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.