Coffee heat rising

Unbundled! Qwest strikes again

So, I’m reading my Qwest bill and notice some long-distance calls to Austin, where I know exactly no one. I also want to find out what they want me to do with the useless modem the Filipinos sent and to cancel the $3.99/month roadside assistance plan that recently proved to be ludicrously useless. After dialing the customer service number printed on the bill, I again make the acquaintance of Qwest’s damnable robot, which eventually puts me through to one “Josh.”

Amazingly, this “Josh” speaks English. Yea, verily: he’s a native speaker. In the course of probably 40 minutes spent gabbing and wasting time on hold, I learn he grew up in Las Vegas and presently is living in Logan, Utah, where he works in Qworst’s call center to support his lifestyle as a ski bum.

The Josh brushes me off about the unidentifiable long-distance calls but agrees to discontinue the laughable roadside assistance disservice. Along the way, he remarks that he can save me money on the phone bill. Figuring he wants to sell me something (he does, but not till later), I rise to this bait. How, I ask, does he propose to do this?

“Well,” says he, “I see you have DSL, cell phone, and a land line. I can bundle them together, and it will save you $10 a month.”

“They are bundled,” say I.

“No, they’re not,” says he.

“The only reason I got the DSL was because Qwest sent an ad touting its cut-rate bundling. I called your company and specifically ordered the bundled service, and I was told that was what I got.”

“Look at your bill,” says the Josh. “If it doesn’t say ‘bundled service’ on the front page, then you don’t have bundled service.”

“The bill is unintelligible,” I observe. “None of it makes any sense at all. It is a document designed to confuse the customer.”

The Josh does not deny this. He proceeds to do the bundling thing, and now magically my bill drops by ten bucks a month. Not wanting this lucre to burn a hole in my pocket, he suggests I upgrade my cell phone service. I say I never use the cell phone and the only reason I got it is that pay phones have pretty much disappeared and I have to drive an aging car across a freeway to get to work; the cell is only for emergencies and I don’t need an upgrade. He then proposes I get their TV service. I say I don’t watch TV.

He is incredulous.

You don’t watch television?” he squawks.



“Never.” This is a slight exaggeration, but the Josh need not know it.

Discouraged, he now suggests I replace the old, perfectly functional modem with the new one, which I haven’t yet shipped back to Qworst. I say I’m not looking forward to fiddling with a CD and the connection, which invariably gets screwed up, and I can’t afford to be offline over the weekend because I have to do a blog carnival.

“What’s a blog?” the Josh inquires.

Beginning to suspect the man smokes something that doesn’t have nicotine in it, I ask him if he’s serious. He insists he doesn’t know what a blog is. I try to define blogging in one sentence.

He says for nine bucks, they’ll send a service guy over to install the modem. I say “sold!”

Now—get this!—he tells me I must immediately ship the free modem the Filipino staffer has ordered back to Qworst, so that the service dude can replace it with another modem, which will cost me $100. But lucky me! Qworst will be sending me a $50 rebate coupon!

Oh, thank you, honored phone company!

Not until I get off the phone do I realize that the Josh has figured out, during the course of conversation, that the modem in the box is the same kind of modem the service person will install, that at one point he subtly backpedaled to maneuver me into letting him replace it with one I have to pay for, and that the Josh probably gets paid by the amount of junk he can sell to the customer.

So here’s what we have:

In August 2006 I ordered what was presented to me as a bundled set of services. This “bundling” never happened. The result was that for the past two full years I have been overcharged $10 a month for a service that was misrepresented to me. That adds up to a $240 overcharge. More recently, I was made to jump through an hour’s worth of hoops while two marginally English-speaking technicians tried to figure out, over the telephone from their stations half-a-globe away, what was wrong with my DSL connection. Their assessment was wrong. Incorrectly thinking my modem was on the fritz (in fact, Qworst’s serviceapparentlywas down, something the company had not bothered to share with its men and women in Manila), they sent me a new modem, telling me it would be free of charge providing I shipped the old one back. This device is a newer model. A stateside Qworst customer service person smoothly switches out this free modem for an identical one, to the tune of $100, promising a $50 rebate. So, all told I’m out $290 in fraudulent and questionable charges.

Charming, eh?

If there was any question whether the robot voice expresses the disdain with which this corporation’s leadership views the Great Unwashed, interaction with Qworst’s live voices quickly dispels that.