Tuesday, September 04, 2007

All's Well That Ends Well - AT&T Pulls Through

As I have been mentioning over the past week and a half, after the near-tornado we had in Chicago two Thursdays ago, my home phone line went haywire and I could no longer hear anything but static when I went to place or answer a call. This was not the first time I have had problems with AT&T.

There was no way I was going to ruin the long Labor Day weekend by calling AT&T for repair before the holiday commenced (because I figured they would inevitably screw it up worse, possibly taking down my Internet connection), so we made it through the three days with no home phone (and remember, I'm anti-cell phone!) and attempted to decipher messages left for us in our static-filled voicemail. Today was the day I knew I had to call to get it fixed - the popping and crackling had gone on long enough.

I went on AT&T's web site to find the service number. The interesting thing is that when AT&T merged with SBC, SBC's site seems to have won out (and just got a new brand/logo slapped on top of it), because it's actually my SBC username and password that worked in the AT&T login fields. The problem is, however, that when you click on the "service" link, you're taken to the "products and services" page - as in, the page where they try to sell you a bunch of features you don't have and don't want. A usability nightmare! There was nothing on the page about how to report a problem.

Luckily, since I AM egrrrl, I was able to use my skillz to figure out how to get to the REAL customer service page, despite AT&T's attempts to foil my plan. I got the 1-800 number for the service line... I used my crappy phone line to dial the number... and I got some French dude. That's right, a French guy. Now, I know all about outsourcing jobs to India and Asia and whatnot... but to France? It was really, really bizarre. His name was something ridiculous like "Chartot" and he repeated back every single thing I said, but only as a question.

e: "There was a storm a week and a half ago and after that, we've had static on our line."
Chartot: "There was a storm? And after that you had static on your line?"
e: "Yes. I've unplugged all of my jacks and replugged them in and that did not help."
Chartot: "You've unplugged all of your jacks? And plugged them back in? And that did not help?"

You get the idea. It took me twenty full minutes with "cet homme idiot" before he realized that I didn't call the right place - there was apparently another secret service line that they were trying to hide from me. He transferred me to that number, bid me adieu (and I swear he said something about going to get a croissant!), and I sat on hold yet again.

The interference on my line was so awful that I couldn't even hear the hold message - I wasn't sure if I was transferred to the right place, I didn't know if they were giving me an estimated wait time, it was all fuzzy. So I waited and waited and waited. Finally, "Jim" came on. Jim definitely sounded like he was here in Chicago. He knew all about the storms, and agreed with me that the problem was probably outside of my condo (hence saving me the hundreds of dollars they would charge if they stepped foot in my place). He exclaimed, "I have good news for you! Someone can work on this today, and your line should be clear by 7 PM. If not, call us back and we will give you a credit." I made sure I had the direct number back to him in case no one ever showed up, the ticket number, and his name. Then I asked, "So, will they be calling me or what?"

Jim: "It doesn't sound like it, ma'am. You can just go about your business and if they need to come inside, they will call, but it does sound like the problem is outside of your unit."

INnnnnnteresting. But I still didn't believe him. I hung up and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to call again tomorrow to yell at someone because nothing had changed.

Two hours later, the phone rang. Now, typically I do not answer my phone, because we don't have caller ID (I TOLD YOU I kicked it old-school!) and it is always, always, always someone trying to tell me how my student loans need to be consolidated and how they are just the person to help me with that. I fell for that scam ONCE, and have since learned that my student loans are as consolidated as they are going to get at the lowest rate possible, so I just don't get why this information hasn't made its way through the telemarketing universe. They KEEP CALLING ME! So now you appreciate why it was quite unusual that I actually answered my phone when it rang this afternoon.

"Hello, this is Andy from AT&T, is this Erika?"

(Pause. Pause. Pause. Should I actually tell him that it's me? Ah, what the heck.)


WAIT A SECOND... while Andy was muttering something about my service call, I realized that I could HEAR HIM. The line was crystal clear?!?! I let out a gasp of disbelief.

"I'm sorry, ma'am?"

"Oh, uh... it's nothing. I just realized that I can hear you."

He was actually following up on the service call because his records indicated that the problem was resolved but he didn't want to close out the ticket until he had confirmed with me.

Saaaaayyyy whhhaaaaaaaa? Is this the same AT&T whose web site sucks and who continually screwed up my DSL bill for 5 months straight?

"Ummm... yeah, the line is the best it's sounded in years. I think it's OK."

After he made sure for his records that I was "extremely satisfied" with the service I received, he let me go. I immediately ran around to all of the 4 fancy new phones we bought last week to ensure the signal was clear. It was. I called my husband.


"Hello, can you hear me? Is there any static?"

"No! Wow, it sounds great!"

I couldn't believe it. I didn't know whether to be happy or extremely afraid. You see, this could very well be a sign of the Apocalypse, could it not? I called AT&T with a problem and within hours it was fixed? Something was not right with this. On top of being frightened about the possible end of the world, I felt extremely foolish for being SO cynical that I waited 1.5 weeks to call about a problem that was fixed within 2 hours, simply because I was sure they would screw it up even worse.

It's now 12 hours later, the phone still works, and I have seen none of the Four Horsemen, so I'm going to bed. Miracles do happen!

- e

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