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 Clearly Not An Alternative

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Jae Baeli
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Posts : 83
Join date : 2011-11-09
Age : 55
Location : Lakewood

PostSubject: Clearly Not An Alternative   Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:16 pm


(From my memoir, "Falling Through the Cracks: The Misadventures of No One Famous")

With a phone and a pager, I could manage to drum up some clients for my little home pseudo- business. I spent almost all the income from a previous set of shows to make that happen. I went with a digital phone company because I liked the features and they only required $250 for a deposit.

My recent Chapter 7 Bankruptcy insured that a deposit would be required with any new service. Oddly, my previous good standing with the local phone company did nothing to decrease the $500 deposit they required from me in order to have cell phone service.

My first bill arrived, to the tune of $400. I knew there would probably be taxes and such added to the bill, but since I was expecting the $49.99 monthly charge, this was a bit of a shock. In examining the bill, I noticed that I was being charged for an additional month of service, another phone number, the phone itself (which I did not even purchase from them, but from Radio Shack), a month of service for the other phone number, plus taxes, and another deposit AGAIN.

I spent the next two months trying like crazy to remind them of the concept of "customer service." Each time I called the local store, I was confronted with a menu of options. If you’d like information about this, press one. . . If you’d like information about that, press two. . .If you’d like to hear an endless list of our promotions whether you’re interested or not, press three. . . I kept waiting for that selection, If you’d like to speak to a human, press twenty-seven. . . But it never came. Once it got to the end of the menu, the honey-dripping voice instructed me to stay on the line to speak to a "customer advocate." I waited, enjoying the strains of Air Supply’s I’m All Out of Love, and then Barry Manilow’s Looks Like We Made it. I recalled this as my High School Prom theme song. Appropriate, since it was a surprise to most of us and our parents that we graduated at all.

Finally, a "Customer Advocate" answered—not by saying "How may I help you?" like in yesteryear, but "Your account number, please." Whether we admit it or not, we have all become just numbers, like those prisoners you see in old movies in striped shirts with digits across their chests. I always hated that. I didn’t want to give them all my information, I wanted to get right to the point. But of course they had to have it in order to pull up my account and verify everything I was saying, because, you know, most customers lie through their teeth about everything.

In great, put-upon detail, I described the problem and got very little sympathy, and a whole lot of attitude. I was put on hold several times while she "researched the problem," and each time she returned from this dubious research, she assured me, in so many words, that they don’t make those mistakes. She asked me if I had a receipt for the deposit, and I said no (kicking myself) because I had paid in cash. *A method of currency unrecognizable and non-transferable after the year 1990.

"We always give you a receipt," she said haughtily.

I told her I received some sort of invoice, but that my deposit was not noted on it. Further, I recounted the fact that after my information was entered that day, their computer system went down, and the clerk had to re-enter everything, and wasn't it possible that the deposit wasn't noted the second time?

She didn't believe this was possible. "Our cash drawers would have been off by that amount if it wasn't."

All I knew was that I had paid the deposit. And maybe, just maybe, the charge was noted, payment noted, bringing me to zero, then entered as a charge, but not noted as paid the second time. This would be an error in their favor, and therefore resistant to change. Money is always the bottom line. My lack of money is always the norm. My lack of luck is always the norm, too. It was like my Guardian Angel was on vacation. I have this theory about Guardian Angels. Some of them are good at their jobs, and some aren't. What I know about the machinations of heaven, you can fit on the head of a pin, but at least I know what the pins are for. They're for gouging out the eyes of some Guardian Angels. I lovingly refer to mine as Murphy: as in "Murphy's First Law: Anything that can go wrong, WILL."

The debate continued with all the other items on the bill, and I explained that I had signed up first on the Internet from their web page, but found out later the page was outdated, and no longer counted as a real order. It must have counted somewhere, because I got charged for the first number and all the fees that went along with it. She said she would research the issue and call me right back.

I listened intently, but never heard my phone ring.

