YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP – DIRECT TV AND KAFKA – 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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG … OR MAYBE NOT

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I was in Israel for nearly 9 years, from the very beginning of 1979 through the end of 1987. I sort of missed the 1980s and from everything I’ve been hearing about it, I didn’t miss much. A few TV shows, but with all the reruns available everywhere these days, I’m catching up on them.

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More interesting is that I came from a high-tech world in Israel and returned to a high-tech world here. It wasn’t quite high-tech when I left, but it was considering it. There were many new ideas that would morph into even more new ideas.

Video discs, which, I think, eventually became DVDs. Other parts of the same thing became the life-force of “computer-generated” creations we now see everywhere. I left at the beginning of this mad rush to technology and came back in the middle of it, a hardened veteran of the high-tech wars. I went directly from what I’d been doing in Israel — documenting software — to documenting software. Here. I’m pretty sure that some of it was the same stuff I’d worked on in Israel.

Yet, for all my high-tech-ness, there are things from which I will never recover.

IT’S NOT WORKING! WHAT’LL I DO?

You’d think this would only happen if a major piece of equipment punks out.

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You’d be right, most of the time. Except — I don’t know how many times I reinstalled operating systems for machinery that had a loose plug. I just needed to … plug it in. To the machine. Sometimes, to the wall.

OH NO! MY CAMERA IS DEAD!

I panic when I turn on my camera and I can’t see anything.

“Oh NO! My camera just died.”

Total panic. Full hysteria. Something is terribly wrong and I … Oh. Never mind. My camera didn’t die. I forgot to take the lens cap off. What a ninny.

CALLING FOR HELP

Despite my frenzy of panic, I have never called tech support because I forgot to remove the lens cap … or because I needed to push the plug back in the wall. This isn’t because I’m too smart for that. I’m plenty dumb enough, thank you. It’s that I don’t like having to call customer service for any reason.

It’s my last port of call, when all else has failed. Most of the time, I’m grateful. And, in the end, most things “fix themselves.” Unplug it, count to ten, and plug it back in. Fixed.

You will never find out what was wrong anyway. If rebooting doesn’t work, sometimes making a sandwich, eating it, and coming back to the desk will take care of it. Like, 90% of the time.

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I had a boss who commented there really is a reason for everything that happens. The problem is, the amount of time and effort it would take to discover exactly what went wrong can take weeks. At which point you’ll discover it didn’t matter anyway.

You have to make decisions about what matters. First, reboot.

THE SPIDER ON THE CEILING IS IN THE BED

Yesterday morning, there was a spider in my bed. This is a bad thing. Not merely do I not like spiders (okay, I’m terrified of spiders), but a spider in my bed can cause me to stay up all night and refuse to leave the sofa in the living room. Yesterday, it was there. In my bed. And Garry was in the shower. By the time I could extract him from the shower, who knows what that spider might be doing.

But it wasn't quite this large

But it wasn’t quite this large

I solved the problem. I got paper towels and screamed hysterically while I removed the spider from the bed. Garry can’t hear me when I scream (no hearing aids in the shower), so I just screamed. A lot.

Having removed the spider. I (later) asked Garry how there could be a spider in the bed? Practical man, he said probably one of the packages I’d brought in from outside had a spider on it.

“Oh,” I said. “That makes sense.” Because until that moment, I was ready to tear the entire room to pieces to find that lair of spiders.

Just saying.

AND FINALLY, THE COMPUTER IS FIXED. ENTIRELY. FIXED.

I installed the new operating system, taking everything down to zero. Rebuilt both drives. Added software for documents and photography. Added the plug-ins that I use more than the software. Added back all my photographs, then deleted half of them because what’s the point in having things on back-up drives if you put everything on your hard drives anyhow?

Then, I added the printer, sent a test page, and it printed. It’s 9:40 pm. I’ve been at this since ten this morning. I am one weary cookie.

