happened. She recommended I call back in 15 minutes, as the query should have caused dispatch to put a response back into the system.

I called back. It seems the technician had tested "outside" and found nothing wrong. However, I still don't have an internet connection.

I said, "I have been waiting since Tuesday for this to be resolved. I want it resolved today."

She said, "I'll check with dispatch about getting a technician out today. May I put you on hold?" And how else do I expect you to be able to talk to someone else but put me on hold?

I said yes. And on hold I went.

She got back to me and said there were no technicians available to come out to my home tonight.

I said, "That is unacceptable. I want this resolved today."

She said, "We have no technicians available. You will have to make an appointment to have a technician come out..."

And what, leave me sitting around again, waiting for someone who doesn't have the common courtesy to knock on my door and tell me he didn't find anything? I think not.

I said, "That is unacceptable. I have waited as long as I intend to wait..."

She said, "I understand your frustration, but we don't have a technician that can come out today."

Bowing to the inevitable, I said, "Ok, when can a technician come out?"

She said, "Monday is the first..."

I was not happy. I said, "That is not acceptable. I have been waiting since Tuesday for this to be resolved. I know you understand I'm frustrated, but I am not going to sit around until Monday waiting for another technician to come by. I've already had a technician come by, without the common courtesy to knock on my door to tell me what he'd found, leaving me sitting here, waiting and wondering what happened. This needs to be resolved tonight or the next call I make will be to another service provider. I want to talk to someone in tech support."

She said, "I can certainly transfer you to tech support, but would you like to make an appointment to have a service technician come out on Monday, just in case this doesn't work?"

Not a chance. I said, very precisely and firmly, "No, I do not. If this does not work, the next call will be to another service provider."

She transferred me.

I explained my problem to the service tech, including that I was very annoyed and he was going to get some of the fallout. He was very nice about it. We went thru the unplug and reset routine again, just because, just to double check.

Then all the lights on my modem lit up, then started blinking in sequence. I said, wow, you've done something at your end. He said, yes, he'd sent a reset to my modem. I kept him apprised of the status of the lights, when and how they went on and off. He asked if I still had two blinking lights and two steady lights. I said, no. I had one of each. He said to press the power button on the front of the modem. I did. And got two blinking lights and two steady lights and an internet connection. I said, is that all it took? I went thru three days of waiting, and aggravation and waiting, and that's all it took? That I sat here waiting for a technician to come by, who didn't have the courtesy to knock on my door and tell me he'd checked? That in all probability the two techs I had spoken with on Tuesday had failed to send a reset and this could all have been solved Tuesday?

He said, "Probably."


Yes, computer geeks have issues with customer service, too. *sigh*

Monday, September 18, 2006

Can I ask you a question?

A friend just sent me an email, listing nine things "I hate about everyone." One of the items was "People who ask 'Can I ask you a question?'.... "

When asked that, my reply is, "You just did."

I actually had someone, call him John, say, "Can I ask you another question?"

To which I replied, "You just did."

John then said, "Can I ask you an important question?"

My reply, "You only get three questions, and you just used them up."

John said I was mean and all he wanted to do was ask a question.

I said, "If you'd just asked the question instead of continually asking if you could ask, you would have had your answer and been on your way."

Then John said, "Well, I wanted to ask you if.....?"

"So ask me."

"I just did."

"No, you said you wanted to ask me."

"I just wanted to ask if...?"

"So ask me."

I finally gave the nitwit the answer he wanted, because he just didn't get that I was trying to get him to stop asking if he could ask, and just ask. He was so determined to get an answer out of ME that I wouldn't be rid of him till I answered. The positive on this: He never asked me another question.

The hardest part was not breaking out in laughter. I really did want the boob to break the habit of "can I ask...?" and laughing wouldn't have helped. As it turned out, nothing helped.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Branding is everything

Getting your brand name out there is important. So large companies have been putting their names on anything that holds still. Or not. But you gotta wonder about overlapping branding, y'know?