Since I was getting no semblance of "customer service," I called back, waded through the tiresome recordings, reached another human, explained it all again, and asked for the number of a district manager. Happy to be rid of me, she gave me the number, and I hung up to call him. Predictably, I got his voice mail, and left a message, again explaining the problem.

angryrant1 This game of cat and mouse went on for the next few months. Explaining and re-explaining the problem to each new Customer Advocate and District Manager, until I was ready to kill them all. Meanwhile, my bill went unpaid, as I refused to send payment until everything was worked out. My service was disconnected just before a flat tire in the middle of nowhere required me to use my phone to call for help. Naturally, this was necessary because I had a flat spare tire awaiting the emergency in which I could curse it. I had to walk several miles to a pay phone and fill it with change in order to find someone to come fetch me. With my physical disabilities this was particularly unpleasant.

Eventually, I actually spoke to one of the managers, and he agreed to "meet me halfway" by charging me half the deposit again and one month’s service charge. Reminiscent of the cop who was nice enough to give me only two tickets. He assured me the service would be restored if I paid this amount at the local store.

At this point, I was endangering the few clients I had for my computer work, and felt that if I had my service, I could get on with things and eventually get the credit back to me or onto my account. I agreed to pay, albeit under duress. *Murphy’s Technology Law #16: To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.

So I went down to the store as the District Manager said to, and gave them the cash (everything I could scrap up including my rolled pennies). After they took my money, they informed me that I had to pay for next month too, or they wouldn't turn my service on.

I stood there, my system REALLY low on Paxil, and began to feel a little like one of those Postal Workers who show up with an empty conscience and a full clip. I said, "I was told by the District Manager that if I came down here and paid this, my service would be turned back on." She gave me some slime about "policy" tempered with a really shitty attitude, like I was some gutter rat who had the audacity to touch one of their phones--and I just lost it. "I want you to call him and verify what I've said. And I want you to call him right now."

"He's not available right now."

"How do you know that, until you call?"

"I know he's out of town."

"That's okay, he has a CELL PHONE!" I shouted.

"He's NOT available," she said again.

"Who's your supervisor?" I said, REALLY LOUD. *Murphy’s Technology Law #13: The first myth of management is that it exists.

She said SHE was the supervisor. I said, "Who'd you sleep with to get the job?"

The look on her face was almost worth all the hassle from the last few months. She said, "You can't have your service 'til you pay. Next!" And looked right past me to another customer.

It was at this point that I believe I went ballistic. I said, "I want to see a REAL manager, and I want to see one now!" And I went right past her BEHIND THE COUNTER and started searching the back offices. I was aware that I was causing a scene, and that other customers in the store were staring at me, thrilled that they would get to see something as exciting as a "Caught on Tape" episode.

She yelled at me, "I'm calling the police!"

I yelled back, "Call them! I need to file a report on THEFT BY DECEPTION!" and I continued to look for a manager. There was NO ONE to be found, and when I came back to the front, she was on the phone with the police.

I can't tell you how close I came to snatching the receiver from her hand and beating her to death with it. When she hung up, I had decided that those cell-bunks were a little less that friendly for my back, and I didn't want to spend the night on one. So I leaned over the counter and got in her face and whispered, "Watch your back," and walked out. I guess it was a threat. I didn’t know what else to say. I wanted to have some kind of last word with her before making my exit. "Caught on Tape" was now quickly turning into an episode of "Cops."

*Bad girl, bad girl, whatcha gonna do. . .whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

By the time I got to my car, I think a massive aneurysm was in order. I had earned 4 tickets, been up to my neck in the red tape and bureaucracy of government offices, totally overwhelmed with chronic pain, sick to death of struggling to get by on sandwiches and coffee and five dollars per week, feeling terribly worthless, victimized and generally sorry for myself. Then I had to deal with this garbage on top of all that. I mean, what had I done to deserve such turmoil and hardship? Hadn't I tried? Hadn't I kept my chin up and my head down?

On the way home I cursed God, Buddha, Mohammed, Ghandi, Republicans, fertile women, and a couple of Toyotas.
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