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This doesn’t sound like much until you realize that merely downloading and installing the operating system is a two-hour job — on this computer. On a different computer, it would have been a much longer job. This computer is fast.

What really took a long time was downloading the photographs and the OpenOffice desktop application. The photographs, originally just over 68,000 of them, took about an hour and a half. Then it took me another hour to delete about a third of them. They all exist either in my site, or on both of the hard drives. They are not gone, merely … in hiding.

OpenOffice is a huge application and it’s free. I usually send them a little money anyway because they do such a great  job at creating a full-service application, but their servers are slow. It was nearly two hours downloading the files. Setting them up took a few minutes.

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My favorite was in Devices/Printers. I wanted to install my printer. When I added the printer, I got a mini-app which requested some kind of installation or other (?) number.

What?

I had no idea what they wanted, but I went dutifully to my printer. I found a serial code, wrote it on a piece of paper. Came back. Typed it into the file. Hit ENTER.


“Sorry, that didn’t work out. Please check further for the correct number.”

I sighed. It had been a long day. This was the absolutely last thing I had to do. The very last thing. I wanted to be finished, done, ended. So, on a whim, I clicked ‘Install New Printer’ again. Clicked the printer … and without asking for anything, it installed all the files and was up and running in a cat’s meow.

What? What about that serial or whatever number? No? Don’t need it after all? Okay, then.

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I know doing a full computer installation can take a really long time, but I needed this to be finished. I was beginning to lose it. I have shockingly little patience with watching things load, download, upload, and in a pinch, side load.

As of this writing, I feel totally loaded.

But you know what’s really super hilariously funny?

I didn’t need to do this. They had given me incorrect information about the recovery function. All it needed was one click. I didn’t need this whole big deal. I didn’t need to spend almost 10 hours installing and loading. I suppose the good news is that everything is working brilliantly, but … I just needed someone to give me the right directions on how to use the recovery function.

I believe I have a headache. Then again, who wouldn’t?

STUPIDIZATION

Thinking is out of fashion. Brains are dead gray lumps of matter. They have no use, but are merely taking up space inside our skulls. How do I know this?

Last week Charter turned off first our cable box, then, our telephone. Eventually they re-provisioned the telephone and some hours later, they fixed our cable box. Since then, our phone has been wonky. It rings, but when I answer it, there’s just silence. Or I call and I hear someone pick up, but all I hear after that is … nothing.

It’s intermittent. Sometimes, it works, other times, not. And we all know that an intermittent problems is the hardest to pin down.

My best friend and I had a whole afternoon of trying to talk to each other by phone and only because we are both very determined, stubborn women did we finally connect. Her cell phone will not speak to my landline and it doesn’t matter who calls who. Something is broken.

Today, I tried to get an appointment with my oncologist. Not only is it that time of year again, but I have a hard thing in one breast that I need to make sure isn’t serious. I don’t think it is. I think it’s scar tissue. Adhesions, if you like. However, I can’t simply ignore it. I had to make an appointment with my oncologist at Dana-Farber.

No answer at the front desk, so I left a message to call me back. They tried, but could not get through. I called them again, but I couldn’t get through. Eventually, I got through using a different number — and they got back to me using sheer persistence.

With utmost reluctance and trepidation, I realized I was going to have to call Charter. Again. I had no way to know how many calls I had missed. I couldn’t continue to ignore the problem.

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The call went surprisingly well. I got through to an agent in record time … a couple of minutes, even including my usual hostility fueled interface with the robotic telephone interference system. I got a fellow who found my account and quickly ascertained that the phone was not holding the signal after connection. He said there was no point in trying to fix it remotely. He would have to send an actual human technician to see what’s wrong. Holy expletive, Batman! He also said he’d put a note in the record so the tech would know to come even if I didn’t answer the call, being as I wasn’t consistently able to receive calls.

