AND THEN, THERE’S AT&T – Marilyn Armstrong

I swear that I’m at that point with AT&T where I’d rather chip half an inch of ice off the car than talk to anyone at AT&T.

Yesterday, they delivered the telephone that goes with the plan. Whatever plan that turned out to be. I actually had no idea what the plan was. Each time I talked to someone, they had no idea what I was talking about. I kept getting computer-generated emails telling me I had to pay $80 or $90 next month and $50 or $60 thereafter. I signed up for their 300-minute plan that comes with a free flip phone.

Yes, they still make flip phones. They are just like the old ones. In fact, I these really might be the same flip phones we used 20 years ago. They sure look the same, although they have a calendar and a camera. I’m not expecting much of a camera and for reasons that are obscure to me, it didn’t import my Google contact, but apparently, it will accept the information if I can figure out how to enter my email address and password into the flip phone.

Right now, I can’t actually turn it on and off successfully. It’s one button that turns it on and turns it off, but you hold it longer to turn it off. If you hold it too long, it starts up again. Meanwhile, the on/off button on the side doesn’t do anything as far as I can tell. I wonder if this thing will ever work. I despair as I try to read what they humorously call “the user guide.”

I went to the site where they are supposed to tell me how to set up the phone and they never heard of it, but the setup site never heard of the phone. I was forced to (gods of olden days please protect me) call AT&T.

I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the phone on or move the cursor. She did turn the SIM on, but it didn’t have any information on it. But, it turns out, there IS a manual for the telephone. Not a good manual, but a “better than nothing” manual. I’m sure you know what I mean. Written by a software program, no humans involved.

“Why,” I asked, “Didn’t they include the manual with the phone? Is there some law against giving basic instructions to users?”

“This is the packaging for this phone, and it doesn’t include the manual,” she explained.

“Lady, I used to write manuals. You ALWAYS include the manual with the device. That’s the point of having the manual. When you get the device, you can make it work and you don’t have to spend three days on the telephone with AT&T.”

She said she was sorry, but she could give me a link to the manual online. I said “FINE. Let’s do that.”

But it wouldn’t come up so we had to clear my browser data and NOT sign me into AT&T and then figure out what phone it was because the only thing it said was AT&T. My home phones are also AT&T, but they don’t actually make them. I think they might be Unidyne ripoffs, but I’m not sure. They work and that’s all that matters.

In this case, she had no idea who made the phone, so I pried open the back and said: “The battery is an Alcatel, so I’m betting that’s who actually made the phone.”

And sure enough, Alcatel made the phone. Got the manual. Downloaded it. Saved it in two places — desktop and on Google — and then she asked me if I need any more help. I said: “No, I’ve had enough of AT&T to last me the rest of my life. I’m going to eat dinner, watch some television and try to never think about AT&T again as long as I live.”

Long pause.

“Thank you for your patience in letting me assist you.”

“If you’d included the manual, you wouldn’t have had to assist me.”

“Well, thank you for being a loyal customer.”

“You’re welcome. Now I’m going to eat my dinner.” And I hung up before she could say anything more. I couldn’t cope with another thank you for being a loyal customer because being a loyal AT&T customer doesn’t feel like a great thing at the moment.

Oh, and by the way, after a lot of conversation yesterday on the phone — I’ve had three days of dealing with AT&T, not to mention half a dozen computer-generated NOT the real bill — I am paying $29.99 a month plus local taxes. The phone cost $3.78 for shipping. That’s it. I am saving about $20 a month … and I nearly lost my mind in the process.

The phone still doesn’t really work, but I can turn it on, turn it off, and enter a phone number and probably, it will call the number. Pretty sure.

I did eventually get it to accept my wi-fi, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, right?

THERE’S NO GOOD TIME TO CALL AT&T – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Affable

Affable. I was in a pretty good mood when we got home from shopping, or at least as good as I feel after shopping when I have a cold and forgot to buy eggs. That was probably why I thought it was a good time to call AT&T and get my rates dropped. I’ve been overpaying for my phone for more than a decade and I was determined to GET the lower rates this time.

First, there is NO good time to call AT&T. No one knows anything. They transfer you back and forth and half the numbers they give you don’t work. Even when you get the right person, they don’t know anything. No one takes notes so you have to explain the problem over and over and over and by the fourth time I was repeating the same story, I was just plain pissed.

What I had done — THOUGHT I had done — was to transfer from my $53/month plan to the $29.99 plan which is part of the “Senior Nation” set of benefits for we old folks.

