Service with a smile.

Here’s what amazes me — and I promise this will not become a Lileks-style rant about how Everyone In The World is Failing Me, and How Dare They — but really, it’s amazing and frightening, how we’re supposedly now a service economy, and…SERVICE EVERYWHERE SUCKS.

I’m not talking about your local dry cleaner. I’m talking about the experience of disconnecting and reconnecting simple household utilities, and you should thank God you only do this when you move, and most sane people move no more often than they have to.

Just a few quick anecdotes, and I’ll try to keep them entertaining:

* I call to disconnect our Fort Wayne phone service, go through the whole voice-mail menu, explain to the guy the whole situation. Ten minutes on the phone, minimum. After which he tells me: "Your phone is in your husband’s name. So he’ll have to make the call. I can’t take the order from you." This after I’d given him all pertinent information, including the last four digits of Alan’s SSN.

* When Alan calls to do the same thing, he asks, at my prompting, how we can have our e-mail forwarded from our account; we’ve been using it as our home ISP. Oh, that’s a totally different number, we’re told; we can’t handle DSL service requests at all, only telephone service. But the DSL service IS the telephone service, he protests. Shut up, silly man.

* As the household computer guru, I handle the DSL call. I figure I’ll put Alan on the phone and pull his strings, if they insist he be the voice on the phone. But they don’t. It all goes swimmingly. "I’ll have that disconnected momentarily," the service rep says. "But I don’t want it disconnected momentarily, I want it disconnected the day after tomorrow," I say. "We’ll be here until Friday." She can’t possibly do this, a "postdated disconnection," she explains; I’ll have to call back Friday. The day our phone is being disconnected.

Cable was another adventure. I called four different phone numbers, finally, FINALLY landing with a service rep with a brain. "I’m calling to set up service in Ann Arbor," I said, weakly. "Please help me." She could. She explained that my problem, in which I was seemingly bounced hither and yon to call centers around the midwest, was very simple: I was calling from a Fort Wayne area code, which automatically got me routed to Indianapolis, where the Comcast Indiana call center is located. Do you understand? Here I am, trying to call the Ann Arbor/Detroit/southeast Michigan cable service area, but no matter what number I call, I’m routed to Indy, because the caller-ID sniffer assumes that, since I’m calling from Fort Wayne, I’m calling about Fort Wayne service. There’s a special, double-secret number I must call to set up Comcast service in Ann Arbor; needless to say, it is not toll-free.

I love this: It doesn’t matter what number you call, anymore. It’s the number you’re calling from that matters.

The cable guy came this morning, and hooked everything up. We’re online! We’re broadband with a bullet! Kate has her Nickelodeon fix, and she’s so happy! He leaves. Ten minutes later, SpongeBob SquarePants disappears from the screen, although the little menu band at the bottom remains, telling me that I’m watching SpongeBob. I call the non-toll-free number. I’m told that this is routine, that the service doesn’t officially start until the work order is turned in, and this could be as far away as day’s end. Broadband stays up, analog stays up, but digital cable is down. Do not be alarmed! the service rep says. Normal! Perfectly normal! The next call, hours later, reveals that there is a "computer outage" that is keeping work orders from being entered. It’s now nearly 12 hours later. Still a computer outage. On my midafternoon call, I ask for a toll-free number for subsequent calls. She gives me one. When I call it, hours later, it rings a different cable company entirely.

This is one funny joke, if you ask me.

But what are you going to do? Call another cable company?

Ha ha ha ha ha.

OK, enough of that. On the whole, our first few days in A.A. have been lovely, indolent and pleasant. We are settled. Alan, my metrosexual husband, has rearranged the furniture, rewired the sound system and rehung the art to his satisfaction. The kitchen is well-stocked right down to the shrimp deveiner. We’ve visited the Farmer’s Market and Borders No. 1 — really, it started here. We had dinner at Zingerman’s, the best deli this side of Zabar’s. I’ve taken some long bike rides, Kate has made some friends, Alan has found a hardware store that tickles his fancy. Oh, we’re having a time.

More tomorrow.

Posted at 1:29 pm in Uncategorized |

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