If you have an hour to kill, I have a phone number for you to call. It's the billing department of my security company. To be nice I won't tell you the company name, but their initials are ADT.
It doesn't matter why you call or what you ask. They can't do it. But are very happy to transfer you to someone else who can't either.
I called because a policeman came to see me at Mick's, and asked if I had a problem. "Lots of 'em," I said honestly. "But I didn't call you."
"Well, your security alarm is going off." You could see him grow uncomfortable, doing the math in his head, as we were both standing in the bar and the alarm was definitely not going off. So I tested the system and the alarm horn wasn't working. It had called the police in secret.
I made a service call. A guy came and explained that the alarm had been disconnected by a previous service technician while working on it, and he must have forgotten to hook it back up. So the new guy hooked it up for me. Later I got a bill for $170.
I thought that was wrong. Then the police station billed me $250 for a false alarm visit. I smelled Soprano.
So I called ADT to complain. My call went quite like this, except it took fifty-two minutes longer than this synopsis does.
I called the number for "billing." After sitting through seven computerized voice choices, I got: "For billing, press 8." Uh, yeah. Along the way were a few "Please hold while I connect you with another lifeless computer voice." Then, "Please enter your account number." I did. Then I reached "Julia," who seemed human enough. Her first question was for my account number.
It went like that for a while. She couldn't help me, but asked if I would hold while she got permission to give me the service number. That sounded good. It must be an important number if she has to get permission to share it. I called the coveted number and got same computer voice as when I first called. "Ebony" eventually explained that the magic secret number rolls over to the main number if it's busy. So much for special access.
Ebony couldn't help me, but transferred me to "service," where I got Luke, who explained that actually he's in sales, but he'll transfer me. "Wait," I interrupted, "before you do, give me your address. It'll be faster for me to write a letter, and you guys can pass it around amongst yourselves all you want." I said "letter," but I was thinking "chisel my message into a rock and throw it through your window." Yes, that would be faster.
Luke can't give me an address to mail to (or hurl rocks at), because—I swear he said this—he doesn't know where the company is.
Transfer to "Marvina." If not the best customer service, this company does have the best customer service names. Marvina is actually in "service!" Huzzah! By now this seems like a major coup. I ask her to please hold while I go pour a shot of tequila to raise a toast to my success. She says my problem, however, is with the local provider, and she offers to give me their number. "Can I write . . . " No, she doesn't know her address either.
I end up being transferred to the "Escalations" department. I immediately liked the sound of "escalations," even though things hadn't escalated beyond sorting out who works where. I got "Amanda." Clearly Amanda had been given "talk him down from the ledge" training. I liked her right away, and she assured me she could reach the right people for my small problem, and no, my homicidal feelings were perfectly understandable.
"I'll contact the people I need to to get this fixed," she assured me. "Is it okay," she then added, "If I call you back?"