Dracula Is A Sparkly Vampire Compared To AT&T

So here’s the deal…Tuesday, June 15 I woke up early to pre-order my new iPhone 4. I had an iPhone 3g and being 2 1/2 years old, it was getting a bit long in the tooth. While the AT&T servers were committing seppuku for being unprepared for the onslaught of orders, I somehow managed to slip in my pre-order. This was followed a couple of days later by a reminder to be sure to show up the following Thursday, June 24 to pick up my shiny new toy from the local Apple store.

Thursday rolled around and I woke at 5am to get a shower and get to the line by 6am. I figured that they would have a separate line for those of us with pre-orders and an hour early should be good enough. The original single line wrapped around the corner and to the far side of the parking lot…with me right at the curb. A little free Chik-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme later (Apple stores know how to handle big launches) and they finally split us into the have and have-not lines. Fortunately the pre-order line was very short. Finally the doors open at 7am and people begin getting filed in. It only took 46 minutes from doors open until I was walking out with my fully activated iPhone4. I even made it to work on time. As I said, Apple knows how to handle things.


My daughter had a piece of junk prepaid mobile phone. I didn’t even know that Sanyo made phones…if that’s what you want to call it. In light of the stupid amount of expense for the incredible lack of service…I decided she needed to have my old iPhone 3g. We could switch to a family plan with more total minutes and data and unlimited messaging for a grand total of $5 more a month than I have already been spending. And all she really had was unlimited texting. It’s a winner of a plan. This should be pretty simple: I call them and change my plan, tell them I need to re-activate the old iPhone as the secondary line with a new number…and pick up a new SIM from the local store (since you cannot re-use a SIM that’s been cancelled).

But I failed to realize I was dealing with AT&T.

So the nice lady on the phone supposedly takes care of all this and hands me over to sales to finalize the whole deal of changes she’s made on my account. The nice lady in sales kindly informs me that there is no way to do what I want over the phone and I will just have to spend the hours in the store it will require to get service because the old iPhones require a special SIM card that can only be obtained by rescuing the princess going to an actual AT&T store. I kindly inform her that she must be mistaken since the SIM in my iPhone actually came from my AT&T Tilt. She argued. I hung up on her. I cannot abide idiocy and that was the kindest thing I could do at that moment. This was, of course after she checked my account at my request and told me unequivocally that there were absolutely no changes to my account despite what the first nice lady told me.

Later that night…texting becomes disabled on my phone. WTF have they done to my phone? Well, I can’t find out because the almighty AT&T doesn’t have a 24/7 call center. They’ve closed for the evening and now I’m stuck without my main medium of communication. Beauty. Anyone else notice that the AT&T emblem looks like the Death Star?


…on the way to work I ring them up yet again. The nice lady that took my call apologized profusely for the inconvenience that my outage had caused me. She then found the problem and fixed it. I haz txts againz!!!!!! And apparently my account is mysteriously on the Family Plan that I was unequivocally assured was not added. Curiouser and curiouser this becomes, no? All of this prompted me to launch into my tales of woe and betrayal on my previous call. The nice lady apologized again and helped make the necessary fixes to my account so I could go to the local store to get my new number and SIM card. She even gave me a $16 credit for my troubles. This call ends on a happy note.


I head out on my one hour lunch break to the closest AT&T store to finish up this whole ordeal. I show up and have about a three minute wait until someone helps me. This should worry everyone. No AT&T store I’ve ever been in has ever had less than a 45 minute wait to get help. The nice man whips out a SIM card and begins getting my new number set up for the old phone. After a bit of typing and clicking he gets a perplexed look on his face and announces that it appears his terminal locked while finalizing the new number. He starts over. The perplexed look returns and he picks up the phone to call someone at AT&T’s fully armed and operational battlestation. He spends some time on the phone explaining things and asks the stormtrooper rep to see if they can finish it for him since his station is on the fritz. Another minute or two passes and he gets an apologetic look. We are now 32 minutes into my lunch hour.

He asks if I recently closed another account on my name. I confirm that I did…back in April. He tells me that there is a balance on that account which is preventing the completion of the line addition. –Backstory to this: My ex-girlfriend’s phone was on that account. She missed a payment and the phone was suspended. I called and had them permanently suspend it as it was out of contract so she could pay it off and I could cancel it. All of that happened…in person…at an AT&T store. I was personally guaranteed by the nice people at the store at that time that there were no pending charges and there would never be another balance on that account as long as I live.– NOW, there is a balance. I get a phone number to call and retire to the exterior of the store because I didn’t want the people that have been so nice to me to hear what was about to escape my lips.

