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Another Telephone Company Heard From...

©02 The Media Desk

...well, more accurately, NOT heard from.

      Alice Cooper was one of the first 'glam shock schlock' rockers going. In the early seventies a grown man in makeup and long hair singing, rather musically all things considered, about black widow spiders and the devil's food and his parents making him drink beer as a teenager wasn't just new, it was from out yonder someplace. Mr. Cooper, a minister's kid, didn't only break new ground on this side of the Atlantic (in the UK it had been done earlier, but not any better, by others) he caused a major seismic disturbance that is still being felt, and became a legend.

      Welcome to my nightmare, I think you're going to like it, I think you're gonna feel like you belong. A Nocturnal Vacation, Unnecessary Sedation, You want to feel at home 'cause you belong.
      Welcome to my nightmare, Welcome to my breakdown, I hope I didn't scare you, That's just the way we are when we come down, We sweat and laugh and scream here, 'cuz life is just a dream here, You know inside you feel right at home here.
      Welcome to my nightmare
      You're welcome to my nightmare

Welcome to my Nightmare, Alice Cooper, 1975
      It's pretty sad when dealing, or being unable to deal with as the case may be, the customer service apparatus of a major telecommunications company makes you think of a song more than a quarter of a century old.
      The Desk was in Driver's Ed when that song was first released. But yesterday's experience with...

The Desk was not going to mention the name, but it will ignore the warning from the Legal Department and name names anyway....

      Yesterday's Day Job Experience With SPRINT...

reminded the Desk of that song to the point where it went out on the Web and found a short clip of it and listened several times. Yeah. That's it--- 'Welcome to my nightmare.... we sweat laugh and scream here.'
      SPRINT's unending menu trees 'push four for business toll free solutions... enter your customer ID number, to return to the...', and their corporate directory people's talent for giving you a number to call for trouble reporting that has been disconnected...

      No... even the Desk in the throes of Wild Turkey withdrawal and having inhaled one too many times on a stale cigar couldn't make that one up. The lady at SPRINT's executive offices gave the Desk a toll free number (to report problems with a business Toll Free Number no less) that had been disconnected 'the program has been discontinued, please call 1-877- ...'
      "We sweat laugh and scream here."

and their customer service reps, when you finally get to one, requesting the same information the last two requested only to transfer you to another one that wants the same information "I don't have access to that database/screen/file' to tell you anything. You have to call... well... Alice Cooper."

      The Desk started the phone dance with SPRINT at just after eleven in the morning.
      It took a break just after one in the afternoon, four useless toll free numbers later... the disconnected one, one that went to the sales department, and two others that ended up at exactly the same menu tree.
      About an hour later the Desk sucked it up and tried again. This time it called the directory people and demanded to speak to the executive offices. It worked. The first time through though the executive switchboard woman transferred it to the business phone tree. Next time it got a little further, but ended up being transferred to everybody and a Minnie Pearl impersonator. It called back, now knowing a little better who was what and where the Holy Grail of toll free number repair was.

      NOTE: If the Desk had had the mysterious Customer ID number, or some such nonsense, this could all have been avoided. But since the toll free number in question had been the victim of an attempted high-jacking, if not an actual slamming, the Desk did not have anything except the number and the fact that it was out of service to go on.
      Whether said service interruption was SPRINT's fault, Verizon's fault, Alice Cooper's fault, is irrelevant. The Desk needed somebody that could at least look at the number and see if it even belonged to SPRINT or Mr. Cooper for that matter. Maybe get it tested. Whatever. Verizon had said it was in the SPRINT realm, OK, fine, SPRINT, do you have it?
      The Desk might has well have asked SPRINT if they were planning a hostile takeover of Martha Stewart.
      Not Martha Inc. The smiles-way-too-much woman herself.

      After over three hours TOTAL on the phone, website, back to the phone, back to the website, call again, repeat process, the Desk finally got through to somebody that spoke toll free number service and was not trying to sell 'Toll Free Solutions for Your Business'.
      But they couldn't help.
      But they did transfer the Desk to somebody with a terminal that was hooked to the right database.

      Now, with information in hand, the Desk went back to Verizon.
      Before the Desk left its Day Job for its Night Job, the number was back in service.

      But that is NOT the point.

      It was an hour before the Desk got through to a LIVE PERSON at SPRINT.
      No it is NOT exaggerating here. 'Press one for this, three for that, five for Spanish, six to repeat this menu, nine for the previous menu'. There was NEVER a Zero out for the operator, for a receptionist, for somebody that would talk to you in any language.
      It was simply not an option ANYWHERE. They do not want to talk to you. You can punch buttons from now until Pat Boone does another appearance with Alice Cooper but it ain't happening. They want you to pay your bill by phone, transfer your existing service, listen to the guy in the trenchcoat interview Charo, Kyle Petty, and Shamu, all at once, In Spanish, but you are never going to talk to a live person if they can help it.
      Like the Desk said above, it wasn't until it had enough experience with their menu trees to confound it with nonexistent bill-to numbers and other nonsense that it finally got out of it and got transferred to somebody with a seriously bad case of the 'I don't want to help you but I have to kill time before lunch' attitude and got yet another number to a switchboard manned by somebody that can transfer you to the wrong department that it got anywhere at all.

