An open letter to Ken who may not have been thinking straight.

Ken Arndt
President
Frontier Communications Inc.
39 Public Square
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773

Dear Mr. Arndt:

I think we’re off to a bad start.

For reasons I didn’t understand, Frontier decided to buy the customer base and infrastructure of Verizon’s troubled dealings in West Virginia. I can’t imagine what you folks were thinking. While on a smaller scale (by far), it’s akin to someone buying BP’s gulf operations. Perhaps y’all needed a tax loss. Anyhoo, y’all took over the reins on July 1st.

In any event, you’ve inherited me. And hundreds like me – the same folks that overwhelmed the Public Service Commission and the Attorney General of West Virginia with complaints about Verizon’s equipment and nonresponsive customer service. Your website greeting indicates that you were aware of at least some of the problems.

The State’s response was to fine Verizon and impose sanctions that included proof of improved customer service and a significant outlay of cash to improve equipment and coverage. Verizon, responsible corporate citizens that they are, effectively said, “Hell, no” and sold you their mess.

I have to ask. What were you thinking?

My problems with Verizon span about 20 years at a single address with a single phone number. The most concise synopsis of the problem is: when it rains, the equipment doesn’t work. West Virginia boasts possession of the largest rain forest in North America or maybe just a big rain forest.  I can’t quite remember.   Either way, it rains here. A lot. And, by the way, we’re having a fabulously wet July.

A few years ago, Verizon sent me an email taunting me with the news that I could have a DSL connection in my home. I was dubious. At that stage of my relationship with Verizon and their equipment, I could not make an outgoing phone call more than half the time for 3 years. On a somewhat irregular basis, I called the phone number that connected me to what was euphemistically known as Verizon Customer Service and reported, yet again, the problem. With varying degrees of civility, I was told a technician would be dispatched to my house.

Of perhaps the 45 service calls I had in that 3 year period, a technician showed up at my house maybe half-a-dozen times. The technician always arrived when it wasn’t raining and couldn’t find a problem.

Far more often, the technician didn’t show. I would burn vacation time to be at my home between 8 and noon, or 10 and 2, or 12 and 4 or some other four-hour window of time I’d been instructed to be here at risk of having my ticket cancelled if I was not.

The four hours would come and go. I would call. Someone would tell me they’d peered at my phone line from a distance, determined it was working fine and cancelled the ticket.

I was not a happy camper as you might imagine.

So. When I got the invitation to sign up for DSL, I did. I did so in part because I knew they had to send someone to my house to hook it up.

I almost felt sorry for that guy. First of all, it was raining. Nothing worked. He left. He came back. He talked to people at Verizon. He scratched his head. He did this. He did that. He brought in another guy. Another modem. One thing led to another and they assembled things in a nonstandard way that worked around whatever the problem was. It took about a month. They told me, definitively, they didn’t know what the problem was but that this “fix” seemed to allow me use of my phone and DSL connection.

I was happy. For roughly three years things have been peachy. In the most violent of thunderstorms, provided I keep power, I can cruise YouTube while talking to my Sweet Baboo on the telephone.

Well. All coinkydinky, beginning with the first rain after July 1st and continuing through the present, any time it rains there is so much noise on my line that I lose my internet connection altogether. Voice works, but there’s a lot of static on the line that renders it pretty much useless.

Color me unhappy.

It’s a long story that isn’t particularly flattering to me and I won’t bore you with it, but I ended up even replacing the DSL wiring which ensures the problem isn’t on my end. I did it correctly (or at least as correctly as Verizon did) because it worked just peachy until it rained again on Sunday.

I called Frontier Sunday afternoon.

But first let me just copy a quote from your website here real quick. (You’ll want to refer to this often while thinking about me and West Virginia and Verizon and my mastery of Public Service Commission complaint forms.)

Welcome, West Virginia.

We are excited to be serving you.

Over the next few months, you will see that we do things a little differently than your previous Service Provider. Because for us, serving you is more than just a day-to-day operation. Our work is all about you, our customer. We have an ongoing commitment to servicing the communities we work and live in. It is about giving back, growing with our communities and supporting your needs.

It is remembering that you are a person, not just a customer.

I was heartened by those words, though not too much. I am a realist.

(Goodness! What were you people thinking?)

I talked with a very nice gentleman who actually did listen to what I was telling him. He and I agreed I had an unusual setup and he would put through a ticket for a technician to come to my home. I was instructed to be sure and be here between 8 and noon today.

Having to get up at 0’dark thirty so as to be sufficiently caffeinated to be articulate while technically on “vacation time” from my employer is kind of annoying, but I did it cheerfully high on the fact that y’all remember that I’m a person, not just a customer and that y’all are all about supporting my needs.

Well noon came and went.

