Can You Hold a Moment, Please?

I have transferred my phone service to Vonage. They sure have AT&T beat on price–especially if you want to call another country–let’s say some place far off and exotic, like Canada. AT&T really socks it to you if you unknowingly call Canada, as I did and inadvertently cost myself $30 for 20 minutes…and I didn’t even know the number I’d called was in Canada until I got the bill. So, time for a change and as Vonage doesn’t penalize you for calling across our northern border, I went with them. (And I can call western European countries for free too–amazing when I think of the mortgage-size amounts that AT&T demands.)

Overall, Vonage has been great. When I first signed up, I thought I had just married into a very large extended family as I was getting daily calls from all kinds of people I’ve never met to see if my phone service and I were on speaking terms. I had to stop taking their calls–there were just so many that I couldn’t keep up with all these new relatives on top of my usual callers.

Given that neither we nor Vonage is in a perfect world, there have been a couple of issues with sound quality that I’ve called Vonage about. The most recent time was just a few minutes ago, so the conversation is fresh in my mind.

One thing I’ve noticed when I call Vonage, and they’re not the only ones, but often I’m talking to someone at the other end of the earth–someone whose English is not of the native variety, although all of the Vonage people I’ve talked to have at least been fluent, but “fluent” doesn’t necessarily mean “fully functional.”

Today I talked to “John”–and I sincerely doubt that that was really his name…Juan perhaps, but definitely not John. I think it was his first day. He seemed very eager to please, but unsure of how to do what he needed to. Twice he asked if he could call me back “in two or three minutes” while he did some “documentation.” Each time he called back within 30 seconds. And each time I was back connected to John, I wondered why we had bothered with the call back routine at all. Here’s how it went:

John: “Could you hold a minute please?”

Me: “Sure.”

30 seconds later…

John: “Would you mind holding just a minute please?”

Me: “No problem.”

30 seconds later…

John: “If you could just hold for a couple of minutes…”

Me: “OK”

30 seconds later…

John: “Just a few more minutes while I complete the documentation…”

(What in the world was all this ‘documentation’ he kept talking about? All I needed was to have some questions anwered about the quality of sound I was getting on my service–no documentation reqired. And anyway, hadn’t he already done the ‘documentation’ during the time I was waiting for him to call me back? Maybe he was working on writing his latest novel and couldn’t be interrupted with Vonage details. I didn’t ask, thinking it wouldn’t help anything and would only confuse matters more than they apparently already were.)

Me: “OK”

This bit of John’s asking me to hold every 30 seconds went on and on and on for at least ten minutes. At one point I stopped responding and just started laughing and that really did confuse poor John.

Me: “If anyone is listening to this ‘conversation’ they’re definitely laughing.”

John: “Don’t worry M’am, no one is listening.” (Did we have something clandestine going on here?….and, someone needed to clue John in on the fact that many of us really don’t like being addressed as ‘Ma’m,’ but we were so far from being able to address that point, that I let it go without comment; if I hadn’t, I’d still be unsuccessfully trying to explain it all to John.)

Me: “I’m not worried, John, just thought it would be funny for them.”

John: “Oh, I see. I apologize M’am.”

(I don’t think John had a clue about what I was talking about or, more importantly, finding funny. His requests for me to hold, coming every 30 seconds as they were, had made him take on the persona of my microwave with its timed beep reminders that whatever is inside is ready to come out…and that mental image was what was in my head, but, again, no way to explain that to John.)

Finally, John had news.

“I’m going to have to transfer you.” (I felt like I had a debilitating and undiagnosed disease and was being sent to a specialist in another country, and actually, I was.)

“You need to go to “Advanced Technical Support,” John gravely and apologetically announced. I was beginning to think that the sound problems I’d been experiencing with my phone service were all in my head anyway, and I almost told John to drop the case. But, I played along and agreed one last time when John posed the final question… “Will you be able to hold for a minute, please?”

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