Friday, April 11, 2008

The Qwest That I Have Sucked At

I believe that I have joined the crowd. I get 84,100 "qwest sucks" hits via Google. That might be a total, or 84,100 per hour, if what I read about the company is consistent with my experience.

I hate AT&T so much that even though the company was bought by SBC Communications in 2005, and then SBC Communications changed its name to AT&T (brand recognition), I would still never do business with them again even though the company with the AT&T name is not the one I dealt with.

Even if no one cares, I'm doing the writing here, so I'll whine, and I now feel the same about Qwest.

I once had dialup internet access. It was through AT&T. At first they billed my credit card once a month. I did not like that but it worked. Someone at my office said they were OK, and he was OK, so I tried it and it worked. AT&T was good.

Later they had the ability to bill me monthly and I changed my account. Everything was sunny in my happy valley for a couple of years. Life on dailup was slow but good.

Then my connection began dropping. And again, and again. I had my modem set to auto redial. Once it dialed 135 times before I was able to get a solid reconnect. Usually the connection would fail, my modem would redial, I'd get a connection, and then after three to five seconds the connection would snap again. And the modem would try again.

This was not fun. At least for me. You might have liked it but I had other things to do than count the number of times my faithful little modem would let itself be kicked in the diodes and still, despite the humiliation, try, try again. It was my little electronic buddy.

AT&T, wherever, whoever, whatever, was like a surly elevator operator.

Maybe you've never had the pleasure. Elevators used to have drivers. A surprise to me, most of them liked standing in a metal box all day, having their bowels churned by acceleration. Most of them were people persons. One of the benefits of living in a slow place was visiting the North Dakota capitol, the highest building for hundreds of miles in any direction, which had elevator operators until way late.

Eighteen stories, the building. Built in the 1930s to impress. Actually a masterpiece of late Art Deco. Lots of brass. Right at the balance point of Art Deco and Bauhaus. Pretty cool, really, at 241 feet, 8 inches.

And I walked on the roof twice. Once when my uncle, a minor muckity-muck, took an out of town cousin and me on a tour, and later when I worked next door at the State Historical Society of North Dakota and we were out rummaging around for some reason or other. I looked over the edge both times.

The KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, N.D. is still the world's tallest structure, at 2063 feet, soon to be surpassed by the United Arab Emirate's Burj Dubai ("Dubai Tower"). Since 1963, no less. Let's hear it for North Dakota, America's Forgotten Wonderland.

Anyway, not every elevator operator is a happy soul, and a sour one giving you a tongue pummeling can remind you of why you want to stay in school so you never have to be one. What can you say to a guy who has to stand there all day and yank a lever either up or down? You play turtle, pull in your head, fight the fatigue, and have a shower when you get home.

Dealing with AT&T was like that.

I finally figured out that my computer was not the problem, and I had really tried to find one. I got lots of advice from coworkers who knew all about the fiddly bits, the hardware and the wires and things, the hanging parts, the ugly stuff, and where my computer might be mucked up. I was not a guts and innards person, but I asked those who were and went off troubleshooting and my end turned up clean.

Then a hiking friend clued me to a small local company providing internet service. I signed up and switched over. Perfect. Still dialup, but considering that, as good as it gets. I was happy. Next step: get off AT&T.


Couldn't do it. I searched. No web page to terminate service, no email address, no phone number. Evil, evil incarnate. It took me about three months to work it out, and I had to bear with it right up to the point that they were going to turn it over to a collection agency. Somehow or other I got through to the one single last human working for the company and somehow or other he fixed it.

Some time later I switched to Qwest DSL service. Worked fine. Zoom.

And then one day it stopped dead. I called Qwest and got a barely human person. A guy who sounded like he was eager to move from fifth to sixth grade so he could be appreciated as a grownup. Clueless tyke. Like a noisy puppy bouncing around happily, who tears things up and poops all over. Kind of interesting. For a minute. Didn't know they still made these things, you think to yourself right before you get terminally annoyed and consider homicide by phone.

Anyway, Qwest said A-OK, so it must be my internet service provider. Have a nice day!

Um, no.

My ISP was able to tell me why it was Qwest's problem, and exactly where in the system the problem was. Unlike the Qwest people, who simply said they were really, really sure that the internet thingy and my ISP thingy were at fault. Just because.

This happened a few times. Usually the outages were brief and suddenly service was back for no particular reason. And then I stopped having outages. Everything was fine for about two years.

Until Sunday. Things were working, then they got slow, and then they were not working. At all. Forever.

I went through the drill. Being smarter now, I called my ISP. No problem there, as usual, so I called Qwest. But this time they had no people on their end. Just a robot system. I had to go through a list, back and forth, question and answer, and then the robot finally said it would connect me with technical support, at which time I got a message telling me to call back during business hours. From Monday through Friday.

Cool. I pay for seven days a week of phone and DSL service, 24 hours of each day, and their priorities do not include providing service when they would rather go home and forget about customers who pay for their big buildings.

I called back several times, trying to get more info, and tried pressing zero all the way through the "conversation", but this trick didn't work. No luck. I called back on Monday.

Monday, Monday, ah, Monday.

First, I had to get up at 3 a.m. to drive some friends to the airport. Luckily I slept well, but also kept waking every hour. This is a rare trick. I wish I could reproduce it at will. I was deathly afraid that I'd wake up at 6:30 and have to wear a wig, a dress, and move out of state, quickly, and live under a bridge. My friends were on their way to Turkey and they needed me for the first leg. I came through. Started at 4:30 and got them to the airport a hair after 5:30 and they were pleased. Even paid me.

