Sprint called over the weekend and confirmed that they were indeed experiencing network issues in my area, something about trunk-lines and T1 connections and such. The call came from a fellow who was based in Texas, at the apparent locus where Sprint receives and processes “trouble tickets.” He was genuinely kind and helpful and did not possess the obsequious nature of the last person I had spoken with, who left me feeling like I needed to take a shower after I hung up the phone. Of course, between this last person and I there no doubt exists a great geographical and cultural chasm, not to mention the simple fact that in relation to me he exists fourteen hours in the future. How awkward it must be to speak to the past, I can only imagine.

Yes, I must give props where props are due. He speaks my language, quite fluently I might add, where I couldn’t even say for certain the name of his native tongue. Also, if news stories are to be trusted, they make a convincing argument that these internationally outsourced call-center employees are utterly shit upon by many of my fellow citizens. Thus, I try to go out of my way to be patient and respectful when I’m pretty sure that I’m speaking with India, as these hard-working folk already have enough to deal with. It’s a fucking cell phone, for chrissakes, it doesn’t need to come to blows. Save the fighting for Kashmir.

That said, my only criticisms regard the quality of customer service I receive when working through issues with outsourced support. It wasn’t until my issue was escalated to a dizzying degree that I finally received real information from Sprint, in the form of a phone call from Texas. Until that point the problem was completely vague and ambiguous, and my written correspondence with Sprint, while humorous, was more ritualistic than anything else.

It didn’t matter what I told Sprint, nor did it matter what Sprint said in return. Rather, all that was important was that our exchange was happening, and I was continuing to make it happen, so it behooved them to eventually pass it to someone who could do something about it. Nothing I spoke was translated as real information on their end, nor was any of the apologetic boilerplate that they shot back actually useful. The entire conversation could just as well have been written in “lorem ipsum,” and the result would have been the same.

Sadly, much of this fell to the ear of the Texan. I assured him that in no way did I believe my frustration with the general uselessness of Sprint’s customer support was his fault, and I sympathized that he might not be in a position to manifest such change, but I needed to vent just a smidgen.

My suggestions were simple. First, don’t tell me to drive to Portland and die just have my phone tested, when all physical evidence points to a problem with the network. Second, when a trend is developing that suggests there is indeed a problem with the network, just tell me there’s a problem with the network. The Texan told me straight-up that theirs was a clearinghouse of trouble tickets. When they see tickets start to build up from a particular area, they get suspicious and start checking out the network for that region.

In my case, that’s what happened. A number of Sprint customers from in-and-around Hood River must have called in coverage issues, those issues got escalated to Texas, and Texas found a problem with the trunk-line.

Now, I don’t really care if there’s a problem with the trunk-line, or if an osprey built a nest in your cell tower, or if hooligans tore the whole thing down so they could sell the scrap metal and buy more cold medicine. I just want to know whether or not you’re doing anything about it. And while I really appreciate the follow-up call a week later, it would be nice if, during the process, I could receive some sort of message that takes the mystery out of the whole deal. An email, let’s say, like this:

Dear Ambiguously-Valued Sprint Burden,

Evidence from your area suggests that the troubles you are encountering may be resulting from an issue with the network. We’re looking into it, so sit tight.

Stewbuilder D.
Sprint together with Nextel
“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet!”

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Seriously Sprint, you wouldn’t lose any face in telling me straight-up that you’re having network problems. I know this shit ain’t perfect, and yours far from it. It’s when you try to maintain an impression of your infallibility, to the point where interacting with your first-tier customer support amounts to a conversation with ELIZA, that you begin to piss me off.

So in the end, my phone works again, it’s now lunchtime in New Delhi, and I love Texas more than ever.