The ISP Nightmare
February 4, 2005 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Only Connect. NAI! The story of technological breakdown, a failure of true love, and how an Internet service non-provider ruined my life. Here's a choice quote, "The technician, as always, was very nice. He couldn't figure out why my password wasn't working, but he did go to the Web site himself to access my account and read my e-mails to me. Privacy was not an issue. At this point in my shipwrecked existence I was beyond trying to cling to any shred of dignity."
posted by gsb (45 comments total)
This woman should not own a computer.. I would venture to guess that the problem is NOT with the technology.

For some people life is a series of poor decisions, bad relationships, and unhappy endings..
posted by HuronBob at 10:04 AM on February 4, 2005

In the first place it sounds to me like she hasn't learned how to use and configure her software correctly and that she's pretty clueless about how the stuff works.

On preview, yes to what HuronBob just beat me to saying.
posted by davy at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2005

What does NAI! mean?
posted by jjg at 10:12 AM on February 4, 2005

I don't get it. This is how Bell and Rogers have always been. Does anyone up here expect customer service and reliability from them? Right now Bell has forwarded me to a collection agency for $300 they say I owe them. Problem is that I cancelled my account with them about 6 months before they stopped charging me. Reason gets me nowhere.
posted by loquax at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2005

I suspect the heart of the problem is in this little note, given hardly any notice:

my iBook had the wrong operating system.

She is (or was) on a Mac. If the Sympatico techs in Toronto are anything like those here in Halifax, not only do they know little about Macs, they're actively encouraged not to know. A co-worker's brother (who works for an ISP here) was given a reprimand for successfully solving a customer's Mac connection problem. Because, you know, if you do it once, customers come to expect it all the time. Honest, that was the reason.

(Anybody else find the constant reference to things her editors wouldn't let her talk about annoying?)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2005

So I stopped making excuses. I let them assume I was too inept to sustain a simple e-mail address.

posted by heavy water at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2005

This is why I don't own a computer.

On preview: jjg: "What does NAI! mean?"

It means "yes" in ancient greek. But I don't think that's what gsb meant... I was wondering the same thing...
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2005

Unfortunately this technology is often being sold as 'plug'n'play,' when it's not. ISPs and telcos want to tie punters in before anyone else gets them, and so their sales staff sell as many units as they can of imperfect and buggy systems, representing them as easy to use, and leave any problems for tech support to pick up. Folks with little understanding of how any of this works buy technology/services, run into problems because they are *not* as easy to use as they had believed, and are then left to talk it over with newly hired call centre reps, who may only have slightly more of a clue, and the result is chaos. And profits for the ISPs and telcos.
posted by carter at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2005

NAI= "Not About Iraq," at least when I hover on the word in FireFox/OS X.
posted by carter at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2005

What does NAI! mean?

Hold your mouse icon over the words. You should see a title pop-up that says "Not About Iraq".

GhostintheMachine is bang-on. Mac support is one of those areas that ISP (and most other tech support ventures) do not deem worthy enough to throw support resources at (or, *gasp* training dollars).

It's a sad, unfortunate truth.
posted by purephase at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2005

This woman could be my sister. Don't get me started.
posted by idest at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2005

Maybe she did have some genuine problems that weren't her fault, but I have very little sympathy for someone so lazy they can't be bothered to type in an email address to write an email. She doesn't know how to delete cookies, she doesn't know how to even configure an email program, she can't or won't type in email addresses... these are very basic things everyone on the internet should at least have a passing familiarity with.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:30 AM on February 4, 2005

Yeah, this person is totally inept. I feel bad for all the people who had to deal with her, especially the installation guy who she held captive in her apartment. Get a friggin' Gmail account for chrissake!
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:30 AM on February 4, 2005

Obviously she has never heard of "options" or "preferences." Secondly, why didn't she just get a web-based mail account at yahoo or hotmail for the interim until she got her stuff figured out???
posted by cass at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2005

Wow. This girl reminds me of my dad, he dosn't really know anything about computers, but he keeps wanting to use them.

