Monday, December 29, 2008

Stanley Fish gets what he deserves:
The first obstacle, of course, was getting through to someone. The prompts did not correspond to any of my concerns, but finally, after pressing a number of zeros, I was rewarded with the voice of a live person who said, “With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”

Visions of Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine the telephone operator danced in my head, but I bit my tongue and made my simple request.

“I’ve been away for some time and my services were reduced. I’d like to have them restored to what they were when I left in June.”

It turned out that this was not possible. Even though I had paid to retain my phone number, I was going to be treated as a new customer, which meant that I would have to answer a bunch of questions and decline services I had never had. After much back and forth I signed up for a package that included voice mail.

I should have quit when I was (somewhat) ahead, but I couldn’t resist returning to the greeting, with its double and ungrammatical “with.” I explained that the second “with” was superfluous, as the second “to” would be if the offending question had been, “to whom am I speaking to?”, or the second “about” if the question had been “about what are you worrying about?"


I was more exasperated than relieved, and I made the mistake of re-raising the “with-whom-do-I-have-the-pleasure-of-speaking-with” matter. He listened and suggested that I make a complaint. You mean call another 800 number, I wailed. No, he replied, I’ll do it for you, just tell me what you want to say. I went through the nature of the error, but when I talked about the unseemliness of a major corporation managing to sound pompous and ignorant at the same time, he interrupted me and said that he would not transmit that kind of language. I thought about pointing out that this was a complaint, not a love letter, but I just gave up.

This epic was not over. When I got to Florida after a three-day drive I found that I didn’t have voice mail. I called and was told that there was no record of my having placed an order. record of my having placed an order. I was assured that the matter would be taken care of in 24 hours. It wasn’t. I called back the next day, but a mechanical voice informed me that there was no service on Sunday. (Don’t people make phone calls on Sundays and pay for them?) Finally, on Monday, I reached someone who assured me that I would have voice mail the next day, and he turned out to be right.

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