Friday, January 3, 2014

The Phone Company Is No Account

I'm getting crotchety in my old age. I admit it. In paying my internet bill this afternoon, I was subjected to aggravations worthy of a Special Forces psychological warfare campaign.

The phone company asks, "Questions about your bill or service?" on the front page of the monthly bill. The loving folks at Verizon were kind enough to instruct their customers to dial (800)837-4966 for those seeking to honor their telephonic debts. Seemed innocuous; I owed money and the company directed me to the place to pay it. All would be well again, momentarily.

"Momentarily" didn't happen. What did happen was that Kerri Computervoice asked me, sweetly I thought, to enter my "customer identification code". What the heck is that, I thought to myse

-"Your customer identification code", purred Kerri, "is the first twelve digits of your account number. Please enter these, followed by the pound sign." Well, here goes nothing again, I thought glumly as I tapped in the required digits. "I'm sorry. We didn't recognize that number. Please try again."

Perhaps I'm too obsessive-compulsive for my own good. Tapping in the same numbers, slowly, methodically -guardedly, I hoped to hear positive feedback. "I'm sorry. We don't recog-" "I'm well aware of that!", scream I to a completely unintelligent network of wires, zeroes, ones, and phone company employees. My rant was rewarded with, "Let's try something else. Please enter your four digit pin. Enter your pin number now, followed by the pound sign". I mentioned to Kerri that I haven't registered a pin, and that even if I had I wouldn't recall having done so. "I'm sorry. I did not understand your response. Please hold for customer service."

If I wasn't tempted to smash my phone against a wall then, I was when Kerri informed me that my call would be monitored and recorded for "quality customer service".

Now, I'm not sure when "quality customer service" was initially defined as a company issuing account numbers which it fails to recognize. I'm even less sure of the actual quality of customer service when the company refuses to replace the account number with one which will meet with Kerri's approval. Perhaps she had a bad experience with the number four, and refuses to have anything to do with those of us whose account numbers are burdened with that distressing numeral. At any rate, the fact that I've been hammering away at Verizon about this problematic account number since July 2009 speaks to either Verizon's ineptitude to replace the number with a working one or my bulldog-esque resilience in duking it out with the communications giant every single month.

Not this time, I thought to myself. I'm not going to weather through this pointless bit of nonsense -not without beefing about it to whatever live human being is willing to answer the phone over there. Taking it upon myself to dial zero, I made contact with an operator who suggested hitting the zero button whenever Kerri attempted to prevent me from reaching a live person in customer service. "I can answer a lot of your questions" intoned Kerri's computer sister Ramona, whose mission is to screen frustrated souls like me from stressed out customer service people who were doubtlessly working as hard as the Maytag Repair man. In order to maximize the probability that consumers would become too tired and frustrated to wait to speak with someone in the business office, ol' Ramona decided to include no fewer than one-hundred fifty-two pregnant pauses in her recordings. "We appreciate...your patience. Please...continue to...hold. was among the first such pause. The half of an hour that I was on hold was attributable, substantially, to such pauses. I find it ironic that one of the largest players in the communications industry is limited by a computer with a speech impediment.

It was only by the grace of God that this experience didn't trigger a manic episode akin to Robin Williams attacking a main battle tank with a banana. (Ironic statement, but it fits.) Somehow, I made it through the fifty-five minute ordeal again -one which should have taken well under five minutes. The bill is paid and I'm glad. I think that next month I'll mail my payment. I hope Verizon likes epoxy, duct tape, and bailing wire. I'll have to include these.

Even their envelopes don't work.


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