Oh, For Heaven’s Sake!

A “utility” is defined as a public service, “… a system to provide water or electricity… a cell tower network, or the like”. On dictionary.com, utility is also labeled as an “elementary level” word, meaning a grade school child should be able to understand its meaning. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere, because elementary is the perfect way to describe the customer service I’ve received while setting up the utilities in my new house.

Power. Water. Gas. Internet.  I’d call these utilities the four cornerstones of a functioning modern house, wouldn’t you?  Without them you’re just looking at your walls (if you can see them in the dark) wishing you could take a hot shower and check your email.  So why is it so difficult to get the utilities going again when you move, especially when they’re already up and running in the first place?

Power was almost an open and shut-it-off case for me.  I called the supplier to transfer the electricity into my name, which seemed a straightforward process until they sent their technician to the house.  Here we have the classic case of the right hand not talking to the left.  The technician proceeded to turn the power off.  How my neighbor – the former owner – had the presence of mind to stop him in his tracks is beyond me (I owe her something from my kitchen now).  She saved me a week or two of “the lights are off and somebody’s home”.

Water comes from a well where I live.  The best example of good customer service may be no customer service because if you have a well, you don’t have to call anyone at all.  Assuming your well pump is working (and you have power) you simply turn the lever and out comes the water.  But then you realize the water is cold, which is why you need…

Gas – or propane in my case – requires a call to customer service because they won’t let it flow without a safety inspection of the system.  I get it (now) since I have a 500-gallon tank under my house.  This is good news and bad news.  The good news: I’m “energy independent” of a piped network, so as long as my tank has propane I have heat (and a stove to cook on, and a fireplace to enjoy).  The bad news: I get charged for the 500 gallons in one shot instead of paying by the month.  Whoa.  My household budget went off the rails with that bill.  And just how big is a 500-gallon tank of propane anyway?  I’m not sure I want to know.

Is my propane tank the size of a giant peach?

If not for internet, I’d say I’d fared pretty well with setting up my utilities but bless their hearts AT&T makes a big-screen adventure out of the simplest request.  Your phone call takes you to a menu of prompts, then to another menu, then to another menu, until the recorded voice seems to capitulate by finally transferring you to someone who can actually talk (but not think).  The someone who comes on the line is clearly not from your neighborhood (or even your country).  The someone says, “Yes, hello, and how is your day today, Mr. David?”  Mr. David?  No one calls me that ever.  The someone then follows a scripted line of conversation by launching into a series of sales pitches to try to get you to bundle with a bunch of stuff you don’t need.  The someone sighs when you repeatedly decline, and finally says something like, “I’ll now be transferring you to another representative who can help you with that”.

I have to pause, no, stop my AT&T rant for three reasons now.  One, my frustrations will continue for twice as many words as I have space for today.  Two, it’ll drive me to drink just revisiting the experience.  Three, if AT&T reads this post they may be tempted to turn off my internet.  Very long story short, I lost track of the number of someones I talked to, failed AT&T’s screening process three times because of poor credit history (wrong), an incorrect social security number (wrong again), and a street address where AT&T doesn’t provide service (is three times the charm?)

Go figure, the only way I finally succeeded with my internet setup was to request the service through AT&T’s website.  The tech showed up as scheduled, set up the service, and now I’m able to type my blog posts again.  Small miracles.

Because of the newish ways we now communicate with one another (most of them electronic) getting good help or prompt help or even the right help is more of a challenge than ever.  When I share these adventures with family or friends I always hear my late mother remarking, “Oh, for heaven’s sake”.  Maybe she would’ve been better saying, “Heaven help us”, because customer service for utilities down here on earth just isn’t cutting it.

22 thoughts on “Oh, For Heaven’s Sake!

  1. I sense your frustration and share in it. We had trouble getting reliable internet connection when we first moved here, but now the system works. Fingers crossed for you that it’ll be the same. You said it: “getting good help or prompt help or even the right help is more of a challenge than ever.” This I say as I’m at home today while a technician [finally] fixes our dishwasher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Competent service repair-people are like gold, Ally. If you’ve found a good one for your dishwasher don’t let him/her go until every last appliance in your place is in working order!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so right, more and more customer service is being automated. You can’t get a LIVE human being. Their system offers you questions… Are these one of the issues you are having? If NO, you are directed BACK to the 5 original issues to start over. It’s a vicious circle. I had this happen recently while trying to figure out a Microsoft issue. Maddening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t mind automated customer service as long as the options actually include what you’re trying to address. I’m fascinated by the number of times a system doesn’t understand what I consider to be a basic request. “Please try again” gets old very quickly 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL – Me trying to change my Xfinity Plan. When I clicked on change plan, the choices were about payment, not changing the plan. I had to go into the store to make changes. Now, you can’t get someone live. Well, they HOPE you won’t change your plan. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “… go into the store…” – now why didn’t I think of THAT approach? I wonder if the AT&T stores are strictly retail or can actually help with requests for the home.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. HA! Mr. David, that paragraph on A&T was priceless! Well, maybe not funny to you, but your description of it gave me my morning laugh. “A big screen adventure out of a simple request.” I had an experience recently with a company I hired to clean my deck which made me feel like I was in the middle of a SNL skit. You gotta laugh…..after the fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Mr. David” had to shorten the AT&T account big-time, Joni, else my short-story post would’ve become a novel. Let me just say (boast) this: I have impeccable credit and a bomb-proof social security number, so when the rep ran into trouble with both – which meant denying me service – I knew I was either working with a child or the newest kid on the block. Through the website, I was approved immediately. I’m guessing my “Mr. David” friend won’t be making a career out of AT&T.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My neighbors agree with you. Most of them recommended AT&T for internet, but reluctantly, as we don’t have more reliable options around here. They said to brew a pot of coffee, find a comfortable chair, and be prepared to spend the morning with AT&T customer service. They weren’t kidding. Literally hours.