The nice lady that answered my call checked and confirmed that there was no balance on the day I cancelled. She also confirmed that despite my assurances otherwise, there was a bill cycle 3 DAYS LATER that put a $104 balance on said account…part of which was a RECONNECT FEE. I tried to reason with her and she was very understanding. She was also willing to work with me in any way possible as long as that way involved me giving them the $104 dollars I was assured I would never be charged. We are now 54 minutes into my lunch hour. I go ahead and pay it because it isn’t worth the rest of my workday to fight it.

I get my confirmation number for the payment and return inside to the nice man that has been helping me. He tries again and fails to add the line. He again calls his cohort on the small moon. He then proceeds to argue with the disembodied voice on the phone that I did in fact pay that bill just now and it was completely fine to finish adding my line. The arguing continues for several minutes. We are now 1 hour and 7 minutes into my lunch hour. Eventually the soulless wretch on the phone gives in and pushes my new line through. HURRAH! Then the nice man looks at me and mentions in an off-hand manner that there will be a $25 fee for adding this new line.

So to recap, we are 1 hour and 15 minutes into my lunch hour. I have now spent $129 more than I was told I would have to spend. AT&T has now sucked my meager savings over the past few months dry. THEY CHARGED ME TO ADD A LINE THAT THEY WILL CHARGE ME FOR. Everyone was kind. Everyone was understanding. Everyone was apologetic. Only one made any effort to compensate me for being financially raped. AT&T is a death star vampire. They will suck your money and your soul and your will to live. I’ve been a customer of theirs for over 10 years with wireless and even longer with various land lines and internet connections.

I would gladly fire a pair of photon torpedoes up their thermal exhaust port.

Tech Support – We’re People Too

Nobody likes calling tech support. There are droves of sites that recount horror stories of dealing with various companies and their failure to provide the help that is wanted and needed. This will probably never change. I, too, really try to avoid calling any tech support line as long as possible. I will beat Google’s search algorithm to a bloody pulp and turn my cable modem into a pile of molten goo in an attempt to fix a problem before I will pick up the phone a press a few numbers. Heck, I have a series of posts on this very blog recounting my experiences with Comcast support and they are not flattering to tech support (though the social media outreach team is a different story).

On the flip side of that coin, I am in tech support at the company I work for. I take the calls and do what I can to help. Having been on both sides of the fence, I think I can safely say that there are a few things you can do to give you much better chances to leave a support call satisfied. Now this may not work every time as every company and every support technician (or engineer or whatever the PC term is this week) are not equal. But the point here is by trying to adhere to a few common courtesies and being a little flexible can greatly increase the chances that you will have a pleasant experience when you pick up the phone to ask for help.

First and foremost, do not assume that you will be stonewalled or that your experience will be a bad one. This will put you in a negative frame of mind and that will come out during your conversation with the support rep. Job or not…that is a person on the other end and they don’t like being verbally abused or mistreated any more than you do. Try to remember that. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish since you are probably frustrated already with whatever problem has driven you to call in the first place but trust me, you don’t want to come off as belligerent.

Next, understand that your problem might be rare or unique in some way so it may take a little while to dig to the bottom of the cause. A good support rep is not going to just give you a quick answer and all but shove you off the call. I can tell you from personal experience that about 30% of the cases I deal with in any given day are unique in some form or fashion. This leads me to asking quite often for very basic information so I can be sure that I am thorough. After all, if you call back because the problem wasn’t as fixed as we thought it was because I missed something, you will, understandably, be less inclined to be patient or nice. Of course there is the exception of the other 70% of the cases I deal with. These are the things I see almost daily and can say with near absolute confidence what the solution is in fairly short order. Don’t confuse that answer with brushing you off. If you have doubts about which it is, then ask if it’s a common problem. I can’t speak for most companies but I can say that the one I work for values honesty with the customer.

Try to understand the support rep’s point of view because he or she is trying to understand yours. Our goal is to get your problem fixed. Our goal is to do it as quickly and as thoroughly as reasonably possible. We want you to get full use of your product/service and we know how frustrating it is when something you need isn’t doing what it is supposed to do. We honestly do understand. We don’t get calls because things are working great, which is fine because that’s the job. Again, I can’t speak for other places but at my job we do it because we like solving problems.

