Monday, May 18, 2009

Hello? Hello?

Sometimes I just hate all this technology!

Last fall, I decided to bundle all of my household technology into one place. So, I said good-bye to Alltel and Alltel net and switched them both to Cox. I liked the idea of having only one bill to contend with, and I hadn't like Alltel anyway, ever since they moved lock stock and barrel out of Arkansas.

Cox offered me a deal I couldn't refuse, to last six months. Happy, happy. Well, the deal expired at the end of March. When I got my April bill, the regular rate applied. It was considerably more than what I had received from the "introductory" rate, but I expected that.

This month, my bill was $50.00 more than last month's. What? No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, we can't have this. So, this morning I called them. I should say, I tried to call them. First, I got their little menu of questions I had to answer, twice, because their little mechanized lady didn't understand me. I found myself speaking loudly and slowly, the way I used to have to speak to my grandmother when she was alive. Sometimes she heard me and sometimes, I had to repeat myself.

The last question was, "Do you want to continue electronically, or speak to a representative?" I said I would speak to a representative. Apparently, this isn't what they wanted me to do, because the mechanical lady admonished, "If you choose to speak to a Representative, there will be a surcharge of $4.99." $4.99!?! To speak to Customer Service??

Oh, well, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to be able to do this electronically. So, I spoke to a very nice young lady, who listened to my plight about not being able to afford such a high bill because I'm old and on a fixed income and the economy being what it is, I am not going to receive an increase in Social Security ever again in my lifetime, and I guessed I would have to cancel some of my services. Snif.

She kindly walked me through all the services I had been receiving on my "introductory deal" one by one, and told me how much each one was. I told her the ones I wanted to cancel (all of the digital crap, none of which I had watched after scrolling faithfully through the guide every bloody day for six months), and when she told me what I was paying for the "fastest" internet connection, I admitted to her that when I switched over from dial-up was the last time I had noticed the computer being any faster. So, we downgraded two tiers and guess what? There's no difference.

She was just on the verge of telling me what my new charge would be when I found myself listening to a dial tone. A. Dial. Tone. Panic time.

After pounding my phone on the arm of my chair a few times and screaming obscenities (yes, I do know a few, heheh), I started dialing again, managing to get through to a different representative, for which I would be charged yet another $4.99, I presume. Anyway, he was able to pick up where that nice young lady left off, and he told me what my bill would be, and after challenging me to have a nice day, we hung up. Phew!

What is this country coming to, anyway? Back in the halcyon days of my youth, after I married and moved to this town, the cable company was locally owned and offered a pretty good discount off of the approximately $10.00 per month if we chose to pay annually. Anually! Try affording that nowadays! The phone company had a local office, with corporate offices in Little Rock, and when you called them in either place, a human answered and everything was hunky-dory.

For that matter, the water department didn't even bother to send bills out. It was my responsibility to call them each month and ask how much I owed them. Unfortunately, I went a couple of months without paying them at first because I wasn't aware of this rather informal system. But, never mind.

Furthermore, the electric company had a different name and a local office and corporate offices in Little Rock. They offered a discount, of sorts, too. If we had an "all electric" home, we received a discount. When they abandoned that, they gave us another deal. If we had "levelized billing", at the end of the year, if we had overpaid (and we always overpaid), we received either cash or a credit on our next few bills. Humans answered their phones, too. Everybody won.

Those were, indeed, the good old days. Now, not so much.

Stay tuned.


Margie's Musings said...

Ah yes! Cox can be a challenge. I too have them.

Looking to the Stars said...

You are a woman after my own heart. I remember when you could talk to a person. I have to talk slow for the machines also and even then sometimes I don't get thru. I would like the way things were to come back. we aren't making progress with machines doing everything. I go thru what you have, I know how frustated you feel. Hang in there, kiddo :)

Queen-Size funny bone said...

They lure you in, hook ya and then we pay no matter what.

Cazzie!!! said...

We just changed providers today after an 18 year stay with the one company. We "hope" it is a change for the better... let's see if it is. Speaking to machines drove me nuts also.

Arkansas Patti said...

Been there and done that unfortunately.Kinda funny in retrospect but VERY frustrating at the time.
A Radio Shack lady taught me this. As soon as they start with the mechanical questions, just say loudly" I want to talk to a person" Works every time and fortunately so far, no one wants to charge me for speaking. That would have made me switch companies.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I hate, hate, hate the whole automated system....and it's everywhere. Is it any wonder why we are a stressed-out society when we have to deal with these idiotic customer service problems. Your case was the price example if ever there was one....NUTS! I don't know how you didn't lose it.

tincanman said...

