My wife and I are moving. Not far, but far enough that we need a truck and boxes and a phone call with “Arthur,” who lives in a place where English is the third language and whose name, I’m quite certain, is not Arthur.
Arthur works for the company that controls my life, and I need him to move my cable and internet service to a new location.
“Absolutely Mr. Jonathan. I can most definitely help you with that today,” he says between bites of naan.
“May I ask you one question? Why do you still have cable?”
That’s none of Arthur’s business, but I have my reasons. One of these days, cable will be priced like land lines.
It will be an add-on for $5 a month, and I’m holding out for the price break.
“May I please put you on hold for just one moment?” Arthur asks. This happens almost immediately, and I’m not sure why. He presses five buttons on his land line, then he stands up in his call center, points to his head set, and tells his colleagues he has a sucker on the line.
During my four minutes on hold, I’m given a speech by the looped voice.
“Thank you for calling AT&T,” the boastful robot says. “You are now part of the AT&T Thanks Program.”
Well isn’t that great? I’m part of a program! Then I’m told that I really don’t need to be making calls to another country to have my cable and internet moved.
“Did you know you can schedule your move directly on our web…”
In mid-sentence, Arthur reappears. “Don’t listen to that nonsense,” he says. “I’m so sorry to put you on hold, Mr. Jonathan. Our system needed to reboot.”
It doesn’t matter which utility you call on which day, the system always needs to reboot. Have you noticed this? Doesn’t matter if you’re booking a flight, changing your power company or reserving a hotel room. If you’re on the phone with an operator, chances are their computers have a virus on the exact day you call.
Next, Arthur tells me he needs just one more piece of information before we can make any changes. I expect him to ask for my date of birth or the last four of my social security number, both of which I can readily recite.
“Mr. Jonathan, can you give me the 4-digit security code associated with this account?”
The what? I set up my account 13 years ago and not once have I been asked for a 4-digit security code. I have 50 of them.
I clear that land mine, and we’re off.
“Now, what can I do for you today, Mr. Jonathan?”
I want to move, Arthur. I’ve told you this. Except I want to negotiate this deal. I’m looking to reduce the $21,000 per month I spend just to watch college football. I tell him I’m very close to moving to a streaming service, because for what I pay his company, I can buy 50-yard-line tickets to every game I want to see and still buy a nice, used car.
“Absolutely, I can do that for you,” Arthur answers. “We are very thankful you’ve agreed to keep useless cable.”
I also want faster internet speeds, Arthur.
“Of course, Mr. Jonathan. I can double your speed for no additional charge,” he says. “I also have some wonderful news for you today, Mr. Jonathan. Because you pay $6,000 a month for our service protection plan, there will be absolutely no charge for us to move your service. May I put you on hold?”
The robot again congratulates me on my induction into the AT&T Thanks Program, and four minutes later, Arthur returns to, again, apologize for his slow system, though he does have even more wonderful news for me.
“Mr. Jonathan, you are going to be very excited today,” he brims. “I have all of your services changed, I have reduced your monthly bill by 47 cents, you will get all your sports channels, and I have increased your internet speed. And you may not know this, but we’re going to be able to move your service for no charge.”
Arthur and I spent 38 minutes on the phone together, and in one week, I will have internet and useless cable at our new home. Meanwhile, my family and I still have one week left in our old house. When I got home after talking to Arthur, I turned on the TV, flipped to my favorite sports channel, and, you guessed it, I no longer receive that channel in my new cable package. In fact, all of my sports programming is gone.
Must be part of the Thank You Program.