Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tech Support Sans Swearing

A few weeks ago the kids read a magazine article about how to get good service on tech repair calls. They’d been eagerly waiting for me to have to call tech support. But like the watched pot that never boils, our tech stuff was working perfectly.

Until yesterday. A line of thunderstorms swept through Chattanooga. And our phones stopped working. I assumed that the lines were out because of the storm. Though it did seem a bit odd that we still had internet service after I rebooted the wireless router. But who am I to argue with electronic technology. I’ll take what I can get—if the internet works, it’s one less thing I have to deal with.

However, after a few hours, the phone didn’t start working. I had to call “repairs.” The problem is that Cal and I have a distinct division of labors based on ability to do the job or the inability to tolerate the way the other person does the job. For example, I do laundry because I’m fastidious about colors and whites, stain-treatment, zipping up brass zippers so they don’t nick knits, and making sure bras don’t go through the dryer—cuts the life of the elastic. On the other hand, Cal does bills because, well, I reverse numbers—this is not acceptable to someone who insists on balancing to the penny. You get the idea.

The problem is that I have no idea how his filing system works—and I have to find a bill to find the repair number. Thankfully, Cal is meticulous in six drawers of files, which contain everything from sermons to bills to warranties to the dog’s AKC papers.

Using the cellphone, I dialed “Repairs.” And I got the menu. After an overly perky “Welcome to AT&T,” the computer asked me if I “habla Espanol.” The kids, who were eagerly sitting around me in order to make use of their new “tech menu skills” yelled, “Push two, push two!” I don’t speak a single word of Spanish besides “taco, burrito, fajita, enchilada, and mole sausa”—which probably isn’t even correct. But the kids read that the wait time for a bilingual operator is much shorter than a plain-old English speaker. And since the person is bilingual, they can speak English. This seemed like cheating to me so I turned my back on the instigators of wickedness.

Some time passed, I’ve typed in my phone number and tons of other assorted information, and the computer asked for a number where I can be reached. (This struck me as pathetic—obviously it can’t be my stupid land line, which doesn’t work.) So, I began to type in my cell number. After the first two numbers the computer said in a uber-cheery voice, “So you want to restart this phone call?”

“No!” I shouted. Luke said, “Tell the computer you’re going to cancel their service and go with a competitor”—more advice from the magazine article. “Swear at the computer” said little voices who shall not be named because of the naughtiness of what they suggest. (Note to self: censor their magazine reading. No more tech services articles.)

I scowled at the kids. They laughed. More button pushing ensued. Finally, the computer declared, “I’m sorry, we don’t understand. Please stay on the line.” More gnashing of teeth and button pushing followed.

Finally, an uber-jolly man said, “Thank you for calling ATT, we’re sorry you have a problem. How may we assist you?” I considered telling him to stop being so giddy. .I considered telling him that I hate his company. I considered telling him that phone menus are a work of the Evil One. Instead, I whined, “My phone doesn’t work.”

More joviality ensued during which he told me to take a corded phone and test all the phone jacks in the house. I said, “I don’t have a corded phone.” He responded, “Why does everyone tell me that?”

At this point, I had two choices. One, explain that this is no longer the 1960s and I wouldn’t even know where to buy a corded phone. Two, assume the question is rhetorical and wait, patiently. I choose the latter. (At this point, the kids are talking about making popcorn, wondering how my face will next contort, and reminding me that I should have taken the Spanish option. And, of course, there’s one who still wants to hear me swear.)

In the end, the phone dude, who’s clearly been sharing Vicodin with Luke, told me there was nothing wrong with my phone line. Politely, I reminded him that I didn’t have phone service. He explained that I probably had had a microsurge within the phone lines during the thunderstorm. He told me to unplug everything for at least five minutes and the “charge” would dissipate and everything should work. If not, I could call him back. Yeah, right. Guess what? It worked. And I didn’t have to lie about speaking Spanish, swear at the computer, or threaten to move to a competitor. WooHoo!


  1. I still think you should've sworn at the computer. (OK, maybe not.) It is supposed to put you at the front of the line, though. And it would have been fun to watch :)

    You know what else is supposed to work? Pushing every single button on the phone at the same time. Apparently if you do that, they think you have a rotary phone. Seriously, if no one has corded phones anymore, they definitely wouldn't have rotary phones!

  2. Gee.. That sounded... Troublesome...

  3. My kids read the same article,because I have heard all of these suggestions too. Maybe it was the Reader's Digest or Popular Mechanics.

    My son also found the employee customer service handbook for our internet server. A call will be escalated for mentioning the Better Business Bureau or threatening a lawsuit.

  4. I bet the guy was jovial because you seemed to be the only person who hadn't read that article and was thus not swearing/threatening lawsuits.

  5. A Comment from Kid Tech Support

    You need to officially put your most "tech-y kid" in charge of the computer and make them responsible for keeping it working!:) Then you can just call them up (like my parents do) and say "What Did You Change Last Time You Were Here!!!!!" when something isn't working as they think it should (even though they don't always know what it should be doing:)

    (Just an FYI: 90% of the time a member of the family (mostly mom) messed with a setting inadvertently and 9.5% of the time their internet service provider is down and 0.5% of the time I changed something and forgot to change a password somewhere!)