Monday, December 05, 2011

Dear AT&T

Luv ya, but--

Clicking on "LOG IN" on your start page really ought to take me to, you know, a login window or summat, instead of doing nothing at all, leaving me to flounder cluelessly until I find a page with specific logins for each and every kind of service and package you offer (Wireless. Home Phone. DSL. TV. Home phone and Internet. Wireless and cable but not Wireless Cable. Wireless and home phone, no Internet, Cable on Sundays only. Wireless Teletext with simultaneous translation to and from Lithuanian.

Once I find the right one (DSL, Foam Hone and Wirelessesses, with a side of Morris Dancing), it takes forever to get to the "Service" page, which keeps telling me to go check at the NI* ("Watch this video!" Oooo, complex Deeeep Science.). I already checked there. I already did before I tried to log on. I already did with a frickin' 300-series desk set, which is as basic a phone as you can find, and if it doesn't get DC or dial tone, then they. are. not. there. Where's the checkbox I can check to say I already checked? Not got?

So I slog through all this, and the 34-character limit on the the tell-us-the-problem window, and the warning that if The Phone Man has to come inside and touch my precious wires, that will cost me biggo. (Yeah, look, phone man? You can't. Make sure the drop is okay and the can it comes outta is right; it's dead at the outside wall, with none of my ratty wring connected.)

I do all that and what do I get? I get a solemn, automated, honest-to-George Stibitz promise that they will fix the problem without fail, not later than 2000 this coming Thursday.

Well hoo-ray.
_______________________________
* "Network Interface," the magic putty-colored box on the outside of your house or apartment where the drop from the phone company lands, which has a two-section door. There's only one side you can open without a can wrench cheap set of security drivers sooper-sekrit TelCo tool. On the EZ-open (normal screwdriver) side is the only part of any use to you, one or more tiny modular jacks with short jumpers plugged into them. Unplug the jumper, plug in a phone. Got dialtone? Then the line to your house is okay and a mouse has cut the wire somewhere inside. (Call someone and make sure.) No dialtone? Only The Phone Company can help. In the old days, we called them "demarks" ("demarcation point") and they were implemented in many different ways, none of them as easy to check. If you can't readily ID the thing, please do not go opening up random utility-type boxes on the outside walls of your house -- some of them can kill you, or worse yet, interfere with your cablemodem.

15 comments:

Hat Trick said...

I understand your frustration with their web presence but remember the poor guys in the trenches.

I have a gunny friend here who has been on TDY to Chicago (shudder)fixing the old decaying networks there the majority of the last three years. They've cut tech staff to the bone and have to ship them in from elsewhere when they encounter problems of any significance. He's been working in neighborhoods where the thieves are cheeky enough to walk off down the street with their big industrial 40' extension ladder from the atop of the truck. I'm thinking you're lucky they've committed to a 20:00 Thursday deadline.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, AT&T is clueless about, first, exactly what business they're in, and second, exactly how to run that business competently and successfully.

They seem slightly-to-moderately competent in delivery of a dial tone, but anything beyond that appears to befuddle them.

They've recently focused on wireless voice, and its red-headed stepchild, wireless data, seemingly to the exclusion of managing other forms of communication technology and processes. I suspect were it not for their size, and the value of great mass, we would be referring to them in the past tense.

Roberta X said...

Hat Trick: I am not at all unsympathetic to the people who do the actual work -- but their Web designers had me saying words I do not usually utter, in combinations I rarely choose, at volumes entirely louder than my normal range. The lack of a way to indicate I had already tried all the normal tests was especially vexing.

Anon: we already did once -- the beast will not die! What we call AT&T now was SBC, previously Southwestern Bell, which was one of the seven Baby Bells created in 1984, when the fed.gov decided AT&T/The Bell System was showing it up in the "running huge enterprises" category and broke it up into tiny bits. 21 years later, SBC having et up most of its siblings, turned to what was left of the parent company and gobbled it up, afterwards taking on its name and likeness in a manner reminiscent of the pigs in Animal Farm. This time 'round, they convinced (no doubt with earnest looks and pious words) the Feds they would never, ever look more efficient or dependable than the government, and were allowed to remain intact.

So far, they appear to have kept their word.

Nathan said...

Agree fully with your assessment of their website. It's enough to give me the screaming fits every time I have to use it.

On the other hand, we had serious static in the line out here a year or so ago, and the tech was out on a ladder in a sleet storm fixing a splice into which a little birdie had inserted itself and its nest some summer before. The guy was competent, personable, didn't mess around, and gave me his card with his direct number to call him if for some reason his repair didn't work. I had nothing but good things to say about him.

Roberta X said...

Oh, I've never had cause to complain about AT&T techs -- or GenTel/GTE techs, for that matter -- except there don't seem to be quite enough of them. Ah, well, no bucks, no Buck Rogers -- or Wichita Linemen, either.

rickn8or said...

Where's the checkbox for "I don't watch TeeWee, I don't have a landline, my mobile's with another company, all I want is internets access, so stop sending me your U-Verse advertisements and leave me the eff-alone"?

Roger that about the line techs, BTDT.

Dave H said...

I don't know who the phone companies are hiring to program their web pages, but I wish they'd quit it. Trying to use Verizon's site is like trying to use a 15 year old phone book to order pizza, the links are so old and stale.

I've got nothing but praise for the technical people who actually show up, though. I owe the guy who put in our first phone line. I tried calling from work the day it was supposed to be installed, and the installer answered. He was in the process of hooking it up and got bit by the ring voltage so he hooked up his butt set and answered. Wasn't annoyed at all. Now that's a professional.

Panamared said...

My biggest problem with AT&T's web page is that they are all about sales, and clueless about service. In there defense at least in my part of the country they are rapidly trying to provide universal fiber-optics. Of coarse then if you lose power there is no dial-tone.

mikee said...

Try paying your AT&T bill online if you want some real entertainment.

Old Grouch said...

Next time you might try 800 868-9696 (what used to be known as "Repair Service"). There's a relatively straightforward phone tree, ending with an automated line test.

Roberta X said...

Mikee: I already do. But I usually follow the handy-dandy e-mail link, which is only a little frustrating.

Old Grouch: I guess I am too wary, from back when ex and I (both on-call) had our own phone lines; when one would line failed, calling the phone company resulted in a lot of explaining and explaining that no, this line was okay, it was 475-XXXX that was out.... It was just way off their radar that any residence might have two landlines.

Anonymous said...

I could have read your post w/o ever seeing the company name and known instantly who you were talking about.

Anonymous said...

R X: I am, unfortunately, quite familiar with the history of AT&T/RBOCS; I was well within shrapnel range during the breakup, and still have my Harold Greene doll to stick pins into. And, I'll agree - with the exception of CWA work rules, the folks who operate where the rubber meets the road (or, rather, where the last several connections are made), are pretty close to uniformly excellent. Just about everyone above them, though....

(As for the CWA, my vocabulary is inadequate to describe them; I routinely waited days for someone with the right CWA card to show up and spend 60 seconds making a connection so I could test and start shipping bits).

Nicole said...

Soooo glad I'm not the only one who despises AT&T's website. I have made up filthy words while attempting to navigate that black hole.

Robert said...

"In the old days, we called them "demarks" ("demarcation point")"

I'm officially old; I didn't know they were called anything else.

I kinda miss 300 baud. Being able to go make a cup of coffee while the other guy sent his response...
WV ablesser I'm able now but lesser than I was.