in Columns Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times

No Internet? Good Luck Navigating Customer Service

Ted Alexander, Guest Columnist Published Asheville Citizen Times April 9, 2018

I switched on my computer and discovered that I wasn’t connected to the internet. I called my service provider and spent a couple of minutes pressing routing numbers before arriving at a real-life person named Russell.

After confirming my identity using a mere eight-step process the CIA would find excessive, he referred to me as Alexander, not realizing that was my last name. He asked for an alternative number where I could be reached if we were disconnected.

I gave it to him.

We were disconnected.

Russell called me on my cell phone. “This is your lucky day, Alex.”

He’s shortened my last name. We must be approaching friendship.

“I don’t feel lucky. Why is this my lucky day, Russ?”

“Because you’ve got me,” he answered. “I’ve tested the lines and there’s no issue. So we’re going to solve this problem together. Let’s troubleshoot.”

“I’ve already done the slingshot troubleshot,” I replied irritably, but secretly pleased I’d invented a new tech phrase — slingshot troubleshot — something Russell could never have heard before. He’d have to be a little less superior from that point forward.

“Did you reboot and reset after you fired the slingshot?” Russ asks.

What? What? He’s blatantly copying my tech phrase and knows what it means. And I created it and have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m even more irritated. “Yep, at least 10 times,” I lied.

“How many lights on the modem, counting downward from the top, Ken?”

I pause.

“How many lights on the modem, Ken?” he repeats.

“I can’t tell if the top light is the top light because there is a black area where the top light is unlit and I wouldn’t know it’s a light.” It’s important to be very clear to technical people.

“Any red lights, Tim?”

“Yes, one that goes on and off.”

“This is your lucky day. No outage. You need a new modem,” Russ concludes. “Hold on while I see if you qualify for one.”

“Wait a minute. What do you mean if I qualify for one? I pay my bill every month. That means I qualify.”

“Hold on,” Russell says.

We’re disconnected.

My cell phone rings.

“This is your lucky day, Ken. You’re eligible for a new modem.”

“I need it now. Can I pick it up somewhere?”

“Sorry, Tim. Not possible. We’ll ship it to you for 24-hour arrival. But it’s your lucky day, you’ll have it on your doorstep by tomorrow, Tuesday.”

The modem arrived on Thursday. I hooked it up and sat down in front of my computer. It worked for five minutes until a message popped up telling me I was offline.

I called my service provider. This time I spoke with Lucy. She ran tests. “The thing is, Mr. Alexander” she said, “it’s not your modem. There’s an outage in your area. Let me see when I can schedule a technician.”

“Could you try a slingshot troubleshot first?”

“What the heck is that?” She puts me on hold.

We’re disconnected.

Lucy calls back. “The thing is, I can get you a technician in a window from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, Mr. Alexini.”

 I realize I have suddenly been reborn of Italian heritage.

“Wow, you have a technician that works in the middle of the night?”

“That is correct, Mr. Alexini. We work around the clock. And the thing is there’s a very good chance he won’t even need to bother you.”

“Midnight to 8 o’clock? You’re sure?”

“The thing is we’re dedicated to serving you, Mr. Alexini.”

“Well in that case, I’ll take the midnight to 8 o’clock time frame — that way I can begin work first thing in the morning.”

“You’re all set, Mr. Alexini. The thing is you’ll get an email within an hour confirming the appointment, and your technician will text you when he’s working outside.”

I’m very pleased.

No email arrives.

No text arrives.

No technician arrives.

Next morning, I’m no longer very pleased.

I head out to Dunkin Donuts to eat away my sorrows. I order four.

An hour later, as I head down my street, I notice a service van in my driveway. A technician is sitting in the driver’s seat reading a meter. “You’re good,” he says. “I checked all the lines.”

“How come you weren’t here during the night?” I asked.

“Because my appointment was for this morning between 8 and 12.”

“Weren’t you supposed to be here between midnight and 8 this morning?”

He stares at me. “In the middle of the night? We don’t work those hours.”

“Lucy said you did.”

“Who’s Lucy?”

I explain.

He reaches into his jacket pocket and hands me a business card with his name and personal phone number. “Never call corporate,” he says. “Call me. I live a half-mile away and will stop over if you have a problem. Glad to help.”

Ted Alexander lives in Asheville NC.
His novels are available at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe and online book retailers.
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