AN EARLY EVENING BECKONS – Marilyn Armstrong

It was one of those days. It started out normal. We had to get up a bit early because I had a doctor’s appointment and even though we left plenty of time, we got out of the house a bit late. Time slipped away. It was coffee. I needed ONE MORE sip. My appointment was fine. Next stop? Grocery store.

We couldn’t get to the grocery. There had been a fire. Or something. The street was closed. Not the whole street, just the couple of hundred feet in front of the parking lot.

Other than the fire engine with the flashing lights, there was no hint of a fire or evidence of anything. No smoke. No injuries. No water on the street. No crime scene tape. A blocked street where we needed to go. They were allowing cars to drive through from the other direction. So there was no sensible reason why we couldn’t go a few dozen feet to the parking lot. Nope, we had to take the detour.

Uxbridge not being a real city, a detour isn’t a quick trip around a city block. We were in Douglas before we could start looping back to town. By which time they had parked the fire truck and there were no official obstructions.

Shopping concluded, leaving town was our next trial. Civic excitement is rare in our little town, so everyone had to take a long look at the … what? Fire? Crime scene? False alarm? One of the rubberneckers was riding a bicycle. We were behind him, trying to drive at 1 mph. As soon as we (finally) got around him, someone pulled out of a side street, slowed down to about 10 mph. Directly in front of us. We crawled home. Karma is.

Groceries were unpacked. Television was turned on. Surprise! The television still wasn’t working. I tried rebooting again after which, I hold my breath and call Charter. They’ve been having a bad week too and this is my third call in two days. Any day on which I have to call Charter is not a great day.

After a long hold, the agent assures me they are merely doing (more) repair work, but they hope it will be finished any day now. They’ll call me when it’s finished. Maybe even today. Eventually, dinner having been served, eaten, and cleared away, the phone rang. Charter (recorded message) says “Repairs are complete, thank you for your patience.” But it is not fixed. The television wi-fi is still not working.

Any day on which I have to call Charter once is not a good day, but if I have to cal them twice? That is very bad. They tell me to reboot. They send a repair signal. Nada. They can’t get a tech here until Thursday.  I am grouchy but there doesn’t seem to be a choice. I realize I’d better write it down because these days I forget everything immediately.  I turned on the light.

The bulb exploded.

My day is done.  Definitely an early night for me!

TOO MUCH CUSTOMER SERVICE – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Today is Saturday. The package Amazon said they delivered yesterday was not delivered and it wasn’t delivered today, either. I’m sure it went somewhere, but not here. Not a small package, this was a kind of tent for use as a place to store garden equipment. Lawnmowers. Hoses. Snowblowers. Shovels. Spades, hoes, clippers. The usual stuff.

The old shed

Our current shed is going to collapse and buying one like it is a lot more money now than this one was when we bought it maybe 18 years ago. Not sure, but it wasn’t long after we moved here, so maybe closer to 20. Finally, Owen settled on this tent which has a stainless steel structure and a heavy, waterproof covering.

We ordered it from Amazon and yesterday, we got a notice that it was delivered. Considering this is a 12X12 shed and costs more than $400, it was unlikely we missed it. This would be a very large package. So, since they’d already charged Owen for it, we wanted the shed or the money, but I wasn’t fooling around with whichever manager was in charge of big lost packages. And before you think I’m being funny, I’m not. They have a separate department for big packages.

Finally, long, long hold time later (I’m going to write lyrics for their “hold music” so I can sing along) and having heard how important our business is to them, I got one woman who said it was too expensive so it had to go to a supervisor. I got a supervisor, but he said this had to go the the “heavy object delivery supervisor.”

The music came back. I really need to consider writing lyrics.

It has been a full week of spending every afternoon on the phone with Amazon’s customer service. They have decided they can’t deliver to us unless the item is very small. I don’t mind most things showing up when they show up. I can wait a week or two for the bag of yeast or a rolling pin. But two weeks into a wait without so much as notification of when it might arrive? Or even seeing that the order has been processed? How about an email updating me … or alternatively saying you are unable to deliver it?

The thing is, we’ve been waiting for two weeks for them to process an order for a 3 cubic foot freezer which I finally canceled yesterday. They finally delivered the dehumidifier — without casters. We couldn’t get the castors without sending back the whole dehumidifier but offered us $5 to replace the casters.

