We disconnect with you

You can go to cell!!!

Yes, I ventured forth and interacted with yet another business. And as you can imagine, it went as swimmingly as always. It is almost like these outcomes are preordained.

I’m going to tell this story in a roundabout way.

The other day I had the misfortune of calling my cell phone provider, in this case, U.S. Cellular. I was expecting it to be a quick and easy call. I wasn’t calling to complain or fight about my bill or anything like that. I just had a quick question. Little did I know I was about to enter the Twilight Zone and that in a few short minutes my head would plonk on my desk and blood would be leaking out of my ears.

Six years ago…

The company I worked at purchased a cell phone for me from U.S. Cellular. I was going to be on call for technical support to our customers. I now had a cell phone for the first time in my life. I had joined the 21st century.

Five years ago…

The company where I worked closed up shop in my town. I was given the choice to keep the phone by switching it to my own personal service contract. I opted in.

Three years ago…

Here is where it starts to get good. My wife and I visited our local U.S. Cellular store to get my wife a phone. The visit went great and we were told that the phone would be an additional $10 a month on our bill. When the first bill arrived we were charged $15. I called in to inquire about this and was told, “We don’t offer a $10 option for that.” When I explained that I had been promised $10 right to my face by their employee I was called a liar and told, “tough shit.” (I’m paraphrasing here. But as you’ll see, this is an oft-repeated theme with this company.) The bottom line, I was told, was either produce proof in writing or go eat the big one. Since I had trusted their employee I was shit out of luck. We’ve been swallowing that bitter pill (aka paying that fee) ever since.

Last week…

If you’ve read this blog much, you might know how much I hate phones. I basically leave the phone turned off 24/7 except for when my wife has no other way to get ahold of me. Then I leave it on.

Most of my peeps know that if they get my voice mail greeting they had better hang up before a message is recorded. I’ll see they called and call them back. I hate voice mails.

Last week I had a bright idea. What if I could delete my voice greeting from the phone? I tried it and it worked. Somehow, though, it still said my name (and in my voice) when my number was called. I figured out how to delete that, too. Good times!

Then, when calling a customer the other day, I heard this. “You have reached 555-555-5555. This user has not set up their voice mail box yet. Goodbye. [click!]”

ZOMG!!! I wanted that. I wanted that bad.

After getting home from a particularly gruesome day in the shithole, I decided to call U.S. Cellular and ask them if they could help me get my phone set up that way, too. Sure, I was in a bad mood, but I wasn’t spoiling for a fight with U.S. Cellular. They were not in my sights at that particular moment in time. I wasn’t expecting any problems.

I called in and eventually pressed enough of the right buttons that I found my way to a human being, and hopefully the right one. Before she picked up, though, a recorded announcement told me, “Your call may be randomly recorded for quality assurance.”

I have absolutely no beef with “monitored” because that seems reasonable. But I draw the line at being recorded. I personally don’t like it. It is not my preference. So whenever I hear something like this, I ask to opt-out. In my experience most requests like that are no problem at all. Either they are happy to do it or they lie to me and record me anyway. Either way at least I have their verbal assurance I’m not being recorded.

My request to opt-out of recording at U.S. Cellular was not going to go well.

“Hi, this is so-and-so. How can I help you?”

“Hi so-and-so. I just have a quick question for you today. But before I ask it, may I please request that this call is not recorded?”

“Oh that’s just random.”

“OK. I understand that. It told me that. Can I opt-out please?”

“You see, they only record some of the calls. Not all calls are recorded.”

Uh oh. My spidey-sense is tingling and I’m beginning to sense danger.

“Yes, you said that. Again, I am requesting that this call is not recorded. I would like your assurance of that before I ask my question, which should be a very quick and simple one.”

“I’m not sure what you are asking for. I’ve told you that it’s random.”

Houston, we now have one mother-fucking ape shit of a problem.

“Listen up,” I said. If I had known it was going to go down like this I would never have called while in a bad mood. But now I was committed and this was going to be bad. “You don’t seem to be able to process information. Your system just told me my call may be recorded. I don’t want that. Can you turn it off or not?”

“Well no one has ever asked me that before. I don’t know.”

“Gee whiz. Maybe you’d better find out, eh? How about we get a nice little supervisor on to help me? Maybe she’ll know more than you.”

“I’ll have to put you on hold.”

“Obviously. Get on it.” (Yeah, I was livid.)

I then had about five minutes to reflect on all of my glorious history with the wonderful organization known as U.S. Cellular. I remembered in vivid detail how they fucked me over and called me a liar all over $5 a month. Greedy motherfuckers. That’s $5 on top of their already horribly overpriced and mediocre service. It occurred to me that not once did they even offer to call their employee who had told me the plan was $5 less than what they charged me. They just called me a liar and told me to go suck eggs.

