Monday, October 26, 2009
If you’re wondering where I’ve been, it wasn’t China, it was waiting for service from Time Warner.
For one long week, my wife and I lived in our new apartment without the telephone, television and Internet service—“the triple package”—we ordered from Time Warner twelve days earlier. In spite of Jean’s repeated calls to customer service, her patient demeanor and sweet implorations, we had no evidence, nary a trace, of the actual existence of the world’s largest entertainment company, Time Warner Inc.
To the contrary, I began incrementally to confirm that the corridors and cubicles of the 114 billion dollar mega corp that occupies mega space in a mega building overlooking Manhattan’s Columbus Circle are occupied, as in possessed, by the Ghost of Time Warner Customer Service, an ungodly assembly of bunglers and prevaricators who swear by everything holy that you’re scheduled and they’re showing up, as they proceed to stand you up hour by hour day after day. A long week of no service call—“Someone will be there today”—and no return phone calls— “In a half hour, I promise”—for a job scheduled well in advance in a building that occupies an entire city block at an intersection so central it’s difficult to avoid. It was AOL that used to be the company everyone for good reason loved to hate. Now it’s AOL’s parent company, Time-Warner Inc., that incurs the amply-earned wrath and curses. The Ghost of Time-Warner Customer Service haunts the denizens of Manhattan. And it isn’t yet Halloween.
Sunday morning I had it with Time Warner Non-Service Inc. I called (by cell phone), coolly unloaded on Non-Service Customer Relations representative Miguel and insisted on speaking to someone who could get the job done TODAY. I emphasized, repeated and broke it down into five letters: T-O-D-A-Y. “I want someone here TODAY.”
Miguel, trying to be helpful, asked if I could go to Queens to pick up the modem the serviceman he’d yet to acquire would require for the job. I asked Miguel: “Did you ever hear of a Bad Customer Relations Department? Anywhere in the world?” Since Time Warner Non-Service Inc. apparently doesn’t teach its employees too much more than how to avoid the truth, I thought I could further Miguel’s career. “Customer Relations implies good customer relations, Miguel, not deceitful customer relations, or incapable or inept ones.” I continued the lesson by citing the obvious: "Your company has men in trucks; I, like most Manhattanites, don’t have a car. Your men are on your payroll, I am not. You’re Time-Warner and I’m…
"I’m at 79th and Broadway, 20 blocks from Time Warner headquarters. Walking distance! 79th and Broadway, Miguel. If your offices are on fire, odds are the fire-engines will pass through 79th and Broadway on their way to put out your fire, it’s that tough to avoid. I’m not calling from a farm, Miguel. Major subway and bus lines cross through here all day and night. And your installation man can’t find his way here, even by accident?"
Miguel connected me to his director, Osvaldo. In the fleeting magical moments that I had not one but two Ghosts of Time-Warner Customer Service on the phone, I told them not a single person has called back. Ever! “It must be in the manual," I said. "No matter what the problem is or what the customer says, you tell them you’ll call back in a half hour. A Footnote tells you, *Don’t bother. They’ll never be able to find you again.”
Osvaldo offered to try to get a service person for me “today” and call me back. I rationally opted to wait on the phone. Forty-five minutes later Osvaldo returned to the phone to tell me he was sorry, but he could not find anyone available “today.” To make up for it, he’d offer me two months of free service. I said we’d already been given one month of free service. And now, two more months of free service... for service we don’t have and can’t get! How can you beat that?
Before the word “tomorrow” could come out of his mouth, I asked Osvaldo to put himself in my shoes. I told him that if the situation were reversed and he need a comma or period and it were my job to supply him with punctuation, I’d leave my desk and come to his office. If no one else from Time Warner Non-Service was available, I thought either Miguel or Osvaldo should leave his desk and come to me.
Osvaldo offered again to work further on it and call me back. Having gained nothing, I had nothing left to lose.
Hours passed without a call. Naturally, I couldn’t reach Osvaldo, so I tore into the man I did reach, whose name I never heard because I was screaming over every word he uttered.
When I entered the world of having to “do business” for myself, I quickly learned that the best way to get attention—sometimes the only way—was to punctuate the important sentence with an obscenity. That’s when I learned to curse. It took me years to learn to scream. Sadly, most people don’t really hear you unless you curse or scream. (I don’t recommend doing both at the same time.) That, sadly, is the way the world works.
By and large, I gave Time Warner Non-Service Inc. the courtesy of the considered scream. Not loudly, but articulately. Yes, that’s what works: screaming articulately.
I got results.
Every story has its heroes. This one’s are Miguel and Osvaldo. Osvaldo eventually called me back. And Osvaldo delivered! All right, the day after, but he went where no one prior had tread. A service call!
I’m posting this via my newly-installed Internet service. I learned today that I have VIP status with Time Warner. Isn’t that a scream?
I want to thank Time Warner Inc., not for the service, too arduously obtained, but for the story. This will probably blow my VIP status.