by Chris Elkins
Published: July 31,2000
CLINTON — I’m surrounded by boxes. And I don’t know what’s in any of them. A nightmare, you might ask?
No, it’s moving day.
I pride myself on being organized, so when it came time to move, I had my list and my Daytimer.
I called the movers and set up a time with them. I ordered the special mailbox to arrive the day after we settled in. The mail was forwarded. The paper was canceled. I had everything under control.
But I didn’t count on the utility companies. Five utilities. Five simple phone calls.
Or so I thought.
Two really were quite easy. I called the Clinton Water Department to have this changed to our name and the old water cut off. The lady on the phone was a soon-to-be ex-neighbor, and we chatted amiably as she made the arrangements. I hung up the phone and crossed this one off my list.
Next, I called Mississippi Valley Gas. My old address was all electric, so they thought I might have to put down a deposit. No problem, though, since they found an old record of gas usage.
They scheduled their man to arrive the next day to turn everything on. That day was Saturday! I was impressed. He arrived well within his appointed four hour time slot and went to work. This kind gentleman explained all about the gas hook-ups and showed me how to work the stove and oven. He was even going to set the clock, but neither of us had on a watch. I said goodbye to him at the door and crossed this one off my list.
My third call was to Entergy.
Our builder had already arranged for permanent power to the house, so this was just a matter of changing the billing.
As I waited on the phone, I could swear I could feel my hair turning gray. I went through four menu selections before I was told to wait for the next customer service representative. Then, I heard a recording stating I was selected to participate in a survey after this phone call.
If I wanted to participate, press “1.” If not, press “2.” Were these people kidding? Like I wanted to spend a little more time on the phone with them.
I quickly pressed “2.” Then, a voice telling me my call was important to them, so please hold for the next customer service representative. I could tell by the sound of her voice that I really was important to them. Then the Muzak.
An afternoon later, I crossed Entergy off my list.
Now, it was time to call BellSouth. Another set of menu options. Another interminable wait. I muddied the waters somewhat when I asked for our old number to be changed to the new address and I wanted to add a number.
Several times during the call, the representative put me on hold while she checked on… who knows. The elevator music was deafening. This call turned in to Rip Van Winkle, the first 20 years.
Finally, though, we had an appointment… sometime between 8 in the morning and 5 in the evening. Talk about precision!
The guy showed up about 11 a.m. He worked outside for a while, went down the street to work on that mysterious box, and then he left. To be fair, it was lunchtime. We called to find out what happened, and he showed back up around 1:30. This time, he came into the house, and we instructed him that the old number was for downstairs and the new number was for the upstairs.
Perfect. He wired them exactly opposite. No problem, though. He would fix this at the outside box. He fixed it alright.
Neither number worked.
We called again. Went through the menu again. Stayed on hold again. And were told this would be fixed the next day. The next day the phones were still out of order. We called again.
Went through the menu again. Stayed on hold again. This time I was not nice. It didn’t do any good. They weren’t showing up till the next next day. By this time, I really wanted to cross BellSouth off my list.
And, last of all, Time Warner Cable. My family borders on idolatry when it comes to cable TV, so this hook-up was important. I called the cable company and went through the recordings, the menu selections, and the hold.
The only difference was that their “hold” messages were more entertaining. While the house is brand new, it is in a neighborhood with other houses that already have cable. The representative told me that I first had to be “verified.” I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t care what that meant. I just wanted my MTV!
After a bit of discussion, I got an appointment. After BellSouth, I figured the cable time slot would be between Wednesday and Friday. Surprisingly, the slot was between 2 p.m. and 4 pm. I hung up the phone and jumped for joy. Mission almost complete.
Between the time I made the appointment and the time the cable guy showed up, I received two messages from a specific Time Warner Cable employee asking me to return the call.
I feared some glitch.
The first time I tried to return the call, the person answering didn’t recognize the name. She told me she was in a phone center. She asked if I knew what the problem was. All I knew was that I was supposed to return the call. She checked my record, and everything looked fine… except…they had the new address wrong! She fixed that.
The second time I received a message from a specific Time Warner employee, I dutifully called the number at 4:25 pm. No one answered.
Finally, on the appointed day, I received another call from someone expressing confusion about the address.
Luckily, Bobby, the cable guy, showed up. We flagged him down. He hooked up cable in every room in the house (my husband’s request).
Five utilities. Two went off without a hitch. Three were worse than wisdom teeth operations.
What was the difference? With the two easy ones, I called a local phone number and talked to a local person. With the other three, I was forwarded to a phone center each time, and complications arose. That difference may not account for all the problems, but I believe the problems compounded because of the lack of a local connection.
We’re in the house. The lights are on. We have hot water. The phone is ringing off the hook.
And my husband doesn’t hear a word I’m saying because he’s watching ESPN Classic. Ahh… life is good again.
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Clinton. Her e-mail address is NL2invest@aol.com, and she is online at www.newper.com.
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