Two hours later, the phone rang. I could see it was Charter Communications, but surprise! Only silence from the other end. I took courage in hand and called them back. After getting a person — navigating the robot was a little more difficult this time — I got a young lady. I explained they had called me and I needed to know why. Eventually, she ascertained that it must have something to do with my appointment with the technician for the day after tomorrow.

I said, yes, indeed. Our phone was only intermittently able to receive calls, which is why we needed the technician. She explained that the technician’s have to call to confirm the appointment, or they won’t come. I took a deep breath and pointed out that the guy who is coming is the telephone technician whose job it is to fix broken phone service. And that there should be notes to that effect in my file.

She averred that this was true. She said she would try to make sure that the technician — THE TELEPHONE REPAIR TECHNICIAN — understood that OUR PHONE ISN’T WORKING PROPERLY and he could not rely on getting telephone call through to us.


“Do you have an alternate phone number?” she asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Because he will need to call you.”

“The phone is broken. He’s the phone technician. Don’t you think he should be able to put these two pieces of information together? Wouldn’t that suggest that calling me might not work out?”

“I suppose,” she said, tentatively. I could hear the doubt in her voice. She wasn’t entirely clear on how these separate pieces of information were related.

“Seriously, just tell him to come. Don’t call. Just show up. I promise, on my honor, we will be here. I cannot promise the phone will ring, or if it rings, that I will hear anything when I answer it. Because that’s the problem. That’s why he’s coming. That’s what he is supposed to fix.”


And that’s where we left it. Is it me? Am I expecting too much? Shouldn’t the guy coming to fix the phone be able to deduce that there’s a problem — some kind of malfunction — involving the telephone. Their telephone service. Ergo ipso, calling to confirm the appointment might not work out?

Are they putting something in the water? The air? Is this one of the effects of global climate change, the stupidization of humanity?

ADVENTURES WITH CHARTER CUSTOMER SERVICE

It started out to be a bummer of a day and went downhill from there.

We were not watching the inauguration. Pointedly not watching the inauguration. We had been planning all month to not watch the inauguration, so we hadn’t turned on the television. Meanwhile, in today’s mail I got a notice from Charter that the special, discounted rate that brought our monthly fee down from piratical to merely exorbitant, had expired.

customerservice-dilbertI called customer service. We had a disagreeable conversation about how they couldn’t do anything except reduce our package to 165 channels, 160 of which are shopping channels, religious channels, MTV, and radio stations. None of which we would ever use. It would remove all the sports channels, every movie channel including Turner Classics, leaving us with a hefty bill, the networks, and dyspepsia. I asked to be switched to the “customer retention” department because I was feeling in a very “unplug the bastards” mood.

Customer Retention is the department in charge of keeping folks like us from cutting the cord. They are the designated “let’s make a deal” department. I know the routine. I get to do this every year when they hike up my rates because whatever special deal or discount they gave me last time expired.

The little snot assured me there was absolutely nothing she — or anyone — could do. Assured me that “customer retention” would also be unable (unwilling) to help. I said “How about you connect me with them anyhow?” Still protesting, she transferred me.

Customer Retention offered me a $20 a month discount for a year. I said “thank you” but why couldn’t we just make some kind of arrangement so I don’t have to go through the same routine every January? He thought that was pretty funny. I heaved a deep sigh, thanked him, and hung up. Went to the kitchen to make dinner. Which was going to be almond-crusted salmon, except the salmon was full of bones. I was extracting fish bones with my tweezers when Garry called from the living room. The cable box had no signal. It wasn’t doing anything. I suggested he reboot again. If that didn’t work, I’d call Charter.

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I continued extracting salmon bones and Garry informed me he had rebooted twice. Still no signal. I was going to have to call Charter. Pull out my fingernails. Burn me with hot pokers. Stretch me on the rack. Waterboard me. But please, don’t make me call Customer Service.

