Like most people, I have spent plenty of time on the phone with utilities, credit card companies, banks and the like trying to accomplish something that seems incredibly simple but apparently is not. When I sold my house, I spent over an hour on the phone every day (sometimes as much as two or three hours) for nearly a month just trying to get a payoff amount so I could close the sale. You'd think they would want their money.
Recently, I found myself at the mercy of two problems, both of which could have been solved with a single phone call.
It started with simple requests. For CenterPoint, I was disconnecting service because I was moving to a place that included gas. For AT&T, I scheduled a U-Verse installation (replacing Comcast, another disaster in customer service). And here's what happened next.
My service was not disconnected when I requested it.
Installation was not done on the day it was scheduled.
Either way, I'm screwed..
REASON FOR THE PROBLEM
Computer system glitch canceled the order by accident.
Tech could not get access to the gas meter.
Considering the gas meter is behind a house with no fence around it or dogs anywhere near it, I call bullshit.
WHAT THE COMPANY DID
They canceled my order, naturally.
They re-scheduled the cutoff date for a month later.
While I find it absolutely insane that neither of these companies would think to call me to see if I could help (especially in lieu of canceling my order and potentially losing the business without even asking me), I find it particularly disturbing that the answer for CenterPoint is just to tack another month onto the service.
HOW I FOUND OUT
I was electronically billed for the next month and received a notice via e-mail.
The tech didn't show up after I waited around all day.
Handy e-mail reminder meant I go about my business of eating Pop Tarts and watching Greatest American Hero re-runs without having to stare longingly out the window waiting for my cable guy to show up.
QUALITY OF THE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Woman was very nice but politely told me to fuck off. Even a friendly "fuck off" is still a, well, you know.
Helpful customer service agent stayed with me through a lot of transfers.
There's something really awkward about the "I know this really sucks and I'm sorry that you are so hosed, but there is nothing I or anyone here can do about it so piss off already" conversation.
WHY THE COMPANY DIDN'T CALL ME
HOW LONG I SPENT ON THE PHONE
About 20 minutes
Nearly 2 hours
I got in a lot of online solitaire during the AT&T call, but the CenterPoint wait was just long enough to heat my pot pie in the oven.
I had to pay for a month of service I never used.
Re-scheduled my installation for two weeks later. They claimed that was the earliest available date.
While I may have had to wait for them to fix a problem they created, at least they didn't charge me for it.
OVERALL WINNER: AT&T
CenterPoint cost me actual money and essentially told me to suck it when I complained. Despite the initial problems, AT&T's overall service has been pretty good since then.
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