NASCAR has this great race, called the Bank of America 500. It's held at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Well, I guess having a bank sponsor something related to home improvement projects does make some sense.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Smaller government

White House Office of Management and Budget estimates government spending will grow to 20.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 from 18.5 percent when President George W. Bush took office in 2001.

Isn't the Republican Party the party of smaller government?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tools of conquest

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts... attitudes... prejudices. To be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to The Twilight Zone."

Closing narration by Rod Serling from The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street. Read it again, and hear Rod Serling's voice and delivery.

The story? From here, in brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm.

Suddenly his car — and only his car — starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man’s lights go on.

As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced.

An "alien" is shot — but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help.

The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen, manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there’s no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves."

It was written in 1960. It could have been written today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Just in case you were wondering...

The problem with allowing a big cheese like our President to flout the law of the land (all for the good of Americans, you understand) is that it sets a pattern of behavior.

It seems Hewlett-Packard has seen fit to follow suit.

Fox News
LA Times
so far

Did it ever occur to you that those laws were there for a reason?

Feel safe and secure yet?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Instead Of?

According to a just read headline (NYTimes):

"Going into a critical pre-election stretch, Congressional Republican leaders will concentrate on national security issues instead of immigration."

Um... I thought a lot of the immigration hoopla was based on security concerns. You know, all those nasty terrorists coming in over our unsecured borders, that kind of thing.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

How Can We Make America SAFER?

We can't.

We can require identification to be shown at every state border we cross, but
-we wouldn't be America any more.

We could require people to check in with their local officials if they want to leave their neighborhood, letting the officials know where they're going and why, but
-we wouldn't be America any more.

We could embed RFID chips in all visitors to our citites or states so they could be tracked, but
-we wouldn't be America any more.

We could record every phone call, email, text messaage or other electronic transmission sent anywhere, to make sure we catch any potential terrorists, but
-we wouldn't be America any more.

We could set up anonymous hotlines where neighbor could report on neighbor, reporting any suspicious activity, but
-we wouldn't be America any more.

We could have government enforcers randomly stop people on the street, in their cars, or in their places of work, and ask for proof the person is a citizen, but
-we wouldn't be America any more.

We could require everyone to prove they never spoke with anyone who might be a terrorist, prove they are in no way related to anyone who might be a terrorist, prove they aren't related to anyone in a country that has terrorists, but not only would we not be America any more, but everyone would be suspect -- and without even going as far as six degrees of separation.

We could ban the sale of any product for which it is believed it might ever be used in any way, in any combination, to terrorize people, and live in a kindergarten-safety-scissor world. I'm not sure if we'd be America any more, but we sure as hell wouldn't like it.

We could allow the President to suspend the right to habeas corpus, allowing us to arrest anyone suspected of or accused by their neighbors of terrorism, citizen or not, without having to bring them to trial,
-as long as the President says it is done in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could allow the President alone to decide which electronic communications to monitor without resorting to warrants,
-as long as the President says it is in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could allow the President alone to define what consititutes being an enemy combatant, or an unlawful enemy combatant, without stating the definition of these terms,
-as long as the President says it is in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could allow the President alone to decide to export persons in American custody to foreign countries where they can be "vigorously questioned,"
-as long as the President says it is in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could allow the President alone to decide which actions are "state secrets" and therefore not subject to judicial reivew, or any review at all,
-as long as the President says it is in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could allow the President alone to choose whether he will enforce laws passed by Congress, choose how to define "enforce" and choose to change that definition randomly and without explanation,
-as long as the President says it is in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could change airline baggage requirements without advance notice, whenever someone reports any method for damaging planes, without checking the validity of the method,
-as long as the President says it is in the name of protecting the security of Americans.

We could do all those things. We have done and are doing some of those things.

As long as people are allowed to move around without checks, as long as people are allowed to carry things with them without checks, we will be unsafe.

How far do we go in the name of safety before we stop being Americans?