A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Telephone woes – talking to India!

As regular readers will know I am stuck on dial up internet at speeds that at times it would be faster to send it by Canada Post. I have learned to tolerate this in that I have little choice but to do so, however when recently the phone once again crapped out entirely, a situation that happens all to frequently, I finally got pissed off enough to spend the hours on the phone required to work my way up through the layers of “service representatives” that stand between Bell Canada’s customers and the folks that are actually responsible for operation and repair of said telephone system. It was not easy let me tell you!

So here is the saga of my telephone / internet woes over the last 5 years or more for your interest and edification!!

Let it be first said that I am at the end of a cable stretching some 5 or 10 miles to the nearest switch station and as such one cannot expect internet speed above 36k, my best achieved speed was 32k last summer, this year it is 28k….. UNTIL IT RAINS! When it rains, or spring or fall as the frost in the ground comes or goes it will gradually decrease until it totally craps out often the voice connection is unusable due to noise and at times it get to the point where we totally loose dial tone. Naturally each time this happens I get on the cell phone and dial 611 “telephone repair”, where upon I am directed to an operator in INDIA who insists upon my identifying myself often with personal information in order to proceed further.

Lets deal with that bit before we continue with the story. In a recent call I was asked for my Bell account number and not having that right in front of me I said “sorry I don’t have that handy” and was then asked for my SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!! What the HELL, if a operative in INDIA can confirm my identity with my social security number that means it must be available to them, where did they get it, why do they have it and is that not supposed to be secure information? In this case I refuse to do that and made them wait until I had dug out an invoice with my customer number on it, we then proceeded with the call……

In order to try and get to someone who could actually help I decided to call the Bell “customer service” line rather than “telephone repair” and upon explaining my problem (as outlined elsewhere in this saga) requested to speak to a supervisor and upon finally getting said supervisor on the line and once AGAIN explaining my problem it was suggested that I “hold” whilst it could be seen what could be done. Upon return I was told “OK I will transfer you to a repair supervisor”. Great I thought, we are finally getting somewhere but after a short wait, guess what? Yup, you are right, I was connected to the 611 “representative in INDIA. …..SHIT!

Now you must understand that with any where between 2 to 10 calls to 611 each year about the same problem I now am fairly familiar with the “system”. The “representative you first talk to will go through a set procedure consisting of a number of set questions and set warning of costs should it be a problem in your house and not on their system. There is little one can do to shorten this procedure even if you have heard it 50 or 100 times over the years, so settle in for a prolonged conversation before you ever get to the meat of the problem. So, 10 min later I get to report my troubles, phone don’t work, line noisy, no dial tone. In order to try and fix this ongoing problem permanently I request to be connected to a CANADIAN supervisor, preferably a supervisor at least in the area where I reside and one responsible for cable repair. I explain that having talked to many repair technicians over the years the problem is in the bell cable / connection boxes leading from my house to the bell switching station and that unless I can get someone out WHILST IT IS STILL RAINING they will, by the time they get here the fault will have dried out and all will be well.

As an aside here I will say for the most part that the technicians who have responded to my many calls have been helpful and friendly but I recognize that they cannot find a fault that is not there by the time they get out here. The few times that they have located some problems with the line I have been told that it appears the underground cable coming up the road is probably NFG and / or there is water getting into the joints / cable somewhere. Each time this happens the 611 guy escalates it to the “cable guys” who then come out and basically do / tell me, the same thing. Each of the 6 or 8 spare circuits in that cable have been tried at one time or another with only temporary improvement. Next spring, Fall or rain here we go again.