Five whole dollars? After it got up to 20 following a loud discussion, I started to get pissed off. I went from online complaining to downright irritable. If they aren’t going to deliver something, they need to at least tell us and not just leave the order hanging in ether-land. And this order which they said was delivered, was even worse. As far as they are concerned, it’s delivered. Never mind that we didn’t actually GET the package.

I think I sort of blew up and said “Money or product, but you can’t have it both ways.”

“But the driver said it was delivered,” he said.

“I’m sure it WAS delivered, but not here.”

He refunded the money and said this was actually a large enough order that whoever kept it and didn’t order it — and it had to be one of our neighbors — is going to get sued because it’s a federal crime. I replied: “Go right ahead and nail the bastards.”

I feel like I have a new job. It’s holding while waiting for another person to explain how I should just wait and surely the package would show up. I definitely resented the whole concept, especially since we’d already paid and if I didn’t strongly urge them to deal with it today, we’d surely be waiting another month and then they’d tell us it was too late to solve the problem.

We found someone else to sell us a freezer and even deliver it by the end of the month. Woo-hoo! For now, unless there’s nowhere else to get it, I’m a bit “off” of Amazon. I understand that they are swamped, but if they can’t handle the business, at least say so.

“BAD” IS THE NEW “GOOD” IN TECH SUPPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad customer and technical support is the new good. You only think it’s bad. The problem is your attitude. Or so they’d have you think.

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE

All the big technology companies are working hard to save a few bucks. Competition is fierce. Every penny counts. Since executives won’t accept lower pay nor will stockholders accept lower returns, it’s customers who fill the cost-cutting gap.

Death cust serv
In the race to be the cheapest, tech companies stopped including chargers with devices. No manuals. No system software. No reinstallation software. Short power cords that don’t go from an outlet to a desktop. No connector for printers, speakers or whatever. Everything you need to finish setting up costs extra.

Customer service was the first thing to go. They hired people who don’t know anything, don’t understand or speak English. For all I know, they don’t understand or speak Spanish either. They aren’t trained, don’t know the products. And since manufacturers no longer include documentation, you don’t have the option of taking care of it yourself.

No company — not cameras, computers or software — includes documentation. I became obsolete years ago when the industry decided no one reads the manuals. So they fired the tech writers, put some generated information in an online PDF. They figured customer service techs would handle the fallout. But they don’t. Many of us would be happy to fix minor glitches but have no alternative to spending our time on the phone, frustrated and angry.

THE PLAN IN ACTION

You can’t say they didn’t have a plan. Corporation had a really terrible plan. It was such a bad plan that everyone adopted it. Of course, these days any plan is a big deal being as we live in a nation that hasn’t had a viable plan for anything in more than three years. And now, we have a plague. How cool is that?Customer Service waiting It’s not a Microsoft issue or a Dell thing. It’s not a plan that anyone can claim as their own. It’s a cross-industry problem, affecting virtually every tech corporation in this country.

Bad has become the official new good. Really and truly good is remarkable and so rare.

WOULD IT KILL THEM TO INCLUDE A MANUAL?

In every industry, business, service — service support stinks. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’ll get the same lousy service. It’s the great leveler.

CustServCartoon

Sometimes, you get lucky. The guy or gal you connect with knows the product and you think “Wow, that wasn’t bad! Maybe it’s improving.” The next time, it’s the same old, same old. Mostly you spend hours online listening to the worst music ever written and every once in awhile they point out how important you are and the next time anyone can take your call, they will.

Okay then. I think it’s possible I’m still on hold.

PLAY TAPS FOR ME – Marilyn Armstrong

It was one of those days. It started out normal. We had to get up a bit early because I had a doctor’s appointment and even though we left plenty of time, we got out of the house a bit late. Time slipped away. It was coffee. I needed ONE MORE sip.

My appointment was fine. Next stop? Grocery store.

We couldn’t get to the store. There had been a fire. Or something. The street was closed. Not the whole street, just the couple of hundred feet in front of the parking lot.

Other than the fire engine with the flashing lights, there was no hint of a fire or evidence of anything. No smoke. No injuries. No water on the street. No crime scene tape. A blocked street where we needed to go. They were allowing cars to drive through from the other direction. So there was no sensible reason why we couldn’t go a few dozen feet to the parking lot. Nope, we had to take the detour.

Uxbridge not being a real city, a detour isn’t a quick trip around a city block. We were in Douglas before we could start looping back to town. By which time they had parked the fire truck and there were no official obstructions.