My mom and dad have been divorced since I was three or so, and normaly he lives in texas. One day while he was visiting I came home to discover that he had installed AOL on my computer. Because my mom wanted to know how to look up stock quotes and my dad, for some reason, figured you needed AOL to do it. I already had ISP servce, and this was back in the days where installing AOL fucked up your network stack.

I mean really, this girl ordered a whole new computer just to get rid of her boyfriends name in an autocomplete! Speaking of autocomplete, what's the deal with her not wanting to use webmail because she couldn't autocomplete people's email addresses?

These people need to learn how to use Gmail, or some other webmail system. Really, ISP email was cool in like '95.
posted by delmoi at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2005

Oh well, I'm glad her new PC comes with an "Overzelous virus scanner" thats keeping her from doing anything stupid.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 AM on February 4, 2005

delmoi.. there is NOTHING that will keep her from doing "anything stupid" appears to be her life!
posted by HuronBob at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2005

"There is no order, no authority, no system. Chaos rules. This is why the world is in the state it's in today. The war in Iraq is a direct result of the same kind of capitalistic, money-grubbing, worker-screwing, morally irresponsible, heartless greed that has led to my own ISP-failure-induced trauma."

i'm going to marry that woman!
posted by quonsar at 11:06 AM on February 4, 2005

Ellen rules! She has a wicked sense of humour and doesn't talk down to students. Doesn't think that her class is the only one we're taking, unlike some teachers. The coolest prof at Ryerson!

Just don't e-mail her your assignments. She seems easily overwhelmed.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2005

(I guess she's not the only one who gets "overwhelmed"...)
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2005

These people need to learn how to use Gmail, or some other webmail system. Really, ISP email was cool in like '95.

Oh come on, webmail robs you of privacy and control. It's bad enough that I had to give up on email encryption because I couldn't get people to use PGP or GnuPG, because they'd have to install, configure, and learn how to use a program that's not there by default -- and that's not all fun-&-games like Web Poker or Pr0n-A-Matic. Even an interface to make PGP a point-and-click add-on to their email software is "just too hard" to figure out how to use. I'm not knocking webmail entirely, it's good for things you don't need to keep private or secure (like borscht recipes or "Yes Mom, I'll be right over to help you reboot your Windows machine"), but really.

Then there are people who post their deepest, darkest, most disgusting or felonious secrets to LiveJournal and/or Usenet, things that if you must commit them to ASCII should be encrypted through multiple remailers, and then get so surprised when their wives, bosses, or random blackmailers find out. Oy.

As far as that sob story goes, are you sure it's not another satire? Even my mom ain't that 'p00ter-clueless.
posted by davy at 11:28 AM on February 4, 2005

From the first article theFlyingSquirrel pointed to: "Life used to be so easy. I turned on educational television, threw a few plastic toys on the floor and spent my evenings reading or talking on the telephone. Now my innocent little baby is suddenly in Grade 4 and has homework every night. Who ever heard of homework in elementary school? And why do I have to get involved?"

Wouldn't you feel damn sorry for her kid, and angry at her for having one, if it turned out that was NOT satire?
posted by davy at 11:32 AM on February 4, 2005

onlyconnect? NO!
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2005

You beat me to it, MoonPie.
posted by grateful at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2005

quonsar ... i DID marry that woman ... you are going to be SO SORRY ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2005

ps ... figuratively speaking, of course
posted by pyramid termite at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2005

ROFL, another pathetico user.

I think I should get a bumper sticker:

"I'D RATHER USE DIALUP [pathetico logo]"

Bell is run by idiots. Period. My best story begins and ends with it taking Bell 2 weeks to repair my phone line. My next best story is how my side of the street at work has full rate DSL (indicating no line length issues) but the other side doesn't. This, people, is how Bell runs phone lines. Hell, Bell ran over 15 km of phone line to my home while rumour has it there's an exchange within 2 km.

It took Bell only a few days to install a phone line to my business, but a full month for them to bother hooking up the DSL.

At home (when we had) the two phone lines had crosstalk, all the time. Getting a Bell technician to actually do something about it was fruitless: They sent a 50 year old guy with a buttset (a clip on telephone) who put it on speakerphone, dialled a test number, and said "I can hear it just fine." I asked if he had more equipment than that, and he said that Bell gave him this [he shows me a 1950's bakelite VOM]. I asked if they even had proper test equipment, like an oscilloscope. Answer? Oh, well, sometime they plan to do that.

