Thursday, June 18, 2009

PLEASE HOLD, YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You already know where this is going, don't you?

I spent five, (5, cinqo, cinq) hours on the phone yesterday helping my mother with her monthly bills. Less than half was spent in a conversation with a human being. I learned a lot. Some of what I learned was useful, (did you know some customer service reps are still listening to you even though that annoying "on hold" music is playing? Oh, yeah . . . read on.) Most of that time felt as if I was in a CIA-sponsored psychiatric experiment to see if they could "break" me. Allow me to recap.

(This is not for the faint-hearted. It is not going to be pleasant).

Our phone company offers a spiffy savings plan to TV/phone customers if they bundle their plans. I called to secure this savings for my seventy-six-year-old mother. I begin by calling the phone company. I explain my request. After being placed on hold five times so my service rep could "get more information", I get disconnected.

I dial again, maneuver through seven phone menus to get a real person who apologizes for my previous disconnection and then places me on hold with her "super I-promise-I-won't-disconnect-you button, and then . . . "click". You guessed it.

I try again and we get through the apology, through another holding pattern and then, yep, she tells me I'm calling the wrong department. Only my local phone company can handle this. She generously gives me another number. I dial it. . . After fifteen minutes of explaining my request, they tell me I'm at the wrong department. Another number, another phone menu, another holding pattern, another customer service rep.

(You know the drill--I explain why my voice sounds rage-filled, she apologizes, places me on hold, I hear the "click" and break into a cold sweat.) They must have various "hold" entertainment options because now, instead of music, I hear a woman speaking in an "Enya-inspired voice, describing some device that will restore peace and security to our electronic world. She coos, "Try this as a mantra today, "Surf, safe. . . surf, safe. . ."

No joke! Just as I'm beginning to wonder if I've entered the Twilight Zone, she comes back. I felt like Timmy when Lassie returned from fighting a mountain lion. "You came back!" I cry. "You came back!" (I know . . . I sound like Sally Fields at the Academy Awards). She chuckles nervously and tells me the verdict. Mom doesn't qualify. New customers qualify for this spiffy savings, but not fifteen-year-loyal-never-missed-a-payment-or-been-late customers.

Fine. . . I say the magic "customer" words. "I would like to cancel my phone service so I can sign-up with your competition and be a "new" customer."

Now they want to talk to me. In fact, my call gets expedited to the "Retention Department." I get a fellow named Mr. Menendez who really wants to help me. He hears my story, feels my pain, (he even sounded as if HE were in pain.) We spend one hour while he details how very much pain he is in over our situation, and how much the phone company wants to keep us and help us get "bundled". He approves our case, but he needs to put us on hold while he checks on one little bitty thing. "Click". I hear music for about fifteen interminable minutes, and then I hear . . . silence. I think the unthinkable has happened to me again and I turn to my mother, scream, and say, "I'm so frustrated I want to stick a knife in my eye."

I hear this voice. "Don't do that, Mrs. Lewis. Don't even SAY that."

"Mr. Menendez? (I'm shocked that he is listening to what's being said on my side of the line. "I thought I was on hold.

"Oh, I'm still here. But please don't stick a knife in your eye."

"I'm not really going to stick a knife in my eye, Mr. Menendez. It's just that I've been working on this problem for two and a half hours now, and I'm very frustrated."

"I know, and I apologize. I really want to help you. I'm approving this request on my end, but I can't speak for our partners."

"The cable company?"

"Yes. Let me place you on hold one more time while I check to see if this is going to hit a snag on their end."

"Hold? Oh, please don't disconnect me, Mr. Menendez!"

"I won't I promise, Mrs. Lewis."

"Will you (electronically) hold my hand and walk me over to the other department."

He chuckles. "I will. Don' t worry."


Music. . .


You guessed it. We get disconnected.

I call again, tell my story with a knife held to the receiver and get a promise that someone will set the dogs on him, track him down and have him call me back. An hour later, after five hours on the phone--he does.

We didn't qualify for the bundle after all.


  1. All that work, for nothing. I feel for you. They don't deserve your business....I hope you switched after all.

  2. I'm sitting here laughing my head off. Slightly better than sticking knife in eye :-) Thanks for getting my morning off to a humerous start, Laurie. Oh how I've been there, done that, and felt the angst.