Friday, June 22, 2007

Oh, Pioneer! Sprinting to a New L.D. Provider

Here I've been chortling each time I read a John Whiteside manifesto on his dealings with the wonderful world of telecommunications. Knock on plastic, I told myself,  but things are going so darned well these days with the multiple entities, large and small, local and not-so-local, that make up what used to be known as the phone company. Nary a problem in sight.

Part of my contentment stemmed from a recent switch in providers that occurred last winter,  when I changed my Long Distance carrier from Sprint. Sprint was charging me about nine-bucks a month for service whether I made a call or not. I decided to go with to Pioneer, a small local-ish (State o' Maine) outfit with rock-bottom prices. This all seemed to make sense, given that 99.99% of my long distance calls are made on my cell-phone. Why keep paying Sprint for nothing?

It took me several months of wrangling back and forth, and a month or two of double paying, but I finally got a zero-dollar bill from Sprint that told me I'd made my final payment. Fool that I am, I tossed the bill out. I should have saved it. I should have framed it.

Then, the other day, I got a Sprint bill for $16.08.

When I called to ask whazzup with that, I was told - by a perfectly pleasant and helpful CSR named Ann (I think) with a slight Aussie accent - that my local provider (that would be Verizon) had reactivated my Sprint account. And I had to pay the Sprint bill.

Well, Maureen Rogers to Ivan Seidenberg: Thanks, but no thanks.

I then called Pioneer, where a perfectly nice but not so helpful person (from, I believe, India) told me that I would have to call back on Monday because, while there was a record that I was activated as a Pioneer customer in February, she could not access any record indicating I was still a Pioneer customer.

Nor could she give me the magic PIC number that I need to provide to Verizon to get them to turn me back on to Pioneer AND put a freeze on my Verizon account that will prevent them from any further, willy-nilly changes to my long distance provider. Nor could she provide me any proof that I was a Pioneer customer during the period that Sprint is now charging me for. Which is the only way that I can avoid paying the latest Sprint charge.

She couldn't help me because, although Pioneer claims that their customer service is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., everybody you need to get a hold of in provisioning goes home at 5 p.m. and apparently take the keys to their systems with them.

So, it looked like that on the following Monday, I would be doomed to at least an hour's worth of hassle with Pioneer; another hour's worth of hassle with Verizon; and the 30 seconds it would take me to write a check to Sprint for what I am once again hoping (wishful thinking!) will be my final payment.

I just wanted it all to go away.

On Monday, however, I hit paydirt with Pioneer. An exceedingly nice and helpful person (named Nell, I think) took exceedingly good care of me, contacting one Fred Donnelly of Pioneer Provisioning in Portland, Maine.

Fred sent me an exceedingly nice and helpful note letting me know that I was the victim of a rare miscommunication, and that he was going to straighten it out. Including making the $16.08 bill from Sprint go away.

Now, the proof of all this will be if a) the Sprint charges do indeed go away; b) I don't get another one bill from them; c) Verizon doesn't switch me back to Sprint.

Still, I feel that with Fred Donnelly, I'm in quite able hands. I have his name. His e-mail address. His phone number. And his best wishes that I have a good weekend.

Which I will, now that I'm in Fred's good hands.

Happy as I am, at least in the moment, with Pioneer Telephone, I do have to admit one thing.

It may have cost more, but things were sure a whole heck of a lot easier when the only one you had to deal with was Ma Bell.


John Whiteside said...

You've inspired me to post my Sprint story. It's a long one, actually involving both Sprint long distance and Sprint Spectrum, their trial mobile phone project that preceded the launch of Sprint PCS. (DC was the test market, and I was one of the initial customers.)

I'll have to set aside some time to do it. It involves BellAtlantic, too (now Verizon), as well as the Pentagon.


Maybe over the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Pioneer actually has customer service in: Portland, ME, LA, CA and IT centers in NY, LA & London.

They have no foreign customer service, but due to a high amount of customers calling abroad they higher bi-lingual cs reps.

Fred Connolly is their lead provisioning manager in Portland. Great guy and gets the job done.

We've used Pioneer for our 7 locations natiowide for 6 years now. They always take ownership of all issue's, theirs or not.