I don’t know how many people notice, but if you are on a support call and your rep engages you in idle conversation while fixing the problem, you will probably leave the call with a positive feeling towards the experience. The chatting about random things gives you a personal connection with the person on the other end of the phone. It doesn’t seem as mechanical and that has a profound effect on the overall experience. I bring this up because if you are feeling overly frustrated by your problem, try initiating some idle chat if the rep has not. This can diffuse the potential for a bad experience rather quickly. It does not mean we won’t take your problem seriously, but it does make the solution finding process more pleasant which makes time seem to pass more quickly. This is a good thing since nobody wants to be on the phone for a long time with support. Well, it usually doesn’t make the top 10 list of things to do at work at any rate.

What brought on this particular post? Oddly, it was not having a bad support call. I had a great one. A call came in mere minutes before quitting time and ran about an hour or so after quitting time. The caller had every right to be really upset about the situation but never once let it show. We had a nice chat while we worked through everything that was going on and tried some different methods to fixing the problem. When we finally exhausted everything I knew to try we finally had to admit defeat and get the replacement process started. Even then the caller was understanding and only stated a desire to get back up and running quickly. I went on and stayed a while after hanging up to make sure the replacement process was fully in motion (at least as far as I can take it) before finally shutting down my computer and heading home. I do this job because I like to solve problems and I like helping people. Being in support lets me do both. Calls like this make the job a real joy. And amazingly, most of the calls we get are nearly this good.

Just remember that you are dealing with a person on the other end of the phone. This person is here to do what they can to help. Try to be nice to them even if you are mad at the situation. At the very least, take a breath if you start venting and apologize. Everyone’s emotions get a little out of sorts from time to time. I called Comcast for the eleventy-hundredth time and ended up griping at the poor lady that answered my call for nearly three minutes. The moment I realized what I was doing, I stopped and took a deep breath. Then I apologized for taking it out on her and explained I was just very frustrated by the problem and she did not deserve that because she personally had been trying to help fix the problem. Even after all of that I would dare say we both left the call on a happy note.

A little courtesy can work wonders.

AT&T Business Care(less)

I was on the phone the other day with AT&T. I manage wireless phones for the company I work for and I needed to upgrade one employee’s phone and remove two numbers from suspension so I could issue phones to a couple of new employees. That should be simple process. It should take less than five minutes per task to complete. The problem is that there is a difference between “should” and “is”.

Let me take a quick moment to explain how business accounts work. You have a Foundation Account Number or FAN. This is the master account. Under this (like subfolders on a computer) you have Billing Account Numbers or BANs. These are where Subscriber Lines (phones) are located. This allows you to separate groups of numbers by department or region or manager. Now that we have that down…back to the story.

Apparently AT&T has decided that we need a new FAN but didn’t bother to tell me or give me access to it on the Premier site. For the past week or so I have noticed that I haven’t been able to pull up information on voice lines (our air cards are on another BAN and require far less maintenance). Any time I tried to get into the information or perform an upgrade I got a notice about technical difficulties with some long unintelligible string of characters in pretty red text. I tried to give it a little time because I knew that Premier isn’t exactly known for being the most reliable system out there. Go Java!

So anyway, I get tired of this and call the Premier support number. I run through the voice menu options that make the most sense and finally get a person on the phone. This person is not in Premier Support. He advises me I should call this number to get to the proper department…which was the number I dialed that sent me to him. AT&T – Your World Delivered (to the wrong place). We argued back and forth about whether I called the correct number or not and eventually I convinced him that I did indeed dial the correct number and that he should try to get someone on the phone from the correct department to help me out. This results in me being put on hold.

About twenty minutes later I’m finally back on with this guy who tells me the proper option sequence to select in the voice menu system to get to the support department. Someone tell me why the number dedicated to Premier Support puts the option to actually get Premier Support down at option three. Apparently when it asks if you are having trouble with your service on the Premier Support line it doesn’t mean Premier. AT&T wins again with great design. Okay, enough digressing…the guy informed me he had the right place and was transferring me now. I thanked him and heard myself transferred…to the call queue. Yep, stupid music met my ears and the recorded voice thanking me for my patience. Apparently he failed in locating a fellow human being. At this point we’re nearly forty-five minutes into the call when all I wanted was three little things done. Oh, those tasks still haven’t been completed.

