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September 22, 2009

Why I have a headache behind my right eye

This is not a food post. If you feel this blog should just be about restaurants, please don't get angry. Just skip this and read the next post, which has a lot of food and drink in it. Thank you.

Faithful readers have gathered that one of my goals in life is to see how long I can talk to my service providers without bursting into tears. ...

I'm proud to report that last night I went one hour and 40 minutes.

I'm not exaggerating. From 5:50 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., I was on the phone with Verizon Wireless trying to get the billing department and then a customer service representative to explain my bill to me. Of course, a lot of that time I was on hold listening to Verizon ads. Here's a small sample of how the conversation went:

CSR: A note here shows you declined the Win Back Incentive of a free month of service.

Me: Why would I do that? After two weeks I returned my iPhone because of conversations like this with AT&T. You won me back. I'm back. Why would anyone come back but decline a free month of service. Does that make sense to you?

CSR: I don't know, Ma'am. You will have to talk to the Win Back Department. [Like I want to talk to another Verizon department, especially one with that name.] I wasn't there. I wasn't part of that conversation. I only deal with the future, not the past.

Excuse me. I have to stop blogging now and call Sears. I just got an e-mail saying the rebate claim I put in for the new washer/dryer in my basement is no longer valid because I returned the item. I'm not making this up.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:53 AM | | Comments (22)


I used to have a similar experience in my life. Ended up going to doctors and doing all sorts of medication all to no avail. ironically though, since the divorce I've never had a single episode.

Giving up on service provider arguments will cost a whole let less than the divorce cost me. It's worth considering.

I once had to call and straighten out a phone bill with AT&T. This was a Sunday. Somehow, every one I spoke to that day was a "manager." I know this because in 3 separate calls with 8 different people whenever I asked to speak to a manager they all claimed to be one, at which point I just asked to speak with a different manager. Eventually one "manager" refused to transfer me. I asked, "so there is no one there higher than you." "No, sir." "So you are god?" "No sir, I am not God, no one is God." "Metaphorically, speaking, you are a god, not the God." (long pause) "Let me transfer you to a different manager."

Really sorry about that, it was giving me problems. Could you delete the multiple posts please?

No problem. You still haven't beaten Lissa's record number of multiple posts, and she's my computer guru. :-) EL

I usually have similar experiences (and rant about them) with "customer service." However, yesterday I had to have an exchange with a certain software security services firm because the subscription I renewed was not showing up on my computer. I had this exchange with "Jomon" (someone in India, I presume), who could not have been more cooperative and helpful. He gave me free "help" session and actually solved the problem. I am chalking this up as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You were on the phone for an hour and 40 minutes because back at the Verizon customer service center, they were trying to find someone--anyone--who knows how to read a Verizon bill.

You think you're joking, but that's what AT&T finally actually admitted to me. Of course, Gailor and I had a brief family plan and they gave me her phone number, so it got complicated. EL

I have had these conversations in the past. I did have a recent experience that can give us all hope. I ordered my latest cell phone on line. When it arrived (on time), I couldn't activate it. I called the service number that Verizon provided with my phone. It took about 40 minutes to get the phone working. The Verizon rep I was dealing with was patient and polite. In order to get my Back Up Asst to work, he had to change my calling plan. The kicker-the new plan is $10 less per month than the old one.

I always use my time on hold in these situations to put in a complaint through the Maryland Public Service Commission's online complaint service:

The Commission doesn't have jurisdiction? No problem - they will pass on the complaint anyway. And so far, every time I have filed a complaint (5-6 times over the years, as far as I remember, including - yes - Verizon), I get a boot-licking follow-up call from the legal counsel's office of Verizon/fill-in-the-blank company within 2-3 days, and immediate resolution of my complaint.

I feel my tax dollars are very well spent on the PSC, thank-you-very-much, and if this is socialism, I like it!

