Saturday, December 20, 2008

Incommunicado

Our landline phone is on the fritz. It was working earlier today (Friday) but this afternoon when I picked it up to call the office, there was no dial tone.

Do you get the same eerie feeling I do when you pick up the phone and don't hear a dial tone? I feel like I am out of touch with the whole world - which is silly since I was sitting in front of my computer and the internet/e-mail was working fine. I also had my cell phone nearby.

Funny, but just earlier in the day I was thinking about how sturdy and reliable the basic house phone is. Power outages don't affect it and I can't ever remember it breaking down. But then it did.

Since I pay the bill online, I went to AT&T's website, logged in and clicked the link about troubleshooting. There was a box to check for "no dial tone," which I did and clicked the submit button. From there it had me enter various information and then do a test to see if the problem was within the house or outside of our circuits. I had to go to our phone junction box, which is in our garage (the only reason I know that is because the technician who handled the unsuccessful U-Verse install a couple of weeks ago showed me where it was; otherwise I woud never have found it), and plug a phone into the jacks inside the box. If I could hear a dial tone it meant the problem was inside the house.

There was no dial tone, so the problem is somewhere before it gets to our house.

I used the cell phone to call the number on the site to report the problem. I thought that might be better because it wouldn't be as impersonal as filling out a form online. Ha, I was wrong about that. Not once did I have the opportunity to speak with a living human being, not even one in India. The whole process is automated and is accomplished by punching in numbers to indicate choices.

At one point in time I indicated I was not getting a dial tone. The next question I was asked by the automaton was, "are you calling from the phone that has the problem?" Huh??

Finally after going through all the steps, I made an appointment for someone to come out on Tuesday between 8 and 6 to repair the problem. Luckily I am not that dependent on the phone and I don't like talking on it anyway so it's no tragedy that it is out of commission. Now, had it been the internet connection..

Meanwhile, I had to use my seldom-used cell phone to call the office. I hate using cell phones! They are so small and inconvenient. Maybe I just need to get used to it.

You know, all too often the level of customer service on the phone is so low it makes you want to scream. Still, there is something to be said for speaking with a real person and the flexibility that offers, as opposed to the static, inflexible way of dealing with a machine. I wanted to say, "hey, the problem is somewhere outside of our junction box so why can't you send out a repairman sooner? Why do I need to be home?" Of course, I'd probably get the same result from speaking to someone live, that sorry, they can't do that, but there's a certain amount of satisfaction to be derived from simply having the opportunity to ask about it instead of being herded through fixed choices with no other options available.

What happened to the good old operator that was always there to help?




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