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September 04, 2007

Raising the Bar

Since I was a very young boy, my parents have always warned me about the dangers of tempting Fate, and skeptic that I am, I have generally always looked upon such warnings with a mixture of bemusement and annoyance. Bah! What nonsense! Thus, it should be no surprise that last week, in a bout of characteristic irreverance, I did exactly what my parents have long warned me against: I tempted Fate most egregiously. Writing in reference to my classic 2003 rant about bureaucrat ineptitude in my newly self-published book, I observed that I doubt I have ever experienced a more frustrating level of bureaucratic incompetence in my life [than what was experienced with the College of L&S], though that is not for lack of trying. Lo and behold, my parents were right. The honor that was rightly held for more than four years by the esteemed liberal arts school at my alma mater has now passed to an even more worthy entity (or should I say, adversary): Cingular®—wait, I mean the new AT&T®. Raising the Bar™—of red tape, idiocy, and obstructionism.

Some requisite background information: I've been a Cingular customer since I first got a cellular phone in 2001, and in general, we've had the type of relationship that I hope to one day have with my children, i.e., one of vague suspicion and moderate disdain, but ultimately, grudging acceptance and tacit tolerance. I mean, yes, Cingular service sucked pretty bad in Berkeley those first couple years (2001–2003), but then, it settled down to a level of annoyance that was associated more with cell phones in general rather than service providers in particular. As those who know me in real life know (well), I'm not all that big on talking on the telephone, and as such, hardly ever had occasion to encounter Cingular's bureaucracy while in college. I paid my bills, and my phone worked; that was that. Given this stable (if not healthy) relationship, I saw no problems in retaining their services in 2005, when I switched to so-called corporate liability so that I could get my CrackBerry™ for work. In hindsight, I made a huge mistake: complacence never makes for successful long-term relationships.1

Two years, and nary a sign of bureaucratic ineptitude (beyond the usual background noise of ineptitude assumed to be part and parcel of daily existence) later, it came time for me to leave the corporate world behind—and join the indigent ranks of graduate students near and far. No longer in possession of a liberal expense policy, I decided it was time to forego my data plan and go back to the dismal days of voice only mobile telephony. Upon tendering my resignation a couple weeks back, I immediately called up the new AT&T (not to be confused with the old one) to have my account transferred out of the name of my (former) employer and back into my name. The call took about 30 minutes, and I was led to believe that everything was taken care of: the proverbial single tear lamenting my days as a BlackBerry®-wielding corporate whore was shed.

Less than a week later, the trouble started unabated. My parents convinced me to join their family plan so as to save money while incurring debt at 7.5%, and having just gotten my first tuition bill, I was not inclined to argue. We went to the local AT&T store to try and make the transition. The guy at the store spent nearly two hours with us, trying to get my account transferred, but the evil-doers at ground zero (assumed to be a call center somewhere in Asia) were having none of it: I was told to call back in the morning to the NBO (to this day, I do not know what that stands for) where they would be able to assist me.

Bright and early the next morning, I called the elusive NBO, and five minutes later, I hung up. I was essentially flat out denied from transferring to my family's family plan, because of some hogwash about my mom having to approve the transfer of liability even though the night before the guy in the store had basically assured us that he had noted in the system that we both agreed to such a transfer. My mom was told to call back, as she would be able to make the transfer. When my mom called that evening, she got some fresh bullshit: my account was a business account, and therefore, I could not be transferred to a family plan (that is presumably only for individuals, not businesses like me). Really, assholes? So, then exactly what the fuck was I doing on the phone for 30 minutes when I got off corporate liability? Wasting precious moments of my (necessarily futile) life: that's what!

Though I could not be switched to the family plan, the ever-helpful representative did offer to switch my entire family to business so we could all be on one plan. Cute. So these idiots actually want us to believe that they cannot deign to convert one person back to an individual plan but have no qualms about converting three others (none of whom are associated with any corporate plan whatsoever) to business plans? That smelled like total and utter bullshit to me, and so, I told my mom not to budge; instead, I called them again, and was finally handed over to a specialist: someone who would finally explain to me what was really the problem.

As it turned out, the specialist was only special in the sense that she specialized in making up shit. Here I was told that since my contract originated in the business market, I could never go back to being an individual again. If I cancelled my account, not only would I lose my phone number, but additionally, I would have to pay a $160 contract termination fee. But... but... I was an individual for four years prior to coming onto corporate liability... what about that? Does not matter, you say. I see. So, is this problem technical or one of policy? I see. Policy. So, the truth comes out: it's not that you cannot switch me back, it's that you won't. Yes, that's the policy: once you go business, you do not go back. Like genital fucking herpes, huh? Exactly. Any hope of getting some VALTREX®? Click.

So, apparently, not only did I have no hope of ever joining my family's plan, but additionally, I would spend the rest of my days living in the nebulous business market due to one small indiscretion—just one! (Ain't that always the way.) Later that day, my mom called again, for the fifth time. This time, we were told something completely different (and ironically, most likely to be the truth): my contract had originated less than 60 days ago, and due to policy, they would not make changes to the contract until after two months. Finally! An answer that made sense! And one I could live with.

The same day, I got a bill that still included data service despite my having explicitly cancelled it. Round Two: Rohit versus the Death Star was about to begin. The new AT&T: raising the bar of bullshit and incompetence to new levels each day.

1 Of course, here I am referring only to relationships with wireless providers (and other such entities). Successful, long-term relationships with people are built on complacence—or is that just me?


we've had the type of relationship that I hope to one day have with my children, i.e., one of vague suspicion and moderate disdain, but ultimately, grudging acceptance and tacit tolerance.

I don't believe it for one second! After that picture with your classroom of second-graders, the gig is up. Everyone KNOWS you love kids, and furthermore, that you will be a great dad. Give up the I hate kids shtick, hypocrite!

I had similar troubles trying to transfer my cable bill from my name to my former roommates'. If there's one thing I learned while travelling abroad in Cuba, it's never let some low level power tripper be an obstacle; you're genetically superior to them, and should've used jedi mind tricks to convince them over the phone to do your bidding.

I HATE the new At&T. Like you, I got my first cell phone in Berkeley with Cingular and initially had some crappy problems...but things got WAY better. I actually began to like them...THEN this whole new AT&T thing came about and now my life sucks again. I called to have my address changed (because even though I changed it on my account online it somehow didn't transfer onto my paper bill--I know, I should really do paperless billing) which took me 20 minutes to do! Cingular never made me wait more than a few minutes...

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