"Cox, your friend in the Digital Age." Really? Don't know about you, but I would NEVER charge my friends like Cox does and wouldn't make my friends listen to a silly (and mostly ineffective) automated voice machine. I have Cox and get infuriated with the automated system. I usually just mock the voice unmercifully till it clicks me over to a real person (at least, I think that's who it is.) I have 100 channels of TV with Cox and without the weather channel and a few others, there's virtually nothing worth watching--but that's another post. I'm generally pleased with my Cox Internet service. Overall, Cox is like an automobile: great when it work, a pain when it doesn't. But as far as friends go, they aren't even on my list.

Deanna said...

Wow! They actually CHARGED you to speak to a person!!!! I would have been irate. I hate those nice entry offers that get you hooked and then down the road BAM reality slaps you in the face. I've learned to just say no in the beginning. I have the lowere level of DSL at home and a high level at work and I honestly can't tell any difference.

Loved the pic of all the gadgets. Where did the good ol' days go...

Darlene said...

As if the automated systems weren't hard enough to deal with, imagine having to use a captioning service to read the menu. By the time the caption appears on the screen the mechanical voice is off to something else and the information on the button you should have pressed is long gone.

I hate the new system and wish for the good old days of actually talking to a human first. Whenever possible I just push O and hope I get a human.

To pay for a service that should be furnished is outrageous. I will never switch to Cox now.

Betty said...

Margie: Overall, I'm happy with Cox. I like being able to just pay one bill.

Looking to the Stars: It's funny today. Yesterday? Not so much. lol

Queen Size Funny Bone: What I hate is when the tell you the price originally, but when you get the bill, watch out! It's always higher than they said, and they always have a good excuse when you question them about it.

Cazzie; Good luck with that. I hope you never have to phone them for information.

Betty said...

Arkansas Patti: I didn't know you could just play dumb and eventually get a real person. Wonder if they still charge you?

Joy: A lot of people could be put to work if automated telephone systems were outlawed.

The automated service that REALLY pisses me of is the one at my doctor's office. I can talk to a person if I want to wait five minutes while they explain my options. Speaking to a human is last on their list. Tells you what their priorities are.

Deanna: The way the nice young man 'splained it to me was it's all in the downloading of videos and internet games. They download more slowly, otherwise, he said I probably wouldn't notice much difference. He was right.

Darlene: So far, except for yesterday's experience, I like Cox. But, I'm not speaking to them ever again. That'll show 'em.

Sister--Three said...

Betty, my Clayton lives in your town. Erin works at Boone Co. Hosp...she is a RN. Other Grandparents took him to the big Day. I think he enjoyed it.

Ok, I was thinking of bundling...and now I am afraid I may not want to. I will try to check all the corners if I decide to do it.

Golden To Silver Val said...

I'm in shock over them charging you for customer service. Isn't this a...conflict of interest. They could...conceivably mess up your bill or service on purpose so you will HAVE to call customer service, thereby giving them extra money. Since you got cut must be timed also. I have a good word for their company but I dare not write it....if you know what I mean. Humph..and I thought MY cable company was only complaint about them is they have no competition and their prices are too high. But someday that will all end. Talk about kicking the public when we're down!!!

Betty said...

Sister-Three: Don't be scared. I really like the service, so far. It's just a hassle getting a human.

Golden to Silver Val: Since cable companies will no doubt become obsolete, what with being able to watch shows on the internet, etc., you'd think they'd be trying very hard to keep everyone on cable.

Anonymous said...

bikehikebabe here. My Primary Physician is going to Australia. (She must hate it here. New Mexico) I got a new one that I never heard of (which).

The receptionist said I needed to make an appointment to meet him--the next morning. (Any doctor that has a block opened the next A.M. isn't going to be good.) She didn't know how much that would cost. And what good is it going to do for me to say Howdy to him? I declined.

Leon said...

Welcome to the world of Cox. I'm trying to get an explanation of why there is a separate charge for digital service since it is about to become the basic level when analog is discontinued in the TV signal world next month. I'll keep trying! :~D

Ima Wizer said...

My problem is WHEN you DO get a LIVE person to talk to, they are NIgerian! Geez!

Betty said...

Anonymous: I hate to have to change doctors.

Leon: I'm never going to ask them questions again.

Ima Wizer: The people I finally talked to were Americans, or at least they spoke English that I could understand.

MarmiteToasty said...

Ya best bet is to get a tent and go and live in the woods..... no bills...... ok ok so ya'd have no loo and no running water or telly or internet connection, but just think out cheap it would be to live :)


Betty said...

Marmite Toasty: Gee, thanks for that advice. Sounds, er, interesting.

Peggy said...

Is it LEGAL to charge for customer service?

Lisa said...

Betty, that "live" customer service charge is appalling! I have AT&T here and curse the day they were born. Among other things, I have to keep an eye on the online deals they offer because they keep charging me more for a renewal as a loyal customer than they charge Joe Blow who signs up with them for the first time ever. Supposedly, my last call yielded over $100 in credits for the overcharges--we'll see.