The stories I've been told

I enjoy reading Seth Godin's blog, so I thought I would summarize a particularly annoying set of stories I've been told.

In my lifetime (limited as it's been) there have been 2 technical absolutes: power and a dial tone. When you plugged into a power outlet, you got power. When you picked up the phone, you got a dial tone.

In early December, the phone company I have used for many years broke my phone. (I'll leave the phone company nameless, although I get cable and internet service from them, so you can probably figure it out ;)) To be a little more accurate, my phone is broken and the phone company has no idea why...even more troubling. After several service calls, service escalations the only answer was...It is a problem in Denver. I'll point out here I don't live in Denver...I live ~1000 miles away. I should point out that this is not the company that laid the wire when my house was built 11 years ago. So the story I hear is that the POTS running on copper wire which has just worked for decades, suddenly doesn't and the "experts" have no idea why. Not exactly progress :(

The phone company recommends I upgrade to their VOIP solution. Fine, I'm also the proud owner of a new LCD HDTV so I intended to upgrade to digital cable (more on that later) and the same company offers a bundled package. Even though my wife and I have misgivings about sound quality after experiencing phone calls to several friends and family members who have VOIP phone service. As an ISP, the same company has been for an early problem with their DNS servers 5 or 6 years ago. So after ~3 weeks of no phone service, the service guys come out to upgrade to digital cable and install my VOIP, "digital voice", phone service.

Well, neither installation goes well. The installer (a contractor for the service company) only has 2 cable boxes and neither seems to be working. Eventually, one of the cable boxes cooperates and I now have an HD signal and several dozen more channels - still with nothing worthing watching ;) But some system necessary to initiate my phone server is not working so still no phone. I'm told they will be back the next day. The next day comes and goes without contact from the phone company. Now it's Friday, 2 days after the initial installation visit, and I make a phone call. After navigating the telephone system, which takes 5 kidding...and entering my home phone number (which doesn't work) at least 3 times by keypad then again verbally when I do actually talk to a person, they "escalate" the issue. I'm convinced this does absolutely nothing! Several hours go by and again I have no contact with the phone company. I call again and after once again navigating the maddening telephone system, am told they are working on the problem and someone will make a service call today. Great, someone will be home all day. Well, it's now 4:30 PM and I still haven't heard from or seen anyone. So I call again...although by now I've had enough. After 4 week without phone service during the holiday season (FedEx, UPS, friends, family, schools, etc. can't call the house) I tell them if my phone is not working today, cancel my order. They assure me that they work until 7, and someone will be there. Well as you might guess, no one showed up.

So, I stop by my local BestBuy pick up a Linksys Vonage router and 1/2 hour later...I have a dial tone again! I even setup a second line for my shiny new HP all-in-one printer/scanner/copy/fax machine. All is well...sortof. The transfer of my phone number from the phone company to Vonage will take 7-10 business days (scheduled to be completed Jan 5th). My wife and I have been using our cell phones, which isn't a problem, other than the family is throughly confused about who to call for what. My wife is hesistant to give the family (not the most technically savy bunch ;)) the Vonage temporary number.

So that's the phone story....the phone company isn't competent with decades old, extremely reliable phone technology and doesn't really care about me - the customer --- at least that's what I hear.

Now the digital cable. Since it was installed, once a week the cable service goes blank. The channel guide shows up...but a constant message of "Waiting for information" is on the screen. Invariably, this happens when I'm not at home...making my wife less than impressed with all these new-fangled "toys" of mine;) So the first service guy tells me the cable box is setup up all wrong. He fixes it in 10 charge (I should think not). The second service guy, tells me the servers are overloaded and they can't do it remotely so 10 minutes later he has it fixed. I'm out of town this week, and got read the riot act by my wife guessed it the digitial cable is out. She called the service number and they ask her all kinds of connection questions which she doesn't know and can't easily determine without moving a lot of furniture around.

So the cable story is....we have no idea how our service works and it must be your fault because of the way you have it setup.

Not to mention, while I get 1 bill and I call 1 number...the 3 services provided by the 1 company know nothing about each other.