Sunday, October 3, 2010


After we decided to move four miles from the house we’d lived in for twenty-three years, Hubby and I discovered we had to get a new phone number because our new address was in a different area code. Reluctantly, we signed up with the new phone company and selected new phone number. We were given a choice of three numbers to pick from—and agreed one would be easy to remember. Within days of our move we began to get an excessive amount of “wrong number” calls from friendly, female-sounding robots. The calls were always for the same person.

Robot, identifying company: “May I speak to Donald E____?” (always his full name).

Hubby or I: “No”

Robot: “May I leave a message with you for Donald E_____?”

Hubby or I: “No.

Robot: “Thank you . . . I will try again another day.”

In less than a month, my husband and I had taken about twenty such calls.

Hubby and I began to draw conclusions about Donald. He was old (Medicare Part C provider called), in need of health services (hospital-clinic appointment desk called ), and unable to get around on his own (Medicab was a third caller). We speculated: perhaps he had gone to live with his daughter, or needed the services of a rehab center, or maybe he had taken up residence in oblivion where no phones are needed—ever.

I called our phone service provider, BomBast, to find out about the previous owner of “our” telephone number. When I couldn’t get through on the phone (you can’t reach the phone company by phone?), I reluctantly took its suggestion and went to the Internet BomBast Service Desk Chat Room. I have spent two decades avoiding chat rooms—they make me think of dark, unsavory and smoke-filled bars. But I gritted my teeth and connected myself for the next available online service representative. It was 10:15 a.m.

As I waited, I was instructed to type my own name, the account holder’s name (in our case, Hubby), the last four digits of his social security number, our current street address and telephone number, and my e-mail address. Next, I was advised to read through the Frequently Asked Questions in case my problem was already covered by someone else (fat chance). Finally, when prompted for my concern, I typed six sentences, thankful that there was enough space to explain what I wanted. When I pushed enter, I was informed I had exceeded the allowable limit of words. I calmed myself and typed two questions:

1.) How long was our phone number out of service before it was reassigned to us?

2.) Do you know, by any chance, if the previous assignee of this number is dead?

I waited. Then these words appeared, “Service Representative is typing,” followed by this actual (but slightly abridged) typewritten dialogue:

IRENE: Hello, Sara. Thank you for contacting BomBast Live Chat Support. My name is Irene. Please give me one moment to review your information. . . (PAUSE) . . . My pleasure to have you on this chat, Sara! I always remain committed and focused to provide you quality customer service at my fullest effort. Before anything else, I want to extend apologies for any trouble, inconvenience, and frustration that has brought along your way. I still honestly hope you’re fine . . .(PAUSE) . . .How are you doing today?

SARA: I’m fine.

IRENE: That’s good to know. I believe you want to know if your phone number is active. Am I right?

SARA: NO! I KNOW it’s active! We’ve used it every day for a month. But I am getting many automated calls for someone else. That’s why I’m calling.

IRENE: Oh, I see. I will be more than happy to check on that. No worries. As your BomBast service representative, I want you to know that issue resolution and your satisfaction are my top priorities for today. (Yeah, right!) Together, we can work this out Sara. (No, you work it out.)

IRENE: Before we begin, I would like to verify your account. May I know your account number, name on the account, and the last four digits of the account holder’s Social Security Number please? (Fuming, I retype requested information.) Thank you for that information. I have your account now. The account holder is Hubby, right?

SARA: Yes.

IRENE: As I can see it here, the phone number listed on your account is . . .
( She types our old, out-of-service telephone number.)

SARA: NO! That is our OLD number! My phone number is . . . (I type in my current number for the third time.) Our phone service is through BomBast! Don’t you have our NEW number in your files? You guys—BomBast—assigned it to us and hooked it up!

IRENE: I think . . . (PAUSE) . . . I need to update it here on my end . . .(PAUSE) . . . I can see it here. Yes, the phone number you want is already on your account. Is there anything else that I can assist you with for now?

SARA: I am inquiring about the number we are using NOW! (Steam is emitting from my nostrils.) How long was it out of service BEFORE it was assigned to us? It’s new for us. Why it was vacated? Did that person die?

IRENE: Yes. The prior person died. I think it’s about . . . months.

SARA: “About months?” How many? Four? Six?

IRENE: Yes. It does not appear the exact month here. Is there anything else I can assist with? (I am speechless for a moment, then finally answer) . . .

SARA: No thanks.

IRENE: Thank you for choosing BomBast as your service provider and making it a part of your life. (Bombast shouldn’t be a part of my life, the telephone should be.) BomBast appreciates your business and values you as a customer. Our goal is to provide you with excellent quality service. Have a great night and take care! (Night? at 11 a.m.?)

I’m waiting for Donald’s next phone call. I’m sorry he’s dead, but I’m going to take uncharacteristic pleasure in breaking the news of his demise to a series of companies represented by robots.


Anonymous said...

Oh Sallie, this is simply precious. Having spent 45 minutes with a phone company techie in Manila recently, not Seattle, was able to find out at minute 44 that the internet was out in my neighborhood! You'd think they would check that first. Your experience with Bombast is hilarious!!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the previous owner of that number was actually assimilated by one of the many robots who are calling the house... The calls may represent the last vestiges of his formerly human self reaching out in a vain attempt to reconnect with the fleshly world. You may be doing a valuable service in conveying your message of his demise! ;-)


"Resistance is futile!"