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Archive for April, 2012

AT&T Cares

A few weeks ago I vented over an unfortunate experience that my boyfriend and I had while trying to have a land line installed in our apartment.  The matter ended up being resolved satisfactorily, but, me being me, I posted the entry labeling all of AT&T as “jerks.”

Perhaps this was unfair, especially considering the last woman I spoke with there was so very kind.  Perhaps it was further unfair, because a man named Kenneth, who oversees social media for AT&T, found my entry and commented with an offer to further help us with any trouble we were having.

I think my entry on the subject might epitomize what is wrong with social media and any yahoo (i.e., me) being able to spew whatever negative thought enters their head for the day.  In hindsight, our negative experience was down to a series of miscommunications and missteps, that, yes, could have been avoided, but are not indicative of an entire company being jerks or not caring about their customers.

I was seriously impressed by Kenneth reaching out to me via the blog, and have really never encountered that before with any company.  So, this is my mea culpa to AT&T, with gratitude for their follow up on our predicament.

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I am probably one of 1% of my generation who insists on having a land line.  Of course I have a cell phone, but I think those are the first things to go in times of serious trouble, and I like having a back-up method of communication.  I even keep an old-school phone that does not require batteries (i.e., not cordless) in case I have a phone connection with no power. I’m probably only a few cans of non-perishables away from being on that Doomsdayers show on National Geographic, but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry so I refuse to feel like a weirdo or a nerd.

My boyfriend patiently agreed to have the land line installed when I moved in a few weekends ago.  He clearly does not care either way, but knows I want one, so what’s the harm? Well, the harm is that AT&T is now officially the worst company I’ve dealt with in recent memory.  They initially told me they could switch on service from the outside of the apartment, so no one had to be home on the day of the install. So my boyfriend, who works from home, had been out and came home to find a note on the door saying that they could not, in fact, install ours from outside, and we’d need to call to reschedule for a time when we could let them in.  Already annoying, but, seemingly, not really their fault.

So I called and rescheduled. It should also be noted that they are the absolute worst company to call – worse than DWP, the Gas Company, or even Time Warner.  You are generally on hold FOREVER.  I do it from work so I can put my phone on speaker and do other stuff while I’m waiting. I’m surprised my office neighbors have never complained about the dreadful hold music.

When I finally got through, the man offered me a choice of having a 4 hour window in two days time, or an all-day window for the very next day. Since I am at work all day and my boyfriend had offered to stick around for the technician to come, I figured it would be nice to not relegate him to the house all day. So I said to the man, “I don’t want to have to wait around all day.  Let’s go with the 8-12 timeframe.”  This was supposed to happen yesterday.  By 1 PM, they still had not shown up. I called to check (and waited on hold forever, again) only to find out that the original guy had screwed up. He got the day right, but put our window down as 8-8.  Preposterous!! The woman on the phone got in touch with the tech and was told he could not give her an exact estimation, but we were the next stop on his list.  By 6:30, he still hadn’t showed and my boyfriend had to leave to meet someone for dinner.  I got home by 7:30 and expected to find a note on the door saying that we had missed the tech during the small amount of time that no one was home.  But there was nothing. I called AT&T again but they were closed.

I was pretty much fuming at that point. That’s a pretty big screw up – how dare they blatantly waste someone’s time like that? Don’t they know, people have lives to live? You can’t just tether people to their homes for the day and not show up to do what you promised. Screw up aside (although that part still pisses me off too), the no-show was beyond unacceptable. How did we go from being next at 1:30 to not having anyone show up at all?  Considering I’m about the last nerd on earth who even wants a land line, I don’t understand what this guy was doing the rest of the time. Surely, he has some holes in his day?

This morning, I was getting ready for work and my boyfriend went to the gym, since he couldn’t go yesterday while he was under AT&T-induced house arrest.  I was putting make up on in my bathroom, which is at the back of the apartment, and thought I heard a knock at the door. When I looked outside, there was no one there. A short while later, as I left for work (late as usual) I noticed an AT&T van parked across the street.  I wanted to put my car in park and start knocking on the window, but I was late and hungry and wanted to get to work in time to eat breakfast.  I called AT&T when I got here, already ready for a fight.

Ironically, this was the shortest I’ve waited on hold to talk to anyone there. Ever. The woman was seriously sweet, so it was difficult to be really mean to her, even though that had been my plan since I walked in the door last night with no phone service.  I told her the egregious circumstances, and also told her that I have never been so furious and was ready to cancel and switch to Time Warner. She put me on hold and came back to say, “I think it’s working.  There’s a note here saying that the tech turned it on at 8:15 this morning from outside the house.”  I called the number and my answering machine picked up.  I had my boyfriend check the line when he got home and it was, indeed, working.