This required that I have an un-smart phone.

I wanted an un-smart phone in the first place because I don’t use the internet on the phone. If I want the internet, for this I have multiple computers. But our telephone distributor (they are morons there, too) said they didn’t have any, couldn’t get any — so you had a choice of a smartphone or? A smartphone.

We ended up with this Galaxy Samsung Google phone which does whatever it does pretty well, far as I can tell — but they only thing I do with it is to make an occasional phone call … like when we are on the road and lost (always lost, always and forever), or if the power is out and we have to call the electric company.

I don’t use it on the internet. I don’t use it to update banking or to text. I actually don’t know how to text. That’s embarrassing, I realize, but I simply haven’t done it … so I don’t know how. Garry doesn’t know how either. But Garry is anti-technical and I’m supposed to know all this stuff. I do know a lot of stuff, but texting isn’t one of them. Shoot me, but there it is. I also cannot change the ink in my printer. I hate printers and I refuse to even try.

After making this arrangement to get on the low-cost plan and get a free flip phone (yes, they still make them), I got a bill from AT&T informing me that I’d changed my plan and would now be paying them $90 next month and $60 for each month after that — which is significantly more than I’m currently playing. For having done absolutely nothing except try to lower my bill.

No mention of the senior plan. No mention of the free phone. No mention of nothing.

I called back. No one knew what I was talking about, but they kept transferring me from one department (who knew nothing) to another department (which knew nothing). Finally, I called back and said: “I’ve had it. Either you fix this right now or I’m leaving AT&T. You people are driving me CRAZY.” I have been an AT&T customer for about 15 years and there was a time when they actually had really good customer service.

Ah, those were the days. We were so young, so optimistic.

Phones

So eventually, I got the $29.99 (+ taxes, et al) and can use the phone I’ve got OR the one they are actually sending me. I don’t think you can transfer a smartphone SIM card to a flip phone. I’ll deal with that IF I ever get another phone. My current phone is five years old, but it looks brand new, probably because effectively, it IS brand new. I don’t use it. It lives in my bag and is usually off.

So much for affable.

At this point, I’m plain pissed off, even though I think (I hope, I believe) I have the issue dealt with. But who knows? I may get another bill any minute. Nothing like a long afternoon on the phone with customer service to finish off your good mood of the day.

Now I’m watching the news. The final crunch. I have such a nasty headache, too.

WHINING AND RESIGNING – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not going to do it. I want to. I need a good whine. .

Because we all have days like this. The kind of day when by the end of it, you want to resign. Not from blogging, but from the humanity. I want to just throw it all in and hide. Permanently.

Whatever that means. 

Yet I know I will feel better, if not tomorrow, than very soon. At which point, all the whining will just be embarrassing.

Meanwhile, gotta tell ya — there are days when it totally doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Of course, those are exactly the days when you have no choice because there’s so much you need to do. Today is going to be nasty, too.

Today was the kind of day when it feels as if no matter what you do, someone is fighting you. Everything is a battle. Nothing goes smoothly. You get disconnected a dozen times. You’re on the phone forever and in the end, banging your head into the wall sounds like a healthy alternative to everything else you’ve done that day.

But, I am not resigning from humanity. For one thing, I’m not sure to whom I’d hand the resignation. For another, after resigning, what’s next? Can I become one of my dogs?

I guess I’ll hang around.

I’m not going to give you the details. Even thinking about writing it makes me want to scream.

RESERVED PRESERVED UNDESERVED UNNERVED AND JUST PLAIN PISSED OFF

This could be a poem. It rhymes, after all. 


I just had one of those mornings where you try to fix something that should be no sweat. Instead of getting it fixed, you are stopped dead in your tracks by robotic phone responders, even more robotic humans, rules designed to make sure no one can really help anyone. Long holds on telephone lines and them telling you every other minute that your business is really important to them. And in the end, you get disconnected  and have to do it again. The hours roll by like a barren wasteland. Eventually, you stop caring. It can’t really be that important, can it?

You can’t reserve a place in the next queue, either. Even though you’ve explained your situation — in this case, explaining to your bank that after those five declines of your bank card shouldn’t have happened, and after which, ALL the declines have been reversed and now the bank is taking those repeated (obviously errors) from your account.  It is their error, not yours but somehow, it’s still your problem.

In the course of this, you discover for reasons unknown, the bank has converted your simple savings account into a money market account and have been charging you $12 a month while paying you a whopping $0.83 in interest every year! What a deal!

