Friday, February 8, 2008

Beasting of the Week: Don Paco

Le Tigre, the Mark of the Beasting

The Hacienda--For months I have been waging a war of attrition with a mobile phone provider named Claro, and Claro is defeating me. I am straight up getting beasted.

Left: The Claro logo. Like a swastika, but wordier.

For a few months now, I have been in charge of the finances here at the Hacienda, which are complex and time-consuming. A particular point of needless complexity was our telephone situation: at some point, there were something in the neighborhood of 10 phones or phone lines billed to the Hacienda, with roughly 5 different companies doing the billing. Ever a fan of streamlining, I took it upon myself to hack through that thicket and pare away all needless or superfluous phones. The phone line we used to get DSL through, no longer in use after we got a cable modem months ago: gone. The phone line dedicated to the fax machine we've never had: gone. Mysterious cel phone not belonging to anyone: gone. And then there were the Claro phones.

Claro, previously Verizon, is currently the the mobile phone arm of Puerto Rico Telephone (PRT), previously a government-run monopoly that was acrimoniously privatized in the 1990's. PRT is now owned by América Móvil, the biggest telecom company in Latin America. Verizon became Claro when América Móvil bought PRT. Apparently, Claro has spent the last few months making changes to its customer service apparatus so that it will soon be poised to challenge the customer service execrability of Sprint, the Worldwide Leader of Suck.

Two cel phones needed canceling. One of them was my younger brother's old cel phone. The purpose and ownership of the second cel phone remains a mystery to me. They are billed on the same invoice. Neither has been in use since September, which is when my war with Claro began.

That month, I sent in a check for what I thought would be our last bill to the folks at Claro. I called their customer service line, and, after wending my way through their thicket of an automated menu system for close to an hour, got a hold of what passes for a human at Claro, and cancelled the phones. No problem, they said. Just pay that bill and we won't send you any more. Your phones are disconnected, they said.

October rolled around, and with it a new Claro bill. I spent another afternoon fighting their automated menu assassin, and finally, by calling Claro headquarters (really just the PRT "switchboard" or "circle of hell"), spoke to another "person" that proved of little use. I spoke to that person's "manager" (manager being in quotes as I have a strong suspicion that the manager was just the same guy faking a deeper voice, and perhaps wearing a false mustache), and was informed that the previous cancellation had not gone through, as Claro doesn't allow for over-the-phone cancellations. Actually, you do, I answered--you just let me do it last month. After insinuating that had made up the whole cancellation episode, "manager" explained that to cancel the phones, I would have to write a letter to Claro informing them of why I was canceling the phones, and mail it to them, after which a prorated final bill would arrive, which, after payment thereof, would mark the end of our loveless sham of a relationship.

I wrote the [fucking] letter and sent it in. I was very polite in my wording, in the end opting not to include my line about what a shame it is that corporations have no mothers for one to go shit on the grave of. No final bill ever came. I should have known.

Yesterday we got a letter from a collection agency in Carolina claiming that we owe Claro $242. After I scraped all of my brain and cranial matter from the walls and reassembled it into something that may one day again look like my old head, I began preparing myself to once again do battle with the Claro monster. Last night, I watched the Wayans Brothers masterpiece White Chicks in order to build up my resistance to idiocy and things that are offensive. I also insisted that everyone at the Hacienda call me Sisyphus and spent the evening pushing a large rock up the stairs, only to let it roll down again.

Today, around four, I picked up the phone and dialed Claro's customer service number. My old nemesis the Polite Bilingual Machine picked up. It asked me which language I would like to not be able to speak to a person in. I chose Spanish. It read me, en español, a menu of things I did not want to speak about, and at no point did it mention the option of talking to a Polite Bilingual Humanoid. Eventually, it cornered me into pressing 3 to "ask a question" about my account. Once there, it asked me for the last 4 digits of the accountholder's Social Security number for verification purposes. I entered it.

"That number does not match the number in our records. Please try again."

I entered it again.

"That number does not match the number in our records. Please try again."

I checked my notes. I entered the number again.

"That number does not match the number in our records. Please try again."

It didn't offer me to go back to the main menu. It didn't offer to let me speak to a representative. I hit zero.

"That is not a valid option. Please try again."

I hit all the other numbers.

"That is not a valid option. Please try again."

"Damn you, Polite Bilingual Machine, damn you straight to hell," I yelled, my face as red as Bill Clinton's when he contemplates the fact that young people like Barack Obama more than him now.

I hung up, and dialed the number again. I figured I'd try my luck in English, but the PBM backed me into the same corner again, only with a Nuyorican accent this time. Checkmated! Foiled!

Chastened by the thrashing dealt me by the machine, I hung up and called information, looking for a number, any other number, to somehow reach Claro, which I figure there should be one or two of, given that it's about the largest mobile phone provider on the island. The best the operator could give me was the switchboard at PRT.

I called. A new machine informed me that the PRT's switchboard hours were 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. I looked at my watch: 5:15 p.m. I had spent almost an hour wrestling with Claro's machine, which cleverly ran out the clock on me. Claro had defeated me once again.

The score so far:
Claro: 3

1 comment:

Don~a Paquita said...

Excellent portrayal of the reality of today's cell phone woes, Don Paco!! i too was beasted and treated disrespectfully by Sprint many, many times. At one point, the "supervisor" pretended she was giving me something for free for all my troubles when in fact it was already included in my plan and I was paying for it. the SHAME!!