Touching lives, cutting connections

By Alan Robles

Posted at Dec 12 2014 07:04 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2014 03:04 AM

This week, a telco whose name I won't mention, except to say that it has the letters D, T, P and L in it, introduced us to an exciting new Internet service.

I think this is how it works: a super computer system - call it the "Greed 9000" - monitors all the telco's Internet subscriptions. The millisecond it detects you've missed paying your bill by two days, it disables your account. It won't give you prior notice: no mailed bill, no call, not even any lights flashing WARNING WARNING accompanied by hooting klaxons.

It will just cut you off instantly. You will only find out because suddenly, the only thing you'll see on your browser is a fat red sign saying your service will be restored the same day you pay up. If you happen to have lots of browser windows open, the message will sprout faster than a certain presidential candidate's posters.

I didn't even know this wonderful service existed. When I confessed this to the telco employee I finally paid the bill to, she gave the impression it was MY fault for not knowing. Perhaps I should have used my awesome psionic powers.

Now here's the thing: while the Greed 9000 automatically and instantly disables your account, restoring it is a bit slower. I think the job is done in a mountain somewhere outside Manila, in a shack staffed by an employee who gets the word to flip the switch from telegrams delivered via bicycle.

Because you see, contrary to the promise, the service wasn't restored within the day. In fact, the employee I paid the bill to revealed the wait was actually 24 hours after payment. She also told me she couldn't do anything about it, everything was done by "The System" (Greed 9000).

I waited 24 hours, in the meantime enjoying the fine view of red telco messages on my browser. After the time elapsed, I got my connection back and resumed my work.

Of course, I'm lying.

All I got after 24 hours were the same messages appearing whenever I opened a browser window. So I called tech support to make my unhappiness known. I wound up talking to a customer service rep who thanked me for patiently waiting, told me my concern was being addressed, that I should actually wait 48, not 24, hours. At that point, I made my unhappiness more loudly known by liberally using words like "lying telco."

After making me wait (patiently) he informed me that although I had paid the bill at 2:45, it hadn't been credited by the system until 7:45 pm and therefore, technically, the 24 hours weren't up yet. But, he hurriedly added -- probably when he heard my rushing blood over the phone -- he had forwarded my concern to a special unit and my Internet would be restored "today."

Getting him to define "today" proved nearly as hard as trying to get the Vice President to testify in Senate. Eventually, he admitted "today" might mean 7 pm.

It didn't. In fact, we didn't get our connection until two days after I paid.

The experience has taught me several lessons:

1. The telco's customer reps are always truly sorry for your inconvenience. It's easy to detect the sincerity: all you have to do is record their voices, play them backwards at slow speeds and you'll hear it -- Satan complaining about his slow WiFi connection.

2. Your "concern" is always being addressed, reported, forwarded, endorsed, prioritized, acted on. Your connection? Fat chance.

3. Customer reps are rigorously trained to NEVER mention a definite time when restoring service. Anyone who makes this mistake is immediately sent to the shack in the mountain. Higher level CSRs, when cornered into naming a time, will commit ritual suicide instead.

4. If this telco were running as a candidate for an election, I wouldn't vote it on the basis of its promises.

5. When the telco says "today," they actually mean a "day in Venus" which consists of 5,832 Earth hours.

6. The telco is committed to providing the fastest service in Asia. The fastest bill collecting and connection cutting service, that is. Internet speed and customer care? Sorry, the telco can't hear you. Please call up a CSR to have your concern addressed.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.