Little Things Mean A Lot

Speaking of Regular Recurrence Factors (RRF’s), as in my last post, I was having a frustrating time with my computer last December, fortunately a rare occurrence with my Mac.  As usual it wasn’t the computer’s fault, but that of my ISP connection with AT&T.  I had for several months been experiencing a strange 30-second delay to send an e-mail whereas before it was almost instantaneous, so I knew it had to be something to do with the ISP setup.  It was irritating.  So I took a deep breath and called AT&T technical support.  After several phone-hell automated messages and conversations with people speaking very

polite but poor English, it was apparent that nobody was going to be able to help me, so I asked, “Isn’t there a higher-level of technical support that is above what I’m getting here?” Oh my.  Have we got a deal for you.


Technical Support, by Okinawa Soba via Flickr

All I had to do was pony up a one-time $40 fee and agree to $15 a month for access to “AT&T Technical Support Services”.  Sounds intriguing, thought I.  Gee, maybe I would get to talk with a tech-savvy American when I need to.  But, what happens, asked I, if I should want to cancel it afterwards? No problem, just call this 800 number, but be aware that the first billing won’t be added to your phone bill for a month, so there’s that one month delay.  So I bit.

Turns out that the service did hook me up with a savvy, native-English-speaking tech who understood my problem.  Only waited 5 minutes instead of 30 to get him on the line.  And he didn’t have a clue how to fix my problem. I conclude that I have had a bad idea.  (I eventually found an answer myself by browsing a problem forum.)

So I made a note on my calendar.  I let the contract run for four weeks and called to cancel it just before the first month expired.  After about 20 minutes of phone hell I got someone who agreed to cancel it.  But the $15 kept appearing on my bill. Just got my April bill for the month of March.  There it was, the $15 that wouldn’t die, an RRF that I now think of as $180 per year, or $240 a year in pre-tax income. GRRRR.  (What do people do who aren’t retired and don’t have the time I do?)

Frustration (was: threesixtyfive | day 244)

Image by Sybren A. Stüvel via Flickr

Back to the maddeningly-cheerful phone-hell voice. Can’t call Technical Support – this is a billing problem, requiring business hours and the business office.  OK.  I eventually got “Chuck”, a fellow with a strange, yet understandable accent and awkward syntax.  I was afraid to ask where he was, I just wanted to get rid of the *&@# $180 RRF!  It took about 15 minutes to get Chuck to understand what I wanted and he kept assuring me that he was going to make me happy.  (I could tell he was reading his spiel.)

Finally, after several periods on hold, Chuck came back on to say that I would get refunds for February and March, and was there anything else he could do to “make me a fully-satisfied customer today?” Hmm.  Hoping I wasn’t going to insult his intelligence (like that could happen!), I asked, is this going to remove the $15 from my next bill, and what about the April bill I hadn’t paid yet? Silence.  Then, “Er, Mr. Wheeler, I need to place you on hold again.  Thank you for your patience.”  (What patience? Never mind.)  So, several minutes later he comes back and cheerfully tells me that in order to remove future billings I simply need to call H.B.S. Billing at a certain 800 number.  “What’s that?”, I say.  “Oh,”, he says, “AT&T Technical Services billing is done by H.B.S.“, a special billing subcontractor apparently.

“Is there anything else I can do to make you a fully-satisfied customer today, Mr. Wheeler?”, he has the nerve to ask.  Well, yes, CHUCK, there is.  Look, I know that YOU don’t make the rules here, CHUCK, but I’m frankly NOT happy that it takes over half an hour AFTER going through PHONE HELL to take care of a simple BILLING MISTAKE ON YOUR PART, and I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THIS CAN’T BE HANDLED WITH ONE PHONE CALL TO A BUSINESS OFFICE.  And I ask for Chuck’s operator identifying number. Poor Chuck.  Silence.  He gives me his number and then says, “Sorry, Mr. Wheeler, but I need to put you on hold now.  Please wait.  Thank you for your patience.”  Sigh.

Water down the drain

Ten minutes later, Chuck, after admitting he was stiffed himself by his own company on HIS first try, now assures me that the whole matter is resolved.  I will get my refunds and the charge for all future billings for the special Tech Support will be removed.  I am not holding my breath. And I warn you, Chuck, this time I made NOTES and I’ve GOT YOUR NUMBERThis is just like running hot water down the drain, Chuck. Let me tell you about RRF’s.  Aargh!

Why is it I’m thinking Chuck may be expendable?

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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