Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fun with AT&T

When I travel in the US, I use a "pay as you go" cell plan and an antique American cell phone. These plans are perfect for drug dealers--- they can be purchased completely anonymously. I also have a few Vonage accounts for work, so I just roll over my 800 numbers to my cell phone. It is a great way for people to be able to call me when I am on the road, and it is cheaper to call out than using international roaming on my Norwegian cell phone.

By now, you realize there is a catch to all this IP and cell phone goodness. My credit card statement arrived, showing the expense from recharging the account when I was recently in the US. I went online to download my invoice so the accountant wouldn't have a fit. My default PIN number should be the last four digits of my cell number. Sounds good so far--- except that is only a temporary PIN. To actually access the account, AT&T sends a PIN via SMS (text message). Of course there is no way I have coverage in Norway--- so I cannot access my text messages to be able to access my online account to be able to print out my invoice.

So I make the mistake of calling the AT&T--as I was directed to by their website. They do everything in their power to discourage calling them. I was trapped in a labyrinth of automated voice directories. There was no hope of getting anywhere, since my request didn't fit anything remotely normal. I spoke with several customer service people who had nothing to do with my services. Apparently, the pay as you go customers are completely marginalized, likely because most service users are likely drug dealers, pimps, and illegal aliens. Eventually I managed to speak with someone who confirmed my worst fears. There is no way to generate a PIN than through text message.

The accountant will have to take my word for it--- supported by some scribbles on a napkin. Or wait until the next time I am in the US. What a ridiculous business process--- it simply cannot be overridden. Rule number one in business process management has been violated. The demise of the entire telecom industry as we know is eminent. Death is at its door. I just wrapped up a video call with my parents--- using MSN chat-- which is primitive technology-- and free of charge. I will be getting a new Windows phone in a week or two that also has WIFI, MSN chat, Skype, and all sorts of communications tools, in addition to cellular service. Soon all phone appliances will be built as mult-modal communications devices. You will never have to speak to customer service again.

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