Thursday, January 22, 2009


Telephone Troubles

Just before the Christmas holidays, a sales rep from the local cable company wandered in and explained that they are now able to offer multi-line service for businesses. Since I have my home phone, TV and internet with this company, I know what a savings it is to have the flat rate bill and not pay through the nose for every long distance call I make. All calls to anywhere in Canada and the U.S. are included for no extra charge. We could now have the same savings here at work. Seemed like a no-brainer. So it was arranged that our phone service would be switched over the first week of the new year.

I was a bit surprised when the day came and not one, not two, but three technicians showed up to make the changeover happen. It was a fairly painless procedure and they were done changing our phone and fax lines within an hour. The only real difference was the number to access our voicemail is different that the old system, so that might take a bit to get used to. No big deal.

A couple of days later, I had people either come into the shop or call me on the phone stating that they hadn't heard back from me after leaving a message. I figured the first person might have just dialed the wrong number, but soon enough it became apparent that there was, indeed, a problem. I called the cable company, they did some tests, and everything seemed to be fine now. They figured that our old provider must not have discontinued our voicemail on their system and that the missed messages were in limbo out there somewhere. But like I said, they tested it, left a message, and everything was now fine.

After my business partner was in on the weekend, he batched out our debit terminal at the end of the day and noticed that when he did so, the light on our main phone lit up and displayed "Line in use". Something was wrong. The debit terminal should be on the fax/data line. The problem is that on occasion, customers want to pay over the phone by credit card, and if I'm on the phone with them, I can't process the payment and confirm for them that the payment went through.

I called the cable company and explained the problem and arranged for a technician to come in and fix the problem. Excellent. Everything would be fine. Then I realized something. Since we had the phone lines switched over we hadn't received any faxes. That seemed odd because at the very least we receive one of two junk faxes each week.

I went to the office next door and had them try to send me a fax. It rang and rang and rang, but never got answered. I called the cable company and explained my most recent issue. It was explained to me that perhaps our fax machine was not able to work on a digital line, and that I should check with the manufacturer to see if that was the case. I called Canon and asked them about it, and they told me that was correct, but that a simple fix might correct the issue. The technician walked me through a number of steps to change the speed of something-or-other (I'm a techno-peasant, what of it?), and said that it may or may not work depending on the amount of traffic on the line at any given time. So I went next door again and had them try to fax me again. Still nothing. I called the cable company again to ask what I needed to do to get my fax operational. I was told that I required a machine with Super G3 technology (whatever that is). So I went ahead and did some online research and decided to order a new machine that met that requirement from our local office supply place.

The new fax machine was delivered the next day. I put it together, put all the business information in there and set the date and time. Then I went next door again and asked them to try faxing me again. Same thing exactly. WTF? They suggested I try to fax them, which I did, and it worked fine. They tried to phone my fax number, and it just rang and rang. OK, I can send faxes, but not receive them. What's going on there? Fortunately, the new fax machine has a handset, so I decided to use it to call my main line. That's when I discovered what was wrong. A completely different number appeared on my call display. Our fax number had been changed.

You guessed it. I called the cable company yet again to ask why they changed my fax number. The customer service rep asked for the number that showed up, I told him, and he said, "Yep, that's your fax number. That's what I have here." I assured him that it was not the right number, and that I wanted the old number we've had for 15 years back. It's on our website, letterhead, business cards, advertisements, etc. He asked me to hold while he tried to figure it all out. When he returned about ten minutes later he said, "Ya....we have a bit of a problem here. It appears that your previous supplier did not want to re-release the number to us."

"Well, that certainly is a problem for you because I informed your sales rep of our phone number and our fax number, and they were both to remain the same. Had we been told that one of the numbers would be changed we would not have switched over," I explained. "As it is, I've already spent nearly $200 on a new fax machine because I was told that our old one wouldn't work on the new line, only to discover that this one isn't working because the number is wrong. It's quite possible that the old unit would have worked after all. So much for saving money by switching over."

Then he explained that we can have our old number back, but it would take about five days. Why he didn't tell me that right off the bat is beyond me. He made it sound as if we were unable to get it back at all.

Next on my list was to call the sales rep who sold us this service. I explained my dissatisfaction and he was very apologetic. He has no idea how the number got switched, but he assured me that he would look after it and make sure everything will be corrected. He's never had this problem before. Of course. That's because it never involved me in the past. I was sure to mention the likely unnecessary purchase of the new fax machine to him as well. We'll see what happens, but I won't hold my breath.

Today one of the cable company's technicians came by and worked his magic. He completely understood what I was telling him, and he got to the root of the problem and did a bit of rewiring and got our debit terminal back on the data/fax line. He was hoping he could get our old fax number hooked up while he was here, but unfortunately that was not to be. Next Tuesday is the date we've been promised.

Speaking of phones....

Over the past several months I've been telemarketer-free here at the shop. It was so nice not being bothered several times a day that I sort of forgot about those calls coming in and what a pain in the ass they had been. As it seems, nothing lasts forever. Yesterday they began again. I received a call from some scammer from "IPA". This number used to appear on our call display a lot. They say they are some sort of management consulting company and asked if we had a chance to look over the information package that was dropped off last week. There was no package dropped off. This is one of their lines. As I recall, the number they call from is in Chicago, so I highly doubt that they'd be "in the neighbourhood". I told the guy that I was sick of getting calls from them. They called a while back and were supposed to have someone stop by to see us. It never happened. I told him to stop wasting my time and not to call again. Things got a bit heated, I did a bit of yelling. It was kind of nice to get it out of my system.

I keep a list by the phone of numbers that have called and been nothing more than this type of lame telemarketing/scamming. I make a habit of quickly Googling strange incoming numbers, and more often than not, the "Who Calls Me" website pops up, indicating it's a telemarketer/scammer. Earlier this afternoon the phone rang and displayed one of those numbers and when I answered I said "Toronto Fraud Unit". "Yes, hello," said the woman calling, "Do you accept Visa and MasterCard?" "Excuse me ma'am, but you've got the Toronto Police Department Fraud Unit." I was amazed at the speed at which she said "Oh, I'm sorry! Wrong number." and hung up.

I could have some real fun with this.

Why would she ask YOU if YOU accept MasterCard or Visa is she's telemarketing you?

I am still having my share of fun from the telemarketing targeted public. I'm getting fewer callbacks, though, so maybe my handing out the Do Not Call Registry phone # to the people who do call me back is taking its toll.
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