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Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh May 18, 2007

Posted by pf in Expenses and Savings.

Last week, I had written a post about my recent experience with the phone company while trying to modify my service (Expenses and Savings: Phone).  I thought the small annoyance was over…wrong.  The saga continues.

A day after changing my phone service, my wife mentioned to me that she could no longer make calls to her mom’s cell phone which is in an area code right next to ours.  It didn’t take extensive powers of deduction to figure out my change in service was the culprit.

I called the phone company and spoke with a nice representative who wanted to verify my identity so we could discuss the account (typical).  This is usually straightforward, but alas, not in my case:

                                                           Net Worth – May 2007 

Cust Svc:  Do you have an account number?

Me:  No, it’s a new account (due to the service transfer from the sale) and I haven’t yet received a bill.

Cust Svc:  Driver’s license number?

Me:  Yes…

Cust Svc: Oh, we don’t have your driver’s license number…I guess we can’t check that then.

Cust Svc:  Mother’s maiden name?

Me: Yes

Cust Svc:  Oh, seems we don’t have that either…or your Social Security number.

Cust Svc:  Sir, we don’t have enough information on you to be able to verify your identity, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you with your account.

Me:  Heh…so you are telling me that because YOU don’t have enough information, we aren’t able to fix the problem that YOUR COMPANY created?  I just spoke with your company a day or so ago…surely it’s in the notes on the account?  (I try not to get too crazy as many cust service reps “follow the script” and really just need to be coached…usually you can overcome these obstacles if you can just work through it)

Cust Svc:  I understand sir, and yes I can see the notes on the account.  However, I am not allowed to discuss the account without proper verification…I could lose my job. 

Me:  Let’s get creative and practical about this and see if we can figure out a way since A) The goal of the verification is to prevent something bad happening to the account holder and what I’m trying to do shouldn’t really raise any flags there.  B) It’s pretty obvious based upon my knowledge of the account that I’m likely the guy (who the hell else would waste their time?).  Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get over the hump, so I asked for a supervisor who ultimately gave permission (not surprising, the rep just didn’t want to stick her neck out…I can understand that).

Alright, now we should get rolling!  The cust svc rep tells me they turned off both my long distance (greater than 50 miles) AND my local toll calling service (15-50 miles) that I had intended to keep.  No problem, we’ll just turn it back on, right?

Cust Svc:  As part of the agreement with the sale, the service you previously had is no longer available at the $11.95 you were paying before.  However, we can offer our new program at $30.00 / month.

Me:  Hahah…I’m sure you can see how that doesn’t really work for me?  I really don’t see how I’m going to end up paying more for a service that I did not ask to be turned off.

Cust Svc:  I understand, but I’m not sure there is anything I can do.

What was interesting here is that the rep I was speaking with seemed fairly competent, but just a bit rigid in her thinking.  Instead of looking for a way out, she just kept seeing roadblocks.  This is very common…and frustrating.

Cust Svc:  Let’s call the old company and if they still show you with service or can get you signed up with what you had before, I think we can fix the problem.

Ok, now we’re making progress, albeit slowly.  So, we call up the old phone company for a 3-way to figure this stuff out.  You may recall in my previous post that I had a very difficult time communicating with the representative.  What I didn’t mention is that it was very obvious the cust service at the old phone company was being done from an outsourced location in a different country.  Honestly, I have had many great experiences with business done via outsourcing, so it’s really no big deal to me.  Unfortunately, the service provider in this case didn’t really seem to have the staff to do the job as the rep we got was about as helpful as the last one…not very.

This is where the story becomes a bit more difficult to tell.  Not that it’s so complex, but that it would require a lot of typing to give you the whole exchange, so let me just give you some highlights:

  • Old Phone Company Rep could not verify for us whether or not I had the service that was turned off…it took a terribly long time to get him to figure this out
  • The old phone co rep said his name was “Kramer”.  This was very amusing because I doubt there are many guys named Kramer in that part of the world.  I suspect it was an alias.  While the rep would put us on hold, the new phone rep and I would wonder aloud whether or not they got to choose their alias or it was just given to them.  Also, we wondered if the managers got the “choice” names.  For example, a “Kramer” was only a rep, but if you ran into a “Henry”, you knew you were talking to the big cheese.  Anyway, I digress…..
  • “Kramer” kept coming back every 5 mins or so to tell us he was working on the problem and trying to fix it…if only we could hold just a little longer.  He must have done this at least a half dozen times
  • The new phone company rep and I began to learn quite a bit about each other.  How she and her husband met, how many kids they have, how they moved from one state to another and why.  We were literally on the phone for an hour while “Kramer” tried to solve this thing.  I really like to engage people, especially those I don’t know (it’s fun), so I didn’t mind so much.
  • Finally, I told Kramer that we could not stay on hold for perpetuity (it was already time for the new phone rep to go home for the day) and we needed to talk with a supervisor
  • “Carlos” the supervisor (both the new phone rep and I laughed out loud) finally came on and within 5 mins he had solved the whole thing.  What was really funny, however, is that the reason my service got turned off is because you can not unbundle the long distance and the toll call package to get it at $11.95.  Had they told me that in my first painful call, none of this would have happened in the first place.  So, for all that time and trouble, I saved absolutely nothing. 

The new phone rep and I said our teary goodbyes (we were of course long time friends by now) and the saga was over…really.  Anyway, I’m sure my little story has been repeated many times over, but it’s one of those things where you’ve just got to stand back and laugh a little (else you’ll cry).   Life…gotta love it.



1. Wil - May 18, 2007

I bow to your incredible patience in the face of painfully stupid customer service. You are right about the laughter though. Too many times, this kind of stuff just irks you to the point where you act out against innocent people. Kudos to you for not doing it.

2. Moneymonk - May 18, 2007

Wow you are patient. But I cannot blame the rep for saying she cannot discuss the acct without verification. It is not her fault.

Kudos to you for laughing all of it off.

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