Shopping concluded, leaving town was our next trial. Civic excitement is rare in our little town, so everyone had to take a long look at the … what? Fire? Crime scene? False alarm? One of the rubberneckers was riding a bicycle. We were behind him, trying to drive at 1 mph. As soon as we (finally) got around him, someone pulled out of a side street, slowed down to about 10 mph. Directly in front of us. We crawled home. Karma is.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Groceries were unpacked. Television was turned on. Surprise! The television still wasn’t working. I tried rebooting again after which, I hold my breath and call Charter. They’ve been having a bad week too and this is my third call in two days. Any day on which I have to call Charter is not a great day.

After a long hold, the agent assures me they are merely doing (more) repair work, but they hope it will be finished any day now. They’ll call me when it’s finished. Maybe even today. I go to make dinner and step in a pool of dog pee. I don’t know which dog did it, but I don’t get it. Why? They’ve got their own door and it isn’t even raining.

Eventually, dinner having been served, eaten, and cleared away, the phone rang. Charter (recorded message) says “Repairs are complete, thank you for your patience.” But it is not fixed. The television wi-fi is still not working.

Any day on which I have to call Charter once is not a good day, but if I have to cal them twice? That is very bad. They tell me to reboot. They send a repair signal. Nada. They can’t get a tech here until Thursday.  I am grouchy but there doesn’t seem to be a choice. I realize I’d better write it down because these days I forget everything immediately.  I turned on the light.

The bulb exploded.

My day is done.  Play taps for me.


RDP Friday – Annoying

STUPID IS THE NEW NORMAL – Marilyn Armstrong

96-OneRuleToRuleThemAll
My motto and I really should remember it more often

For the past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with the customer service for the medical plan I was trying to join. I spent — LITERALLY, NOT KIDDING — four hours on the phone yesterday until the battery on my phone died. It has never died before. Ever. In like five years. It’s not a cell phone.

They couldn’t answer a simple question, they gave me wrong answers, transferred me to the wrong departments, but to be fair, they didn’t disconnect. A miracle indeed. At the end of the conversation, I said: “SEND ME BACK TO BLUE CROSS!”

And then and there, I switched back to my previous medical provider. Because if this was before the plan had even gone into effect, it was going to be like the year I spent with Fallon when I needed to see a medical oncologist and the person on the Customer Service line told me there were doctors listed, but not their specialties.

“So how do you list them? Alphabetically?”

My doctor’s (not this doctor, the doctor before the last doctor) dimwitted secretary sent me to a cancer surgeon and when I called her back and explained that I don’t need a surgeon, I need a medical oncologist because I had cancer and what I need NOW is a checkup. I went with that company for a year and never actually got the checked.

Then came Blue Cross and life got better. This plan would have saved me around $150 a month which is a good deal of money, but I was pretty sure it would also ruin my life. I can’t do it anymore. I cannot spend the rest of my life fighting with customer service to just answer a simple question. I’m too old, too tired, too beat up.

I’ll pay the money. Just let me have people who answer the phone and know what they are talking about. Please!

And for all the comments I haven’t answered and posts I haven’t read? I swear to you I have spent about 9 hours over the past two days straightening out my medical plan — well, OUR medical plans. I’m exhausted. And I’m running out of birdseed again.

ONLINE SHOPPING REVOLUTION OR CONSUMER REBELLION? – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve been thinking about shopping.

Does anyone remember in those last ten years before online shopping came into full flower? That was when you’d go into a nice shop and discover there was no one there. No one to help you find the right size or style … or even the correct department. More than half the cash registers were closed and the people who worked the counters were actually working multiple counters so wherever you were waiting, they weren’t there.

I remember not buying a watch in Kohl’s because there wasn’t anyone at the jewelry counter and the cash register was closed. I looked everywhere and I didn’t see a single store worker.

There was absolutely not a soul willing to help me find the right size or choose a different color or size, or even say, “That looks nice.” Or do anything that might encourage me to buy something.

Shopping went from being fun to being work.

By the time online shopping was readily available, most of the brick-and-mortar stores had cut down their staff by more than half. Returning something meant standing in long lines for the one individual who handled all returns and you’d better have saved that receipt!

They did themselves in. They treated their customers like WordPress treats us … and the results were exactly what you’d expect.