Back home again, I called the robot. Same robot. Always the same robot. A pleasant guy but with a plastic soul. He always stuck to the script. There was no way of derailing this guy, so I played along. OK, so we get to the last step where he turns me over to technical support. It is about one minute before 9 a.m. on Monday. Another voice comes on the line and says that I should please call back during business hours and then I have been disconnected. Bang. That's it. How nice is this?

Without internet service I was also cut off from my calendar and missed a medical appointment on Monday. That's the last time I do not write myself a paper note.

So I called back, and went through the whole tedious robot routine again. But this time the system did not hang up on me. I went on hold. How lucky was I? Feeling? A nice voice said that my estimated time on hold was one minute. Six minutes later I was talking to "Paul". He had an accent. Good old Paul. Our relationship didn't last long because he wanted me to go play with my computer, and it was across the room, so I had to say goodbye to Paul.

At least this proved to me that I couldn't contact my DSL modem (a.k.a., DSL gateway). Now at least I knew that this was not my ISP's fault or Qwest's fault, but a simple hardware problem. The modem was dead.

So I called up the robot again. He was cheerful and courteous. He asked all the same questions again, in the same sequence, in the same tone, and I could not run around his ends. He was all enveloping, all knowing, all encompassing, all B.S.


Back to the humans, "53W Val" this time. Same foreign accent. Thrashed around a lot with her. She seemed very nice but kept charging way ahead. I had to keep asking her to repeat herself. Cut to the short hairs: she gave me a thrill. By saying that my rented modem was obsolete and would be replace for free, with one that they would give me to keep, forever and a day. For my very own.

Stupid me, I decided to see if I could find one quicker in town, then thought better of it and called back. "37B Brian" was my man this time. You da man, Brian, how you be dude? We buddies, right? Cool.

He had a different story, basically the third telling of the same dream, from a third perspective. The modem would still be free but it would be a different model than Val had told me. Blah, blah. On and on. OK, finally, do it, once. Today is Monday and it will be here, surprisingly, by Tuesday, he says, 100% guaranteed. OK, finally, do it. Done.

Tuesday. Heh.

Wednesday, I call again, the robot and all. Somehow I think I give the wrong response somewhere and probably end up at sales rather than technical support and actually talk to "Tricia PLIMBUR" who is the nicest of the lot and has no accent (i.e., hers is the same as mine). So cool. Modem on the way, expedited. Will be here today, 100% guaranteed. Pronto. Today.

Thursday. Heh.

I decide not to call again. I go out and buy one. Hook it up. It works. Costs me ninety-seven bucks plus change. I gorge. Been without internet four days. My regular news sites have filled up with juicy new bits. I have 24 spam messages in my email account, which almost looks good. So familiar. I delete them with relish. One has leaked through the filter, the first time since the spammers have rediscovered my email address about a month ago, but hey, I'm back in the land of the living and I squash it without opening and hear its shell crack. Let's hope that was good enough.

Friday. Still no modem. How much do I now love Qwest? Oh, a bunch, kids. Lemme tell ya, a bunch.

First three very nice people who did ever so much thrashing around. Very nice, all of them, but basically all clueless. Three people with three different stories. Each one had to leave the phone and keep me hanging while they ran around and talked to someone else about what the heck to do, and then came back and told me. 37B Brian asked God to bless me. I may need that.

Tricia was nice too, and sort of clueless but she was a lot more helpful and a lot more real. I believe she actually cared. I regret not counseling her to get a real job. She should. Stay in school or go back to school, escape the corporate mire. Get off the firing line. They don't care about you, kid. You're only stuffing for the cracks.

Monday I spent about two hours talking with no effect whatsoever. I could have shoved a screwdriver into my head and done just as well.

Then Tricia gave me at least a half hour on Wednesday. Qwest must be paying them almost nothing. Figure it. What is the cost of losing a customer and also paying for technical support to guarantee that your customer hates you and will desert you as soon as humanly possible? The cost of "technical support" must be free. I wonder why they bother.

Basically I have been lied to by four people. Four people who are not really to blame as individuals, but liars nevertheless. I had a problem and had to fix it at my own expense and on my own time even though I am paying for that service from Qwest. Qwest promised me new equipment and it isn't here. I have been screwed again. I guess they think I didn't notice.

I did. They still don't care. I still lose.

One thing worked flawlessly. Returning my old equipment. "53W Val" gave me an RMA (Returned Materials Authorization) number. I had the original box, all the packing materials, and even the prepaid UPS return label. I wrapped up the sucker and dropped it off at the UPS store a couple of blocks from my home, and have even tracked it because the label had a built in tracking number. The RMA number is on the outside where they want it.Now to see if they keep charging me rent for the dead modem. I cringe when I read about what other people have gone through just trying to do things like pay their bills online.

Maybe this isn't over. It could get worse.

There is a reason that I get 84,100 hits on "qwest sucks" from Google. If necessary I can pull on a wig and a dress, leave the state and live under a bridge. They won't find me there. Or on the Appalachian Trail. It will be backpacking season soon. Maybe all this modern life stuff isn't going to work out after all.



How to get around automated telephone systems.

More suggestions.

List of tallest buildings and structures in the world.

North Dakota capitol.

Qwest Can't Get Wireless Working Because Macs Are "Practically An Obsolete System".

QWest Sucks More Than Ever.

Why Google returns 37,800 pages containing "qwest sucks" -or- How To Lose Your Phone Service Using Qwest's Online Bill Payment.

"Qwest sucks" on Google.


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