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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Cingular Me Out

by Reza B (writer), West Hollywood, March 31, 2007

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In an age where technology is king, and we are slaves to the whims of a fickle, ever-changing, and sometimes unreliable sovereign, the name of the game is the new, the better, the smaller, and the faster—and no one plays this game better than the mobile telephone companies.

Prior to writing this article, I had been with Cingular Wireless, in all its various manifestations, for more than nine years. I’ve dealt with overbilling, under billing, weekend minutes, nighttime minutes, roll-over minutes, friends and family, text messaging, data messaging, multi-media messaging, network roaming, and international roaming. Don’t even get me started on the bills—they’re indecipherable.

I’ve come to realize that the technological crack pipe of our time is the mobile telephone. We are all addicted and we are all—at least sometimes—miserable addicts. To illustrate this point I’d like to relate a story of an experience I had with Cingular...

The story begins with our protagonist (yours truly) driving on a warm and smoggy LA freeway doing what many of my fellow Angelinos do while driving: talking on the mobile. The sun is fixed at 3pm and its heat radiates and reflects off the hot concrete as motorists jockey for position on the 101—in some instances sign/body language is used to communicate between vehicles. This day finds me calling the good people at Cingular:

“Thank you for calling Cingular Wireless.” An artificially friendly woman’s voice greets me, and then surprises me with her apparent multilingual talents by repeating the foregoing, but this time in Spanish, “Gracias por llamar Cingular, para oír estas opciones en español presionar nueve.” I hold the line for a moment, my Spanish language skills taunting me, ridiculing me, making me feel muy malo.

“Please enter the mobile telephone number that you are calling about,” the voice commands, its tone more forceful this time, making me a bit nervous and uncomfortable. I start to punch in my number, taking split second breaks to look up and watch my car devour the road before me as I scream down the 101 towards the 405 interchange.

“You entered” the voice repeats my mobile number one number at a time. A brief pause and then the voice inquires, “Is this correct?” in an almost disbelieving tone, which leads me to believe that it may not be. “If it is,” the voice continues “press ‘1’... if not, press ‘2.’” She’s daring me now—I almost like it.

Now I’m getting a bit irritated, but still, I’m willing to cooperate. I press “1” on my mobile and there is the silence. I begin to worry. “Thank you...” the voice nonchalantly reemerges from the void, and I am relieved that I didn’t lose the signal—I’m beginning to fall in love with this dirty digital tease. “Please enter the last four digits of the primary account-holders social security number.”

Oh God, I’m entering the 405, and I know Cingular’s corporate conspiracy has set a drop zone at the top of the hill. Again, I comply, nervously entering in the numbers like a 13 year-old dialing a girl’s number for the first time.

“Thank you,” the voice says cheerfully. She knows what she’s about to do, that bitch.

“To better help us direct your call...”

“Mother F***er!” I think, “Why are you doing this to me? Why can’t you be easy? Why can’t you just let me hit zero?!?” I plead.

“Please select from the following menu of options...” The voice continues and there is a momentary pause as the recording inhales the life from my eternal soul in preparation for: “For billing, press ‘1,’ for technical support, press ‘2,’ for questions regarding Cingular’s partnership with the Special Olympics, press ‘3,’ for questions regarding adding a line, press ‘4,’ for questions about the ‘g-spot’ press ‘5,’ for information on who killed Kennedy, press ‘6’...”

At this point I’m beginning to lose concentration, I’m staring at the road and pondering the question every driver on an L.A. freeway asks at one point or another, “When will they make ‘flying cars?’” I ask playfully. I’m drifting now, into the “World of Tomorrow.” “Wouldn’t it be great if we had ‘Transporters’ like they have on ‘Star Trek?’” I ask myself in a semi-schizophrenic internal dialogue. “I would live in Vermont and just beam into work in LA,” I fantasize.

Suddenly I’m sucked back into reality. “...For questions regarding adding data services, press ‘7,’ to repeat this menu, press ‘8.’”

“Holy Mother Mary!” I scream.

“I’m sorry,” the voice says, “I didn’t get that. Please repeat your response.” The voice says in a friendly way, like she’s talking to a child with a combination of a lisp and a stutter.