So I called, my ticket number handy, and was told decisively there was never any intention for anyone to come to my home as my call had been lumped together with a bunch of others in another town for what y’all are calling a widespread outage. Through gritted teeth, I explained the situation and explained that my internet wasn’t out at the moment, but would be the minute it rained and that I had been told unequivocally that I had be here from 8 AM to NOON so that a TECHNICIAN could LOOK at my equipment.

In that false, ever-so-annoying, “I’m sorry for your inconvenience, ma’am” tone of voice, I was told nobody was coming to my house. And that no, I couldn’t schedule a visit because there was a widespread outage in a town near me and my problem had been lumped into that problem without anyone, it seems, reading the ticket or looking at the name of the town I live in.

Did y’all hire all those Verizon people?

What were you thinking?

So. It’s been my experience that online chat with tech support is a better way to go. I chatted with a guy who refuted what the woman on the phone said. He and I went rounds for awhile about my wanting to speak with someone who could unravel why I was being told two different things. Here’s part of the chat transcript:

12:40 PM Connie: James, I took off work to be here. It is after noon and I’ve heard from no one. When I called Frontier, a woman told me there had never been any need for me to be here.

12:40 PM Connie: I’m a wee-bit perturbed.

12:41 PM James A: I definitely understand, and I do apologize for any trouble you have experienced.

12:42 PM Connie: Moreover, the tech I spoke to on Sunday went through my history of connectivity problems with Verizon and the “fix” they finally settled on. He agreed this necessitated an inspection of the outside box.

12:43 PM James A: The engineers will determine the need for onsite access, after diagnosing the lines and equipment on our end of things. That is all the information I have. I apologize.

12:44 PM Connie: I don’t mean to take this out on you. What I do need is the contact information, etc. to file a formal complaint.

12:45 PM James A: I understand. Complaints should be directed to our Customer Service department at 800-921-8101. You can also discuss possible reimbursement for the time that your internet was down.

12:46 PM Connie: I believe that’s the number I just called and was given erroneous information. I’d like a contact name, please.

12:46 PM James A: I do not know what name to give you…

12:47 PM Connie: Is your supervisor available?

12:47 PM James A: We have many Customer Service representatives. I do not know any of them by name.

12:48 PM James A: Unfortunately, supervisor request via our chat platform, are difficult to comply with. If you’d like, you can call our Internet Help Desk at 877-352-7011 opt 2, and speak with one of our supervisors, or you may try Customer Service aswell.

So. I called that number (Option 2, mind you) and spoke with a very pleasant woman who I warned up front that I had my Super Bitch cape on. I vowed silently to myself. I was going to read your website statement to her if she started in with robot speech, but turns out it wasn’t necessary.

She listened (always a good thing) and apologized (without sounding smarmy) and (gasp) called dispatch to find out what she should tell me. I now have a third version of the story of my ticket. She tells me there is a ticket to come to my house, the widespread outage takes precedence, but there are plans to have someone at my house before 8 PM unless they call me. I just fervently hope that technician isn’t wandering around that town I don’t live in looking for my address.

So, um, it’s now 3:00 and I haven’t heard from anyone, but there are miles to go before we all sleep. With any luck, y’all will be here before the 72 hour legally mandated response period is up. And before I’m out of vacation time.

I’ll keep you posted.

And, um, by the way. You should probably make arrangements for your customer service folks to meet their supervisors and learn their names. It’s got to be damn confusing to not have a clue what to tell people like me who can get rather insistent. I once had a Verizon guy tell me that yes, indeedy, he had a time card, but at the end of the pay period he didn’t know who he gave it to, but that, yes, he did give it to someone. And he’d worked at Verizon for 12 years. Imagine! Twelve years and not a clue as to your boss’s name.

And co-workers! A company picnic maybe? Poor James tells me he doesn’t know a single one of his co-workers’ names. (Is this like a sweatshop or something? Or was today his first day?)

Oh. There’s an old geology principle that states the past predicts the future. I know from past experience, the more vacation time I burn, the more PSC complaints I file. Just sayin’.

Sincerely. . .

4 thoughts on “An open letter to Ken who may not have been thinking straight.

  1. They don’t deserve such a well written communication. Why bother entertaining the some beaches? I hope you do get reimbursed for your lost vacation time and that justice prevails (but I won’t hold my breath). Still, if any letter gets attention, this one surely should.

  2. All sounds familiar. Rural folks get screwed in WV. . . no decent service, forget about digital lines for DSL, no cable (broadband), electric lines poorly maintained and constantly blowing breakers in the littlest wind.
    Still, they hold conferences and every six months some politician announces new plans to bring broadband to rural WV. I doubt any of them really know what broadband is or have even set foot in any rural WV home.

  3. Pingback: Guillotines, I tell you. | W. Va. Fur and Root

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