By now you will be just STARTING to understand my frustration! Anyway on with the saga. So having told this long story to the “representative” in INDIA I finally persuaded her to let me talk to her supervisor and after a short wait he came on the line. The first question I asked was where was he located and what was his position in the company. The reply? INDIA, 611 supervisor! So after having gone through the LONG story AGAIN I asked to be connected to a CANADIAN supervisor and was told “that is not possible, we do not have any phone numbers of supervisors or managers in Canada besides which the 611 repair service is run entirely out of INDIA!! At this point I am getting really ticked and after a few more go-arounds establish that the Canadian technicians are dispatched by email directly from INDIA. This was later pretty much confirmed in my conversation with a repair technician who said “ I don’t get to talk with anyone, I am dispatched by email but I don’t really know where (or who) that comes from. Hmmmm, I don’t seem to be getting anywhere here but do eventually agree to have a repair guy come out with instructions to make sure that he comes to my door before proceeding any further so that I can TRY and get a phone number of someone who can resolve this long standing problem and he said he could “send a message” to a Canadian supervisor who would call me within 24hrs.
One note here, what set me off was the fact that I had gone through most of this the day before but the tech who came out DID NOT come see me but sent an AUTOMATED message “we cannot find anything wrong with your line”. Duh, its stopped raining you fkin idiot, did they not tell you that it comes and goes with the weather!!
End of chapter one!

So we are now 24hrs after the SECOND recent call to INDIA and I finally get to talk to a Canadian technician who has received an email dispatch to repair my phone and after explaining the whole story AGAIN to him he tells me he will see what he can find / do and will report back to me. Sure enough his initial testing showed no problem with the phone line but the thank the Lord it started to rain and sure enough the phone line went tilt and he was able to return and say “yes, there is a problem, there are grounds and shorts in the cable and / or connections. Great, thank you, but I already knew that from talking to several other technicians over the years. Now what are we going to do about it?
Step one, he says is to forward it to the “cable guys”, ok that’s been done several time before. What’s next? He indicated that he can do little more being just the guy on the bottom of the totem pole but does give me a number of his “manager” in Toronto (70 miles away), apparently there are no “local” managers or supervisors so that a least explained why I could not get to speak to one! He also told me that there is, in the front of the phone book, a number for when all else fails of the Corporate Office where I am told there is a “knowledgeable secretary” who may well be able to put me in touch with someone who can produce some results or at least explain where to go from here.

Shortly after the tech left the 611 supervisor in Canada, yep that right in CANADA called, having received that “message” from INDIA , unfortunately it was much the same story but he did promise to have a supervisor from “engineering” call me. A while later the “cable guy” called to say that he had checked my line and found and corrected two faults, (during a period of no rain!) one of which (no bonding on cable shield) had been there for a long while, the other being some wires laying against the side of a terminal box and shorting when things got damp. Thank you “Paul” I can but hope you have finally found the problem but only time will tell. Although the cable tested out “perfect” and was “in very good condition” (wonder why the previous guys blamed it on a poor cable coming up the road?) I was still only able to get 29k thru-put but hey, what’s a couple of “k” when an hour ago it was “0”k!! I do wonder however just exactly how much effort and expertise those previous “telephone repair” and “cable guys” put into REALLY finding the problem, has it been “this guys a whiner just check it and carry on it will be ok tomorrow”. The other part is why did I have to get totally pissed off, spent a couple of hours on the phone, talk to numerous “representatives” , “supervisors” , “repair guys” etc etc before getting a permanent (I hope) fix.

One more thing that I learned was that the Repair guy and the Cable guy are not assigned an area in which they work and thus rarely are dispatched to a second, third or 50th call to a particular problem. In that I cannot recall over the last 5 years of calls seeing the same guy twice this would seem to be true, as an electrician in the “service industry” for years I can say that this is at best counter productive and is probably the worst way to solve technical difficulties and enhance customer satisfaction. One of the many technicians that spoke to me over the years said that “if you need a tutorial on how to NOT run a company then work for Bell for a few years” and also “I don’t go grocery shopping in my Bell uniform any more because I don’t want to be shanghaied by dissatisfied customers”. No further comment required!

Meanwhile if your phone goes out have fun talking to BELL INDIA, I for one will not bother, I now have three numbers to call, the “cable guy”, the Toronto “manager”, and the Corporate Office, and none of them are going to like what I have to say if it goes tilt again. Oh yea, and that “engineering supervisor” still hasn’t called back!

There endith the saga of Rural’s telephone woes. Perhaps!

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