Saturday, November 22, 2003

Adventures in Canceling a Phone Service

In a week full of challenges my greatest triumph was yesterday. I succeeded in canceling most of those extra services I had foolishly signed up for with SBC (formerly Southwestern Bell). I retained my caller ID but I canceled the long list of other services such as call forwarding, call back, etc, etc. I was paying a monthly fee for a long list of extra services I never used. The last straw came when the SBC voice mail service screwed up my online computer connection. As you would have discovered if you've ever tried to cancel a service with SBC, it is not an easy task.

I called the number for SBC residence service and after a few selections on an automatic caller routing menu I found a person to talk to. I told him I wanted to cancel everything but the caller ID. He wanted to know why. I explained but he thought I should try to work out my problems with the computer. I insisted that I wanted just caller ID. He questioned my reasoning. I asked how much it would cost to drop my superduper all-services package and just pay for caller ID. He answered by asking if I had their DSL service and told me if I added it I could lower the price I was paying on the superduper package. No, I don't want that, I said. Then he gave me some other options of combining this and that and somehow paying less while paying more. This went on for several minutes. I was so confused I almost fell for it. It was like one of those cup shuffling game scams you see on the streets of New York. My head was spinning but I marshaled my synaptic resources and ultimately said no, I just want caller ID and NOTHING ELSE! How much will that cost me? Reluctantly, he gave me the cost, processed the order and I now save enough each month to buy a large pepperoni pizza to celebrate my triumph.

After I hung up however, I thought wow! How could someone with a feeble mind ever survive that? The SBC guy was a master at selling by overwhelming the customer with confusion. He wouldn't give up! While I admire his cognitive abilities I do not admire SBC for using such tactics. It may add to their bottom line this quarter but over the long term it creates deep dissatisfaction among customers and a bad reputation for the company. SBC is no longer a monopoly in local phone service - others, such as Birch, now compete with them. If SBC hopes to hang on to customers it needs to treat them as customers to be served rather than bamboozled.

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