When the day there arrived offering us a real choice, shoppers were ready. Instead of fighting for a parking space and wandering around a mall trying first to find the right store, then searching the shop and discovering there was no one on the floor to talk to. Hoping to get some assistance in finding an outfit and realizing there wasn’t any.

All of which was followed by another ordeal, searching for an open register.

Suddenly, you could order clothing and return what didn’t fit or what you didn’t like. In the meantime, just to make what was already difficult just a bit harder, many city malls began charging customers for parking.

Free gift wrapping was not free. You couldn’t even get plain boxes to wrap without paying for them. The quality of the clothing went down while the prices went up. There were no more departments where you could get clothing altered, either.

It wasn’t just the Internet that ruined “real store” shopping. It was the attitude of the store’s owners and managers. They decided they “owned” their customers and we’d show up anyway, no matter how bad the service. It must have been a rude shock when they realized not only did we have a choice, but we weren’t coming back.

So they can blame their demise on Amazon and the Internet, but they can also look in the mirror and realize when you treat your customers badly, eventually, when times change, they won’t be your customers.

It’s a lesson that cable companies are learning, cell companies are just beginning to learn … and it won’t end there. I fought with my cable company for years to get them to give me a package I could afford … and when I finally gave up and cut the cable, suddenly they filled up my email with all kinds of tempting packages — for ONE year only.

After which they would do what they always did: jack up the prices by 100% and we’d go through the same thing again. There are only so many times you can anger and disappoint customers without expecting them to hit back in the only way that matters: financially.

You never own your customers. They own you. Eventually, they will let you know how they feel about you. Count on it.

IT NEVER ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Bird pictures are included for sanity reasons.
We need some. Birds are good for that.

Yesterday, after spending my entire day trying to make a breakthrough on WordPress — and feeling that maybe I had made a tiny dent — I realized that Amazon had sent me my package with the wrong stuff in it. It was almost the final straw, not counting that the software people have removed the spell-checker from the post writer.

The singing Carolina Wren

This must be one of their improvements, like when they removed the “edit” function from all posts once they were posted. When asked why they did that, they said why would anyone need it?

They restored it when about a million of us told them they had their heads up their asses and to please PUT THE EDIT BUTTON BACK. Some of us like to fix errors and even (gads!) rewrite awkward sentences or fix typos.

Downy Woodpecker

Do any of these people actually write a blog or post anything? Do they have any beta testers? Do they have any Omega testers or Alpha testers — or anyone who tests anything before they shove it down to us? They also seem to have removed the help button again. I guess too many of us used it and now they have to (gasp) fix stuff.

Or maybe not.

It’s hard to believe that anyone at WordPress gives a rat’s ass about their “customers.” No one has ever made me feel valued.

It’s a woodpecker, but I can’t see enough of him to know which one.

I’ve had it for the day. If you haven’t heard from me yet, I’ll try to get to you today, but we have a long funeral in Boston on Wednesday and I don’t think I’ll have time or energy to do much, after that, there’s Thursday. If I’m still mentally capable.

Is this a test? Do we get an “A” if we pass? A gold star? Something? Anything?

AN OUTGOING TIDE WITH AN UNDERTOW – Marilyn Armstrong

It has been a tough couple of weeks, which is weird because there isn’t any specific crisis going on. I’m trying to get a grip on all the seemingly small things that feel like they are crowding in on me and pulling me down.

Our income is fixed. This means our income will never go up. It will stay the same until we die. Meanwhile, prices keep rising. We aren’t in a wildly inflationary period, but even so, I’m glad we don’t eat much. And I’m very glad my medications are generic. Every week, the same money buys a little less than it did the week before. Just a little bit.

I’m fighting an outgoing tide and an undertow.

Atlantic shore

I’m having trouble focusing. I want to pull a pillow over my head and vanish for a while. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. So I’m swimming like mad, but the tide’s going out while the undertow is pulling with it.

The breakers are pounding me on the head.

I nearly drowned in an outgoing tide and an undertow. It was in Herzliya, Israel. Unbelievably, It was also more than 30 years ago. I was swimming as hard as I could — which isn’t all that powerful. I can swim, but I have no kind of power in my stroke. So, I was making no headway. None.

I finally saved my life by just grabbing a lungful of air whenever I could and letting the waves push me onto the sand.

Maybe that’s what I need to do now. Except I have a feeling it worked out better in the Mediterranean than it would with life.

