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Friday, July 1, 2011

Embarrassing the telco to get my way

I have a story about socially engineering a telco to get something I wanted. There was nothing illegal involved. It was just a matter of setting things up so that the only outcome would be my satisfaction. They still managed to screw things up royally and annoy and delay me in a way that only an evil company can accomplish.

Before the days of DSL and cable modems, I needed a nice stable pipe into my house. I had been putting up with an always-on dialup connection, but it was wearing thin. I wanted ISDN. USWest, the telco in my area, offered it, and I placed an order with their small business service. That was April.

May came and went. Then it was June. I'd call and ping them, and, oh, they're still working on it. July rolled around. My order had been "delayed because of ISDN facilities in the central office", and they set a date of August. The date arrived, and they turned off my analog circuit which was to be replaced... and never turned on the new service.

August turned into September. September turned into October! Then I saw it. They started hawking something called the "ISDN OnePak" in the paper. The idea is that the regulated side of the telco would provide a circuit and the unregulated side (the so-called !nteract, bang and all) would provide ISP service and hardware. They invited potential customers to visit their offices downtown.

This was too good to pass up. I put on some nice business type clothes and headed down there. It turned out to be in their big old building downtown and so we all needed an escort up to the demo floor. There, things were looser and more friendly. A few more people turned up, and they launched into their pitch.

Apparently they were sponsoring some kind of racecar guy, and they were playing up the speed angle. Great. After all of this, they opened up the floor to questions and answers. I played it cool and asked the obvious question: "if you order it today, how long will it take to be installed?"

Their response: "it usually takes 22 business days" -- right off their literature. So I decided to get a little more specific, and show that I'm not just some dumb yokel. I asked about switch capacity, namely Pikeview (mine). They said there were a few problems but nothing specific. Then some random telco-side person surfaced and said they had placed 60 orders on hold due to issues.

I told them (out loud, with other potential customers hearing everything) that my stuff had been on hold since April. Their eyes bugged out, and they scribbled down my info and promised to do something about it.

That afternoon, my phone rang. My caller ID box told the story.

US WEST COMM

It was my ISDN account rep down in Phoenix, and he had good news -- they had an actual, no joke, due date for the install, 10 days out. I was even given my SPIDs, which are basically phone numbers for each part of the circuit.

They managed to miss that date by a week. Then, on the weekend in which it was actually happening, we had a massive blizzard. Finally, that Monday, they put the circuit in and my router synced to their switch for the first time... on *one* B channel. The other never came up.

This situation persisted for another two or three weeks and they finally managed to track it down to some random idiot who "put the wrong area code in the switch for one of your SPIDs". As in, my whole area was 719 and they put in 303. Brilliant.

At any rate, 7 months later, I had my 2B+D circuit and things were good.

Stuff like this is why monopolies are evil.