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Hey, AT&T! Don’t send clumsy oafs to bury my cable!

Late Thursday morning, AT&T sent a subcontractor out to bury the cable strung across my yard for U-Verse. He buried the cable, but tore it up in the process. He knocked on the door and asked my wife to see if anything worked. It didn’t. Then he told her to contact AT&T and left.

That’s customer service. Poor customer service. But customer service, nonetheless, right?

So she used our (non-AT&T of course) cell phone to call me at work. I logged in to AT&T, struggled to find customer service, then failed to find anything related to reporting an outage, so I picked an option that seemed to represent a general problem/issue and used the 256-character blank to explain my problem. I ended up chatting with some guy working from a script halfway around the world of course, but his command of English was very good and he was courteous.

He said he couldn’t get a repair person out today. I wasn’t happy about that. “So let me get this straight,” I wrote back. “I’m paying for a service, you’re not delivering it, and you’ll fix it tomorrow.”

He apologized and said that’s correct.

“I want a credit on my account since AT&T isn’t delivering the service I’m paying for,” I said.

He said that wouldn’t be a problem.

This morning a technician arrived. It was the same guy who did the initial installation, which was good. At least I knew it was someone who knew what he was doing. What wasn’t good was that the oaf who buried the cable really messed a lot of things up, so he wasn’t able to fix all of it on his own.

I asked if he could run a cable in the air, from the pole to my house, rather than underground, so we could cut the clumsy cable-burying oaf out of the equation. He said he could, but there would be a $55 charge for that.

I’m not really eager to pay $55 to work around AT&T’s obvious HR problem, especially after paying $175 to get this new service. The technician assurred me this was the first time he’s seen this issue. So I decided to take my chances. But if the same clumsy oaf comes out and breaks stuff again, I’ll play hardball on that point too.

My boss asked me what was going on. I told him.

“So you’re without a home phone and Internet right now?” he said.

I said yes.

“Unacceptable,” he said. “I’d be telling them they’re going to fix it today, or I’m switching to cable.”

I said that’s the problem. Which flavor of incompetent do you like? You can switch, but both of them know it’s only a matter of time before the other company does something stupid and enraging and you’ll switch back. It’s good to be a duopoly.

He said the only thing better is to be a monopoly. Though I’m not sure about that. Being a duopoly is almost as good as being a monopoly but there aren’t as many government regulations to deal with.

So… I like U-Verse when it works. The way my phone line was, I wasn’t going to be able to get any better access without switching to U-Verse. And being able to make unlimited long-distance calls is worth something. People pretty much expect that these days anyway.

But if I had it all to do again, would I trade a well-functioning conventional DSL connection for U-Verse? Not at this point. Granted, we’re about 9 days in. If, after all this initial hassle, it all works well for years to come, it’s worth it. But at this point, the record is, to put it nicely, abysmal. We had about 20 hours of downtime at the start, and now we’re up over 24 hours of downtime thanks to the clumsy oaf, with nothing but a promise that this problem will be fixed sometime today.

That’s 79% uptime. That’s a good score on the CISSP, but far from acceptable for a communications uplink in the western world in 2011.

Not to mention that switching from the worthless $25 voice plan to the $35 unlimited plan was a hassle. I couldn’t do that online, and for three days when I tried to call the 800 number, I received an automated message telling me the system was down and to call back in a few hours. I’ve saved you that trouble by telling you why you need the $35 unlimited plan from the get-go, but keep in mind that if you change your mind about anything regarding your plan, it may take a few days to get through to make that change.

They got the problem fixed today around noon. The good news is, after that, it’s been reliable.

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