I just wasted half an hour on the telephone, getting a confirmation of my belief that AT&T Broadband is run by idiots. Yesterday, our malfunctioning digital cable box was replaced. Last night, the digital channels to which we have subscribed for two years came in fine. This evening, they were gone, replaced by a "Not Authorized" notice. I called the AT&T customer service number and, after a few minutes of going through their automated menu, was connected to one of those cheery-voiced representatives who (presumably) has been taught all the basics of dealing with a customer's problems. Following a string of questions not particularly pertinent to the issue, and great deal of dithering about, she informed me that the channels we had been watching, and paying for, for two years were not part of our service, and thus had never been there. We were renting a digital terminal and remote, for an extra $4.80 a month, but did not subscribe to the digital channels. She was most likely a bit too dense to realize that her implication was that we were fools for buying something useless to us.
Patiently, I explained (again) that we did in fact receive those channels, and had for two years. She countered that the information in her records showed that we did not. I informed her that her information was undoubtedly mistaken. She again insisted that we did not get those channels. I said that I had, indeed, been watching those channels for two years. And this is where it got revealing. She said "No, you haven't!"
Now, I know that the drones hired by corporations to work their customer service lines are not the brightest or most motivated people in the world, but I had been unaware of the fact that they were so poorly trained that they would call customers liars. When I said that I knew
what channels I had been watching, she again informed me that those channels had never been part of our service and, thus, I had not seen them. At this point, I asked to speak to a supervisor. When she said that she had already spoken to a supervisor, and that they had agreed that the missing channels had never been part of our service, I insisted that I wanted to speak to a supervisor, nevertheless. She agreed, in her cheery, yet astonishingly rude voice. Goodness!
I thought. Does she kiss her boss's ass with that mouth?
Suddenly, I had visions of being passed up the chain of incompetents until I reached the secretary to the president of the corporation, who would tell me that the president was unavailable because he was golfing with Charlton Heston, George W. Bush, and Satan. "It's their weekly foursome," the secretary would say. "Please call back some other time. Thank you for calling AT&T, a subsidiary of The Corporate States of America - Prince of Darkness On Line. Please try our Cheesy Poofs!"
There was plenty of time for such fancies, as I was on hold for fifteen minutes. (Note to corporations everywhere: One of the best ways not
to treat an insulted and already irritated customer is to force them to listen to fifteen minutes of that insipid
hold "music." It will usually turn simple irritation into inchoate rage.) At long last, the supervisor answered, with the standard meaninngless and insincere apology for the delay. (Just once, I'd like to hear one of them answer with something such as "Sorry it took so long, dude. I was getting a hummer." That, at least, would provide me with some compensatory entertainment for the waste of my time.) Had something of that sort been said by this
supervisor, though, chances are that I wouldn't have understood it. He had an unidentifiable accent so thick as to be nearly unintelligible. After re-explaining the problem, I was put on hold again for a couple of minutes. (More of that music that would make Kenny G wince.) When the supervisor returned, he said the same thing the previous operator had said; that the missing channels were not really missing, because they were not, and never had been, part of our service. When I again insisted that I had indeed been getting these channels, he said "Then you must have been getting them without paying for them."
Was this progress, I wondered? I had gone from being called a liar to being called a thief. From a mere social pariah, I had been promoted to the ranks of the criminals. Briefly, I thought that I might have been too hasty in considering these statements insults. Perhaps being called a liar and a thief by representatives of a major American corporation was a complement. Maybe they were saying that I was, myself just like one of those corporations!
Perhaps there was hope that, one day, I
would be invited to golf with George W. Bush and Satan! Clearly, the hold "music" had addled my brain. I discarded these notions, and repeated my statement that the digital channels had been listed on my bill for two years.
Knowing now that I was an imbecile, and probably a stalker, and undoubtedly a terrorist, the supervisor called upon all his skills as a telephone representative of one of the world's greatest corporations. With great patience, he explained to me that, if I would look at my cable bill, I would see that I paid only for standard cable and a digital terminal and remote. I then read to him the list of items for which we had been billed on our most recent statement: Standard cable, digital remote, digital terminal, digital cable. He said "Uh...."
He said, "Uh..could you hold on a minute, please?"
I feared the return of the "music," but heard only a bit of muttering in the background, in which I caught the heavily accented words "Oh, is that
what that is?" A bit more muttering. Then the supervisor's voice again. "
"Sir, could you check those channels now?" I did so, and there they were.
"Yeah, they're back now," I said.
"Is there anything else we can help you with tonight?"
"Thankfully, no," I replied.
"Okay. Thank you for calling AT&T Broadband. Good-bye."
Somehow, I doubt that his "Thank you" was sincere. Also, it was a bit of an anticlimax. No apology. No "Crap! I'm too stupid even for this
shitty job!" Well, all I can say is that, if I don't get a free bag of AT&T Cheesy Poofs, and one of Satan's autographed
golf balls, I'm bitching to Planet Feedback!