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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Learning Queue

I learned a valuable lesson tonight, and it’s all about money.

I subscribe to a satellite TV service that begins with a D. I won’t for much longer, but as I write this, I still do. I have been moderately happy with the service, although I feel like I was swindled after the first three bills came in. And when it so happened that my DVR began truncating the recording of programmed shows, I grew tired.

I would call Satellite D when I had problems, and I’d always give my phone number to the computer that answered. That got me nowhere, because their computer always told me, “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize that as a valid phone number. Please enter your account number or say, ‘I don’t know it.’”

It should come as no surprise that I don’t know it. How would I know it? My bills are paid automatically through this program they have called autopay, so I never see anything on paper from them.

Before I subscribed to the new service that starts next week, I wanted to turn off autopay on Satellite D so they would not get ruffled when I canceled them and autocharge me for fees I didn’t agree to.

So tonight when I called and gave their computer my phone number, as usual, it told me it didn’t know who I was. It then asked my account number. “I don’t know it,” I whined. Then a menu of stuff that I didn’t want to listen to spewed forth, so I said “Agent.”

It did not compute. So I said, “Agent” much louder.

It still did not understand. So I screamed, “AGENT!”

It got it.

But before it transferred me to an agent, the computer wanted me to tell it what I wanted to talk to an agent about. I spoke slowly and said, “Turn off autopay.”

The computer told me, “Please hold on while I transfer you to an agent.”

It didn’t transfer me to an agent. It transferred me to a queue that played instrumental music similar to that played in the activity room of the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I listened to that schlock music for 11 minutes and 36 seconds. Then I hung up and redialed.

And I went through the unknown phone number and the unknown account number and screamed, “Agent” three times, and when they asked me why I wanted to speak to an agent, I remained silent. Their computer then said, “Please hold on while I transfer you to an agent.”

Once again, no agent, only the Bad Music queue, which was playing an instrumental version of a Barry Manilow song. I turned down the speakerphone, resigned to the fact that for the next two days, the default song in my head would be “Copacabana,” and I considered slitting my wrists. Fortunately, the next six tunes were not any I recognized, perhaps because I was listening to a voice in my head that blasted, “Her name was LO-la. She was a SHOW-girl.”

I couldn’t stand it any longer so I got an idea. I hung up again.

Again, with the phone number, the account number, the agent screaming, and when the computer asked me what this call was all about, I said, “Order Hi-Def.”

No instant hookup to annoying tunes this time. The computer told me, “Great! I can help you with that, or I can transfer you to an agent to help you with this right away.”

“AGENT!” I shrieked joyfully, and not two seconds later, I heard, “This is Chris. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking tonight?”

And in less than two minutes, my autopay was turned off.

I learned my lesson, all right. They’ll pay attention to you if they think you’re going to give them money. If not, you get subjected to The Hundred Strings Orchestra Plays Hits from the 70’s.

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