Volume 18, Number 8
December 2001


A Conversation in Futility

By Peter Quinn

"Hello [Big Telephone Company], this is Frank Johnson of Riley, Morgan and Johnson, LLC."
"Yes, I suppose it is possible that you don't know who I am, but I've been a customer of yours for 14 years."
"No, you're right, my being a customer probably doesn't have anything to do with this phone call, but…"
"OK, you are right. Anyway, my phone number is 555/323-1212."
"Sorry, I'll try to speak up. That was 555/323...no, 323-1212."
"Sure, but doesn't your database bring up my address when you type in my phone number?"
"No, I am really not trying to be difficult. My address is 2341 Logoff Lane, Studio City, CA 90123."
"Yes, Studio City."
"No, I do not know why Culver City comes up from your database when you put 90123 into your computer."
"No, it really is Studio City. I've been getting your bills at that address and zip code for 14 years."
"Yes, the 2341 Logoff Lane address."
"That's right, Studio City."
"Yes, I am Mr. Johnson."
"I am fine. Thanks for asking. I'm looking to get a high-speed Internet service installed."
"For my business."
"Yes, at the Studio City address."
"No, I think a T1 would be more than what I need. I'm interested in your DSL product."
"Yes, for business."
"So what programs do you have?"
"I see. Is that $49 product suitable for business use? We have 15 computers and printers to hook up to it."
"I see. Uh huh. Yes, we would be using it for our business."
"$79.95. Wow, that's a good price. What services do I get with that?"
"Five e-mail accounts with 10 megabytes of storage? How many emails can you store in 10 megabytes?"
"You have to get an engineer on the line? Really? A couple of minutes? Well, I am sort of in a hurry." [Music and big phone company promo for "call waiting" for two and a half minutes.]
"Engineering has never been asked that question before? Really?"
"Well, OK. Listen, we have 14 associates and an info@rmjlaw.com mailbox that need e-mail addresses, so we'll need ten more mailboxes. We also need you to host our domain name and our website. How much will all that cost?"
"$219. That's quite a price jump, but OK. How fast is the service that you'll deliver?"
"What do you mean six weeks?"
"Oh, six weeks is how long it will take to get the service installed in my business. Gee, that seems like a long time, but that's not what I was asking. How fast can I transmit and receive data on the service you are offering?"
"768 kilobits per second down and 192 kbps up. Why doesn't it go the same speed both ways? No, don't get the engineer back on the line. Do you offer a service that transmits information the same speed up and down?"
"And how much is that?"
"$379, and that will give me 15 e-mail addresses, domain name, and website hosting?"
"$479, and it takes two additional weeks to get it."
"Wow, that is quite a difference in pricing."
"No, I'm not complaining and I'm sure you have had a rough day."
"Yes, I suppose I'd better get the ball rolling, since it'll be eight weeks from today before I can get the service on in my office."
"Oh, it's eight weeks from the date the order is confirmed! How long does confirmation take?"
"Depends on what?"
"Data-entry backlog? Aren't you entering all this information in while we're talking?"
"And the systems don't talk to each other. I see."
"No, yes, yes, I do want to order. Today. Right now."
"Yes, it's for my business."
"Yes, at the address you typed into the computer."
"The address is 11 screens back and if you go back you might lose it and have to start the call over? No, no, no, let me give it to you again. 2341 Logoff Lane, Studio City, CA 90123. The phone number is 555/323-1212."
"Yes, I'm sure it's Studio City. Sure, I'll wait while you qualify me."
"What do you mean we may not qualify for service?"
"We may be too far from the phone company central office? What difference does that make?"
"DSL is not available in some areas. What, like 5 percent of the business areas?"
"Thirty percent of businesses can't get service? Gosh, that's way more than I would have imagined, given your aggressive marketing campaign."
"Yes, I realize that you do not run marketing."
"OK, so when will I find out if I can or cannot get service?"
"Five weeks from now is the soonest someone will call me?"
"Thanks for the help, operator, but I have a practice to run."
"No, I would not like to talk to the department that will process my order, I thought you were processing my ord..."
"Operator? Operator?"

Peter Quinn is founder, chair, and chief executive officer of eBuilding Solutions, which offers a low-cost, high-speed Internet access solution for small and medium-sized businesses.

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