The Old Curmudgeon: Number, please

July 2016 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

The Old CurmudgeonBy Vern Holmquist

I can remember when you wanted to talk to someone for business or pleasure, you just walked up to this sort of oblong box hanging on the wall, gave the crank a whirl and when an operator answered, you asked the operator to put you in touch with whomever you wanted to talk with. And you always knew the operator’s name.

“Hello, Rachel. This is Vern. I would like to talk to Joe, who you might find at the pool hall.”

The operator would connect you with the pool hall, where you would find Joe or at least someone who knew where he was.

Of course, this was a small town. Where I lived, the telephone switch board was in the operator’s home. And if she wasn’t busy as a midwife bringing a new resident into the world, she would be there ready to assist you with whoever you wanted to talk with.

The telephone operator in my town was Rachel. Everyone loved her.

We’ve come along way since hand cranked telephones and operators. Now you have to wait about 30 minutes or more on hold to speak with someone who can answer your questions.

The worst thing about not having operators is you have to answer a series of stupid automated questions, then more questions from some robot before you can speak with someone in a foreign country who tells you how much money you can save if you buy the whole bundle of goodies they offer, but still can’t explain why your telephone bill is outrageously high.

With all these big corporate mergers, it is like all of them use the same automated answering machine. Our country may soon be a one corporation country.

Now I would not be writing about the problems of automated operators if it had not been for my own personal experience.

At my age, 95, and living alone, my concerned friends wanted me to have a telephone. Note this is a telephone. A big difference from a cell phone.

One would think getting a telephone would be simple.

It took almost 30 minutes of saying “no” to all the frills they wanted to sell me before I finally got the person on the other end to agree to set me up with just a telephone.

No frills. No extras. Just a simple telephone.

A few days later, a service man came to my apartment and had me hooked up with a telephone in about 10 minutes. I was happy.

A few days after that, I received a bill only to learn I was being charged for the complete bundle. Hey, why do I need virus protection on my telephone?

On top of that, the location I am in is in a “hole” so to speak, where the signal needed for the Internet and TV cannot be had and there is no dish, nor has there ever been. I don’t even want one if it is available. The argument went on and on, with two months of telephone calls and letters and the corporate “eyes” seeing an antenna where none existed.

Mercy, mercy. What next? I know that some of you have been frustrated by automated phone systems as well.

Why can’t we all ban together and ban the communications companies who don’t listen to the consumer? After all, they are only a machine.

I wish I could talk with Rachel again. She would know where to find who I needed to talk with to resolve the issue.

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