Yet, there was naught else to be done. I called. Got The Robot. Couldn’t seem to get past the robot, so I called again and tried a different sequence of keys, eventually winding up at Technical Support. Nice guy. Couldn’t figure out what exactly was causing the problem, but he tried to fix it. Couldn’t. Finally said he was transferring me back to Customer Retention. Whatever they’d done had made it impossible for them to access my line.

Back at Customer Retention, some guy named Scott (or maybe it was Sean?) told me the discount he’d put through had, for some reason, failed to complete its journey and was clogging the pipes, so to speak. He did stuff and said he thought he was almost done. Just a minute more, he said … and I waited. And waited. And then, I realized I’d been disconnected. Furthermore, not only was the cable box not working, but now the telephone signal was dead. No dial tone. No TV.

I pulled the cell phone out of my bag. Called Charter Customer Service. Fought my way through the robot, the clueless secretary, eventually winding up back at tech support who transferred me to Customer Retention. They said my phone was working fine. I said no it wasn’t and I would appreciate them giving me back both my cable service and my telephone, please. And would they please try not to turn off the WiFi too?

And this is why I shop at Zappos. Because they say this and they mean it.

And this is why I shop at Zappos. Because they say this and they mean it.

They gave me an additional $50 a month discount for a year. Said they had done all they could from their end. Reconnected me with Tech Support. Who explained they had no idea why it wasn’t working, but it should start working. Any time now.

They couldn’t fix the phone. Not their department. Not to worry, though, it would all be fine. Eventually. Just , well, their servers were slower than usual. National events messing with us, no doubt. I didn’t bother to point out that from my perspective, they actually hadn’t fixed anything yet, but it was good to know that my bill would be lower.

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Telephone Service Department guy was very pleasant and had the best voice I’ve listened to in a long time. A rich, deep basso profundo that would put James Earl Jones to shame. He also got the phone working in short order. Not just a pretty voice. Sadly, he was unable to tell me why my cable box was still not working, but he was sure it would be working … maximum another hour. Or two. But maybe we should just not plan on television this evening.

I went back to the kitchen and tossed the salmon in the trash. I’d lost my enthusiasm for extracting fish bones. Garry offered to make a run to MacDonald’s. I said I wasn’t eating anything from anyplace with “Donald” in the name, so we had spaghetti. After we’d eaten and cleaned up, we rebooted the system.

No signal.

I rebooted again.

No signal.

I called Charter Customer Service. This time, the robot said it could tell I’d called before and was this the same problem? I shouted “YES!!” into the phone and was transferred to my favorite live person, the clueless secretary whose job it (apparently) is to prevent customers from talking to people who know something. I said I needed Customer Retention and she said I didn’t. I was getting hoarse and tired. Garry was sitting next to me with his head on the table, face down, gently banging his forehead.

Technical Support checked with Customer Retention. Assured me that everything was right as rain, no problem. I didn’t think I was being unreasonable when I asked how come I still didn’t have a signal? He said he was positive I would have a signal … maximum an hour. I said that was what the last guy said. He said he didn’t know why it was taking so long. I assured him that I had been asking myself that very question.

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We chatted pleasantly about this and that and he asked me how many times I’d called and I said honestly, I couldn’t remember, but it seemed like a lot. He repeated that he was sure it would all work itself out and maybe we should just not even try to watch TV this evening? Who’d want to watch it anyway … because … you know … whatsisname being inaugurated and all.

Two hours later, still no signal. We’re watching “Murdoch Mysteries” on AcornTV. Streaming video, the saving grace of modern viewing. We’ll catch up with our regular shows later. If anyone were to ask my about my day, I’d have to tell them my favorite moment was when while allegedly fixing the cable box, they disconnected telephone service. That was special, don’t you think?

I’m going to have to call Charter Customer Service. Again.

In total: eight calls. Six hours without cable service including three hours without telephone service or TV.

