Saturday, July 21, 2018

Phone Support

Last year we have a very bad Airbnb experience and they issue a $100 coupon for our trouble. I will add that my advice is to avoid inevitable heartbreak and never, under any circumstances, reserve an Airbnb accommodation in Manhattan. While on this same trip, when we end up in a generic motel instead of a charming Chelsea apartment, my Airbnb account is hacked. I am unable to log on or change my password. I call and am assured that it will be corrected. After over a year and a dozen emphatic promises that my issue will be resolved, I throw in the towel. My VBRO log in is fine and it's quite similar to Airbnb

Our AT&T (nee Direct TV) Internet is erratic and the rate's increased. Neighbors on the local news group report that Spectrum (nee Time Warner) is slightly the lesser of evils. They offer a cheaper deal and we switch. I am surprised that they schedule the installation for the following day, which happens to be July 4. I realize now that the competition is so fierce that they don't want to give you time to change your mind. Neither provider notifies me that the phone number that we've had for thirty years needs to be ported from AT&T to Spectrum BEFORE I cancel our AT&T service. Would you know that? Representatives at both companies agree that I should have been informed of this by both providers, before cancelling our old service or enrolling in a new one.

AT&T/Spectrum ping pong. Spectrum keeps calling to tell me that they can't port the number. I call AT&T. No one has a direct number so you have to start from scratch every time and endure the firewall of automated response menus and muzak before getting through to a sentient human being. I spend hours on hold. After a several calls a day, I am transferred to Gloria in Las Vegas. She's been with the company for twelve years. She explains that have to start a new account and order phone and internet service. There will be modem sent by mail. She calls me back in about an hour later. On overtime. The phone will reconnect tomorrow. And just send back the modem when it comes.

Spectrum calls again. No number for them to port. I spend another hour on the phone with AT&T and am finally transferred to Morgan, in Grand Rapids. He's been with the company since it was Ma Bell he reassures me. He explains that the service order is written incorrectly and the phone should be restored within 48 hours.

Spectrum again. This time while I'm waiting on hold with AT&T, I file a complaint with the FCC. The agent at AT&T this time has us unplug the modem. He is annoyed when we tell him that we have a Spectrum modem. I'm transferred to Ivan. He doesn't tell me how long he's been working there but says that he's on the east coast. In English teacher mode I make him repeat the issue as I've described it and am confident that he actually understands the problem. He calls me back in about an hour to tell me that the serviceman is coming to connect the phone tomorrow and its a good thing I didn't ship that modem back (UPS rejects “return to sender” as I'd opened the stupid box) because they will likely need that too.

Today, Deborah calls me. She says she's assistant to the vice president although I imagine that there's an army of assistants to vice presidents fielding FCC complaints. Our phone line, she explains, can be activated remotely and it should happen on Monday. Meanwhile, she's transferred calls from our house phone to my cell phone which the three dozen people I've spoken to over the last few weeks could have suggested. Deborah says that someone will call me on Monday to update me on the status of the line, as she's going on vacation. I wish her bon voyage. Our phone has yet to be ported, but Deborah, unlike the scads of other representatives I've spoken to, actually gives me her direct phone number which includes half a dozen different access codes. I imagine it's like calling the Pentagon. We still have no home phone but I'm not going to lose Deborah's number.

Indulging in nostalgia always makes me feel old but I remember that phones came from Pacific Bell. They never broke. And you could have real conversations. When I finally persuaded my mother to install a blue princess phone with my own number, for which my allowance was debited $6 a month, I'd spend hours in conversation with my friends. Local calls only. No long distance. I had a friend in Long Beach with whom I communicated via letter. When I was out and about there were payphones and if I didn't have change, I could call collect. And if there were places where payphones weren't available, I was likely at some location where I wasn't supposed to be.

In my younger world an attendant gassed the car and checked the tires and oil. Bank tellers chatted about the weather. Calls for service were answered immediately by a person instead of a labyrinth of menus. Vacation plans were handled by a travel agent.
Now, although I almost never converse on it, I am agitated if I find myself out in the world without my phone. People text during movies. Even at nice restaurants, most of the patrons are glued to their phones and barely glance at their dining companions. I cannot count how many times I've averted a car accident with a texting driver. But I can find out instantly that Princess Margaret was married to Lord Snowdon or be navigated to the airport via the least trafficked route. I can take a picture of a check and deposit it into my account. And I can instantly transfer money out of the same account when one of the kids is in a bind. Chinese food delivered? Tap. Audio book? Tap. A ride across town. Tap.

I would not give up my iPhone and I doubt if anyone else would either. We won't go backwards although I hope we're not sacrificing human contact for digital convenience. Spuds is driving a lady's car from New York to Grass Valley and I'm going to visit family there and pick him up. On a lark, I decide to take another whack at Airbnb. Instead of making me wait on hold, the agent calls me back when it's my turn. I explain the circumstance to her and tell her about all the unfulfilled promises. She resets my password in thirty seconds, and voila!, I can log on to my account. The $100 coupon however is expired. I'll have to call about that next week.