We are all doomed.

I know, you’ve heard this before. Plato bitched about the kids and their crazy flute music, Guru Baba Swami Jones screamed it at you this morning from his street corner preaching post, and just the other day someone cut open a cucumber and saw a message from Allah in the arrangement of the seeds, and we’re still here. Not for long.

I work with wireless phones. This has allowed me to speak to customers who can’t understand why their local plan from New York was charged roaming charges during their vacation in Los Angeles. I now work at a higher level (when they put you on hold to look something up they’re probably calling me), which has allowed me to speak to care reps who can’t understand why a phone doesn’t work properly simply because they have selected both the inbound calling only and outbound calling only features.

Fair enough, but this was just too much.

Today I was consulted by a care rep who couldn’t understand why both of the customer’s phones were generating a busy signal whenever she was called. Her conclusion was that there must be a serious system problem in that area.

I pulled up the customer’s file, and checked it out. The customer had phone “A” on immediate call forwarding (any call directed to phone “A” will be sent directly to another number without causing phone “A” to ring) to phone “B”.

Yeah. You guessed it. She had phone “B” on immediate call forwarding to phone “A”.

This person, and I say person because there is no way I could find to tell whether it was the customer or the care rep who spoke to her yesterday and explained call forwarding, is a legal adult and gets to sign contracts, drive, have children, and vote. The rep who called me, who spent eight hours today dealing with customers, didn’t notice the contradiction.

Not with a bang but a whimper indeed.

Ha ha. That sounds like something I would do. In fact like something I did.*

While my husband was a customer care rep (or whatever they were calling it that week) for the phone co. I used.

Fortunately I did not get him when I called to ask if my bill could be adjusted.

*My son and I were driving around trying to find his girl friend’s house. He’d been there before, but he has a terrible sense of direction. So do I.
He’d called me right before he showed up. Putting my phone back in my purse I hit the button that calls the last number–my son. For 36 minutes we drove around, 2-1/2 feet from each other, with our cell phones connected! Didn’t figure it out until I got on my phone to call my husband to get actual directions to the house . . . the good news here is, even without my having to mention (not that I would have) that my SO worked there, I got an adjustment on my bill. Yes.

My friend, I own a small company of 8 employees which makes internet database systems for Vodafone down here in Australia. All those dealerships, and kiosks in shopping malls? They all use my systems to liase with head office to sign up new customers - both retail and corporate.

Believe me when I tell you that, in me, you’ve found a sympathetic ear. I’ve specialised in our little “niche industry” for 6 years now and the stories are legion.

Ultimately, my theory is this… mobile phones or “cell phones” as my American friends refer to them, are pretty fucking expensive things to run. Under most circumstances, if you were to try and sign someone up for say, a $50 service per month which may or may not be an utter necessity in their lives - well, most people would balk at the cost, and at least think twice about it.

But not mobile phones. Man… everybody’s gotta have one… and almost everybody finds out after 2 or 3 months… “Shit they’re expensive to run!”.

And on top of that, mobile phones, and the billing companies who run them, well they specifically appeal to the lowest common denominator. No small part of their success is that they can be owned by every citizen - regardless of age or gender or demographic or IQ.

As a result, if there’s a way of fucking things up, it’s gonna get discovered - real quick. And if you’re working in customer service? Man, you’re gonna cop it even quicker.

Still, I can’t complain. All in all it keeps me in a very nice lifestyle I must say.

A particularly paranoid ex-coworker of mine said “Mobile phones are a fantastic way for the government to be able to track our every movement, and the genius of the idea is - we pay for the privilege!”

Viva el payphone, that’s all I have to say about it.

jjimm, even paranoids have enemies. puts on tinfoil hat and hides from the CIA’s hunter-killer drones

“Total Recall” anyone? Wet towel on the head.

You guys make me tinkle. blush

Darn it, I have done that sort of thing. I forwarded my home phone to my cell phone, then could not figure out why I was getting a busy signal every time I called home to remind my husband to shut off the call forwarding.