Local bank — and no it is NOT better than the bigger bank. Trust me. It might be worse.

Calling your bank, getting transferred, disconnected. Begging for a claim number or any number that will get you live entry into the next queue, from which you will likely be bounced to a yet another department. With and without a disconnection. Knowing you have reached your exhaustion point. You don’t care if you get the money back. All you want is hot coffee and a shot of adrenaline.

But let’s find the good parts.

Aren’t you glad you fixed that ridiculous savings account? You didn’t get done what you came to do, but at least you got done something done. If you hadn’t been hanging around your bank’s software for so many hours, you’d never have realized you had a problem. See? All good.

How many times did I plead for a reservation, a claim number, a person to talk to. A human conversation sans robots. The day vanishes while I hang by the phone. After a while, I wasn’t mad anymore. Too tired to be mad, to weary to whine.

Yet another bank.

This is how they do it. They get you so exhausted dealing with them you give up and crawl off to a quiet corner where you can suck your thumb in peace. It’s a fantastic system and …

It works. You never fix the problem. They get to keep your money for nothing. Life goes on. Dammit … I WANT MY MONEY BACK!

Banks. They are scum. Every last one of them.

PERSONAL UN-FAVORITES DIS-SERVICES

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. Because it wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until about 2002. At which point everyone decided to save money by (A) “automating” customer service (B) eliminating service entirely, or (C) shipping it overseas to be handled by people who barely speak English and don’t know anything about the products. That was when you and me, the customers — we who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services — became unimportant.

That was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.


The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if possible.
All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”


Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

My personal un-favorites include:

  1. Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching.
  2. Calls that display a caller ID as a familiar phone number, but which they’ve hacked. Sometimes, it’s your OWN number. Why would you answer that?
  3. Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of cancer research, who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.
  4. “Surveys” that are scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.
  5. “Discount cards” which are just another way to collect your personal information so their company can sell it. You may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.
  6. Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t remember the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on forever. Worse, you have to listen to the whole spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …”  Recently was a year ago, sometimes even longer. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

CustServCartoon

Many companies no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company used to have customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi. And no one has a real landline anymore — they are all cable lines.

If your entire life is online, it’s over when your power goes out, which is why I have real things — like books and magazines — I can use even by candlelight. Imagine that! AND I have DVDs that play when the cable is out! Whoo hoo!

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

Death cust serv

Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers (one of whom is the owner and the other, one of his kids) are probably chatting on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

There are still some good services out there. Blue Cross has one of them, by the way … and ironically, so does both Social Security and Medicare. If you bump into any others, be sure to tell them how wonderful they are. Maybe it will become contagious.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP – KAFKA AND DIRECT TV – BY TOM CURLEY

The following story is true. The names have not been changed because I didn’t really get any of them anyway.

I’ve had Optimum cable as my TV, telephone and internet service for years. My cell phone provider was Verizon. I had no complaints. They all worked great.  Life was fine.

Then Ellin and I decided we should try to cut down some of our expenses. A friend who works for AT&T as a store sales representative told us to switch to AT&T and get Direct TV.

It would be great and we’d save money. I didn’t think we’d save that much but I’d had a Direct TV account for years. I only used it on my boat for six months each year. Spending the extra money for that account and Optimum was costing too much money, so I closed it.  I figured that now, if we had DirectTV for the whole house, I could also go back to getting it on the boat. That would be a plus

So, we did it. They said they would cover any cost for switching phones. Except they didn’t. They paid some. But not all. But okay, fine.

They set up our house for Direct TV.  I asked if they could switch the box on my boat that I had actually bought and owned for years  to our new account.  They said no, they can’t do that. Those boxes don’t work anymore.

“But”, I said, “it works just fine”. They said  it doesn’t matter.

“OK, can you send me a new box? It has to be Standard definition not an HD box because my antenna on the boat only gets SD channels.”

“No”, they said.  They don’t carry DirectTV standard boxes. THEIR OWN BOXES. I would have to buy one from a third-party. I said, “OK, where do I get one?” They said they had no idea. So I bought one from Amazon. Except that apparently, the company Amazon gets them from is either out of business or just doesn’t have any. So, now, my only option is to install a Dish Network box that does work that I do own. and pay extra money for six months every year. Just like I was doing before. Totally negating the reason I did all this to begin with.  These are “”first world problems” to be sure. But come on!

There goes the “saving a few bucks.”