So what happened to the tech yesterday? Why did they not think they could turn on service from the outside in the first place? These questions will never be answered, and I suppose I should count myself lucky that I actually got what I wanted and a credit off the first month of service for all of our trouble. But honestly!  The stress and aggravation hardly seems worth it in the end. Unless it turns out that the cell phone apocalypse is just around the corner, and I can charge people to make phone calls from my fancy land line. Then it will have been totally worth it.

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Has anyone else caught on to the ridiculous controversy about this woman?  I think she was even on the Today Show yesterday.  As an avid reader of the Daily Mail, I had actually seen this story when they first posted it earlier in the week, but didn’t think much of it except the obvious shallow reaction of, “Is she really that good looking? I’m not seeing it.”  But maybe she doesn’t photograph well, or maybe she’s just one of those women with that je ne sais quoi that certain women have – they are not what you would classify as stunning, but there is something about them that just makes them attractive to people. Also, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, so who is anyone to judge what other people deem beautiful?

Whatever the case, the woman isn’t wrong. Maybe people are annoyed because it seems like she’s being cocky, and what she’s saying does come off as conceited.  Who writes an article talking about how good looking they are and how difficult it can be? Are we expected to feel bad for her because she’s so good looking? It’s like asking people to feel bad for someone because they’re too rich. So many people are trying to be beautiful or rich, so why should they pity someone who has those things and is complaining about it?

I say she has a point (and this makes me cringe to write) because I can relate.  I would never walk around assuming that people think I’m good looking.  I spent many years being awkward and ugly, with glasses and braces, bad hair and worse clothes (it was the late 80s; I was screwed).  In high school I started to pull myself together, and when I got to college, a strange thing happened. I was suddenly the girl people referred to as “pretty.”   I had a lot of attention from boys and, subsequently, a few enemies in the girls I knew.  Mike (of this blog’s fame), sometime during or after high school, came up this gem to describe the phenomenon:  “Nature made you ugly, but science made you beautiful.  The gods are cursing you.”

When I look in the mirror, I mostly still see a goofy, awkward kid from the 80s who desperately wanted blond hair, blue eyes and freckles (how dare Jan Brady complain?! She had no idea how lucky she was!).    In my adult years, I am often complimented on my looks, and somehow have acquired a “fan club” at my place of business (it’s actually very awkward and I hate having to call the Help Desk).  It has occurred to me that the world sees me differently than I see myself.  I can relate to Samantha Brick because I have had women, usually strangers, be very rude to me for no reason. When I was in London, on the Tube by myself, this one woman gave me the stink eye for a full twenty minutes.  Once people get to know me and realize I’m not some pretentious, stuck up jerk, they tend to warm up to me. But sometimes I have to work to get there. I also had someone disparagingly say to me once, “Oh, you must have been a cheerleader in high school.”  Actually, no. The cheerleaders would probably have rather jumped in a vat of hot oil than be my friend. I was in honors classes, was a member of the National Honor Society, and was the Arts & Entertainment editor of the school newspaper.

I think the most blatant instance of this prejudice I’ve experienced was earlier last month, when I went into a liquor store to buy a gift card for my assistant’s birthday.  The store was empty and there was an employee standing at a register, but he was going through paperwork and the register clearly wasn’t open. I patiently stood in the waiting area. When he finally looked up at me, he disdainfully said, “Can I help you with something?”  I (quite politely) said, “Yes, I’d like to pay for this.”  He went to another register and I followed.  He looked at the card, and then looked at me like I’d personally wronged him in the past and said, “You know this is like cash, right?”  I replied, “Excuse me?”  He said, “If someone loses this, it’s like cash. You don’t get to replace it.”  At that point, I was sick of being polite to him when he was being so rude to me, so I curtly replied, “Yes, I’m aware. Thank you.”

Maybe it’s from living in LA, where there are a lot of pretty people who expect to get things or be treated differently for what they look like, which I agree, is annoying. I get sick of it too. But this guy’s attitude was so unnecessarily rude and very presumptuous.  It seemed that he assumed I was the type of person who thinks I should get whatever I want.  Because I spoke only a handful of words to him before this rudeness started, I can only guess that his negative attitude towards me was based on what I look like. I’ve heard the expression that a lot of guys secretly hate pretty girls because they remind them of the girls who rejected them in high school, and I think there’s a grain of truth to that. The irony is that, in high school, I was such a dweeb, they probably would have rejected me first.

At any rate, all I’m saying is, even if it came out the wrong way, and even if she’s not your idea of a super model, concede that there is more than a grain of truth in what Samantha Brick is saying. But the theme of what she’s saying has more to do with people being unfairly judged by their appearance (whether it’s for something “positive”, like being good looking, or for a terrible reason, like race) and how they are subsequently treated. If you think that people don’t treat others differently based on the assumptions they make about what they look like, think again.

