Sunday, May 14, 2006

Farewell MCI

I used to change long distance phone carriers every four or five years, going to whoever was giving out the NorthWest miles. The free miles ended sometime last year, but I stayed with MCI because I couldn't be bothered to change.

That was until today. My daughter Holly got to the UK, obtained a cell phone and called to tell me the number. I tried calling her back on it. The call didn't go through. Over and over, it didn't go through. I rechecked the number. Then, experimentally, I tried using my cellphone, and it worked like a charm.

I called the MCI operator to let her know there was a problem. She couldn't dial Holly's UK number. She got through to the International Operator, who had no trouble calling Holly. But, explained the operator, she couldn't get through to that number from MCI.

I asked what she suggested. She said that if I wanted to call that number, maybe I needed a different carrier.

I wandered next door, where they have Sprint, to use the phone there. I had no trouble calling Holly's UK phone.

So I sent in a helpful online Contact Us thing to MCI, explaining what was going on, expecting an "oops, yes, we're having trouble with that, sorry." Instead I got a succession of semi-automated emails that had nothing to do with the problem -- explaining to me, for example, how to make an international call. It was obvious that whoever scanned my letter and clicked on the autoreply, hadn't read it. I wrote back, pointing out the advice was useless, and asking whether it was ever going to be possible to dial Holly's UK number from MCI. Another email reply. More useless advice. I got terser.

A real human being called me! Ah, I thought. Now it will all sort out. I explained what was going on to the person, who was calling all the way from, at a guess, India. His English wasn't too bad, but he didn't get what was going on, hadn't read the emails, and seemed to think that I was having a problem with my cell phone. I repeated it. He didn't get it. I explained very slowly that there was a number in the UK that MCI wasn't connecting to although everyone else was. That the MCI operator's suggestion had been that I might want to change carriers, because she couldn't connect to it...

He assured me that he understood and he would send me an email that would make everything fine.

I breathed a slightly irritated sigh of relief.

And he sent me an email, or someone did. The email went very carefully over the steps to establish whether or not I was an MCI customer. Would I mind making a phone call to establish I was an MCI customer? And then make several other test calls?

I did everything they suggested, working my way down the email test call by test call and step by step, until, having done everything asked of me I discovered that my final step was to write back and let them know if I was still having trouble. And if I was they would open a trouble ticket for me, if I would let them know the number I was trying to call, the times at which I tried to call it, details of the problems I was experiencing and the amount of time I'd been experiencing the problem...

And I realised that nobody was listening, and I'd wasted too much of an afternoon already. And I googled rate comparisons and cheerfully changed long distance carriers.