Okay, so it was my fault AT&T shut off my internet. I’m willing to at least accept culpability for not paying the bill. Or, for not having the money to pay it. I guess that is my fault. Mostly. The thing is, I paid the bill eventually. I still didn’t really have the money for the bill plus late fees and ‘you’re-a-piece-of-shit’ surcharges, but it had been a painful two days with my internet held ransom – I mean, no facebook in bed? What the fuck. I’m not a caveman. So I paid the amount, and was eagerly awaiting the return of mornings with Perez and Huff Post as I was on hold with my fifth incompetent operator, two and a half hours deep into the labyrinthine quagmire that is their customer service line. So many things had gone wrong with this call that I was more well -versed in their operating system than the people who worked there.
"AT & T."
“Hi. So, my internet got shut off, and I paid the bill, and I just need –“
“What’s your social security number?”
“I just gave it to the other girl.” Really? Every temp working the call center in Battle Creek needs my social and mother’s maiden name? I’m just supposed to be okay with that? But fine. I give it to her.
“Anyway, I need my internet back on, and apparently you guys switched internet types over the two days that mine was shut off, so your new internet isn’t compatible with my old modem, so I need a new modem, and the only way to do that is to buy it in a bundle with my phone, but my work order has already been submitted with the phone and internet separate, so I just need you to cancel those orders and submit it as a bundle.” See? I knew my shit. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, though. I just wanted to get on with my day. I had other stuff to put off doing.
“Oh. I see. Yeah. It looks like you need to pay the fee.”
“No. I already paid the fee. I –“
“There’s a new fee. Hold on. Let me transfer you to the fee department.”
And that - was when I lost it. I was the customer. Uh, The Customer of ‘The Customer is always right’ fame? I didn’t have to put up with this! I could easily pack my bags and head over to Time Warner. I’m sure they would treat me…well, probably a little worse. I’d actually had Time Warner before, and they were at least as bad as AT & T. In fact, I recalled one incident wherein I spent five hours explaining to them that I never lived at an address where they accused me of having a past due bill. When I asked for information about what I could only assume was a fraudulent account, they said they couldn’t release anything because I had just told them it wasn’t my account. Why is dealing with these people such a goddamn M.C. Escher painting?!
Ugh. So, no, I couldn’t switch companies. I would just have to hunker down with AT & T, who’s cornered the market by being imperceptibly less horrendous than their competition. Because choosing a company to patronize in this country is like being forced to choose a husband in a White Power bar. Ultimately, you have to chug a stiff drink and just go with the one with the most teeth.
I’m not even sure I get to choose who I give my money to at all. I need AT &T, T-Mobile, and B of A much more than they will ever need me. My life without internet, cell phone, a place to deposit my checks, is an inconvenient uphill shit show. Their lives without me? Exactly the same. They could lose me, or thousands of me’s, tens of thousands of me’s and their bottom line would be effectively unchanged. So what am I supposed to do when I’m thwarted, abused, and extorted by them? Threaten to take my often past due balance elsewhere? Hold up my three figure bank balance like a floozy past her prime, and shake it in B of A’s face as I leave, taunting ‘You could have had aaaaaaall this!’ They would laugh. They would chuckle like the villains they are and remind themselves that they own entire countries.
Even the White Power bar isn’t that cocky. He has to hope there’s another girl with low self esteem waiting to be demeaned by him. I mean, there usually is, but still.
And this is why everywhere sucks. Because they can. Because the fundamental principle behind a free market - that entities who have to compete for consumer dollars will naturally have to keep their prices reasonable and their service decent – is null and void, and bull shit. Because inherent in that principle is the idea that the company relies on the consumer, and I for one am way too addicted to convenience, technology, and coffee on every corner for it to be reasonably construed that I am the one calling the shots. I’m not. I’m at peace with it. I get it. I lose, they win. Again. So if anyone needs me this week, I’ll be spending most of it with AT &T, phone to my ear, hands around my ankles, which, let’s face it, is the best way to welcome home the internet.