      Is the SPRINT corporate policy to befuddle and aggravate the customer to the point they will give up and live with the problem? Is the company dropping all pretense of being about land line communications and going solely wireless so that anything involving an RJ11 phone jack is now history? Could it be that everybody drawing a paycheck from SPRINT went to Kmart's customer service class?
      There has to be a reason it is only slightly easier to get live person customer service from SPRINT than it is MICROSOFT. Yes it is. Just TRY to get a live person at MS to answer a question about EXCEL. (the Desk has, and failed)

      The Desk knows all about how actual Customer Service has fallen lower than the Stock Market. Companies want your money, and... well... that's it. They want your money.
      "And if you have a problem, you can go hang, go elsewhere, go to... you get the idea. There are nearly three hundred million other [customers] out there. When we finish ripping off all of them, we'll come back and see if we can fix your problem."
      That's it.
      The National Companies, and even the Regional Companies, are not worried about Keeping your business. Even though it has been demonstrated to be cheaper to keep a current customer than it is to attract a new one. There are enough people out there with their checkbooks open who don't give two bits about service (until they have a problem that is) to keep an outfit as lousy as SPRINT in business for a long time.
      Try to find somebody at someplace like Wal-Mart that actually knows anything about the products they are selling. You might get lucky. That's all it will be is Luck. Try to just FIND somebody at the lumber desk at LOWES. "You a contractor? No? Go away." Tell the manager at that 'you want fries with that' place? (The Desk hates to even mention the name) your burger tasted like mop water. They'll replace it with one even worse, eventually. And so on.

      It's not that bad, yet, in locally owned stores and service providers. Some of them still have a meaningful customer service department. A few have a real person answer their phone. Some even have an owner in this country that speaks passable English who will go to some lengths to solve your problem.
      Well, at least that goes for the Chinese restaurant a block from the Desk's house and the liquor store owned by an old Lebanese guy across the highway.
      Except for Martha Inc. Who owns any of the national outfits mentioned in this article? Where could you call to speak to even a real manager or director with enough pull to get something meaningful done? Other than a US Senate Hearing, who can hold them accountable for the way they conduct their business? And even with Ms. Stewart, she's passing the buck and saying "I don't recall" faster, but with better style, than either Hillary or Ron Reagan before her.

      So, what to do?
      Boycotts backfire as often as not. Most companies like the free publicity, and there are probably as many people out there that would think that whatever the company was doing that sparked the boycott was a good idea and throw their business that way to support the company as were behind the boycott.
      Letter writing campaign? Email is ignored. The Desk has canned email responses from outfits as different as Lowes, Anheuser Busch and the Baseball Commissioner. In no case was the Desk's email ever even read by anything that draws the breath of life. And in one other case, the company thought the Desk's hate mail was an invitation to sign it up for their promotional mailings, then they sold its address to a SPAMMER, you gotta love it. As for Surface Mail, you're kidding right? How much is a stamp now? And precisely where and to whom would you address a letter to SPRINT so it would actually get read by somebody with a pulse?
      Angry phone call? To a menu tree? That's rich.
      Take your business elsewhere? What was SPRINT's bottom line last quarter? They won't miss you. How many people walked out of Denny's due to lousy service last year? All that did was make the people waiting for your table happy. Angry at Comcast's latest service outage? Take a number.

      To the little old guy behind the counter at the liquor store, the Desk is a customer. He recognizes it. To the Desk, he is somebody that will make good on a beercan that was damaged in the case it bought last week. "No Pr-obl-m!" He smiles and makes it right. And he keeps the Desk's business. Cheap beer and even cheaper whisky. And occasionally that bottle of Wild Turkey. Repeat business. Security for him and his wife and their kids.
      Eighty-Four Lumber doesn't give a damn if they never see the Desk again. It hasn't been in a Shell gas station in years. Has the Pennsylvania lumber outfit or the Dutch oil company gone under? Hardly.
      It is a start anyway.

      But there isn't a local telephone company. CAVALIER was a nice idea, but they learned their customer service from AT&T. So it goes.
      You can buy gas from local ma and pa stations, in fact, the Desk does. But they still end up buying it from EXXON or somebody. You do what you can do.

      And the Desk does what it can do.

      And no matter how clever the guy in the trenchcoat's ads get, it'll be a cold day where Customer Service has gone before SPRINT sees a dime of the Desk's telecommunications money.


[NOTE: The Desk is in no way affiliated with any of the above companies. Including not being a customer except when no other reasonable option exists. All company names, including Martha Stewart Inc, SPRINT, and the others are registered trademarks and copyrights of their individual companies. If lawyers scream the Desk will remove the company name from this article, and replace it with another offender. have a nice day]

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