The First Battle With TerraCom

Posted on FaceBook, May 10,2015, at 8:16am·

I called technical support yesterday, to report a loss of service on my land line. In a very thick accent, the tech asked my problem.
Me: I can see my phone line from my kitchen window. It is on the ground, with a big tree on top of it.
Tech: I am sorry to hear that. How many jacks do you have in your house?
Me: (Had to ask three times before I got the question) Two.
Tech: And, do you have corded or cordless phones?
Me: Both. What difference does that make?
Tech: And, have you checked to see if all of them have no dial tone?
Me: Yes. They are all dead. I have no dial tone, anywhere.
Tech: Can you take the phone with the cord out to the gray box outside, and check for a dial tone, there?
Me: There is no reason to take the phone outside. The line is on the ground, the box is not connected to anything.
Tech: You understand that if we send a technician to your house, and there is no problem in our line, we will have to charge you $75 for the service call?
Me: (slowly) Listen carefully. From my kitchen window, I can see the phone line. It is laying on the ground, under a large tree. It is not connected to anything. If it has a dial tone, I will pay you the $75!
Tech: And, are you calling from this number?
Me: I have a cell phone that will be out of minutes before you get my land line working again. I’m calling on that.
Tech: And, is that the number I see on my board?
Me: (strangling noises)
Tech: I am sorry to hear that. If you could just check the gray box outside, to be sure there is no dial tone… …
Me: If I go out there, I will get stuck in the mud! –I can see the line from my kitchen window. It is on the ground! It is connected to nothing! It has a large tree on top of it!
Tech: I am sorry to hear that.
End narration. I will be without a phone all weekend, and if I made a false call about my phone service I will have to pay $75 for the service call Monday. –Feels like I had to walk to India to report the stupid thing… …
Happy Mother’s Day, All! Thanks, Barbara Clendennen, for the flowers!

Posted on FB, May 14, 2015, at 9:48am ·

Well, I finally have phone service again. Not without some drama, I fear, and a deep urge to go hunting for alternate service providers. Sure glad I’m on the way out of this mess, God help my grandkids!

Letter enclosed with monthly payment to TerraCom, with re-qualification form and proof of claims:

Myrna K. Throckmorton
June 9, 2015

TerraCom

Administrator,

I have been disabled for at least five years, and retired since April, 2012. I own a Tracfone, which I use for long distance and emergencies only. At five cents per minute, the cost makes it prohibitively expensive to use otherwise. A pair of irresponsible individuals occupied my spare room when I retired, and both had subsidized cell phones.

Over the following year, my advancing age and deteriorating health made it necessary for me to seek assistance. The presence of the two non-producers denied me access to most of what I needed (they already had food stamps and cell phones, for example.)

Although they had not used the room for anything other than storage for some time, they were still technically occupants, so I began eviction proceedings against them in April 2013. I finally reclaimed the space, in May 2013. See accompanying documents.

AT&T ignored my applications for a subsidized home phone service, so I eventually applied with TerraCom and was accepted. My Lifeline was installed soon after, and so I was more secure in my ability to get help in an emergency.

In January 2014, my bill reflected a loss of the subsidy, meaning that I was paying the full price for basic, no-long-distance service. I was not notified of the need to ‘re-qualify.’ It took several months to get that corrected. In May 2014, a storm interrupted my service to the land line. I duly checked the gray box outside for a dial tone, and when I called for service (on the Tracfone), was repeatedly urged to 1) check the gray box outside; 2) sign up for a cellular plan, instead; and, 3) re-qualify for the subsidy. I had to replenish the minutes on my Tracfone, twice, before finally relenting and ‘re-qualifying’, at the cost of five cents per minute, in order to get my service restored.

In September or October of 2014, I re-qualified again. I’m not sure whether it was another call for service or not, but it was about that time frame. Only a few days passed and I received yet another request to re-qualify, each time completing the interview only to be returned to the beginning, or re-contacted with the demand for further compliance, and an insinuation that the information I was giving was somehow fraudulent or at least in error. I demanded a paper form, which I completed with documentation and returned with my November bill. I assume that was the occasion that set the ‘re-qualification’ deadline for November 3.