At this point, I have spent about two hundred dollars more than I would have by switching  the phone carriers and I’m gaining nothing by switching to DirectTV.  I could just go back to the way things were. But I can’t. If I do I have to pay three or four hundred dollars in “Early Termination Fees”.

OK, fine. Live and learn. But I haven’t gotten to the good part . To quote Al Jolson. “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”

eli.com

I recently got a 4K TV. It’s amazing. After having it a few weeks I noticed that DirectTV had some 4K channels.

Cool. So I went to one and the TV said, “You don’t have a 4K TV”.

I said ” I most certainly do!” The TV ignored me. Even though it has some kind of voice activation feature, it’s not a very good listener. After doing a little research I found out that I need a “special 4K DirectTV box.”

The service is free. Or at least that’s what they say on their website. So, what the hell. I call them up, I order one and last Monday a technician came out and set it up. Fine. But then we started to notice that the audio kept cutting out. Just for a second. It did it every four minutes. It did it on every channel,  HD channels, 4K channel, recorded programs. Everywhere. And only on that box.

I did a quick Google search and found literally hundreds of thousands of complaints that the DirectTV 4K box is defective. The audio cuts out.

Notice where it says about 108,000 results

Many people also complained that it sometimes turns their TV off on its own and frequently just locks up and doesn’t work at all.

I didn’t have that problem. Until two days later when my TV would turn off and lock up about every five minutes. And every person complaining pointed out that no matter how many times they had their box switched out for a new one, none of them worked.

Did I mention the fact that for the privilege of getting the “FREE” 4K service, I was charged 160 dollars in fees? 99 dollars of that was to apparently buy the box that I would then have to pay a monthly fee to lease!

So, I called DirectTV back. Spending the half hour necessary to finally talk to a human. I was very calm. I explained that this box is defective. I wanted it removed and my old box replaced. I wanted my money refunded. I wanted any extensions on my contract removed. They said sure. They apologized profusely. It took about an hour but they told my money was refunded and my contract was not being extended.  They set up an appointment to have a technician come out Monday. Exactly one week later and switch out the boxes.

I haven’t gotten to the good part yet.

I get an automated call from DirectTV telling me the service tech is on his way! And the visit will take one hour and 15 minutes.  I chuckled. All he had to do was to plug to the box into the wall and into the TV.  Easy! Five minutes tops.

A nice man comes to the door. I hand him the 4K box and tell him where to put the new one.

But he can’t do it. The order was put in wrong. This is supposed to be a service call. I need an upgrade!

“It’s not an upgrade” I say. “I’m trading a 4K box for an HD box. If anything it’s a downgrade.

So he calls it in to get it changed. Did you know that DirectTV technicians have to go through the same voicemail automated hell that we all do to talk to one of their own supervisors?  You’d think they’d have a back door number or something to help those poor guys out.

When he finally  got a hold of someone and explained what was going on, he was informed that they could only make the exchange if I paid a 120 dollar fee for the “Upgrade”to replace the equipment. That until a week ago I ALREADY HAD!

The tech then told his boss. “I don’t think that’s going to happen”.  I spent the next ten minutes explaining the situation. I told the boss that on Friday, when I cancelled the service, I was ASSURED that everything was taken care of and that I would have no problems at all.  So of course, I got transferred to her supervisor.

someecards.com

I went  through the entire story AGAIN.

She transferred me to her supervisor.

And we did the dance again. This one said she could take care of me but for some reason it took her about 25 minutes to find this out. The “upgrade fee” would be waived. But to do that I had to pay 22 dollars from a credit card that would then be refunded to my DirectTV account.

At this point I was beaten. Sure, fine. Do it. Make the “upgrade.”

memegen

Another ten minutes go by. She keeps telling  me she’s almost there.

Almost there.

Almost there.

I just have to put in these two things and…..

I’m on hold. I’m hearing that horrible “on hold” Musak.  “Hello? Hello? You still there? Hello?” And this is what I hear. “Your call is important to us. Please stand by for the next available representative.”

The tech goes,” You gotta be kidding me.”

“Well all righty then” spectrumculture.com

So we wait.

For almost 30 minutes.

And we finally get a person. AND WE GO THROUGH THE WHOLE DANCE ALL OVER AGAIN.  After another 15 minutes of silence she says that they have to DROP SHIP A NEW BOX TO MY HOUSE!  It will take at least five days. And then a tech will have to come out and install it!!!!

But, I say, “He’s already here!!!! He is holding the box in his hand!!!!!”

“Sorry. That’s the only way we can do it.”

At this point I told them to forget the whole thing. I’ll keep the box. The tech and I shook hands and he left.

