Monday, November 14, 2005

Sorry, Wrong Number

There’s some kind of screwup in the software at the phone company.

The result is twofold. First, the cellphone rings a lot with calls for American Express, the New York Times, Medicare, Blue Cross and Nextel, which is not the carrier that sold the phone.

Thing Two: customers of American Express, the New York Times, Medicare, Blue Cross and Nextel are (a) frustrated, (b) unable to reach the people they want to call and (c) befuddled.

How does this happen? The Carrier doesn’t seem to know. They just apologize “for the inconvenience.”

If it happened once or twice or even ten times, it would be annoying, but possibly understandable. But it happens every day. That’s not a metaphor or an analogy or a figure of speech. It happens EVERY day. Usually more than once.

The Carrier says it’s all to do with the routing of toll free “800” calls to local numbers and the computer missing a number or two and sending the call to the wrong phone. Some techno-babble that no one can understand, apparently including the engineers at the Carrier.

Many new friends, now. Anonymous phone friends. People who want to check their credit card balance or buy travelers checks or find out why their newspaper wasn’t delivered this morning, or whether fixing their ingrown toenails need pre-authorization.

A typical call goes like this:

Caller: “I want to know why I didn’t get my paper this morning. Is it because someone’s stealing it or is it just that your deliveryman doesn’t know what he’s doing. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Callee: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but this isn’t the newspaper. It’s a private phone, a cell phone and…”

Caller: “Is this 1 800- 245 67…”

Callee: “It’s not 800 anything, ma’am, it’s just a telephone and….”

Caller: Click.

You’d think they could fix this, but apparently they can’t. Not after years and years of allegedly trying.

Since each incoming call costs one of those precious “any time minutes,” this new form of recreation mounts up.

There’s a strong preference for the customers to call during daylight hours. That’s good because who wants to be awakened at midnight for a balance check? But it’s bad because incoming calls at off hours are not billed.

Maybe the Carrier has a room full of callers (probably somewhere in Afghanistan,) who make random calls to cell phones to run up higher bills.

Given the wage scale in Afghanistan, and the cost of an “any time minute,” they probably come out ahead of the game.

Either that or the call center and the telephone service itself are on two different budgets, budgets that never meet and don’t talk to one another… and they rake in the sheckles or drachmas or whatever they use for money in Afghanistan.

And who is the “Carrier?”

In the interest of fairness and a level playing field, there will be no actual identification. But you already know it’s not Nextel. It’s also not Sprint. And it’s not AT&T. And it’s not Cingular.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005

1 comment:

John G said...

As James Thurber so infuriatingly put it, "If this is the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?"

You should invent an answering machine for cell phones, also a device that tells the caller the identity of the callee before the call is put through. Patent either of those and a highly prosperous retirement can be your'n.

And you can advertise them by leaving messages on people's blogsites: "Hi, I found your site while cruising and thought I'd tell you about two wonderful new products..."