Here I am in the call queue of what I can only hope is the right place. I’m not really holding my breath because I usually get transferred incorrectly at least twice before I get to a person that can actually help me. I started all of this at roughly three o’clock. I hit the queue just a little before four o’clock. It is now four forty-five and I am still listening to stupid music and annoying recorded voices thanking me for my patience. I hung up and haven’t gotten my problem fixed yet. And don’t bother trying to get help from your account representative. That’s not his job any more. He’s there to put contracts in front of you and to tell you which useless numbers to call for help. This isn’t like the old days when a rep actually tried to get problems resolved. Nope. He’s a paper and responsibility pusher.

I’d like to thank AT&T for this absolutely wonderful lack of service, confusing voice menus, and absolute most retarded customer service restructure in the history of man. If the guy in charge of my account isn’t really there to service my account. Then call him by a different title. I suggest going with something like Corporate Rape Specialist or Blame Pusher.

A Comcast Summary

For those of you that have been following my Comcast saga, you can jump down to the last paragraph. Newcomers, you are being treated with a brief summary of the previous trials. More in-depth information can be found in the posts tagged Comcast…just hit up the search feature.

The whole thing started about nine or ten months ago with some poor picture problems. I have a 50″ Samsung plasma television and subscribe to Comcast’s HD service complete with DVR. I figured it would be a fairly simple thing to call them up, run through their troubleshooting script, and get a tech to stop by and fix whatever was messed up. I figured wrong.

Over the course all these months I have been calling Comcast almost weekly with the same problem. Standard definition channels are so fuzzy that they look like I’m watching them on my old Zenith television hooked up to rabbit-ears and HD channels giving me the Max Headroom treatment if they come in at all. I have had no less than a dozen techs at my house over this time all trying to figure out what was going on. They ran a new cable to the house and replaced all the cable ends and splitters where the feed comes in. Nothing helped. I replaced the receiver which was constantly locking up on me (thus losing all my saved programs) and that did nothing except maybe make my problems even worse.

So I blogged it. Lo and behold my little blog which got less than twenty hits a day at the time got a response. In less than four hours after posting my first Comcast rant, I got a comment from Melissa with Comcast’s Social Media Outreach group. Thus ensued a series of emails (which are blogged here) and phone calls with the “local leadership” in an effort to fix my ongoing poor service. More techs were sent and more problems just weren’t fixed. But Customer Service was a pleasure to deal with. Every last one of them was helpful and sympathetic. Their techs consistantly sucked. Insert more blog postings, emails, and phone calls.

Eventually I got a response via Twitter from Melissa’s boss, Frank (@comcastcares). He was very excited about my opinion on how his group was helping me get something done but was just as frustrated at their tech’s inability to fix it. More time passed with steadily worsening service. It literally became unwatchable cable. Finally, Melissa ran across my more recent postings (the one’s with Star Wars-esque names) and decided it was time to up the ante. That got me the head of the local support center and a visit from one of his top engineers. Yep, engineer…not tech. He fixed the problem in less than two hours. Turns out when the cable ends were replaced, the one that went to my DVR had some of the ground braiding touching the center conducter wire. Way to go tech guys.

Well, that was about three weeks ago and I am happy to say that I have been credited for service that was nigh unusable and since the engineer’s visit, my service has been really good. I still get occasional pixelation, but I can live with it. Besides, who on Comcast doesn’t have quality drop on HD every now and then? It took every ounce of patience I had to keep them around long enough to get a fix. This was in large part because of my reluctance to give up Food Network and Good Eats. Alton Brown is the only reason I have cable to begin with and my addiction to his show is the only reason Comcast is still getting money from me. So I have to thank AB for giving me a reason to see it through to a finally happy conclusion. I cannot express how much I appreciate everything that Frank and Melissa did for me. That group deserves positive press regardless of whatever the rest of the Company From Hell is doing. So Frank and Melissa, thanks again and keep up the great work. With luck you won’t hear from me any more unless you want to talk about random topics.

Comcast Episode Three: Revenge of the Box

Another week and still the high signal issues persist. I figured that since the tech that came out Saturday was one that had been there before and managed to get me fixed back then, I would see some satisfaction. I was wrong. While attempting to watch Good Eats last night I got frozen frames, pixelated video, trilling sound…the full Max Headroom treatment…that culminated in a nice box in the middle of the screen once again informing me that I needed to subscribe if I wanted to watch Food Network. Come on guys, it can’t be that hard to fix a signal problem.