To sum up, in order to “save a few bucks” I now have no DirectTV on my boat and a 4K UHD receiver plugged into an old analog TV in my guest room that doesn’t even get HD. And I think I’m paying extra each month for the privilege of owning what is basically a paper weight.

My audio theater group performs a very funny piece called Till Death Do Us Not Part.”  You can click here to hear it. It’s about a guy calling the cable company to cancel his dead father’s cable account.  We tried to make it as absurd as possible. This real-life experience exposed levels of absurdity that even my twisted brain could not in a million years, ever conceive.  The shear incompetence and insanity of the DirectTV bureaucracy rivals that of the current President and his administration.

Franz Kafka is going. “Wow, they are seriously fucked up.”

jobsanger.blogspot.com

What have I learned from all of this?

When things are working just fine, leave them the hell alone. You are never ever ever going to save money by switching your cable or your phone company.

And when you want to “save a few bucks”? Just cut out a few coffees at Starbucks.

will-blog-for-food.com

 

 

ANOTHER DAY WITH CUSTOMER DISSERVICE

As soon as I saw that Microsoft was planning to make “updates” and “downloads” automatic for Windows 10, I knew it was going to be trouble. I had managed to completely evade Windows 8 and 8.5. I had stuck with Windows 7 and been really grateful, but a bunch of newer apps were coming out and they wouldn’t work on Windows 7. These included several new graphics packages and the reader for Audible.

It’s not that the windows Audible reader was good. It stunk, but it stunk less than the alternatives. The only other option I’d been offered was to listen online only and I have strong reservations about that. What happens on an airplane? In the doctor’s office? In the car?

They designed, finally, a new reader … but it would only work on Windows 10. The old “reader” was barely crawling along the virtual ground and several graphics packages just stopped working.

I got a new computer and yes, Windows. Because Apple is great, but I’ve never been  happy with its floating operating system. I like more organization than that. And I have a fairly big investment in Windows applications. So … I got this computer. Which is great. Remarkable. Fast, powerful. Terrific computer. And the first version of Windows 10 with which it arrived was a breeze to use. I should have known it wouldn’t last.

Windows makes operating system decisions based on what their Public Relation Department tells them is good. It has to be that because it isn’t based on conversations with users. As soon as I happily settled down, they decided to massively upgrade the BIOS, which killed a lot of applications. Killed the sound. Made a godawful mess and as I gradually unraveled from the quagmire and made peace with the new system — which included downloading and installing an entirely new version of Windows 10 Pro — I realized that they had no idea what the problems were. I eventually doped out how to fix everything.

This was another one of Those Days. Somewhere along the line, they downloaded something that ruined the fix I made the last time. Which was because my customer service top of the drawer super high-quality experts didn’t know when you have two hard drives, you can only recover the one on which the operating system resides. In this case, my solid state drive.

So I already knew that you can’t recover both drives. I back up the data on the D drive on external drives and I count on “recovery” to manage the operating system, registry, et al. Everything had been going well, so I had no reason to recover anything or roll anything back. This morning, WordPress got wonky. I tried to roll it back and realized Microsoft had completely changed the interface and the restore/recover function was effectively gone. What’s more, all my previous recovery saves were gone and all of the ones they had logged contained both C and D drives. Which meant none of them would work, but I (pointlessly) tried anyway.

Not only that, but they have eliminated the interface that lets you define which drive you want backed up. In fact, they eliminated the entire recovery interface. You could replace Windows (and save your data), but you couldn’t back up to a previous point in time. And the helpers couldn’t help me. They tried to restore me to an earlier version of Windows that had a recovery option, but it failed and finally, I tried deleting everything in the recovery folder and setting it up from scratch. That worked.

This is because I have bookmarked the older interface items which have the selections to make this stuff work.

I never ever call customer service on the telephone. I only confer online by text. Why? Because if I’m on the phone, I’m going to start to foam at the mouth and yell terrible things at the people who would like to help me, but don’t know enough.

Oh, and the updates don’t show up in the notification section anymore. You have to go into settings and look for them. They will never tell you what is coming, why it is coming, what is likely to happen, and how many — any? — of your existing application will still work after the updates.

I’m not that picky. I’ll take an email that warns me of what is coming, why, gives me the right to reject any I feel will damage my system. We should all demand of whoever who builds our operating systems to at least have minimal authority to say “no” until they convince us that “yes” is a better answer.

Use the chat function. Yelling is bad for vocal chords.