TODAY WAS A DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I had been considering getting an insurance plan on all our home appliances — including the heating and electrical and plumbing — and the roof. The problem is, we couldn’t afford a longterm plan. At $500 a hit for four hits, that is all our money. Bought month by month, it’s $45/month which makes it a lot more expensive and for us would mean less money for food, medications, dog food, bird food. Everything.

The thing about a fixed income is the fixedness of it. It means that whatever money you get, you will never receive more than you do right now. You will never get a raise or a Christmas bonus. Or any bonus. If the price of food and gasoline and heating oil goes up? Your income doesn’t.

So you have to think long and hard when your “savings” account is less than $2000 because your house has had its way with your savings.

You can eat less. You can even do without medications if its absence isn’t life-threatening. But when a piece of the house is sagging and showing signs of collapse, you have to fix it. Somehow.

Right now, I’m looking at the chimney which urgently needs repointing before it collapses. The bathroom that so badly needs renovation; in which the tub has been scrubbed so much, the color has leached out. The wall tiles weren’t anything special when brand new and they are a lot less special after 50 years of mildew and aging grout. My son has been planning to fix parts of the bathroom for years. As he rounds the bend to age 50, I think it isn’t going to happen. So tomorrow, the bathroom fixer-uppers will be here and we’ll see if we can make something happen. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it sure would make life easier if we could.

I canceled the house insurance. It doesn’t matter how sensible it is. We do not have the money, not if we are going to fix other things. Pray our heating system doesn’t die because I think we’ll die along with it. And that the roof doesn’t start to leak.

We live in that sad place where we earn too much money to get any state subsidies and too little to live comfortably.

Then I got a bill from AT&T for $70 AFTER the letter which told me that was NOT going to happen. I told them they could keep their service. I disconnected my phone and said I’ll die before I pay them. Then I called U.S. Mobile.

Total: $35 + $2 shipping for a flip phone. I can upgrade later. Including a SIM card. If all we are going to do is talk, I can get 300 minutes for 5 bucks a month. If I want to add 200 texts (I’ve yet to send one), it would be another 5 dollars. If I got their unlimited plan, it would be $34.99, which is still $5 cheaper than anything AT&T offers for “Seniors.” Since it’s an “open-phone,” I can get a better phone if I want and just move the SIM card.

They have begun selling Blackberry phones again … the ONLY cell phone Garry ever loved. Ah, the classics.

I lost my debit card Sunday night, so I canceled it and ordered a new one. I found it today. It was hiding inside my Apple computer. I called BOA to cancel my order for a new card. They hadn’t ordered a new card or canceled the old one. Talk about feeling protected! After all the jabbering on the phone, they did absolutely nothing. Lucky me, nothing was needed but they didn’t know that.

As part of the hunt for the missing debit card, I discovered that the areas under the sofa in the living room and under the bed were beyond words. The living room was merely dirty. The area under the bed was appalling. There’s no way to just clean it. The bed, mattress, machinery (it’s a movable bed), and its frame must weigh half a ton.

We cleaned what could be cleaned. The rest of the dust and mess will have to stay there because there’s no way to move that bed … or to get a vacuum under it.

Then I realized that I could not plug in Garry’s new lamp because we don’t have an extension cord. I ordered two AmazonBasic extension cords. Now, I hurt everywhere and I never got any coffee.

So I also didn’t write anything until now and this is going up tomorrow because there’s nothing on the boards for tomorrow or any day until next weekend.

Meanwhile, WordPress removed the way you call up old blogs — which I do often, most of the time rewriting them before posting. I have close to 9,000 blogs and if I can’t access them without their actual name (like I’m going to remember 8,768 blog names?) … I give up.

Honestly, I feel like giving up anyhow. I’m tired of WordPress and AT&T and anyone who wants me to pay them more money for less. I think that’s everyone.

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.

SPEAKING OF SMART PHONES … Marilyn Armstrong

Word Prompt Xmas Zombies

You’d think one day with Bank of America would have sufficed me for the week, but you’d be wrong. Having also finally signed on with Sirius for the absolutely lowest price we could get for a year’s subscription, I discovered the ONLY way I could turn the radio on was to call them — on a smartphone — from the car.

The Renegade

Lucky me, I charged the phone the other day because even though I have it turned off, the battery gradually weakens, so even if it looks good, when you turn it on, it will drain really quickly.