“My God,” I think, “they have voice recognition on the menu now.” I’m almost at the top of the hill now, and... “Boop, boop, boop.” The line goes dead, and my call screen displays the date, time, and “Cingular,” obscured slightly by sweat mixed with the dirt from the screen. The call is gone, ripped from my cellular grasp, and flung back into the abyss to which all dropped calls are damned.

I’m moving downhill now, and I know that the road is signal packed from here on out. I have at least an hour of signal coverage on the 405 towards my destination in Orange County. That’s right, I’m going to the O.C.

I press send twice on my phone again, and again, she’s there. Her voice indicates that she’s not willing to admit that anything has happened between us, or worse, that she doesn’t remember me. I swallow my pride and play her game, I dance and jump through hoops for the next ten minutes. I don’t care anymore, I have no pride—all that matters is her. I’m her bitch.

“...to repeat this menu, press ‘8,’”

“Methuselah save us all!” Did I miss the proper option again, and then she gives me what I want, “for all other questions or to speak with a customer service representative, press ‘9,’ or remain on the line.” At that moment I glimpse the face of God, and Shiva is smiling...

“Please wait while your call is connected...” the voice says. I hear a couple of rings, then the voice’s crazy, but hot!, sister picks up.

“Thank you for calling Cingular Wireless’ customer assistance center,” she says in a sweet crystalline semi-human voice, “we are currently experiencing higher than usual call volume...” God is no longer smiling. “Your estimated wait time is” she says in a direly serious tone and then pauses, “thirty... five... minutes.”

I feel my heart beating in my ears as the mobile phone heats my brain to boiling, the sweat streaming down the crevice between my face and the call screen. I can feel the tumor welcoming life as it stakes a claim on that prime real estate that is the left-hemisphere of my brain. I spend the next 45-minutes listening to all the new features that Cingular has to offer, and how they will make me, my family, and my friends happy... again, and again. God is dead to me now, and I ponder the possibility that we are all, in fact, batteries for some master race of insect robots ala the Matrix. (See my profile for my favorite films... oh yeah, it’s there.)

“Thank you for calling Cingular Wireless,” a cheerful voice squeaks out. “My name is Tiffany.”

I snap to attention and, like a man starved for human contact, I begin yelling in excitement, “Hello! Hello, can you hear me?” I ask desperately.

“Yes, sir. How may I help you?” Tiffany says as I struggle to remember why I called them (the left side of my face is numb now).

“Maybe this cellular stuff is dangerous.” I think, as I feel brain cells commit suicide.

“Hi Tiffany.” I say. “First off, I want compliment Cingular on the stellar customer service you people are providing to your customers.” I say sarcastically.

“Thank you sir,” she replies. The sarcasm is lost on her, or, more likely, she’s pushing me.

“Biggest mobile telephone company in the world, and you can’t hire more than 20 customer service reps?” I mumble, afraid she’ll hear me and screw me with the “accidental hang up.”

“I’m sorry sir, you’re breaking up.” She says, feigning a concern that she can’t hear my every word.

“Tiffany, I’m calling because my phone keeps freezing up.” I say quickly.

“Who am I speaking with?” She asks in a tone I’m not sure I care for.

“Reza,” I say.

“Hello Reza,” she says, “can I please have the last four digits of your social security number?” She asks.

“You know I already entered that.” I say in an incredulous tone, “Why does Cingular make me enter it during the recording only to have me repeat it later on?” I ask.

“It’s for security purposes,” she replies in a matter-of-fact tone—which doesn’t really answer the question at all—daring me to continue this dialogue.

“Okay,” I say, and, recognizing that I am as impotent as a paraplegic in a Viagra factory, I recite the last four of my social, obediently.

“Okay, sir, you have a data device.”

“Yes I do.” I say, not realizing why she’s telling me this information.

“You have to call Cingular’s data device line.” She says, as each word penetrates and violates every orifice of my being.

“What?” I say, not wanting to believe what she’s telling me.

“You have to call Cingular’s data device line.” She repeats without any effort.

I sigh deeply, resigned to this fate. “Okay, can you please connect me?”

“No sir, I’m sorry, they’re on a different network. I can give you their number though.”

I pause only to take note of the fact that I have nothing to write with and to contemplate the irony of a telecommunications provider without a fully functioning internal telephone network. “Okay, give me the number,” I say, as I prepare my mind for the type of flash memorization normally marked by repetition of the subject matter to be memorized; a task made all the more difficult by the recent loss of 12% of my brain cells.

