No No Honey, That’s a fon-don’t

Recently, I had a lightning strike hit close to my house. Like about 10′ in the air and 10′ off my deck. Didn’t hit the ground, but blew the cover off the DSL TNI box. (The box where your DSL/phone lines go into your house.) Ripped the cover off, I found it about 10′ away. The surge through my phone line took out the DSL modem, my Orbi Router, the PS4 that was connected to the Orbi router via Ethernet, the TV that was connected to the PS4 via HDMI…I didn’t even know that last one was possible.

Weird too. The Orbi will happily turn on and talk to the other satellites, but the Ethernet board is dead, so you can’t talk to the outside world worth a crap. The TV turns on and you can select whatever input you want, but the HDMI boards are evidently fried. The PS4 just won’t. It can’t even with this.

That happens. I mean, I live in Florida, lightning is real, and there’s not a lot of surge suppressors for HDMI or Ethernet. (although if anyone knows of one, that’s not stupid expensive, let me know!)

But this post is about how CenturyLink (very poorly) handled this situation. Now, in Tallahassee, or Tally, there’s two options: Xfinity/Comcast and CenturyLink. So Dumb and Dumber in terms of customer service. Tally does not have a large permanent population, so the ROI on things that people in proper urban areas get, like fiber to their house? That’s infinity. Since 2008, my bandwidth has gone from 10Mbps down to 25Mbps down with CenturyLink. So my grandchildren, if they live in my house, will be dead before they see a gig. Comcast/Xfinity aren’t even options, so don’t ask.

There’s never going to be municipal broadband, because while neither company will spend a damned dime on meaningful infrastructure upgrades, (why should they, it’s not like they have any competition, and at this point, they make money from the churn) they have spent millions ensuring that no town in Florida, no matter how small, will legally be able to do municipal broadband as long as they “promise” they have upgrades in the works.

It’s like me promising you a ride in my Lambo tomorrow. Tomorrow will never come.

So economically, they’re in a good place. Industry with a natural high cost of entry? Check. Town so small that no one is going to build anything better? Check. State that would rather set itself on fire than cross its plutocratic overlords? Oh honey, it’s Florida. Our idea of advanced K-12 education is the stingray shuffle.


Using my phone as a hotspot, I get on da intertubes and do the CenturyLink service chat. They’ll get me a new modem. 2-3 business days, (this is on a Saturday), and I pay $16 for shipping. That irks me, but whatever. Then I ask for a tech to come out and just check the lines. I mean, I know they took a surge. There’s no doubt, I have the charred ethernet cable that was plugged into the PS4 as proof.


Dat is burnt

So they won’t send a tech until after I get the new cable modem, at least not via chat. Um…no. So I call their support number. After a few minutes spent blowing off their phone tree by hitting “0” over and over, I get a human and of course, it’s the standard nonsense, they’ll show up “sometime” between 8am and noon on Tuesday.

Goddamnit, that’s half a day of vacation time. That’s real money they are taking out of my pocket for this. That’s how I view it, I am not just paying my bill, I am paying for it with my bill and half a day’s worth of vacation time. This is getting expensive. But, I’ve no real choice, so I ask them to have the tech call before they show up, you know, courtesy. They say they will make sure of that.

We all know what happens.

It’s 1pm on Tuesday, so outside of the window, and I’m pissed, because no phone call. I call CL support (and yes, I am ranting about this on Twitter. It’s my thing) and they say they may not be there until 2pm. I remind them, forcefully, that they said between 8-12 and they say “well, that’s really a guideline, it’s more like anytime between 8am-2pm.”

“So the time you told me was a straight-up lie”


We reschedule. Same drill for Thursday. I take the whole day off. The opportunity cost for this has now tripled, and there is no chance in hell CenturyLink will discount my bill for my hourly rate. 1:30 pm, nothing. No call. I go online to check the status of my ticket, and there isn’t one. It’s been canceled.


Call them again. I am not happy. I demand to see a supervisor. Mind you, that modem that was supposed to take 2-3 business days I ordered Saturday? Still not here. So that’s nonsense too, because now we’re at 4 days.

“Gee, it’s going to take a while to get a supervisor.”

“That’s okay, I’ve fired up D&D online, Thursday is Raid Day, I have the time.” Over an hour, I sit there playing video games and waiting. Because babies, I play MMOs. I can grind. Finally get a supervisor on the line. They get an earful. An angry, yet polite earful. (No profanity, I don’t call anyone names.) While this has been going on, CenturyLink’s twitter support line has been getting a play by play. (Yes, I did enjoy the knowledge that I had, in some small way, messed up their call time averages. I am more than capable of being petty towards a multi-billion-dollar company when it requires no effort on my part. I am in fact driven by caffeine and spite.)

I don’t know who did what, but by five o’clock that night, I had the modem and had talked to a tech who said my lines were fine. Oh, they managed to mess up the new modem. No return label.


Fine. I know where the local office is, I’ll run it over on my lunch break. HAAAAaaaa…no I won’t. That office is closed, the other one close by isn’t open to the public. Go back to work in a foul mood, because CenturyLink has literally not done one thing correctly here. “Oh you can just print the…”

“No. I won’t do that. Send me one.”


“I have spent a day and a half of my vacation time because your tech arrival times are outright lies and no one working for a phone company is able to actually use one. I wasted  gas trying to return your modem to you today because evidently, having a local public-facing office isn’t something you do. I’m going to probably have to carefully check my next bill to make sure it’s actually properly prorated and you want me to waste time, paper, and toner to make up for your screwup?

No. I will absolutely not lift a finger a millimeter more than required by physics to assist you in any way, shape or form. You can just send me a return label.”

“Well that will take another 2-3 business days.”

“And? That’s hardly a threat. Had you done things properly in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this call at all. I have done nothing wrong, you have done nothing right. Send me the label.”

It’ll probably take a week for that to happen.


There is nothing about this that was necessary. CenturyLink could have had some simple steps in their support process that would have completely removed the frustrations they created, and I feel these apply to any support org:

  1. Don’t Lie. Don’t even come close. If you say someone will be there in a four-hour window, they better be there, especially when someone is taking time to wait. Don’t say “well, we say four hours, but we really mean six.” The first rule of lying well is never tell people you’re lying. It’s important.
  2. Communicate. Call. Call the customer as the tech is heading out to their office/home. If there is the slightest chance you’ll miss your window, call and let the customer know ASAP so it can be handled before they’ve had hours to go full Tsar Bomba on you. No one likes getting the full Tsar Bomba.
  3. Don’t be petty. Why am I returning this modem? It’s dead. Unless it’s for recycling, this is a dead-assed modem. Just let me throw it away, or better yet, the tech should have said “Hey, since you got the new one now, let’s make sure it’s working and I’ll just take the old one with me.” That would have worked splendidly. Also, really? Sixteen bucks for 2-3 day shipping? Come on man. That’s just petty.
  4. Make sure you do what you will say. If you say 2-3 business days, then by god, make it so. If you say there will be a return label in the box, then by god make it so. Don’t lie, and don’t be stupid about things.

None of this is not hard to do right. In fact, it’s almost harder to do wrong. I guarantee any time “wasted” on calling me to let me know the window wasn’t going to happen was blown to smithereens by my ass being on hold for an hour.

Even when you don’t have competition, don’t be jerks. Because my dudes, you think I have any loyalty to CenturyLink at this point? If I could get better service from the Manson Family Internet, I’d switch so fast there’d be a flame trail, and I guarantee I’m not alone.

Really, at this point, CenturyLink should just stop pretending. Because what they have now is an insult to the people who do support well.