Ugh. I hate incompetent customer service reps even more than I hate asshole customers. I used to work in tech support for a large university, and we had a woman working there who was particularly offensive. She’d been working there for more than ten years, and yet her knowledge of computers was still such that she probably thought a motherboard is the governing body of a daycare center. There were seriously about three things she knew how to help people with sufficiently, and for anything else she generally employed one of two strategies:

  1. Give the customer some things to try that will either (a) do absolutely nothing as they are unrelated to the problem, or (b) make things even worse; then give out a case number and hang up, so the person will have to call back, and someone else will have to deal with the problem instead.

  2. Tell the customer that the 2nd-level techs need to have a look, and they’ll get back to her in a few days, ignoring the fact that the problem is actually extremely simple. Then send up a case full of notes that couldn’t be less comprehensible if they were written in Attic Greek and run through an RSA encryption program, so someone else has to deal with the problem instead.

I was one of the liaisons between our first level agents and the second level guys who handled anything exceptionally strange, so I got to deal with this woman a lot. She would send up dozens of cases a day, with notes like, “customer can’t connect to the server sending up to see if there is problem.” What the fuck does that mean? Exactly which of the university’s hundreds of services utilizes “the server?” I guess I’ll check the Product field… ah, she’s left it blank again. Wonderful. Or better yet, why couldn’t you expend the effort to turn your fat ass around to look at the outages board, so you could find out whether the problem’s on our end yourself? I guess when you’re dealing with someone whose shoe size outperforms her IQ, understanding simple logic and exercising basic motor skills might be too much to ask.

Her favorite thing to do was hold cases in her WIP (works in progress) bin until five minutes before her shift was over, then send up several all at once and hurry out the door, so she’d be gone before we could point out her myriad mistakes and tell her what she needed to do to fix them. The help desk as a whole probably would have gotten more work done if she just stared at her fucking screen all day and never answered her phone.

What really gets me is this: most of us help desk monkeys fell into one of two categories: students, or LTEs (limited term employees), both of whom received shit for pay. This woman was full time, which meant that this dipshit, who probably opens every last iamnotavirus.jpg.pif file that makes its way into her inbox, was getting paid three times as much as someone who actually had a capacity for reason greater than that of an average squirrel. And as I said, she’d been working there for many years. She probably still works there. Thank you, unionization. Thank you, men in charge who hate and fear change in all its devilish forms.

(deep, calming breaths)

I could keep going, but I’d probably be applying for my AARP card by the time I finished. Thank all that’s holy I don’t work in customer service anymore.

OK, I’ll grant that was a stupid thing to do. But, if it’s that easy for you to see what the problem is, couldn’t the software detect and prevent that sort of loop?

I’m not a software guy, but I’m willing to bet that rewriting the code for a multinational corporation costs more than what they paid me to look up the information on the system we have. Should this sort of thing become a major problem in the future, somebody will probably look into it.

I’d be more likely to grant the point if she had had two lines of service on the same account, but they were different accounts, so the only way to find out that phone “A” was related to phone “B” was to look up the number that phone “A” was forwarded to, something which could cross wireless carriers or involve a landline or possibly a third intervening number. I’m skeptical of the efficacy of the proposed solution.

I probably wouldn’t have looked for it myself if I hadn’t had to explain earlier in the day that the reason the customer couldn’t access his voicemail was that he did not, in fact, have voicemail.

I did something nearly this stupid, only with a web browser.

One day, I clicked on a link and my browser went away. “Hmm,” I said to myself. “That’s odd.”

So, I restart my browser. I got a splash screen, then bing. It was gone. Restart. Splash. Gone. Restart. Splash. Gone. Grumble. Test other browsers. They work. Go back to mine. Restart. Splash. Gone. Sonofabitch! Uninstall. Reinstall. Start. Splash. Gone. Uninstall. Download latest version. Install. Start. Splash. Gone.

Think to check brand new standalone pop-up killer. Find that I had clicked to block a pop up that didn’t have a name other than the name of the browser. Deleted rule. Restart. Splash. Browser.



That was probably me.

I recently switched employers and received the same type of phone, and (I thought) service plan I had been getting at the old company.

When I tried to access my voice mail, I couldn’t do it, so I called customer service, where I was told I didn’t have voice mail.

I raised such a stink about it that they gave me free voicemail. But that sure made me feel dumb for a minute there.

You don’t work for the NEXt TELephone company, do you?