So there I was, on the phone with Comcast yet again. The lady was really nice. I can’t commend their phone reps enough for their great personalities. She couldn’t find my ticket but informed me she was unable to see any that have been escalated. She tried to get someone on the phone from escalation but they wouldn’t answer. This is another area where I have to give kudos. She didn’t just transfer me to their queue and move on to the next caller. She placed me on hold and tried to get them on the phone before handing me off. That failed, though. We settled for an email to her manager and to the escalation team about the problem.

Today’s agenda will include calling Sid and negotiating a reduction in my last bill since I spent roughly 75% of my actual television watching time with either no service or unusable service. I shouldn’t pay for something I just cannot use. Besides, I doubt my tiny little bill will put them out of business if they credit it. As of my writing this, I still have not heard back from the escalation department even though I was assured they would contact me before now. So here’s the lesson boys and girls: Comcast has a great customer service department if you only account for the people that answer the phone when you first call in. Anything after that is a gamble that will most likely end in tears.

Now you may be wondering why I’m still fighting this after all my ranting. I have a daughter that loves Cartoon Network and Nick. If it weren’t for me leaving her TV desolate, I would have dropped Comcast like a bad habit long ago over this. That was then. Now she’s just going to have to get used to the idea of watching DVDs or reading books. I’ve been patient. I’ve been nice. I’ve really tried to work it out and Comcast’s customer service has appeared to sincerely attempt to fix my problems. Their tech support obviously has other plans.

The other part of my dilemma is that even with extensive use of Google, I am unable to find a well written blueprint for replacing a set-top box and cable television with a PC and broadband. This will be my next endeavor. There needs to be a simple and concise article written on the ways you can substitute internet television for cable. I’m thinking a modular blueprint so you can add or skip sections based on what you actually want to do with it. I want to get my normal shows on my HDTV, use the HTPC as my DVD player, home theater amp (5.1 surround), and set-top box. The ability to stream media from my iMac and/or Vista laptop will be a bonus.

Comcast Episode Two: Attack of the Fuzz

There I was, minding my own business. It had been a long day at work but the week was now over. I had made it to Friday night. Supper was eaten and the dishes put away. All I had to do was relax on the couch with Doctor Who. The episode teaser was intriguing. The Doctor has a daughter?

The show started and I was instantly mesmerized by the images on the 50″ plasma. Say what you will, but I like the way Doctor Who stories are presented. I like the writing. I like the acting. It’s probably my favorite show next to Good Eats (and nobody can top that one). But there was a problem. Max Headroom syndrome was starting again. It was a little spastic, but it was there…probably nothing to worry about.

Then it grew more pronounced. By ten minutes into the show I was having full blown half-second scene repeats. But it’s fine, I just want to see the show so I switch to the SD channel since HD was obviously on the fritz. The signal is so bad it’s like watching TV on rabbit ears attached to a 10″ tube set made in the 50’s. It’s during a commercial so I switch to another station to make sure it isn’t just a SciFi problem. Nope. Every channel is covered in more fuzz than a lint catcher.

But it’s fine. I just want to see Doctor Who. I can make out the picture and I can hear the voices. It’s good enough. So I switch back to SciFi. Instead of the show I get a box that declares I must subscribe to SciFi if I want to watch it. Now I know my bill is paid and everything is in good standing. So I switch to a local station…same message. Something is horribly wrong. I reboot the box.

Joy! The signal is still bad but I can watch SciFi again. I’ve missed about 6 minutes of the show, but that’s alright. I just want to watch the rest of it. Unfortunately it blinks a minute or two in and brings me back to the subscribe message. By this time I’m on the phone with Comcast. The first call was pointless. I described the problem and the lady put me on hold. After waiting on hold for over 10 minutes I hang up and call back. Imagine that, I get someone on the phone right away. She isn’t overly helpful. She said there’s no problems in my area and I should just wait it out and see if it clears up. During all this I get it semi-working again and agree while trying to figure out what’s going on in Doctor Who.