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I am generally a positive person, and I try not to get down too much of a negative road thinking that everyone else is an idiot and incapable of doing their jobs.  Part of that is that my attitude growing up was sort of snarky, and I always assumed that I was a few steps ahead of the fools around me (not surprisingly, I had a very frustrating childhood).  I think the other part is because of my job, and having to anticipate everything that can go wrong all the time, and not trusting that someone will actually do what they’re supposed to do. Which is exhausting, but sadly, more often than not, someone will justify your acting this way.

After I got sick last year and became a poster child for why HMOs don’t work when you have a medical emergency (i.e., waiting 4 days for an MRI to be approved when everyone thinks you just had a stroke), I signed up for the PPO plan instead, which allows me to go to any doctor I want, and also means I don’t have to wait to get crucial procedures approved in times of crisis.  My company offers a Flex Spending plan, which is one of those savings accounts where they take money from your pay check, pre-tax, and put it in an account for you to use for your out-of-pocket medical expenses.  They even give you a handy little debit card, which you are supposed to be able to use for co-payments and such.  I say “supposed to” because at least 75% of the time, when I go to use my card, it is declined. This is because the Flex Card company has the right to question and dispute any charges you make with the card, until you provide a ridiculous amount of back up paperwork.  Since I have no less than five specialists and need blood work done, at a minimum, once a month, it is impossible to keep up with all of their disputing.  They also suck at sending out the notices in a timely manner, so I’ll go to use my card a doctor’s office and it will be declined, making me look like a deadbeat and a loser.  I’ll pay the co-payment out of pocket and get a notice from the Flex Card company a week later explaining that I should have had back up documentation for a $6.13 charge for blood work from a few weeks before, and they have frozen my account until I provide the paperwork.

It is difficult to verbalize all of the things that are maddening about this.  I have a hematological auto immune disease. I would like someone there to use their brains and realize that, it is routine that I will have a lot of blood work, visits to the Hematologist, and visits to the Rheumatologist.  Disputing every charge that comes through is an obvious waste of time and money.   Also, their letters of dispute are not very specific, and since I have so many appointments, half the time I don’t even know which one they’re talking about.  The most frustrating part of all is that I will end up paying off the disputed amount to have my card unfrozen, because I just don’t have the time and patience to do the detective work to figure out what their problem is and provide them with the level of documentation needed to fix. I already have a full time job.

With the Flex Card, you put a pre-determined amount of money in the account for a calendar year.  If you don’t use all that money, it disappears.  I put my out-of-pocket maximum on there, not being familiar with PPOs or having a handle on what I would be paying on my own.  The maximum was $3000.  I am likely to lose half of that money because they keep freezing my card and I can’t keep up with the paperwork needed to keep it working.

After I moved over the weekend, I was sorting through the paperwork that had been mounting up, and I had at least four letters from the Flex Card people.  I just called them to figure out what the problem was because the letters are not detailed enough for me to know. I was ready for a fight and was preparing in my head all of the bitchy one-liners I could use on the poor, unsuspecting (and probably undeserving) customer service rep.  My irritation was deflated immediately when the man on the phone asked my last name, the charges I was calling about, and then told me that everything had been settled already and that there are no outstanding charges.  I’m not sure why or how that happened, and I may have been too confused to be appropriately grateful.

Similarly, about a year ago, my cell phone went on the fritz. I thought I was a few months too early to be eligible for an upgrade, so I stormed into the AT&T store ready for a fight. I said to the rep, “I need a new phone but I’m not sure if I’m eligible for an upgrade.”  I must have sounded prickly, because he immediately seemed uncomfortable.  He asked my phone number and looked me up in the computer, as he explained, “If you are not eligible, the computer will literally lock me out from doing anything.”  I started railing, “Well that is completely unacceptable! I need a phone that works!  I need -”  He cut me off as he saw my account information on his screen. “You’re eligible.”  I sniffed, “Well, then I would like the Samsung Focus, please.”  As we walked out the door, my boyfriend, who was patiently standing by my side throughout this exchange (and to his credit, did not run away at any point), said, “You’re an idiot.”

He had a point, but I was just not anticipating it to be that easy.  How often in life are things less difficult than you expect them to be?  Hardly ever!!  However, it would probably save some stress and my blood pressure if I approached situations with a more optimistic outlook and not from a negative place, expecting to have to fight dramatically for what I need or want.  My mother has a fairly adversarial personality, so I’m guessing I either inherited this from her biologically, or it comes from a lifetime of learned behavior.  A behavior that has more than run its course and will need to be unlearned. Wish me luck.

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