2007-07-19 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Teaching An Old Dog To Repair New Gizmos Can Be Tricky
By Neil S. Friedman

By Neil S. Friedman

No one would ever call me a techno geek, but neither am I a novice when it comes to computers and other modern high tech gadgets. I've managed to learn, sometimes through trial and error - and a lot of telephone assistance - how to correct minor computer glitches, but I usually hire a pro when things get complicated.

I'm not handy around the house either and find it exasperating when I attempt to fix or install something by following enclosed instructions that are typically more difficult to make sense of than a Rubik's Cube! ( Attach Part B to Part A after you affix the middle shelf to the right side pole… Makes me wanna scream!!!)

I'm not completely useless. I can change a light bulb! But, for some odd jobs, I prefer contacting a handyman to do the job for a reasonable price. Hey, if it weren't for ineffectual guys like me, there'd be no need for handymen, right?

The new technologies and gadgets that are introduced every so often generally make work and leisure a little easier to enjoy, though it can take a while to completely understand how they operate. However, when they break down, it can be a nightmare to fix the glitch or solve the trouble. With all the assorted high tech equipment around today, the excess of professional repair personnel to maintain them has gotten out of hand. One guy (or gal) fixes this, another that and another something else, and so on and so forth.

During the violent thunder and lightning storm on July 11, the telephones in the Courier office went kablooey. We also had a minor computer glitch, but it was never determined whether or not that was weather related.

As telecommunications are a vital part of our business, I immediately contacted AT&T, our service provider, by cell phone, to address the problem. The next morning, before the office opened, a Verizon repairman (for some reason the telecom rival does field work for AT&T) called and said he was outside the office at 8:54 a.m. I asked him to please wait and someone would be there momentarily. He sounded concerned and said he would wait. But, it turned out, he was impatient and insincere, because someone was inside and the Verizon gent never made his presence known.

I called AT&T again to relate the non-service call and - after ten frustrating minutes - responding to a multitude of pre-recorded prompts, a living, breathing representative said the Verizon guy reported no problem. At this point, my blood pressure began to simmer. I asked how he could possibly assess the situation if he never entered the building? She replied he could, did and that was that!

But we still had no service!

After I insisted they provide emergency service, we were added to a long repair waiting list, and informed we would not be serviced until noon the next day (Friday). Though our situation was imperative, there was nothing we could do but capitulate to the telecom giant.

Meanwhile, we kept in touch with the outside world via personal cell phones. Telephones are, after all, our lifeline to advertisers and editorial contacts.

After coping with cell phones all day Thursday, another Verizon repairman showed up at 10 a.m. the following day. He checked the equipment for about 15 minutes and concluded that lightning had "shorted out the system's lines" and AT&T would have to repair that problem.

I'm still confused about who's responsible for what. As far as I can tell, AT&T and Verizon are telecom rivals, so why would the former outsource repair work to the latter then tell a customer it has to be corrected by the former? (It's almost as baffling as those product assembly instructions I referred to earlier!)

I called AT&T and insisted they send their repairman before the close of business Friday. They said they'd do "the best we could." By the way, there was also a $150 fee for the service. We needed working telephones, so we halfheartedly agreed. A short time later a voice confirmation said the job was scheduled for 9:28 a.m. on Saturday. (My blood pressure started to climb again.)

After calling AT&T for the umpteenth time in two days, and listening to those annoying, endless voice prompts, I reached a customer representative and went though the entire rigamarole about our situation. I asked for a supervisor - hoping for instant service - but was told "Grace" would call back after lunch. Shortly thereafter, an AT&T repairman arrived out of the blue. After completing the checkup, he informed us it wasn't a short, but "equipment damaged by lightning."

Since our telecom paraphernalia was purchased from yet another company - Avaya - we cell-phoned them. Before dispatching a repairperson, the customer service rep told us to try something groundbreaking - unplug the power cord to the telephones, wait five seconds and reconnect it.

Mother Nature may have cut us off from the outside world, but a simple maneuver restored our telecommunications.

Voila! Miracle of miracles! Dial tones instantly returned to all our lines.

We were back in business!

And despite being serviced by - count 'em - three skilled repairmen in 24 hours, all we had to do was pull and reinsert the damn power cord!

It seems that as technology is invented, improved and upgraded, it requires more specially-trained personnel to service the products, which only confirms that you can't teach an old dog new tricks if it can't operate the gizmo.

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