But like a bad poker hand that you just keep getting dealt, it went right back to the subscribe screen. Now if you’ve been following my Comcast posts, you know this is a new DVR. You know that I’ve had new cabling run all over the place during the last year. And you know that Comcast techs should just about rent a house across the street because they are out here that much. So now I’ve missed almost all of Doctor Who. I make a third call. I get a guy this time on the phone. I actually feel sorry for him because I begin venting.

Now I’m not the kind of guy to just completely…ok…yes I am, but I am not so mad that I just burn his ears off. He does understand exactly how irritated I am, though. I get an appointment for Saturday so I won’t have to take a day off work. This guy is being very patient and offering some real help. It’s the first I’ve gotten tonight. So I thank him and hang up. Why? Because I’m busy buffering the episode I just missed on SurfTheChannel. Yep, I’ve found yet another site to replace the questionable service of Comcast Cable.

The tech that came out on Saturday has been to my house before. He remembers the work he’s done in the past and can’t believe they still don’t have it fixed. He tested far more stuff than any other tech and said he’d pass it on to thier senior guy who has been doing this for over 20 years. Actually, today is now Tuesday and I should have an answer as to what the problem is. (There’s a small chance it’s the cable in the walls.) And would you believe the guy told me that part of my problem the previous night was because of an outage? He laughed and shook his head when I told him the lady on the phone put me on hold to check with her supervisor to see if there was an outage and she assured me there was not one. Get it together Comcast.

Oh, after all this complaining, why am I still using their service? My daughter. She’s 11 and is thoroughly attached to Nick and Cartoon Network. While I can shift my viewing habits, I can’t yet bring myself to render her TV into a DVD player attachment just yet. It’s getting there really fast, though.

Comcast Episode One: The Signal Menace

Yep, it’s another Comcast post. The saga continues. I had a tech out Wednesday to diagnose my Max Headroom Syndrome and random HD DVR reboots. Of course, he had to call for some help back at the office because the box reported my cable service had been disconnected. Funny…I recall having paid my bill in full well before the due date and by that point I had not yet received the next bill. Turns out something freaked out but it was a quick fix.

Next was the actual signal problems. As of the time I am writing this, it is roughly the same as when the tech was here. The FDC is at -16 and the RDC is at 57. For those that don’t know, the RDC is high. This is the signal the box sends back to the office. According to the tech that was here this would be the source of my Max Headroom syndrome. He told me all sorts of odd things will happen when the RDC is out of whack. This tells me we don’t have it fixed yet because here it is Saturday and I still have a screwed up signal. And yes, Max Headroom TV is alive and well on my Samsung 50″ plasma.

But it wasn’t like this earlier today. I turned on the television and tried to turn on the cable box. It was unresponsive. After several minutes of playing with buttons I finally got it to respond somewhat. Guess what, it said my service was disconnected again. So I called in and was instructed to reboot the box which would be followed by a signal being sent to it….yet again. It worked but that’s twice in three days. This box is worse than my last one.

I know it seems that I’m constantly ragging on Comcast. And they do deserve it. Nobody should have this many problems for this many months. However I am obliged to say that customer service has been absolutely great. I know that they have shown up pretty high on lists of worst customer service ever but that has not been my experience. Frank and Melissa and Sid and the ladies that answer the phones locally have been kind and attentive to all of my calls. If Comcast could get their engineers to be as reliable as these people then their service would be tops. Unfortunately, their cable service around here sucks and is vastly overpriced for the intermittant and flaky reception.

This week is Comcast’s last chance. I’ve been patient but I will not continue to pay for this junk I’m receiving. They don’t offer an HD DVR that works. It’s all the same schizo model with the same shoddy firmware. They still charge too much for cable service when there are free options available on the internet. Customer service is not a reason to pay for crap. So thanks Frank and Melissa and Sid, you’ve been great and I can’t say thanks enough for the time and effort you’ve devoted to one single customer but your company just isn’t making things right. You did right by me but the techs and engineers have dropped the ball enough that I’m down to giving them this last chance.

Why Customer Service isn’t.

I’ve used Vonage as my home phone service for a couple of years now. They’ve been great. I only had one issue and that was back in February 2006 when I first switched and they were able to take care of the problem in a matter of moments. So the service has been wonderful. However, I use my cell phone exclusively now. As a matter of fact, the cordless phone I have connected to my Vonage router has been dead for about 4 or 5 months now. I just don’t use it any more. So why pay the $30 a month?