Oh, and they gave us an extra $10 credit on the next bill. Whoopee! So … we weren’t going to watch the inauguration, but if we had been tempted, we were saved by Charter unplugging us. Mysterious ways. Very mysterious.

COMPUTERS, SOFTWARE, GUNS, AND US: NOT A RANT, JUST A RAMBLE

Yesterday, I tried to download a book from my Audible.com library and got a message telling me I didn’t have adequate permission.

I’ve been an Audible member since 2002 and I’m pretty sure I have more than adequate permissions. I tried what I thought I knew, then gave up and called Audible. Which is not as horrific as, for example, having to call Dell. I think I’d rather have a root canal than have to deal with Dell service people. The folks at Audible are nice. Helpful. Mostly knowledgeable. Pleasant and patient. Which is good because when my computer is playing up, I transform into a very cranky old person. I depend on my computer. I expect it to just do its job, without complaint. Without hesitation and without any special massaging. I don’t burn incense to it as I used to with some of my more persnickety machines through the years.

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We went through every menu and fixed permissions. Edited the registry. Nope, permission still denied. Which was when I realized that the application denying permission was actually Chrome, not Windows or my operating system. Good news? I wouldn’t need to call Dell. Bad news? What are the odds of actually getting a person to talk to at Google?

But my new friend at Audible had a secret weapon. He gave me the tech support direct line for Google! How cool is that? I was dubious, but I finally womaned up and called them.

Two dogs and a computer

Two dogs and a computer

They answered. It was human, not a robot. We got it fixed. Something had corrupted between when I signed off last night — well after midnight — and when I arose in the late hours of the day and signed on. This confirms my belief that our dogs secretly have opposable thumbs. They do stuff on the computers while we sleep. How else can a perfectly good browser go bad while nothing is happening? It’s got to be the dogs. J’accuse!


One of the many conversations Garry and I had yesterday had to do with weapons and shooting people to protect ourselves or others. He said he might not be able to kill anyone unless they threatened me. Then, all bets were off. I said I was afraid, unfamiliar as I am with guns except for the 22 mm target rifle I used to slay paper plates almost 50 years ago. On vacation in Maine. Even then, I didn’t load the rifle or clean it. Someone just handed it to me, loaded and cocked, said “Hold it this way” and I shot the crap out of that paper plate. It never stood a chance against my wrath.

That same long ago day in Maine, as my friends and I were passing the rifle around, shooting those paper plates (which we had tacked to an understanding pine tree) … a pheasant wandered by, and decided to hang around awhile. He wasn’t impressed with our fire power. He just stood there, in front of the tree, looking at us.

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An argument broke out. Who would shoot the pheasant? What if we shot him, but he didn’t die? Who was going to shoot him again? Who would pull out the feathers and what else did you need to do to make that pheasant into a meal? Eventually, we just shooed him away. Mighty hunters we were not.

Given that little piece of history, I have no reason to believe in my ability to kill anything. For any reason. If I started to think, by the time my brain registered the need for haste, I’d be dead. Unless that other part of me kicked in, that “emergency response unit” that seems to pop up only on an “as needed” basis. At which point all my thought processes stop and I just do whatever I need to do to survive. That could happen, right? But I wouldn’t count on it.

Garry has at least had the benefit of having gone through basic training in the Marine Corps. Once, a long time ago, he could take his weapon apart and put it back together with his eyes closed. Not that we have such a weapon, but at least he has — somewhere in memory — a fundamental familiarity with a weapon.

Lucky that we’ve never been tested, eh?

THE AGENTS IN THE DELL – A THURSDAY RANT

I wasn’t going to bother to write this because you’ve heard it before. And you’ll hear it again. The same old sad story. Dell makes some amazing computers — yet they have what must be the worst customer service on the planet. I do not see how it could be worse. It is so bad on so many different levels, it’s hard to know where to start. But then, I realized I might as well write it. Writing it could make me feel better. Eventually, I will also find it funny. I’m nearly ready to begin laughing. One more cuppa coffee and I’m there. Laughing.

