Day Two: Why Talking to AT&T is Like Dating

posted by on 2009.09.07, under Thoughts on Late Capital

This is day two of writing in my blog. I should be writing all the stuff listed up there in the corner, under the search feature.

Instead, I’m going to expound on my insights into late capitalism. Today’s insight is about AT&T. I moved on the 27th of August, a Thursday. I had put in an order to activate my DSL connection on that date. By 4:00, I didn’t have connection, so I called customer service for DSL. A young man assured me it would be on by 8:00 pm, and if it was not on by then (and he rapidly assured me it would be), I should call back at that time. At 6:30, I still had no connection, and I was sure there was an issue with the line, meaning they would need to send someone out. I called, and then sat on my phone,listening to their little message telling me to go online and chat about my problem with my DSL connection. Every 5 minutes or so, the message would repeat, saying it would be faster to go online than wait on the phone.

I opted to stay on the phone, listening to some very bad music and the repeated message about the convenience of  chatting online for over 30 minutes. At 7:07, a customer service rep introduced herself and promptly disconnected me.

I called back, and customer service was closed for the night.

I thought for a few seconds, dialed 611 on my iPhone and explained to the very nice young man that I knew it was the wrong number to call for DSL connection, but I was really concerned about the fact it would be Friday tomorrow, and that they would probably still not send someone out to check the lines for another day and I would spend the weekend without connection. As a web junkie  that thought was terrifying.

He was really sweet, and I was very calm and even made some jokes (“Imagine if I was addicted to porn! I wouldn’t even be able to go to the library to get my daily fix, they block those sites.”). Basically, I charmed him. After many impotent years of screaming hysterically at the faceless drones behind the phone lines of the customer service world, I realized I needed some new tactics. I had to somehow prove to them that I was worth a little extra effort and if they are going to get anywhere with this customer, they had to take me out to dinner and it better be a really nice place. (in my youth, I was not a cheap date). I’d finally learned that the only way to get customer service to do anything for you was to flirt.

It worked. He laughed, and I continued to “chat him up”. He asked if it was alright to put me on hold for a minute, and when he returned, he gave me the “special secret number” (luckily he doesn’t know that I’m a fat, middle-aged crusty old fart). He gave me the number you call for expedited service, even though this number should not be given to a customer until they’ve had two days without connection. This is the number that sends a technician out. I called (THIS number is 24/7), and they had a service man out the next day. I had connection by 4:30, the tail end of the technician’s workday.

So – here’s my insight. The stock market has destroyed the quality of life in this country. Companies don’t care about product and service – all they have to do is amass enough capital (begged, borrowed or stolen) to buy everything in sight. Companies don’t grow by giving good service or products, they grow through acquisition and stock ratings. AT&T bought Cingular (thus they are my cell phone carrier) and SBC (thus they own all the lines here for wired connection). To look good to the stockholders, they need to be more “productive”. Since they don’t produce anything other than a service, the more people they “service” per hour, the better the reports to the shareholders. It doesn’t matter if they actually did anything or not. What matters is they picked up the phone when it rang, talked to the customer, and got them off the line as quickly as possible. If I had gone through normal, AT&T channels, I would have called 2 times on Thursday, at least 2 times on Friday, then at least once on Monday to get the “special” number that I called to send out a technician. In reporting terms, AT&T was highly productive. They would have answered at least 6 phone calls, each lasting  about a minute or two,  in the span of 3 days. In real terms, they wouldn’t have done anything until the 6th call, but that is not the point. They “produced” 6 phone answers in optimum time.

The gods are crazy.

And the only way through this is to hope you get a tired, bored kid who enjoys flirting on the phone. Today’s consumer life is just like dating; you have to charm AT&T (actually, any contemporary company) to get them to buy you dinner.

And kid, I was just joking about the way I look. I’m really a 23 year old natural blonde who’s 6 feet tall with legs up to my nose and a giant set of  boobs. With a tiny little waist. And I like to wear high heals. Got any more numbers?

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