Customer Service – Part 1

August 10th, 2011, On the phone with United Airlines Customer Service:

Me: Hi I’m calling to check if there’s internet on some flights?
Customer Service lady: I don’t know what you mean by internet.
Me: The internet? Um, it’s a series of tubes that connects people all over the world.
Customer Service lady: Oh okay let me check that for you.

Airlines, phone providers, cable companies, medical supply warehouses and beyond…I’ve called them all and I hate it. I hate talking to customer service because talking is rarely what happens. Generally I spend anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes (that’s on average, on more than one occasion I wasted over an hour) listening to horrible Musak before being directed one representative after another. I yell, I curse, I plead and have at least twice been reduced to tears (and then hung up on because he couldn’t deal with my crying). Nothing makes my blood pressure rise more than calling customer service. I’d rather throw whatever device it is out the window until I am reduced to cave person status because they never had to deal with this shit.

Once I wasted half a work day trying to add an umlaut to the ticket of a German commercial director my company was flying in. British Airways insisted that his ticket needed to have the umlaut if it was printed on his passport and that it wasn’t their fault that it didn’t (even though I had taken extra special care to make sure to enter it) and suggested I call Expedia to change it. Somewhere in India or Bangladesh the customer service representative asked me if I wanted an omelet on my flight because had never heard of an umlaut.

At the end of a many hour Phone debacle involving 4 countries over 3 continents I discovered that, yes, it is okay to replace the “ü” with “ue” on the BA ticket and that he would be allowed on the plane. 

At family functions my father will poke me in the ribs and insist I tell and retell that story because it always gets a laugh but it makes me cringe. It brings back painful memories of being in an office full of people who are furious with me because something isn’t working right. They lay 10 people worth of anger into me and I find myself on the phone with my one hope, my one chance of salvation and he doesn’t know what the fuck is wrong and doesn’t seem to care. It’s in these moments I find myself yelling and cursing only to incur the wrath of both the person on the phone and the group of people surrounding me, instructing me to keep my voice now and demanding to know why in God’s name am I so worked up. “It’s just a phone call, why are you so upset?”

I do like the chat functions a lot of companies have. It’s like AIM but for customer service representatives. That way I’m able to carry on conversations with people around me, spell out succinctly exactly what my problems so their are no cultural barriers to create confusion (ie the umlaut/omelet debacle) and I can ask someone to watch the chat if I need to go to the bathroom or something. But not every company has that and even if they do, it’s not going to be much help if you’re calling because your internet is out.

Way back in August 2011 (right after my confusing exchange with that United Airlines representative) when I moved into my current apartment we signed up for the Time Warner Cable TV/Internet/Phone package. They came, installed it, wrote the wireless password down on a piece of paper and for two months everything went along fine. Until one day, in mid October, I went out for a walk only to discover upon returning home that my lap top had forgotten my wireless password, and the dog had (literally) eaten the piece of paper we’d written it down on. So, using my smart phone (which was still connected to the wi-fi) I found Time Warner’s number and called them.

After much bouncing around (and about 40 minutes of my time) I seemed to have found the person I needed to talk to. He asked me what I needed the internet for, which should have been my first clue that he was not the man for me, but I pushed on. He then read off his Time Warner Script, assuring me that he knew how important it is to have access to the internet and that he was sorry for the disruption. (I hate that shit, it’s so insulting and such a time waster, I don’t care how the company insists you claim to feel, I want my shit fixed now) He then had be run through a litany of useless tasks–including crawling under my roommate’s bed to dig out the router and find the MAC address–for about half an hour before he fully understood what my problem was (that I simply needed someone to tell me my assigned wireless password) and that he couldn’t help me.

So again my call is transferred and about fifteen minutes later I am given a new representative to talk to. He has a non-regional American accent and sounds like a date rapist. He tells me that I do not, in fact have wi-fi. Which is news to me. We argue and I get angry. I’ve already spent over an hour and a half on the phone with Time Warner for what should be an incredibly simple procedure. So I insist to talk to his manager because I think this guy must be full of shit. The manager, some smarmy sounding motherfucker gets on the phone about 10 minutes later. Ten minutes I have spent fuming and seething. He too informs me that I have internet, but no wi-fi. I say, how can that be? I had wifi yesterday, my phone is still connected to the wifi. He calls me a liar. That I say I live in an apartment with two lap tops and two smart phones, why would I sign up for internet and no wifi? He calls me an idiot. I tell him that all four devices have been connected to the internet for the past two months and been working just fine. He says I’ve probably been stealing my neighbors’ internet. So now he has called me an idiot, a liar and a thief. He tells me it’s another $6 a month. I call him a thief and ask him how can he sleep at night.

Eventually, though, I relent.I need the internet and $6 a month ($3 considering we split it) is not the end of the world. Frankly, if they’d said that to me at the beginning of the call I probably would not have been so furious about it. It was humiliating, it was soul crushing. I have never been so poorly treated by someone who is meant to be in the customer service field.

But they knew I was stuck. It’s the internet, I need it. And TWC is the only game in town. So yes, the guy can be an asshole, insult my character and I will still give him an extra $6 a month.  Which just makes the whole thing all the worse.

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