Sunday, November 27, 2011
Gobble, Gobble, Tech Support and a Fish
The reception on our TV had gotten bad the last two weeks. It started simple, a little freezing here and there when watching a recorded show from the DVR. But then it got worse. The sound would get out of syn then sometimes just disappear. The little bits freezing turned into seconds of blackout, followed by pixilation, followed by me threating to throw something at the TV. Sometimes, I’d turn the cable box off, turn it back on a minute later and it would be better. Sometimes I’d do that and it would get worse, making me realize that what happened after I restarted it was completely random. It finally became too much on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks game became unwatchable because of the jittery screen.
It was ten o’clock the night before Thanksgiving. The chance of me talking to an actual human being on the phone was zero, so I fired up my laptop and started with my cable company’s on line help. After navigating through a few of the help wizards, all of which ended by telling me to restart all of the cable boxes, which, of course, did nothing, the next step was to go to the on-line support’s chat line. So I clicked on the yellow box and the chat session started.
Tech Support: Good evening my name is Pashtel (named changed to protect, oh hell, who am I kidding; I can’t remember the name but it was something close to Pashtel).
Now I’ve heard lots of stories about getting support from overseas, and I’ve had some myself. I still miss those few years when every time I called IBM tech support I was connected to a call center in Ireland where I talked to people with a thick Irish brogue. With chat support, it was even easier for companies to send their support overseas to cheap call centers where operators could follow a script and instead of having to talk to people, they just needed to press a button and the words would automatically be relayed the chat session.
I briefly explained my problems with the picture to Pashtel and the steps I had already tried and he (or she) send back the appropriate “I am sorry you are having trouble, yadaa yadaa.” He followed his script and asked a bunch of questions, had me check the picture on some other channels, all things I had already done. Then, he told he was going to reset the box. My first reaction was “I already did this,” but then I thought, hey this guy is sitting in a cubicle in some giant cubicle farm in some giant office building in India and he can restart my cable box. In order for me to do that, I would have to get up off the couch, navigate the sea of scatter toys my children left all over the floor, bend down, press the power button and hold it for at least five seconds, then wait to see what happens. Or I could just let Pashtel do it for me. Isn’t technology cool? We’ve come a long way since the clapper.
So after trying what I had already tried, we had come to the end of the tech support script and Pashtel had to schedule a technician to come to my house.
Pashtel: Do you have any pets?
Me: Yes, two cats. (pause). And a fish.
I don’t really have a fish, and if I did, would it matter. I understand asking about cats and dogs. Every cable guy who came to our house when we had our pit bull-boxer mix was deathly afraid of him, even after I told them the dog was blind. But I wanted to see if Pashtel would follow through his job or figure out I was joking. But just having him write down that I had a fish wasn’t enough.
Me: Are your technicians afraid of fish?
Pashtel: I don’t think so.
He asked a few more questions and we scheduled the appointment for between 8am and 12 noon two days later, which was not too bad. Right about here through I wondered why they could restart my cable box from thousands of miles away but couldn’t give me an appointment window smaller than four hours. Then can tell what time I started an on-demand episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, but they can’t figure out how to schedule their technicians to fit into a reasonable time slot. I’m going to tell my boss next week that I’m going to come to work sometime between six and ten and see what he says. But I digress.
As we were wrapping up, Pashtel was copying and pasting the standard end of chat session messages, thanking me for being a customer, and making sure I was fully satisfied before ending our session. Then, the final exchange.
Pashtel: Thank you and I hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving.
Me: You, too. Gobble, Gobble.
Gooble, gobble is my standard goodbye greeting right around Thanksgiving. It’s really the only time of year it is appropriate unless you work on a turkey farm. But clearly not everyone is aware of this. There was a long delay then the chat session let me know Pashtel was typing. Finally, his text came through.
Pasthel: I’m sorry but I don’t understand. What does gobble, gobble mean?
I laughed out loud. No really, I did. I wasn’t rolling on the floor laughing my ass off but for once I could have just said LOL and it would have been accurate (did you know that LOL does not get auto-corrected by Microsoft Word? Damn you, texting!). My head started racing. What kind of story could I make up about the meaning of gobble, gobble. I could go into some long winded, overly detailed diatribe about something entirely unrelated to turkey noises, and I gave serious consideration to it. But then I realized that Pastel was just a guy (or girl) doing his job, following a set of procedures and that he would stay on with me until I was completely satisfied. So I cut him some slack.
Me: It’s the sound a turkey makes.
He ended our session without another word. On Friday, two technicians came to my house and spent nearly three hours chasing down gremlins. They replaced coax in the house, checked signals everywhere and even swapped out my HDMI cable. For a short time the picture was better but not for long. As I write this, the TV still pixilates every few seconds and during the Bears game, I’d sometimes see two plays interlaced on top of each other. But while they were here, the techs new I had two cats. And a fish.
Thanks for reading.