Looking for more abuse, I tried to order Centrex service from Bell (Switched-56 for you Americans). You might wonder why... well, you see, I tired of these extremely crap lines not being able to hold a data connection for longer than 15 minutes at faster than 14.4 kbps.

Bell said they can't offer me it because I'm too far away. The auto shop a 1 minute drive away has it. This is what dealing with Bell is like.

The second latest insult, Bell turned off internet to my ISP (ISTOP) because they are fighting them over CRTC rulings, etc, etc. They're basically a spoiled child and I believe *anything* anybody slams them with. There's no limit to their ignorance.

To add injury to insult, only a few days after that Bell started to abuse their wholesale customer list to solicit different Bell services to customers who were not directly Bell customers (only Bell customers by the fact that all phone lines are basically Bell owned here). The ISTOP lawyers were quite interested when I let them know about the new practice.

Hell, I haven't even touched Pathetico's PPPoE software. As a computer technician at a computer store, let me tell you, it just doesn't work (tm). It had to be the most buggy POS ever. Pathetico, as usual, blames it on everything else (probably even the rain), but, again, as usual, the other side of their face decided to not bother making a PPPoE client for Windows XP because the built in one was better. Wow.

Soooory for the rant, but the world will be a better place when Bell Canada ceases to exist. Too bad it won't happen in my lifetime. Although the Nortel stock implosion provided some much needed excitement. :-D
posted by shepd at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2005

Wow, you guys are tough. I thought the article was charming and funny.
posted by bowline at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2005

Finally I gave up and used my old address via Web mail—which was a disaster because I couldn't figure out how to create a contact list that would "autofill" the recipient's name when I sent a new message. Since it was too much trouble to type the address every time, I ended up corresponding only with people who e-mailed me first, so I could just press "reply."

I love it when people complain about modern technology than complain about being entirely unable to do things the old way.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 1:30 PM on February 4, 2005

er, "then."
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 1:31 PM on February 4, 2005

I suspect a significant fraction of new computer purchases are for reasons like this woman's. She has money lying around, and her computer isn't configured the way she would like or is clogged with adware. People like her seem to think these are faults with the hardware apparently, and that replacing the computer will fix their problems. Unfortunately for them, the problem is that they are too impatient and apathetic to do anything right.

Or maybe I just made these people up.
posted by recursive at 2:05 PM on February 4, 2005

I wanted to hear more about her flitartious conversations with the tech support guys. There's a story in there somewhere, I think.

On preview: Huh, the CSS just broke. Weird.
posted by jokeefe at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2005

As far as that sob story goes, are you sure it's not another satire? Even my mom ain't that 'p00ter-clueless.
posted by davy

i work as a third level tech at a pretty big ISP and i can assure you that these people exist in numbers far greater than you could possibly imagine.

Most of them are not published journalists with an ax to grind though. It is amazing how otherwise completely rational people can fall apart when a computer is involved.

Oh well, back to work.
posted by quin at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2005

Wow, and she never called AAA when she got locked out of her e-mail?
posted by buzzman at 2:35 PM on February 4, 2005

Yeah! We technophiles are way better than those inferior neophytes! We should all go to a silicon gulch where the elite rule, and technology is our currency. It is the individual tech-gods upon whose shoulders the Internet rests! We should all just shrug.

"Microsoft was the kind of company that liked to put its name on everything..."
posted by elderling at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2005

Er..."shrug." I guess I don't get to go to the gulch after all.
posted by elderling at 2:41 PM on February 4, 2005

I like the Walrus, but they need to stop running articles about people befuddled by everyday technology. Before this article it was a piece about how when you Google your name, other people come up. Wow. This crazy modern age.
posted by showmethecalvino at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2005

grateful, I think I beat you all to it.

The mighty onlyconnect is, however, busy with her jet set lifestyle. She may be able to grace us with her presence in a bit.
posted by NortonDC at 5:58 PM on February 4, 2005

elderling mocked the mockers: "We technophiles are way better than those inferior neophytes!"