Thus I attempted to call Vonage last night to cancel this service. I am greeted with an obtuse voice menu. After fumbling through the different menu levels for a couple of minutes I finally find the place where I can cancel my account. The nice recording transfers me over to the department that deals with that…and I get a message with the office’s hours and a request to call back during normal operating hours. Nice.

So I call back today. This time I navigate the menu deftly and get a real person on the phone. He asks me for my name and phone number which I provide. He asks for permission to call me by my first name. Then he asks for my PIN. I don’t have a PIN. He looks at something and tells me that it was generated by their computer. I suggest they ask their computer what it is then because I don’t have it. So he asks me the security question on my account. Apparently I don’t know what my all time favorite movie is. (The Princess Bride for those that are curious.) So he asks some account details and finally concedes that I am actually me. Wonderful.

At this point he asks what it is that I want. I tell him that I want to cancel my account. I was actually surprised because he asked one or two basic questions and didn’t give me some big customer retention spiel that reeked of having been written by a used car salesman in an orange checkered suit. It really looked like I was finally dealing with a company that understood. Of course, he did ask why and I told him that the service was great and I would recommend it to my friends…I just don’t use it personally any more. Nothing more was asked to my further surprise. And then he hit me with it…”I just need to transfer you to another department to finalize the account cancellation. Please hold.”

I listen to hold music and some lady that is way too happy about what Vonage can do for phone service. Eventually a real person picks up. She asks me for my name and phone number which I provide. She asks for permission to call me by my first name. Then she asks for my PIN. Sound familiar? Yep. Apparently they have to verify your identity after putting you on hold. I can only assume that this is because of the threat of being abducted by aliens and replaced with a doppelganger while on hold. There must be some sort of epidemic like this going around. And of course we cannot have alien doppelgangers randomly canceling Vonage phone accounts. The impact of such a thing could throw the entire world into chaos and destruction.

So I go through all of the questions again. Finally she asks what I am calling for. Do these people not bother to forward information when they transfer a call? I understand the need to have in house verification done. I have no problem telling a second person “Yes, I did request to close my account and here’s why…” That’s fine. But don’t make me go through all the identification hoops repeatedly and start completely over every single time I’m put on freaking hold. But wait…it gets better. This lady is the passive aggressive customer retention ninja.

She makes an offer to give me a discount on the service. I decline. I even repeat my reason of not using the service. She replies with “I understand.” Then she offers me a free month. I decline. I reiterate that I only want to cancel the service. “I understand.” Another offer with a bigger discount for a longer period of time. I-

At this point I have to mention that I have been fairly patient even though I am a little irritated at having to start this whole process over after being transferred. Now…buckle your seatbelts kids…

“Lady, I really just want to cancel my account. I will not pay for a service I do not use anymore. I do not want a discount. I do not want a free month. I want this account closed. I want it done right now without any more delays or offers. If you think that might be too hard for you, put me through to your manager so I can get them to do it. And do so without putting me on hold because I am not going to start this whole story over because you guys think I might not be the same guy you talked to 15 seconds ago when you pressed the hold button.”

I know it sounds like I was being a real dick. And you’d be right. I was. But I figure after having proven my identity twice and telling the entire story twice and asking for this one thing over 8 times…I was entitled. Especially since she kept responding with that same phrase of “I understand.” She obviously did not understand because she kept making offers. I cannot abide stupidity. If the guy tells you that the only phone he has hooked up is a cordless and that the battery has been dead for 4 months because he doesn’t use the service…you aren’t going to convince him to stay. Just give it a rest and fulfill the damned request.

She did finally cancel my account. Then she asked if she could “help” me with anything else. Those quotes are not a sexual reference. I don’t really consider what she did help. Anyway, I managed to politely decline the offer and thank her for her efforts. Then I hung up while she was talking. I had to protect her because she sounded like she was about to make one last offer. If I had stayed on the phone for that, I probably would have gone Sam Kinison on her and that’d just be mean.

Which leaves me to ask…what the hell is wrong with you people that make corporate decisions? When I called to cancel my account it was simply a step to save money while I tried to get some debt paid off. I fully intended to get the service back if I ever wanted a home phone again. But after that experience, Vonage, you can kiss my backside. I don’t deal with companies that refuse to fulfill a simple request without 30 minutes of arguing about it on the phone. You can keep your service. I’ll be using something more along the lines of Skype when I decide to hit up land lines again. Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it.