Some time after midnight, Saturday, May 9, 2015, the severe weather in Oklahoma brought a dead tree down on the service line for my home telephone. My disability has advanced to the point where I can no longer exit my home easily and would be in danger doing so. From my kitchen window, I could clearly see the feed line coiled on the ground, unattached and lying under the dead tree. I had just purchased minutes for my Tracfone, of which I used half, reassuring the technician who answered that, 1) if he sent a repair man to my house and that man found a dial tone in the gray box connected to the downed ( and disconnected ) feed line, I would indeed be happy to pay the $75 fee; 2) a cellular plan would not provide the security I needed for my emergency Lifeline; and, 3) No, I was not willing to use up my remaining minutes on my Tracfone, re-qualifying in order to meet the November 3 deadline on May 9! When I was told to expect a repairman on Monday, May 11, 2015, I hung up.

To be brutally honest, I realize I might have had better luck communicating with your tech, if I knew how to speak Hindi. My bad. Always meant to learn but never got around to it. So sorry.

I was home all day Monday, the dogs were confined all day Monday, I remained without a land line. All. Day. Monday.

I had medical appointments scheduled on Tuesday, but the dogs remained confined all day, the gate was unlocked and I was home by early afternoon. I still had no service Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, June 13, I demanded to speak to a supervisor on the TerraCom customer service line. I’m sure his Hindi was perfectly adequate also, but after I had assured him that I 1) would pay the $75 if the gray box was found to have a dial tone; 2) did not want or need cellular service, since the land line was necessary for my emergency help button; and 3) did not have sufficient minutes left on my Tracfone to re-qualify with TerraCom before the looming, urgent deadline of November 3! At some point, he did discover that I had reported the outage on Monday, but some time through the third pass through the script, my Tracfone went dead and I still had not been given a repair date.

I am making this narrative as tedious and relentlessly frustrating as I experienced it, deliberately. As much as I hate dealing with AT&T, it would almost be worth paying their inflated prices and having to maintain a constant vigilance against their underhanded and fraudulent business practices, simply to be able to go to their web site and report a problem, without having to learn Hindi! –And, yes, I know I could do that with TerraCom’s cellular plan, but IT WOULD NOT SUPPORT MY LIFELINE!

By the time my Tracfone went dead on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, it was past 10:30 am and I had used 240+ minutes since the tree took down my land line. The one promise of repair on Monday had not materialized. . My home health worker arrived and offered me the use of her phone. I called my case worker for the Advantage Program and solicited her help. They refused to even speak with her. I asked her to at least tell everyone who would listen, what was happening to me. On second thought, she needn’t bother, I own a blog and can link it to Facebook. This should make quite an interesting post.

I tried, one last time, on my worker’s phone. I assured the next ‘supervisor’ that 1) although I had not ventured out into the mud, I was pretty sure the gray box did not, indeed, have a dial tone: 2) I did not need cellular service, I needed wired service, for my emergency life alert button; and, 3) when I was offered the chance to re-qualify, I was on the brink of losing control. But I was nice. I just didn’t say it in Hindi, I guess. But it would be so convenient, I was told, and it would save doing it later, and why would I not wish to have this out of the way?

I shouted, BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO!

And, since it was not my phone, I didn’t know how to hang it up. It was nearly noon, and my worker had another client to see. She offered to leave her phone with me but I was too strung out to use it anyway, and still didn’t know how to hang it up, so I sent her on her way and added more minutes to my Tracfone (through the web site!)

Less than an hour later, at 1:00 pm, the AT&T truck pulled up. They saw the line, now neatly coiled in the grass by the man who mowed the neighbor’s lawn. They went to the alley, where the line attaches to the pole, and at 1:15 pm, my phone rang. The land line. It was someone checking on me because I had not been answering.

Well, duh!

It would be impossible to guess how much, if any, the stress of this event contributed to the medical emergency that caused me to use my life alert button for the first time, on Friday, May 15, 2015. I spent the weekend in the hospital and face a long, painful recovery. Perhaps, if I had learned Hindi, or just submitted to the abusive demands of that loathsome script and jumped through their hoops like a good little citizen…

But, I did not. So, having saved the paper version of the re-qualification form, I shall print it up each month, correct it for changes occurring each month (if any), and print out all relevant proofs and documentations for enclosure with each bill. Next time I need repairs (and, I WILL, this is Oklahoma, after all), we’ll see what happens… …

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