I don't think it's so much that they're stupid, just they don't want to learn. That reluctance stems in part from laziness, in part from a techno kind of anti-intellectualism (learning how to configure Outlook Express is for geeks anyway; it should just work). Some of it is that they're intimidated by technology and don't believe they can possibly do anything -- no more than they believe that they could just walk outside, open the hood, and rebuild their car's engine.

It seems that most Americans are not encouraged to develop problem-solving skills; our society and economy have evolved to be consumer-driven and based on the service sector, and doesn't need self-sufficient problem solvers.

There's a reason why America's most popular line of how-to books is called "_____ For Dummies" -- and why these books are still no threat to the industries concerned.
posted by davy at 8:01 PM on February 4, 2005

(Anybody else find the constant reference to things her editors wouldn't let her talk about annoying?)

Their list was clearly not exhaustive enough. It's hard to believe that it was edited at all. She could have wrapped it up after the first couple of paragraphs with her point better made.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:19 AM on February 5, 2005

Mac support is one of those areas that ISP (and most other tech support ventures) do not deem worthy enough to throw support resources at (or, *gasp* training dollars).

MANDATORY ISP SCRIPT: "Welcome to tech support. What version of Windows are you using?"
ME: "None. I'm using a Mac. Its version is OS X 10.3.7."
SCRIPT: "Okay. What version of Outlook are you using."
ME: "It's a Mac. No Outlook. Apple"
SCRIPT: Okay, go to the Start Menu and..."

/*bangs head repeatedly against wall*

An SBC/PacBell rep once told me that Macs "don't have the right card to do the Internet". He refused to be persuaded by any evidence or my 15 years of personal experience to the contrary.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:37 AM on February 5, 2005

I don't blame this woman for her problems at all. I worked for Time Warner in the first commercial broadband cable rollout in the US. In the beginning we went out to every call to install a NIC and the software. We didn't leave until it was working and the customer had at least some basic training.

Then they merged with AOL and support really dropped off. First they tried to have the cable techs do the install but when this resulted in a number of new computers purchased for customers they started a 'self' install policy.

You supposedly could pay more for a real technician but since our work load had dropped so low it wasn't going to be us. It's still a mess from what I hear. In the past I remember how much they seemed to care about their customers. I wonder what happened to that?
posted by jsares at 2:37 AM on February 5, 2005

My worst tech support call (perhaps a little cruel)

The customer calls to reset username and password - I reset the password and advised them they'd need to use "lower case" letters, the customer responded by saying "Lower case? What's that?"

So I try and explain that as long as they dont have CAPS LOCK lit up on their keyboard on they should be fine. It goes something like this -

Me "The password needs to be entered in lower case"
Customer "What's lower case?"
Me "You know how when you write things, you have big letters and little letters? It means the little ones. Look, just make sure you aren't using CAPS LOCK"
Customer "My keyboard doesn't have a CAPS LOCK button"
Me "Yes it does - between Tab and Shift"
Customer "Nah, I'm certain it doesn't"
Me "Okay then, fine. But just use little letters, okay?"
Customer "My keyboard only has big letters on it"
Me (putting customer back on loud) "Well it looks like you are going to have to go to PC World and get another keyboard - you'll need to ask them for one with the small keys on..."
Customer "Oh right, thanks very much!"
(Customer hangs up)

Now, I'm not overly proud of this moment but it frustrates me that people are unwilling to listen and learn.
posted by longbaugh at 4:20 AM on February 5, 2005

I am very sympathetic to Ellen. My experience with ISPs has not been fun including account problems; config issues with various modems and DSL equipment not to mention the usual tech support phone maze and did I mention net outages whose remedy was, swear to god, go online and do a diagnostic at the support website.

many people here are pleased by their proficiency but do have some sympathy who may not have been "in" with the technology from the beginning.
posted by jadepearl at 5:09 PM on February 5, 2005

Live in fragments no longer!
posted by onlyconnect at 2:42 PM on February 6, 2005

« Older Fark may turn out to be worthwhile after all   |   Pain Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments