What Would Caesar Do?

I had been planning a post tonight on a different subject, but as my luck had it, the damned Verizon DSL connection crapped out, and I spent -- literally -- four hours talking to technical support (in FIVE phone calls), being led like an idiot through countless cruel and pointless idle exercises I knew would not work, trying this and that stupid useless thing on some robot's Stupid List of Stupid Things to Do to Get Rid of People Who Resist Our Stupidity, until finally, when I called in total despair of even getting a crummy dialup connection going, I was told that there were "connectivity issues" affecting both dialup and DSL in this area.

And that (believe it or not) was a relief!

Meanwhile, I frittered away the entire evening, against my will, doing the following:

  • tearing down everything and rebooting the computer I-don't-know-how-many-times;
  • being told first that my router was broken (it was not), and when I insisted that it worked then being told;
  • that one of my network cards was broken (it was not, because I have two computers and can connect fine to each other and to the router);
  • that I had bullshit "IRQ conflicts" which rendered the network card inoperable and THEREFORE;
  • that my computer was broken and they could not help me.
  • The latter particularly infuriated me, because I have two computers on a simple network, which connect to each other and to the DSL modem via a DSL firewall router. Even assuming that one computer failed, the other one would still work, as would the router. But no; I was given endlessly circular answers. The router did not work but if it did work then the network card did not work. They seemed infuriated by my persistent claim that (because I have two computers) either one the other computer should work, either with or without the router, so finally they forced me -- in the most torturously slow manner -- to connect each computer alone, first with the router and then without the router (via their stupid software I had to reinstall) directly to the modem. The latter required shutting down the network, pulling all the cables, separately hooking up each computer, rebooting innumerable times, installing the software into computer number 2 (after the same thing failed in computer 1), and finally, after trying my case twice to each technical support person, I managed to convince them that there just might really be something wrong -- WITH THE LINE.

    After three hours I was given their precious, much-coveted "trouble ticket" -- which consists of a promise by Verizon to call you back at an unspecified time, hopefully within the next 48 hours.

    "When is a good time to call you?" I was asked.

    "That depends on when I am home, because if I need to get on the Internet I will have to drive to a Wi-Fi hot spot. And if I am home and on the Internet, I'll be on line via dialup, which means no one can call me."

    Not so fast, there!

    I didn't know it, but their dialup service did not work either. That was when I finally wrangled the admission out of them that Something. Was. Wrong.

    "With the line?"

    "Yes. there are 'issues' in your area."

    "Why didn't you just tell me that, instead of taking me through hours of troubleshooting when I knew there was nothing wrong at my end?"

    "Sir, the trouble was not yet reported on our system."

    Which meant my only hope was now dialup, whether it worked or not. Another hour was spent obtaining new dialup numbers, and setting up new protocols for the dialup network adaptor.

    I have been through this many times. Same story. Nothing is their fault. It must be the customer's fault. And even if it is their fault it is not their fault. No there is nothing that can be done. And, of course, it really isn't "their" fault. It is not ever the fault of the person answering the phone, because after all, all things are compartmentalized. (The latter means that nothing is the fault of anyone, because each person is one small part of the machine, with no real responsibility to do anything except follow the script in front of him or her.)

    Whatever you do, NEVER ask for a supervisor. This activates the "let's play supervisor" game, where one of the people gets to pretend to be a supervisor. It also guarantees at least another half an hour on hold. The only thing more stupid than asking for a supervisor is to ask for "billing." This can take most of the day.

    There is nothing that can be done about the wasted time. It's just gone. I feel so sorry for people who have to waste even more time than I do (because I am fairly techno savvy and I when I call for support I really have a problem), but I know they are out there. Elderly people who were given computers by their grandchildren so they can send email. People who don't have four hours to throw away in the evening (or at any other time).

    Service (in the form of technical support) is more and more of a problem. If you're an idiot, I guess it's not so bad. But if already know what you're doing, it is absolute torture.

    Apparently I am not the only one who has these kinds of problems. Knowing I am not alone helps, but not much.

    Nor am I particularly comforted to read that this is typical of Malaysia.

    UPDATE: The next morning, everything is back to normal. Whoever they are who work in the field for Verizon (the real techs) obviously fixed the problem (allowed to be described to customers as an "issue" -- but only after approval by those who protect the corporate image). But how will they ever repay the four hours they snatched from my life? While it was not much different from sitting in a gigantic traffic jam, the absolute lack of common sense displayed by these people was appalling. A bare minimum of sanity would seem to suggest that a perfectly good router and two network cards would not all fail at exactly the same time.

    Was I perhaps wrong even to call technical support? I have been through this enough times to know that the "support" process is really a screening process, and that the method used is simple attrition. Only a brave few customers, with endless time, patience, and determination, make it past the gauntlet of their countless idiotic "steps." You finally get there (which is nowhere, really) and you end up asking, "Why?"

    If it's a real problem, the real people -- the kind who actually do things -- will fix it.


    Give up before you start! Surrender and quit -- or we will bury you with our pointless charade of mind-numbing inanity.

    (I think I'm the real idiot here for even calling customer support. You'd think I'd learn.....)

    posted by Eric on 10.09.03 at 08:41 PM

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