Sunday, July 08, 2007

Revolve Around Or Runaround? ...

When I made the leap from dial-up to DSL, I thought my life would never be the same. I especially feared for the credit card attached to my iTunes account. Being able to download a song in seconds that took minutes before? Oooh, dangerous.

I signed up during a promotion, for some reasonable sum for the first six months and then $39.95 a month thereafter. That was a couple years ago.

Since then, I'd see commericals from time to time for other DSL providers and think about making the switch, but I really had no inclination to change my e-mail address in a million different places.

But I thought it was worth a call to Earthlink to see if it couldn't do a little better by a long-time customer. If other companies had such low rates, I figured, surely Earthlink must have lower rates, too.

In order to compare apples to apples, though, I needed to know my connection speed. So I called an Earthlink number and spoke with Lester. Of course, we can be reasonably sure that his name's not really Lester. In this day and age of outsourcing phone centers to India and points east, everyone seems to have an Americanized alter ego. Lester Not Lester told me that my connection speed is 1.5 Mbps. I asked him about billing plans and he told me that the current rate for my speed of service is $29.95 a month.

OK, so I how do I start paying $29.95 a month? Well, he'd have to transfer me to Installation and Service Upgrades. So he did. And I spoke with Stacy Not Stacy. I explained my story again: Current customer, currently paying too much money, would like to pay less money.

Stacy Not Stacy told me that there's a new promotion of $12.95 a month for the first six month and $29.95 thereafter. But I'm not a new customer, I reminded her. Am I eligible for that plan? No, she told me. She'd have to transfer me to Billing. So she did. And I spoke with Steven Not Steven. He told me that he could give me the $29.95 rate for three months, but that if I wanted the lower rate for longer (i.e. permanently), he'd need to transfer me to a senior agent to approve that. So he did. And the phone was quiet and then I was blasted by a high-pitched tone, a la fax machine, at which point I hung up and called back.

I spoke with John Maybe John. I gave him the Reader's Digest version of my spiel. I was getting tired of repeating myself. John told me that indeed I needed to speak with a senior agent. He asked permission to put me on hold and told me that he'd relay my request to an agent before putting my call through. He came back on the line and connected my call to Joanne Maybe Joanne. She was very pleasant. I relayed my story again, mentioning that I was, at that moment, looking at AT&T's web site, wondering why, since AT&T already supplies the phone line that carries my DSL, I shouldn't just go with AT&T as my DSL provider and pay much less per month.

Joanne said the $29.95 rate didn't apply to me. My rate will be $24.95 with one month of free service. I had to commit to a 12-month term, but should I decide to cancel, my early termination fee is equal to one month of service. So I'm now paying $15 a month less and my next invoice won't hit until August 24. And I don't have to change my e-mail address in a million different places.

When all was said and done, I was on the phone about 45 minutes, talking to five different people. But Joanne was very apologetic and when I received an e-mail survey from Earthlink about my experience, I gave her high marks across the board.

So if you feel like you're paying too much for your Earthlink service, give 'em a call. The number is 888-829-8466. The Billing Department is available M-F 7am-midnight ET and Sat-Sun 8am-10pm ET.


Blogger Mercurie said...

Wow. I didn't know DSL was so expensive. I get internet by cable for only $39.95, and it's faster than DSL!

Anyhow, the fellow's name may really have been Lester. Not everybody had outsourced. When I'm not writing, I work as a customer service rep for a major company. It's call centres are all here in Missouri!

1:17 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

In these parts, Comcast has a monopoly, it seems, and I don't want to give it my money. I'm more of a satellite TV girl, anyway. DirecTV dishes are a very common sight, though some end up planted in the middle of front lawns to get a clear shot of the south sky, which I don't get. I wouldn't want a satellite dish on a pole in the middle of my lawn. But I digress ...

As for Lester Not Lester, I suppose there's the chance that I happened to call somewhere domestic and got Indian-accented persons all five times, but I'm kinda doubting it. I learned recently that the Chicago Tribune outsources its call centers overseas now. Seems kind of silly. If I subscribed to the Tribune and had a problem, I'd end up talking to someone in India to resolve a local problem?

7:03 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

At some point, will the outsourcers start outsourcing? Will the folks in Delhi hire phone operators from, say, Bulgaria or Honduras or Neptune to handle the increase workload. Will we be talking to Lester (Not Lester (Really Not Lester)) whenever we have a question about our electricity bill?

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine my surprise, in this day and age when everybody gets a better deal than the long-established customer,to get a letter from Netflix saying the cost of my plan was going DOWN. Nice. Balances the rate hike from Comcast, which was in a different letter. As for calling your companies, it's worth a try. I got AT&T to ratchet down my phone bills even though I wouldn't take DSL service or cell service from them. You should always ask ... the worst they can say is no, then you can shop around.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yeah, Netflix is the only company I can think of that's ever said, "Hey, we're gonna charge you less!" I didn't have to ask, it just went ahead and lowered my rate. And even though I don't dig that it sometimes takes me months to get a popular title from Netflix, I wouldn't use another DVD service.

It's sad, though, that companies will stick it to long-time customers unless we call and ask them to lower our fees to the going market rates. Feels kinda slimy.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous joann said...

Well to add to that some of us Indians do have have "western names !Lester is a pretty common Catholic name in India!My name is Joann.

10:56 AM  

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