I don't mind talking to service providers. It's coping with the telephone tree that drives me nuts. What do you do when a recorded voice gives you a half dozen numbers to press to reach different departments none of which have anything to do with your call? In my case, I demand to speak to "a real person, a live human being." When the voice simply tells me to press pound to repeat the previous menu, I lose it, screaming for "someone, anyone to talk to, an agent, a representative, a manager, anyone, you f*^#ing idiot," That's when my wife calmly and logically points out, "Darling, you are arguing with a recording." And I skulk off, longing for those long-lost days when companies had people who actually answered the phone.
Try It's a Web site that tells you how to get a human at most companies. See? The Only Blog You'll Ever Need. EL

As a P.S. to my story above, the software company called me back today asking if my issues had been resolved to my satisfaction. Knock me down with a feather!

MAG, many of these systems have an option where if you just do nothing you will be transferred to a live operator. I think there are still some folks on dial phones who cannot "press 1 for this, 2 for that..." so they need an alternative. Failing that, just pressing and holding "O" for a few seconds sometimes works. is now on my list of favorites, EL, ready to alleviate blown fuses and temper tantrums. Thanks for the tip.

I hold the record for most duplicate posts now? Good thing I only deal with the future, not the past.

I think it was 17. EL

See, when you throw a number like 17 out there it seems like a challenge.

Don't make me laugh this early in the morning. EL

I am proud to say that when you google "I Hate Verizon" two of my posts are right at the top!

MAG, whenever I have to make a service call, I avoid the "number game" and just keep pressing "0" until I get a live human on the other end.

EL, thanks for the "" tip--I'll try it the next time I have a problem.

The last time we flew the baggage carousel caught my roller bag and ripped off the toggles for the outside pair of zippers. I took the bag to my favorite shoe and leather repair (hi, Stefan!) but he said it would be better if I called the company to get exact replacements, then he would fix the bag. I spent weeks caling American Tourister and going through the voice menus. "For a replacement strap, choose 2 ..." Of course the whatsis I wanted required a real person, and I refuse to stay on the line more than 5 minutes. I finally talked to a real person, who ordered something close to what I needed, which arrived the day before my next flight. Bottom line: I got my bag fixed, but it would have been less of a hassle to just go out and buy a new one.

The word around the Internet is that phone centre people are all trained now to say they are managers, or to just transfer your call to any other random call centre person who will pretend to be one.

You didn't think managers would actually manage, did you?

"0" no longer gets you a human on many voice systems. They've changed it to 7 or 3 or 1 or anything, because they do not want you to talk to a human. Humans are expensive. Pressing nothing (or using the numbers at is better.

I used to have to deal with Lucent at work. Their voice system was so baroque that I never got the right person. Eventually, I'd just hit numbers randomly until I got a human, apologize and ask to be transfered to the right person.

When you get into those situations there are five words worth remembering... Sweet liquor dulls the pain.

Carrier customer service team members CANNOT understand their own personal wireless bills, so we should not be surprised that they can not understand ours, after only having looked at it for 2 mintues!!

Note: if service team is in AsiaPac that only compounds the problem, since nobody in India actually uses VZW or ATT, thus no frame of reference.

if you call the number but dont press any prompt numbers, they assume you have a dial phone and must put you through to an operator.

Here's the deal with dialing 0 to talk to a human:

If you call an 800# that has been dedicated to a very specific, rather small number (in the scheme of things) of customers at Ginormous Corporation (which, for some reason, is listed everywhere as "the" 800# for the company) and about 5 other people do not answer and you opt not to leave a message, the calls ring through on my desk.

Truly sorry, folks, I know nothing. Absolutely. Wouldn't lie to ya. However, I do have a spreadsheet - crafted by me - that indicates who your representative should be. Although I have no substantive answers, I will give you that person's name (first and last) and her direct line.

A final fact: I have certainly abused (perhaps more than) my share of "customer service" people, but the fact is, the person who answers the phone has absolutely no say in setting up the menu tree or in determining how long the hold wait shall be.

And all this happened because you accidently threw your cellphone in the washing machine and then sucked the buttons off with a vacuum?

Yes. Thank you for remembering. Not to mention that part of my "discussion" with CSR was over download charges ($1.99 a minute) which she claimed I can do by accident on my new phone. I want my old phone back. EL

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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