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Monday, June 12, 2006

Earthlink + iTunes = $#)*!@#$!

At the risk of sounding like a bigot, I'd like to point out that having the guy at the call center introduce himself as "Jake" or "Jason" or some other All-American mom & Apple Pie sort of name doesn't change the fact that he's clearly Indian and has a little more than basic working knowledge of the English language. Not that I have a problem with him being Indian or not really understanding English. Hell, his English is better than my Sanskrit even on my best day. My problem is when someone who is in a call center can't seem to process a simple request.

Now, I'm assuming it was language that was the problem. For all I know, guy could have just been completely incompetent. However, I'm willing to give "Jeremy" the benefit of the doubt.

So, it went down like this: I signed up for Earthlink under a deal that netted me 20 iTunes downloads along with my cable internet service. The first bill has arrived and a light when on in my head that I still don't know what's up with the iTunes stuff (to say nothing of the fact that I had no idea what my Earthlink email address was, how to access my account, etc., etc. Earthlink apparently doesn't believe in giving you information like that unless you call.)

After navigating automated menu hell and being bounced from Comcast, the actual service provider who claimed to have nothing to do with that offer, to somewhere in India, I finally get to talk to a real person. Bear in mind, there are few things in life I hate more than talking on the phone and automated menus are among those things. Still, I'm a professional so I'm keeping it cool when "Joseph" gets on the phone.

In retrospect, I see exactly what happened. Remember that Far Side comic where Larson showed an owner talking to his dog. The first half, you see what the owner said then the second part you see what the dog heard which looked something like "Blah blah blah Rex blah blah blah Rex blah?" That's about how my conversation with "Jerry" went except instead of being a one panel gag, it was a half hour phone call straight to the bottom of hell itself.

I ask "Jebadiah" about the free iTunes downloads that I was supposed to get for signing up. I don't remember the exact sentence, it's not important. What is important is the one word "James" locked on to was download. And the fun begins...

After I explained to him that I could download things ok and that was the issue, he perked up and I figured we were in the home stretch. He had me go here and there and everywhere on the Earthlink site (in the process, I learned my Earthlink email address and password and all that other stuff they never told me, so I guess the call wasn't a total loss.) Finally, we stop at some download page and I'm downloading Earthlink's internet software, as per "Jared's" instructions.

At this point, I'm slowly starting to lose my cool. I'm on the phone, which I hate anyway, and I'm trying really really really hard not to be the smart ass "I work in IT and know more about this than you do" guy, even though it's becoming very apparent that is the case. Regardless I go through the process of installing this software I don't want on my computer in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the iTunes downloads I'm supposed to get.

Now the software is installed, I've restarted my machine and we're both just sitting there. In my head I'm going "is this it?" Finally, "Jasper" pipes up: "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" I resist the temptation to put my head through my monitor and explain I'm still waiting for my iTunes downloads.

At this point, we're at about the halfway mark in our program. While "Justin" struggles with the sentence I just laid on him (he was literally sounding out every word I just said like he was hooked on phonics) I had the first smart idea of the phone call. I'd check my old emails to see if I could find a link or order number or something that I could give old "Joe" here to look at and maybe that would make sense.

Of course, this was the point where that stupid Earthlink software he'd had me unnecessarily install starts giving my system fits.

Luckily, the Earthlink software removed easily and it gave me an opportunity to have a heart to heart with "Jimbo" about what I was asking. "You know, Apple iTunes music store? It's where you go to download music?" I was worried that I'd said download again and God only knows where that'd get me. Luckily, I found the email, but keep that quote above in mind as yes, there was a word in there "Jeremy" picked up on. Two, in fact.

I gave him the offer number and he said he'd get in touch with something in billing to get more info. At this point, I was getting hot, but I was still naive enough to assume he was actually contacting someone who knew what was going on. I'm convinced now that person was the Marlboro Man, as he left me on hold for about a smoke break's length and came back sounding more confident but knowing absolutely nothing more than he did five minutes ago.

"OK, sir, you're on an Apple?" (There was word number one he picked up on.) Now, I'm not and I know damn well it doesn't make any difference. I paused for a second to see where this was headed and how I should answer. Damned if I do, damned if I don't I said "sure. I'm a big old Volkswagen driving Mac lover." Apparently the second secret word is "music" as he leads me to Earthlink's Mac home page and has me try to click on what is clearly (to me anyway) an RSS feed for the iTunes Music Store top 10 charts.

I'm not even sure how to approach this one, as he can't seem to understand the concept of sending someone the free shit they're supposed to get, I know he's not going to get the idea of an RSS feel. I'm staring at the screen in disbelief when he asks "Is that link working for you? I can't get it to work." Through gritted teeth I merely respond that no, it's doing nothing for me either.

At this point, the light is slowly starting to fire up and it's becoming obvious to me this guy hasn't a clue. This is also the point where I think we cross over from language barrier to just plain and simple incompetence. However, old "Jesse" still has one trick up his sleeve and, after some seething silence, he laid it on me.

"OK. Do you see 'entertainment'? Click on that. See 'music'? Ok, go there. Ok, see 'free downloads'?" At this point, I could tell "Jefrey" was beaming with pride, thinking he'd finally figured out what this crazy American wanted. Well, I didn't even have to click the link to notice it was a link for a free trial of Rhapsody's subscription based music download service, an offer that had nothing whatsoever to do with my Earthlink service and that I couldn't use on my iPod even if I wanted.

The light was on and practically burning bright as the sun. All this guy was doing was surfing Earthlink's website and anytime he saw anything with music or Apple he was asking me "is that it?" Un-fricking-believable!

I'd officially reached the point where I'd become livid. Not only was this clown wasting my time, he was wasting a lot of my time. What I'd expected to be (and what should have been) a quick call I could get taken care of before I had to leave for something else has stretching out to nearly 45 minutes with no end in sight. If I'd had the time, I would have pulled the old "let me talk to your supervisor" bit, but I had someplace to be and honestly, I'm not sure it would have done any good.

So I bid my new friend goodbye with a hearty "I don't have anymore time to waste on this now. I'll call back later and hope I get someone who actually knows what the hell they're talking about." A while later, they emailed me a survey which I sent back looking like a turrets syndrome person filled it out.

I got bold enough to email customer service hoping they'd know where my iTunes downloads were. Their response? In broken English, "Jasper" told me to call customer service. I also tried the live customer service chat and my representative "Jay" also suggested I call customer service.

At this point, I think I've wasted over $100 of my life chasing down $20 worth of iTunes Music store credit. Honestly, I've got more music thank I know what to do with anyway and there isn't a whole lot of stuff on the iTunes music store I'm interested in. BUT IT'S THE PRINCIPAL OF THE THING DAMNIT!!! I'LL LEARN AN INDIAN LANGUAGE IF I HAVE TO, BUT I WANT MY iTUNES!!!

As a postscript to this story, I'd like to mention that the button just fell off my kakis. So, if you're working in my building this afternoon, watch out and give me a wide berth. I'm working without a net now.

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