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  4. When I moved here two years ago, internet was weirdest to setup. I had to go to their website – interesting to do without an internet connection and ordered their “self install” kit. They promised that no tech needed to come out. It took two days for the kit to arrive and it didn’t work. Called the customer service line and yes, they did have to send a tech out. Turns out there was a error in the house wiring and the tech couldn’t explain how the last owner got internet in the house.

    I was going to use AT&T here in the new house, but when I disconnected service from my old house, the AT&T rep told me that AT&T didn’t have service in Reno so they couldn’t transfer my service. Strange, since many of my neighbors seem to have AT&T …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I no longer believe anything AT&T customer service says and pledge to log service requests through their website until the end of time. The best part of all this, Andrew: I was already an AT&T customer (my mobile phone) before I made this request, yet they still had to run a credit check, set up a new account, and put me on the kind of billing model reserved for those with poor payment histories. A comedy of errors to say the least, and a wonder I managed to get the internet service at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Once all the utilities are set up, it could be easy to become complacent about them! Less likely if, like you, the water and propane are your responsibility. We have our own well and septic system, but the natural gas is an outside utility.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Propane seems straightforward, Margy (I can even check my tank level online), but we’ve learned to keep after well/septic. A critter chewed through our power line to the well once (no conduit!), and I’ve heard enough horror stories about septic backups to keep our tanks pumped regularly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. HI Dave,
    I understand your frustration. I am to the point that I will go along with things malfunctioning and incorrect so not to deal with finding the right person to help. It is insane sometimes. On one recent attempt I had to call the same number 6 times to be able to connect to the right extension. It get hanging up on me.
    I am glad that you got your issues resolved, and managed to get internet.
    Blessings!

    Like

    1. Customer service is underrated. I think many companies miss a huge opportunity to separate themselves from the competition by simply offering competent service. I’m biased since customer service management was a big part of my career, but the numbers don’t lie. Keep your customers satisfied and they’ll keep coming back for more.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am coming to believe that the telephone is no longer a tool capable of accomplishing things, but only usable for creating frustration.

    ATT and Comcast – Truly the devil and the deep blue sea. I’m not sure which is which.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You have my sympathies Dave – I have done the dance with AT&T or Comcast until I want to pull my hair out. In August 2021 I needed a new Comcast modem, which I rent, like most people do. I was told they’d ship it and I’d swap it, then mail it back. It was, they said, a five-minute task, easy peasy, BUT you could only do it via a smartphone app. I said “I don’t have a smartphone.” So I needed to pay $100.00 to have the modem swapped by a tech. I didn’t hold back and said “you said it was easy and it’s $100.00; I’ve been a loyal customer since 2000!” He said “I’ll talk to my supervisor – be right back.” He returned and said “we’ll cut your bill from $99.00/month to $85.00 for one year, then your regular rate returns to help defray the tech costs.” I thanked him and thought “wow, the squeaky wheel gets greased, right?” My year of the reduced rate was over last week – my new bill is $114.00. What happened to returning to the former $99.00 rate? I “get” raising the bill a few dollars, but $15.00? At least I now get the free Peacock channel (with commercials) so I will start watching “Yellowstone” this Fall.

    [Sorry for the late response – I am a week behind in Reader, thanks to a few bad evening storms the past week and I turned off my computer.]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am behind on Reader too, Linda (moving from one house to another will do that) but I WILL catch up! AT&T tried the same move as you, wanting me to give them cash on hold in exchange for my business (when the credit check didn’t go through). That’s when I pretty much hung up on them. You’d think tech companies – including Comcast – would have this aspect of their business down to a science. Far from it. Having said that I’m glad you persisted with your cable. Yellowstone is – IMHO – one of the few shows worth watching right now. If you can get past the in-your-face violence, it’s a fascinating power struggle between the landowners, native Indians, and government officials of Montana.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hate to think how behind I’d be if I moved houses! When I retire, (no date for that yet), there will be some major clutter control at this house. These companies know you want and need their services. Here in SE Michigan, we had severe weather Monday night with 300,000 homes/businesses losing their power and 3,300 downed lines. The downed lines were repaired first. There are still some 60,000 without power today – people are livid and I don’t blame them. DTE wants an 8% rate hike to go into effect in 2023. I think they’d better table that idea for a while. I’ll look forward to Yellowstone then Dave – I have four years to catch up as i understand they are now in Season 5.

        Liked by 1 person

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