As we pulled into the driveway, having completed — or Garry having completed — a trip to the dentist (I forgot to take my antibiotics, so I have to go back in January), I said: “Gee. I hope I have Sirius’ telephone number in my contact list.”

I might have if I ever turned the phone on so it could synchronize with our computer. But it’s pretty much always off, so when I finally turn it on, it beeps, jangles, dings, twitters and occasionally makes some other noise I don’t recognize.

Maybe that’s the sound it makes when it rings? I’ll have to check on that.

Phones

Anyway, I finally made my way to Sirius website where they had no record of my ever having signed on with them and they wanted my password.

Did I have a password? Our little Google phone does not offer the full Gmail experience, so I have no folders and cannot look anything up. I opted for “I forgot my password” because I not only forgot it, I’m not sure I ever set it in the first place. It isn’t unusual for me to sign up with something, but never log into their website. I figure they’ll email or call me if they want to get in touch, but then come these moments when it’s obvious — I need to “be in touch.”

I got their telephone robot. Of course, I got their telephone robot. They are waiting for me wherever I go. They line up secretly in hallways, waiting for a brief glimpse of me so they can ask me the same questions repeatedly and when I answer them, they can tell me they didn’t understand me.

Do the people who program these things do it on purpose? Can all of this be accidental? I’m like Garry with slow drivers. He is sure they have drones watching for him and blocking the roads on purpose.

After a while, I just sat there saying AGENT AGENT AGENT and at some point later, I got one. An agent. This one seemed to speak some version of English and I could mostly understand him when he slowed down enough. Otherwise, it was just jumbled noise at high speed.

He asked me — again — for radio’s number which I gave him, no problem as it was printed across the radio’s face. In very big letters. Then I had to spell it out, one letter at a time. With extra backup words if I thought there might be confusion.

He then said he was going to send a signal to the radio to tell it to turn itself on and wanted to know if we had a clear sky above us (“Garry, look up. Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”)

The sky was seen and declared free of flying debris and trees.

Next question: “Is your telephone (incoherent mumbling).”

“WHAT? Can you slow down? NO idea what you just said.”

It turned out he wanted to know if my phone was connected to the radio. I gagged at the thought and said “NO.” He then said he was sending a signal, but it might take up to five minutes to work, but no problem he’d stay on the phone while we waited.  After which he immediately hung up.

I don’t think he was on the phone for a full minute before hanging up. I redialed the number. I got another representative. Gave them my name. Again. Spelled Marilyn. Again. Then I had to spell “ARMSTRONG” which usually, I don’t have to spell because it’s Armstrong and everyone knows how to spell it. Except for this lady who I guess needed to make sure I used the usual number of consonants and vowels. Nothing weird like ending it in a double “G.”

In fact, I had to repeat every single thing I had said on the previous call. She said she was sending a signal too and would, of course, stay on the phone, not to worry.

Then she immediately hung up. But by then the first signal had come through, so I hung up.


NOTES FOR NEXT YEAR:

We now have Sirius radio which we got for $3.99/month for a year. Plus taxes and other weird charges, so it’s more like six dollars and when the year runs out, I’ll go through the same siege again. I’ll reject the price. They’ll beg me to stay and lower the price by a buck. I’ll still refuse because their basic price is obscenely high. I’ll tell them to just turn it off. Who needs it anyway? 

Just before next Christmas, they will email a better price, but not good enough. I will reject it out of hand. They will call me. Beg me to sign up, but only when they offer me another year at $3.99, will I take it. 


It took about an hour to set up the radio, what with two phone calls and repeating the same information one letter at a time, then using it in a word so they couldn’t misunderstand me. It takes a long time to spell out a 10 letter code. And of course, spelling “Armstrong” was a bit of a high point.

I made Garry sit and listen to this because he can hear now, so sooner or later, he is going to have to deal with this. He needs to learn the ropes.

I do speak clearly. I got a degree is in speech and drama and I used to be on the radio. Even relatively recently, I was on TV and radio. At no point in any TV or radio appearance did I have to spell out the words. I have a standard Bachelor of Arts. It’s not a valuable degree, but at least it means I speak clearly. I had to learn to speak clearly. It’s part of the degree program.

So, why is it that none of these people or their robots ever understand anything I say? Are they keyed to mumblers so that people who speak clearly are at a disadvantage?

Or are they just screwing with me?