Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Cable For You

We all face irritations in our daily lives. The toaster doesn't pop up when it's supposed to. The guy at the front of the line of traffic feels like driving slowly, which makes everyone else late for their various appointments. The checkout line at the supermarket is longer than eternity. You're a quarter short for the soda machine. Hornets build a nest by the front door every spring.

None of those experiences can match that of the bill collector.

Now, in order to share this I must confess that I was approximately a month and a half behind on my cable bill. I'm not proud of that. Money is tight and I simply fell behind for a short time. Recently I fell into some money (a cryptic way of saying that my tax refund arrived). The timing was, in short, a blessing. "Hi, Mr. Adcox", replied my answering machine to my gentle nudge of the play button. "This is Mr. Deshca (fake name). I'm with the cable company. We have a technician in your neighborhood, and if you don't cough up one hundred twenty dollars and forty-two cents today we won't let you watch Emergency reruns."

Faced with the chilling prospect of having a cable-less stigma, I quickly returned the call. Phoning the cable company was an experience in the surreal. First, I was asked by Mary The Computerized Voice (with an accent sounding strongly similar to that of Cuyahoga Falls) to enter my phone number, "starting with the area code first". Doing so, I was rewarded with "you entered (540) 228-blah blah. If this is correct, press one now".

At least they got the area code correct.

The second time I shared my phone number to Little Miss Gigabyte, the dear cyberlady politely informed me that I am, in fact, Mr. Adcox -even if I don't live in Fredericksburg. All was finally going well. In that brief moment of calm, in which I assumed that I'd have the bill paid within three minutes, policy-driven attempts at communicating with this harried customer began disintegrating. As prompted, I dutifully provided the last four digits of my social security number "followed by the pound sign". This turned out to be what used to be known as "overlap" as the real, live customer service rep, who came on line well within twenty minutes, asked me to provide the last four numbers of my social security number. He didn't laugh when I asked if I should press the pound sign again, too.

In the ensuing information exchange, I shared my account number, my social security number, my zip code, the last four numbers on the back of my debit card, and even demonstrated mastery of algebraic order of operations. We danced the dance of "how much can you pay?" leading "what is the minimum to ensure I won't miss out on all of those nifty infomercials?" until we finally hammered out a deal. The rep was actually a pretty pleasant guy. Nothing like those outside collections folk who all but insinuate that they're coming over with a baseball bat if you don't make the last payment of nine dollars to that Visa card you cancelled back in '98. "Hold on while I switch you over to BillMaze", intoned the man, deaf to my urgent pleas not to transfer me back to the same source which led me to this conversa-

-"Welcome to BillMaze. Please enter your phone number staring with the area code, followed by the pound sign".

Things are looking up now.

I've discovered a way to avoid the cable bill until 2023.

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