Finally I was graced with presence of The Supervisor.

“Hi there!” she said brightly in a syrupy sweet voice. “How is your day going today?”

“Not too good,” I assured her. “I just want to ask a simple question but I don’t wish to be recorded. Can you handle that for me?”

“Oh, I assure you, only a small percentage of calls are ever recorded.”

Oh. My. God.

“Yes, I covered all that interesting information with so-and-so. I’m opting out of being recorded. You do not have my permission to record this call. As an American citizen if I do not give my consent then any recording that is made is illegal. Can you assure me this call is opted-out from recording or not?”

We repeated the “it’s all random” cycle two more times. Finally she said, “No. We can’t do that. We don’t have that ability in this office.”

“Is there any way I can talk to U.S. Cellular and be guaranteed that I won’t be recorded?”

“No,” she admitted.

“What options does that leave me with?”

“You can visit a U.S. Cellular store or write a letter.”

“That’s really great service,” I said. “Now let me assure you of something. At the earliest possible moment when my contract is up, which isn’t too far away now, I will be terminating my service with your company and you’ll never see another penny from me as long as I live. Is that enough quality for you?”

“Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“Nope. [click]” Yeah, I enjoy getting the last word.

So, there you have it. A company that takes money from you monthly is not willing to talk to you on the phone unless you give them your consent to be recorded. And I never did get an answer to my quick question. This is the same company that demanded proof of a verbal conversation from me. I guess that explains their mindset. That’s just their simpleminded worldview.

“Quality assurance.” I highly doubt that. I think they want the all important “proof” they so highly prize and they want it for the sole purpose of using it against you if something should go south? Why else deny recording opt-out requests?

Is that customer service or what?

You know that as a company you must be doing something right when your customer service department interacts with a customer and it is by far the worst thing that happened to them all week.

So, what do you think?

  • Was my request that out of whack?
  • Should their customer reps know how to respond to recording opt-out requests?
  • Do you believe they really couldn’t turn off recording? (Yes, I know it is done remotely by some third-party.)
  • Have you ever made a similar request and if so, how did it go?

I searched the U.S. Cellular web site and couldn’t find a mission statement. Do they have one? Seems like an odd thing to forget.

U.S. Cellular slogans include:

  • We connect with you
  • Believe in something better
  • Wireless where you matter most

U.S. Cellular has made The List and with extreme prejudice. (Yes, that means they can eat my ass.)

Please enjoy the musical selection that our chef has paired with this article.

5 responses

  1. I remember the good old days of Ma Bell, where lawyers and politicians could sleep comfortably with the knowledge that they were not the most reviled folks in the land. But lately, it seems, the cell phone companies have determined to make old Ma’s reputation seem downright polite by comparison. But there’s a rumor that AT&T is making a strong comeback!


  2. Urg. I just had to deal with my cell phone company last week. They tried to tell me that I could NOT pay my bill. Wha? Long, sordid story . . . Short version: They Suck.

    If being recorded is mandatory, they need to let you know that up front, otherwise you should be able to opt out. I don’t think your request was unreasonable at all.

    Thing is, if you switch companies, your service will start from scratch and your voicemail may need to be re-set so that may solve your initial query anyway.

    And now I’m off to find some videos of adorable kittens and puppies to try to wash the memory of your chef’s selection out of my brain.


  3. Disclaimer: I’ve worked for a call center and know how random quality monitoring works.

    1) Was my request that out of whack?

    It’s rare, but happens.

    2) Should their customer reps know how to respond to recording opt-out requests?

    Yes, they should, but it’s so rare (practically non-existent) that they don’t.

    3) Do you believe they really couldn’t’t turn off recording?

    They really can’t turn it off for one call. They would have to turn it off for the whole system, it couldn’t be done immediately, and everything would crash. But what they can do is get your name and promise that if your call is randomly recorded, they will identify it and delete it form the system without listening. That’s all that can happen and there’s no guarantee.

    4) Have you ever made a similar request and if so, how did it go?

    No, but it wouldn’t be pretty if I did. 🙂


  4. I really appreciate the responses. I almost think we need Congress to step in with some sort of ACT, perhaps the Citizens Right to Not Be Recorded Act or something, and FORCE business to provide recording opt-out for customer service phone calls.

    I do know there are times they have to record, like during the formation of a contract while on the phone. Those have been fine in the past, because I’m getting something I want. They say, “Mr. Taker, we’re now going to start recording and we’ll ask you some questions.” Fine. And they let you know when recording is turned off.

    Perhaps the CRNBRA will be the windmill I attempt to tilt 24/7 for the rest of my life. Yeah, that sounds good. 🙂


  5. […] Source: Shouts from the Abyss – We disconnect with you […]


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