I am Now an Unpaid Verizon (Frontier) FIOS Support Technician

Posted on March 29, 2012

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I had an experience last night, which left me speechless. I was flabbergasted. Now before you jump to the wrong conclusions, it had to do with Verizon (Frontier) FIOS Customer Support. I could not believe what I heard over the phone and what I was expected to do to resolve my dilemma. What is wrong with companies these days? Unbelievable. Perhaps, I better start at the beginning.

I was turning off the lights, preparing to go to bed when out of the corner of my eye; I caught a glimpse of the FIOS Router which stopped me cold in my tracks. There it was…my old nemeses…the Yellow Light of Death. It glowed fiercely. Unblinking. Impotent and unapologetic, much like the company that made it. It taunted me and I glared back at it, squinting one eye like Clint Eastwood.

Yes, I had seen this before. In fact, I was getting all too familiar with the once a month occurrence which disrupted the household’s internet connectivity and wreaked havoc on all those seeking to join with the internet collective to work from home, research school assignments or write up a new theatrical review. I could have ignored it, gone to bed and left first thing in the morning for work feigning ignorance, but I knew my son would discover it after school tomorrow.

What kind of beast would I be to prevent him from catching up on the latest episode of Psych or listening to music on YouTube? To leave him in that state of deprivation, well, I could scarcely call myself a father after that could I? So, I took in a long breath for courage, grabbed my cell phone and sat down at the computer resigned to initiate another pleasant Fios Support call.

The first few times, I had to scramble around to even locate the support number for Verizon (Frontier). Don’t laugh, if your internet is down, you can’t just look it up online now, can you? I had to locate the actual hardcopy paper we received when FIOS was installed. Like I said, the first few times, I had to dig around to locate the number; but now it’s firmly entrenched on my cell phone’s quick dial – though I am confident that in a few more months, I will have it fixed permanent to memory, like my social security number.

The one hopeful thought I had was that I might not actually have to speak to a Verizon (Frontier) support representative, as several times I was able to resolve the incident by just using their automated service. I know, that sounds like magic doesn’t it. I mean that the service was intelligent enough to take my phone number, run a test of the line and perform some automated maintenance, like waking up a line. Sweet, huh? Regrettably, that was not going to be the case tonight.

My initial call reached an answering machine which told me that I was calling outside of normal business hours and that I should call back. In disbelief, I called back twice more, just to verify that I was not inadvertently hitting the wrong number. What happened to the automate service? Luckily, I had my backup support number handy. I had been coveting that backup number for a while now, just for a time such as this. It had been provided to me by an unusually helpful Verizon (Frontier) employee. I can only surmise that they were new to the job. I imagine that by now, they had already lost any residual vestiges of humanity and along with that, any willingness or desire to actually help another human being in need.

I dialed up the number and was greeted by a human voice, welcoming me to the Seventh Ring of Hell….errr, I mean Verizon (Frontier) Customer Support. I then regurgitate the familiar liturgy and response in perfect tandem with the gentleman on the other end of the phone. He took a small pause and I so much wanted to say Amen, but held my tongue.

I explained the problem. The internet light is yellow, I said. It’s a common enough problem that it should have been enough information to move him right along to the “fix-it” phase of the conversation, but not tonight. He needs more information. I swallow my pride along with any hope of getting to bed before midnight and lapse into a tearful retelling of the entire sordid history of the Yellow Light of Death and my many horrific encounters with it. I decide to be helpful and suggest that resolution to the problem was frequently just having Verizon wake up the line. I even mention how effective and wondrous the automated diagnosis and resolution system was.

He interrupts my revelry to tell me that the system was taken from them. At first I wasn’t sure what he was saying and asked for clarification. He repeated flatly, that the old system had been taken from them and he would not be able to use it to resolve me problem. I think I was struck by the use of the term “Taken”. I found myself wondering if perhaps the system had been stolen by some nefarious employee of Comcast to bring shame and ridicule upon the Verizon Empire. If it was not stolen, perhaps someone had simply misplaced the system, like a set of car keys and if I waited for a couple of minutes, surely someone there would find them. Perhaps an employee had accidentally put the system in their pocket at the end of their shift and taken it home with them. We all make mistakes and upon noticing this, they would return to work with the system and everything would be fine.

Apparently, none of my ruminations were accurate. For whatever reason, the company had “taken” the system away and the Support Representatives were no longer able to use it. Well, if that’s the case, how can we resolve the problem with the Yellow Light of Death, I inquired with trepidation. Well, he said, you are going to have to unplug the box and open up the hatch and disconnect the red and black wires for 30 seconds. What? What did he say to me?

Is he asking me to defuse a bomb? Me? Isn’t there anyone more qualified that me to do this? He explained that it wasn’t the router I was going to have to open up. Regrettably, I had already unscrewed the router and had it in three pieces. He explained that there was a box somewhere at the point where the FIOS lined entered the house. I was going to have to find it, unplug it and then open up the hatch. Inside I would find a large backup battery. I would then have to remove the red and black wire and count to 30 before reconnecting them. That would reset the line and should resolve the problem.

I let a long moment of silence pass between us. Was he kidding me? In some misguided effort to save money, the greatest minds at the Verizon (Frontier) Empire had deemed the wisest course of action to save money, was to stop paying for a system which successfully allowed their support personnel to remotely connect to customer’s routers and resolve their problems. The system was flawed but at least it worked. They were replacing that system, with requiring their phone support personnel to train each of their customers to become unpaid Verizon Support Technicians and to service their own FIOS connections!!!!

Where was I? Had I fallen asleep and entered the Bizarro world of the Superman comics where everything was backwards? Did I, like Olivia, cross over to the Fringe parallel dimension, home to the evil Walternate? What was going on? How could any company get to the point, where they truly believed that the only way that they could continue to exist, would be to stop paying for customer service and leverage the customers themselves to become unpaid technicians? Was this really the only option left to them? I mumbled something to the man about how sad it was that a company would come to the place where they would just tossed in towel on customer support; basically admitting that the customer, yes, even one’s untrained grandmothers and grandfathers were more capable of resolving Verizon FIOS issues than their trained staff and their topnotch automated system.

I numbly walked out into the garage, located the box, unplugged it, opened up the hatch, removed the backup battery pack, unplugged the red and black wire, counted to 30, reattached the wires, put the battery back in place, closed the hatch, plugged the power cord back in, powered the router back on and verified that the internet light was now a joyful green before climbing the stairs to my bedroom.

As I lay down to sleep, I said a silent prayer mourning the death of customer service and for the strength to face a world where corporate greed had taken primacy over providing trustworthy support to paying clientele. Heaven help us.

My sleep was restless and uneasy that night, as I was plagued by dreadful visions of the world to come; a world where we pay dentists but have to fill our own cavities, pay surgeons but have to cut ourselves open under the direction of a disembodied voice of some technician on the other end of a phone; pay grocery stores but have to function as our own cashiers and baggers.

Oh man; we already have to do that today.

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