“The number is,” she speaks each number slowly and then asks me if there is anything else she can help me with.

Repeating the number to her, I say no and try to thank her in the most sincerely kind voice for her help. I feel bad for being obnoxious, but I’m tired of the crappy customer service. I’ve been with them for nine years, but they treat me like they’re doing me a favor every time I call for help with a problem they’ve created—nine years of dropped calls and longer than usual wait times have conditioned me for confrontations with the good people working for Cingular all over the country.

I dial the data device number and fall back into the vortex of menus and social security numbers that is typical of almost any telephonic customer service line in our society.

I realize as I hold for yet another “customer service representative” that I am not valuable to Cingular, and they have done everything to remind of that fact. They don’t provide coverage in places you would expect, like, for instance, the freeway in the middle of Los Angeles. There is no attempt to even come close to providing good, or better yet, excellent customer service, that everyone deserves. Most large companies only want to do just enough to keep our business. The days of “the customer is always right” and “bending over backwards” are, for the most part, gone.

As I finish my call with the good people in data devices, I watch the sun slowly set over the 405. I was dealing with Cingular for almost two hours. I whisper a silent prayer to God that if the Apocalypse ever comes, that mobile telephone company managers and executives will be cast into the seventh circle of hell.

Exhausted, I bow to my king, kiss his hand, and break out the lubrication, because with the average lifespan topping 70 now, there’s going to be a lot of friction... the least we can do is use a little Astroglide.



About the Writer

Reza B is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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12 comments on Cingular Me Out

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By brookekb on March 31, 2007 at 01:43 pm
hilarious and so true of sprint also!!!
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By V on March 31, 2007 at 10:09 pm
Okay, so I do exactly that cycle that you so eloquently and humorously described, about twice a month to top up the credit on my prepaid Cingular account. "Why on earth are you doing that?" I hear you ask. "That's just about the most expensive way you can make phone calls. Yes, well, because if it isn't enough that I am being shafted with two hours of my life being lost bi-monthly in the the Bermuda TriCingule, I cannot get a phone account here without a down deposit of $1000. Why not? Because I don't yet have a credit rating in the U.S.A.
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By V on April 01, 2007 at 12:33 am
No, I'm not spending $1000, that's why I'm using a prepaid service. I cannot get a cell phone account of any sort or landline phone account of any sort unless I put down a security deposit of around $1000 for each service. So, I won't be doing that. It'll just take me a couple of years to earn a credit rating here and then I can. I unfortunately didn't know, BEFORE I left home, the back door trick used by Aussies, to have an instant U.S. credit rating. They apply for an American Express card in Australia which recognizes their Australian credit status. When they arrive in the USA and get a social security, they hand over their Aussie Amex and say they want to convert to a US account and, provided all was in order with your Aussie account, they'll give you an American version that takes with it your positive or negative history ...
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By Steven Lane on April 01, 2007 at 02:21 am
El G, I too have Sprint, a phone that in order to make a call from home I have to walk out front....grrr Reza, a very funny real time article
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By nedarass on April 01, 2007 at 01:12 pm
that is so true! hilarious...
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By L.A. on April 01, 2007 at 03:39 pm
Reza, no truer words have been written about this necessary evil...although I have a few choice words for them myself (highly inappropriate for this forum). I liken this experience to that of visiting the DMV which is unavoidably a painful disaster every single time, no matter how much we mentally prepare for the inevitable abuse...and yet we go back for more...go figure. Very funny article
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By Jessamyn Cuneo on April 26, 2007 at 02:21 pm
When's everyone going to wake up and get Verizon?? ;-) Funny stuff. The particular frustration you're talking about is very well expressed.
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By VeroniqueChevalier on September 23, 2007 at 07:49 pm
There have been times when I've been dangling by a slowly tightening noose on the Phone Tree of Customer Service Purgatory, I have found myself just banging out random numbers on my phone's keypad, out of sheer frustration,. Sometimes this "confuses" their computer bank enough to yield a real live human on the other end. And then other times of course, I just get cut off. *Sigh* George Orwell and BF Skinner were so prophetic, alas...
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By ShiShiJoon on September 28, 2009 at 09:56 pm

This still makes me laugh!

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