Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One of the Best (In the category of Want What You Have.)

Technically, it's my fault. I could disingenuously blame the app that I installed, but I won't. It's a nifty app; it shows all sorts of weather maps in real time, allows me to set multiple zip codes to monitor weather and traffic conditions. And it runs a little status bar (by default) that shows temperature and current conditions in my selected zip code. It installed quickly, the radar map was really cool, and less than eight hours after installation (and a full battery charge) my smart phone (a two-year old LG Optimus S) beeped three times and went dead. Completely dead.

I'd seen this happen before, to my husband's phone (also an LG Optimus), last June, right after he purchased it. We had just checked into a Courtyard Marriott in Charlotte, NC, set to attend our first Jimmy Buffet concert. The venue wouldn't allow tailgating until only two hours before show time, but the manager at the Marriott was cool with us (we met up with a dozen friends) having a pool party until the parking lot at the show opened. We were putting together what we wanted to take to the pool when his phone beeped three times and went dead. Completely dead.So no photos of the show. No live tweets during "Cheeseburger In Paradise." Just a ticket stub, a tee shirt and a hangover to mark our first Buffet show. But I digress.

When we got back to Virginia, Greg (my husband) took his new, dead phone back to the Sprint store. We figured it was the battery. It was actually the phone, and (eventually) a replacement phone solved his problem. But my phone had been functioning just fine for years, so it couldn't be the phone. It must be the battery. We pay the for maintenance plan, and Greg decided to call Sprint and ask them to send a new battery.

Greg brings many gifts and talents to this world. One of them is the deftness with which he can work a customer service representative, any customer service representative, on a telephone. He's a Jedi Master at it ("You will give me free HBO for three months. *waves hand* "Yes Mr. Norris, we can sign you up for free HBO for three months.") He had his technique mastered before his stint at Echostar, but his weeks of training there honed his skills to a new sharpness. He knows all the tricks, he knows all the stalls, and he knows exactly what to say to get his request taken to the next level. Only a foolish customer service operator fucks with Greg, and not for long.

Greg can hear a newbie customer service rep through the phone (it's the quaver in their voice), and he had a newbie on the line when he called to request a replacement battery for my phone, which we both believed was a simple and reasonable request. Apparently, this is not the case. First, the kid wanted Greg to take the phone to the Sprint store for troubleshooting. We'd tried route that with his phone, and it was a painful and unpleasant experience that we did not wish to repeat.

"Can't you just send me a battery?"

"No sir, I'm not allowed to do that."

"Then connect me with someone who is." Customer service reps at all levels of experience hate this moment, but it makes newbies cry.

The next guy up the food chain wasn't much better. Greg was now 30 minutes into the call, and I began to feel bad that so much of his Saturday was being wasted trying to fix my phone. Maybe I should just buy a new battery? But once Greg gets started, that's it. He will get his way.

"Well if you won't send me a new battery, then I guess by the terms of the maintenance plan, you need to send me a new phone." *waves hand*

"We can do that, Mr. Norris. Just let me confirm your shipping address...."

I shit you not. Sprint would not, absolutely NOT send a new battery. But by Tuesday afternoon, I had a new phone, a new charger AND (really, I couldn't make this up) a new battery to put in the new phone. All I had to do was go to the Sprint store (ugh!) and have them transfer all my contacts to the new phone.

Here's the thing. While waiting for the new phone, and keeping my current phone plugged in pretty much around the clock, Greg noticed the status bar for the weather app that I had just installed.

"You can turn that off, you know, if you don't want to see it all the time." And he showed me how.

My phone battery suddenly had no trouble keeping a charge.

At first I thought I would just stick with the plan, keep the new phone, get Sprint to transfer everything, turn the weather app's status bar back on the old phone, send it in, plead ignorance when they discovered the real problem. But the idea of going to the Sprint store brought me to my senses. Honesty was the best policy here. I would just send the new phone back with a letter explaining what a dumbass I am, and asking them not to hold it against Greg.

For he has lost leverage now, with Sprint. His troubleshooting prowess has been debunked. And it's technically my fault. I should have disabled that damn status bar first, checked to see if the new app was draining my battery. I know these things are possible, but I just didn't do it. Instead, I got Greg to call customer service, work his Jedi mind trick and get a phone (and battery!) that I didn't need.

When he called Sprint back to let them know we were returning the new phone, he got a very understanding and experienced customer service rep. This is most likely not an accident. You see, when a customer service operator tells you the call may be monitored, you should know that, in fact, it is being monitored, mostly so management can screw with the service rep after the call, but abusive customers are a real thing, and this can also protect the service rep who is being harassed from being wrongly blamed and disciplined. Also, you should know that all customer service reps have the ability to put notes in your record, such as, "this guy's a dick" or "second time he tried to scam the company for free Cinemax this month." Greg figures our Sprint record says something along the lines of "this guy will not give up, prepare to make your supervisor deal with him." So when he called back so soon, they just handed Greg's call to someone with experience.

The guy chuckled a bit when Greg explained the situation. He then put Greg on hold. (You should also know that there are different types of "on hold" when you call a customer service center, and you can be heard by the customer service rep at all times even when you are on hold with them. Also, they have choices of on hold music with which to torture you. Good customers get a low jazzy sound. Troublemakers get really bad music that plays too loud. Greg got the second type, for a few minutes, punishment, he is sure.) When the guy came back on the line, he gave Greg the return instructions, and Greg asked him, "This incident won't go against me when it's time to upgrade, will it?" *waves hand*

"Not at all Mr. Norris. Thanks for being one of the best that Sprint's got."

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