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return to india
another frustrating adventure by telephone
by ellen marsh

I visited India by phone again this past week, compliments of my friends at SBC, the provider of my DSL service. I’ve had DSL service for about seven years; I was an early adopter in my area.

A couple of years ago, I started to have trouble connecting to the Internet with my DSL line. A techie friend suggested a router that would maintain the connection to the Internet so that it would not longer take me multiple tries and 30 to 45 minutes to connect. The router worked and everything has been fine. But, recently my router was taken out by a power hit and I had to connect directly to the Internet again.

Experiencing the need for multiple attempts to connect, I decided to call SBC “technical support” for assistance. Technical support consists of an annoyingly polite Asian Indian person, sitting at telephone somewhere in India. The support process is linear, that is, the person can go only one step at a time through the trouble-shooting script. It does not matter that I’ve tried a number of the trouble-shooting steps in his script. We have to do it all over again before we can move to the next step.

The support person’s English was heavily accented, but there was a veneer of New York overlaid on the unique cadence of Indian speech. I can guess the origins of his English coach. English is clearly a second language for thse SBC employees, and asking a unique question or stating that I’ve already tried a particular trouble-shooting step during the script can throw them into utter confusion. So, now I’ve learned to go with the script and spend the requisite 45 minutes, rather than the one and one half hours required if I confuse them.

The last time I called, no solution was found, but while going further through the script, I finally connected. Clearly, I had made the requisite number of attempts to connect.

I am sure my frustration is not unique. When will these huge American companies realize that their immediate savings will result in the loss of business? In addition, I deplore the loss of technology jobs in the USA. We’ve encouraged young people to prepare themselves for technology jobs and then ship those jobs offshore.

For the first time, I am seriously considering changing to cable modem for my Internet access. In fact, I’m hoping that now that digital video recording become available from my cable company, I can negotiate an advantageous price for both services.

While a router, which will be reconnected soon with the help of my friend, provides a temporary bandaid protecting me from SBC’s poor service, it frustrates me that SBC is so cavalier about their service to me. They clearly have no qualms about wasting my time. Broadband service is not cheap, and if I am going to pay a premium for it, I expect it to work!


Ellen's recreational writing relieves the stress of working at an insane biotech company. She has too to do (and re-do) every week, because of the knee-jerk, fire-fighting mentality of the management team.

more about ellen marsh


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tracey kelley
10.11.04 @ 4:33p

My ISP support is in Canada. It's so much fun to talk to them, 'cause they're so nice.

Indian-English with a New York accent? That's funny. I'll admit, though, I ate at an Indian restaurant in Western Ireland, and boy, did THOSE people talk funny.

You shouldn't worry about having to talk to customer support in India. Remember, these were low-paying jobs that no one wanted in America, so we're doing good will by shipping them to India. cough cough

ellen marsh
10.11.04 @ 4:40p

Strange that the 25 software support people I laid off 8 years ago, when their work was outsourced by our parent company, were less than joyful about sending their low-paying jobs from California to Utah. At least those jobs stayed in the USA! (Note that shortly after being given orders to execute the great layoff, I was shoved out the door, also.)

My guess is that the Utah group's functions can now be found somewhere in Asia. If a company is looking for cheap help, they'll keep on looking until the find the cheapest labor.



tracey kelley
10.11.04 @ 4:54p

Unfortunately, that's the point I was trying to make. America is being told by lawmakers and CEOs that these jobs aren't "good" enough for American workers, that the workers aren't applying for them, turnover is too high, etc., so companies are trying to help us and save money by sending them overseas.

It's the same reason why IBP justifies sending a bus to the AZ/Mexico border, loading up people crossing the border, and having them work in the meat packing plants for 7.85 an hour: "Americans don't want those jobs." Funny - men used to make full careers and support their families while working in the stockyards and meat packing plants in Chicago and Kansas City, when the companies paid a decent wage. But since the companies can't be bothered with supporting Americans, they'd rather hire nearly illegal immigrants.


ellen marsh
10.11.04 @ 5:05p

Yes, I was supporting your position.

I've watched not only $7-$10/hour support jobs go away, but jobs for software engineers, computer animators, web developers, and other skilled people sent offshore.

My current company (in biotech) is delighted to use a (cheap) web developer, who remains highly competitive by using technical resources in Thailand and India, as a source for our web programming. I was delighted when, courtesy of my daughter, I located a Flash designer who lives and works here in SoCal.

juli mccarthy
10.11.04 @ 5:35p

Oh my oh my. Having gone through my own tech support nightmare with SBC, you really have my sympathy. No lie, in one month I spent literally 40 hours on the phone with them and had eleven separate techie visits to my house. The phone guys said it was the DSL line, the DSL guys said it was the phone line, one techie said I had a "wet connection", another one said if I DID have a wet connection I'd have NO service, rather than intermittent service, the router guys said it was the modem, the modem guy said it was the router, getting the two of them together in one room spawned the answer, "Maybe you've got a wet connection....", I replaced both modem AND router, and then I was told that since I was under contract, it would cost me $300 to NOT have their "service" - at which point I completely lost my marbles and went medieval on the phone with some poor techie guy in India.

Now I have a cable modem and life is good. As for the outsourcing of jobs to overseas, or the hiring of illegal immigrants for menial labor jobs within the US, I've had that argument too - and it's nothing but ugly on all sides.

russ carr
10.11.04 @ 9:13p

I had the same damn thing today! I wouldn't have guessed that the call was routed overseas, but in hindsight, and knowing the accents that have greeted me in the past, it all makes sense now. But somewhere between like 9 am this morning and noon, my Internet settings got totally bolloxed. The girl talked me through resetting everything (all I really wanted were the domain server numbers) but then it only worked with a direct connection from the DSL modem to my CPU; my router was out of the loop.

Everything else, I had to troubleshoot on my own, and (since I'm posting this, obviously) was able to remedy in about an hour.

But it's doubly frustrating that things can get so out of whack when NO ONE was using the computer (Kathy was gone, I was asleep) that it requires a couple of hours of troubleshooting, and that it took three tries just to reach technical support. My first call, I negotiated all the menus and was about to be connected to the TS department when I was dumped into a fast busy signal. The second time I was at the same spot when a recording came on and told me the number had changed. The third time (now with a new number) greeted me with a smoothly digitized voice leading me through a voice-activated menu, finally leaving me with Apu's niece.

All I really wanted to know was that the problem was a configuration issue, and that the network itself wasn't down. If the problem's on my end, I can fix it. If it's SBC's problem, I'm screwed.

anya werner
10.12.04 @ 1:08a

In a related tangent... about a year ago, our SBC phone line was erratic, ranging from being very staticky to not working at all. After a while with the support people, they asked if it had been raining. They said they would send out a tech. Turns out the solution involved throwing a tarp over the phone equipment box down the street and leaving it there until the rainy season was over. Good thing we had a local tech to come out and fasten the tarp.

lisa r
10.17.04 @ 12:53a

Moisture and phone lines do not mix. My parents have a phone jack on the screen porch, and every once in a while on a humid day it busies their phone out. I can always tell that's what's causing it, too. The phone will ring once or twice then switch to a busy signal. Stands to reason DSL would be affected as well.

lucy lediaev
10.17.04 @ 10:39a

I wish I could blame DSL problems on rain, but we are in the midst of a 2-year drought. In fact, we are getting our first rain in six months. Hooray!

(Of course, now my phone line probably won't work either.)

Anya, get out the tarp.

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