This problem — not a huge problem, mind you — was whoever put my machine together forgot to install the Adobe software I bought with the computer. Or leave a link — or give me an unlock key to download it myself. Knowing Dell as I do, I considered just forgetting it. Let them keep the money and move on. But it’s $80. A bit too much to let slide.

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The thing about Dell Customer Disservice, other than its general suckiness, is that they never connect you to the right department. They repeatedly ask for the same information, but whoever you talk to next won’t have the information and you’ll have to provide it again. If you ask for the number to which they are supposedly transferring you because you fear they will disconnect you, you can be sure the phone number is either no longer in service, or is completely wrong. The ones they gave me were either: (1) disconnected, (2) A cruise scam organization (you know, free cruise if you give us all your personal information?), and (3) Direct-TV. What I wanted? Sales Support for Alienware.

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Any agent to whom you talk will never read what (if anything) a previous agent wrote — so you are always back on square one. No one ever calls you back or can provide you with a number to get you to the same person again.

They put you on hold and forget about you. Or disconnect you. They transform minor problems that could be dealt with by any normal company in a couple of minutes, into a week-long crises.

The first two agents I spoke to insisted I really had the software and was too inexperienced with computers to find it. Both agents went poking around INSIDE my computer (remotely). Each independently ascertained that the software isn’t there, nor is there any download link for me to acquire it. So, finally, after I got a bit strident about it, they connected me with a supervisor (this identical scenario played out twice). Both of whom informed me that they would not be able to deliver it. The first said it would be another five days. What? A download?

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I was in “patience is my middle name” mode, so I waited. Five days later with no further contact from Dell, I called again. The first agent told me I would have to wait ten days more and disconnected me. I hit redial. When finally I got an agent, I shouted: “I WANT MY MONEY BACK.” I felt I needed to get his attention before he disconnected me again.

The agent (aka idiot) explained he could escalate “my issue” and maybe (only maybe) I would get my money back. He would “send a request” up to whoever were slightly more in charge than he was, but he could not guarantee they would comply. Because, he said, I probably already have the software and simply can’t find it.

I started to say something, but choked on my own words. Several deep, cleansing breaths later, I pointed out Dell had failed to deliver something for which I had paid. They do not get to NOT give me the product OR return my money. That’s theft. But my idiot said those were the “rules” and I said “we have other rules in this country and I want to talk to a supervisor. NOW.” My idiot assured me a supervisor would say exactly the same idiotic thing. I said that, were this to prove true, then I would keep going up the ladder to the damned president of the company if I had to, so put the supervisor ON the phone NOW.” I think I may have been yelling by then.

Got the supervisor. After he too explained that the software was ON the machine and I explained he should read the notes on this case number (yes, I had a case number) and he would see that no, I don’t have it and no, I’m apparently not going to get it, and frankly, I’m sorry I ever ordered it, and now give me my money back before I call the Attorney General and report the company (I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first) for Felony Stupidity and Customer Malfeasance.

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Eventually he said he couldn’t give me the $82.95 Dell owed me, but would $100 be okay? I said yeah, fine. He was still talking when I hung up. I’d been on the phone for three hours and the dogs needed feeding, Garry wanted help unloading the groceries and my ear was getting sore.

Yesterday, I was issued a refund for $82.95. Can I sue for emotional distress?

I still don’t understand why there is any problem. It’s a download. I could download the software on the spot from Adobe. I’d only bought it from Dell because it was much cheaper.

This is supposed to be (wait for it, wait for it) PREMIUM CUSTOMER SERVICE. I hesitate to imagine the standard shit they are dishing out these days to regular, non-premium customers.

I buy Dell computers in spite of Dell. The computers are great, but oh-lord-give-me-strength to deal with their “customer disservice.” This morning, they sent me a “customer satisfaction” survey. I didn’t bother to fill it out.