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Friday, April 02, 2010

Thank you, Doug from AT&T

My secular hero for this Good Friday is "Doug," a repairman from AT&T who appears to have solved a long-standing and extremely vexing problem with my DSL internet and telephone service. I feel like I've had a multi-year toothache relieved. 

There was an intermittent short, apparently, inside the junction box on the back of my house. It was the sort of thing I would have thought any of the three previous repairmen should have been able to figure out too, but they didn't. Once identified, it took two or perhaps three snips of Doug's wire cutters to fix — clearing out some no-longer-used wiring from a previous tenant's multiple-line phone installation.

While I would happily buy Doug a case of cold beer of his choice, I would still enjoy tarring and feathering about 20 of his co-workers at AT&T (or, more likely, its contractors) who've wasted dozens and dozens of hours of my time over the last 3-4 years by insisting that the problem must have been in my modem or my router or my browser or my computer's networking settings or anywhere but in AT&T's wiring. (Two or three of them insisted that my problems — including my too-frequent but random periods with download speeds of only 10-12 kbps, slower than the worst dial-up service — were figments of my imagination. Or: "High-speed internet service, sir, doesn't necessarily mean continuously high speeds! You yourself admit that you were getting mostly good connections last week.") Those idiots all owe solemn apologies to my poor dog, who has concluded that she was at fault on all the occasions when their incompetence has gotten me so very angry. (I've already apologized to her, many times; and of course she always forgives me whether I deserve it or not.)

Large bureaucracies, as we all know, often shelter incompetents from their just deserts. But for the bureaucracies to keep functioning even at the minimal level of overall competence they must maintain to avoid finally toppling over, they must each include at least a few people who actually know their business. One such is Doug the Repairman; that he is so clearly part of an endangered species makes me all the more grateful to have finally encountered him this morning. Cheers, Doug!

Posted by Beldar at 09:59 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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(1) Antimedia made the following comment | Apr 3, 2010 11:36:39 AM | Permalink

Glad to have you back.

This is precisely why I ceased doing business with AT&T a long time ago and steadfastly refuse to reconsider my decision. I refuse to reward incompetence.

(2) DRJ made the following comment | Apr 3, 2010 7:24:24 PM | Permalink

Well done, Doug. Can you send him to my home and office?

(3) nk made the following comment | Apr 4, 2010 9:17:19 AM | Permalink

I dropped AT&T, too. Pretty much for the same runaround. I have Comcast now for phone and internet (but we still refuse to have TV).

(4) Unix-Jedi made the following comment | Apr 4, 2010 4:53:30 PM | Permalink

Ah, the more things stay the same.

Years ago, working for a State, we ordered around 150 ISDN lines for videoconferencing. All of them had the exact same configuration (to hook to the dedicated videoconferencing equipment.) I forget how many options there were, but I think there were 3 variables with 3, 2, and 3 options, IIRC. (Most combinations made no sense, however.)

2 were installed correctly on the first visit.

None were corrected on the 2nd.

The number corrected in latter visits made for an interesting chart. Again, off the top my my head, the worst one took 12 visits before being correctly installed.
The excuses given were rather.. annoying, including repeated claims that we'd incorrectly ordered them (all were done at the same time), we'd given the wrong options (that would be quite a feat, especially when we demanded to see their job sheet, and none of those were available to substantiate that...)

The 2 lines that went in correctly and quickly? I'm sure it was just a coincidence it was at the Governor's office in the conference room and the Governor's Mansion.


But the real reason I repeat this, is when I asked that those installers be the ones to finish installing the other orders, and got the (then BellSouth) guys all bent out of shape that I dare question their technicians. (Oh, that's right. _EVEN AFTER WE STARTED RAISING HELL_ after the first 30 or so failures, they didn't double-check or send out techs familiar with ISDN. Bloody hell, even random chance shoulda ended up with SOME working accidentally, right?)

(5) Carl Raymond Crites made the following comment | Apr 7, 2010 3:25:09 PM | Permalink


Before I got my law license, I was an electronics engineer at Southwest Research Institute. The bane of the existence of an operator in that field is an intermittent fault.

You may have already received advice from someone (perhaps Doug} but if you have not, I have a suggestion that you may find helpful in the future. When I occasionally find myself faced with a problem such as you describe, my first action is to go to
my equivalent of the junction box on the back of your house. You will find an ordinary telephone jack in which the problem line is connected to the circuitry of your installation. Disconnect the telephone jack line to your installation and insert the telephone line of a working hand phone. With luck, you may hear clicking or static on the DSL line to the telephone company. I am surprised that this was not the very first step your very first repair man would have taken. He would have had test equipment in his toolbox that should identify any problem on that line back to the telephone company mainframe. You would not have had to listen to all the speculation about the problem being in your equipment.

I join you in your admiration for Doug. He is a member of retiring and dying breed of technicians that have forgotten more than you or I will ever learn in this field.

Over the years, I have enjoyed your commentary. I am astounded that are able to dedicate any time at all to your blog and I thank you.

With best regards,

Ray Crites

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