My Morning Convinced Me that CenturyLink is the Worst

Photo by Alex Martinez via Unsplash |

This morning I woke up and I didn’t want to wake up and let’s make this crystal clear: I really super absolutely did not want to wake up. This isn’t a competition, but I’m pretty sure nobody in my house actually wanted to wake up, and there were likely people who wanted it even less than me, so as usual I just got up whether I wanted to or not, because there are lunches to be made and packed, and breakfast to be had, and children to be shuffled.

Speaking of children to be shuffled — my daughter had to be at school at 7:30 (which is approximately 20 minutes earlier than usual) so I asked my eldest if he could be ready by then (they go to the same school), to which he summarily replied “no.” Ok. This is not a problem. I’ll take Daughter to school at 7:30 and return to take Son One to school at 7:50. This stuff is not really part of the story, except to say that I was kind of rushing around and juggling lunches and breakfasts and driving and wondering how to pick everyone up today after school without a car (because Son One needs a car for work at 4), when I noticed that a line was down from the pole in front of our house.

Since we’d had a pretty severe wind storm this winter, we’d all been reminded about how dangerous downed power lines could be, so I wasn’t going to touch that thing. It could be a power line. How do I know if it is a power line or not? Better to be safe than sorry. Call the power company.

Calling Avista

Let’s skip ahead a little and summarize my morning commute: I managed to get everyone off to school and work, and I think they were all fed and dressed and maybe even awake. In the mean time, I called Avista Utilities, our local power company, and they asked me to describe the line that was down in front of the house, which I did. The representative on the phone told me it didn’t sound like one of theirs, but they would send a service person out.

“What happens if it’s not a power line?” I asked.

“Well, then you’ll have to contact Comcast or CenturyLink.”

Ok. Here’s the thing. My power and internet are working fine, and I’m not even a customer of CenturyLink. But if this isn’t a power line, then I have to contact those companies and explain this whole thing over again. Am I being unreasonable to expect that I should be able to call a single number and have this thing repaired or removed from my property? Who owns the pole? Can I not just contact they company that owns the pole and should’t it be their responsibility? Even if it isn’t a power line, it is currently a hazard. There is a wire hanging from this pole and it is in my way and I am not an expert and I just want it taken care of.

But I’m being patient. I remind myself that the rep on the phone is not responsible for my anxiety and discomfort and frustration. I remind myself that kindness is an option, and she’s actually being helpful, and she did say they would send someone out as soon as possible. Since she described what a power line usually looks like and since this wire did not look to me like what she described, I decided to go ahead and call Comcast.

Calling Comcast

I was not looking forward to calling Comcast because my experience with them is that calling is primarily an invitation for them to try and upsell their services, and I am not interested in any of their other services. But I make the call anyway, and even though the phone tree does not give me any options that represent my current problem, I’m able to press zero enough times to get an agent on the line, and as soon as I get this agent on the line and describe my problem for him, his entire demeanor changes to one of truly thankful customer service.

That’s right. He thanks me several times for calling, he doesn’t transfer me to another department, and he asks me a series of questions meant to describe the problem to a field service agent. This call takes the longest and the rep even offers more information on how to tell if it’s a cable or a phone line. Usually the power line runs at the top of the pole, he says, then the phone is wired below that, then cable below that. As he’s telling me this, I’m looking at the wire and if what he says is true, I’m probably dealing with a phone line. He’s going to send a person out as soon as possible just to be sure, and he thanks me several more times, and then we hang up.

After this call I’m pretty sure it’s a phone line, but I go out and do something that hadn’t occurred to me until then. I follow the line on the ground to where it separated from the pole, and see the three thin colored wires sticking out of the end — clearly phone wires.


So, likely I’m dealing with CenturyLink.

Calling CenturyLink

I try the same method for calling CenturyLink that I had with Comcast — dial the main number and try pressing zero, to which I receive an “invalid selection” error, and they read the options back to me. There are only three options, two of which assume I am a current customer, and the other assumes I want to sign up as a new customer. But I’m not a customer and I don’t want to be a customer. I just want them to come fix this wire in front of my house.

I try making my way through the first tier of the phone tree with the “I want to sign up for service” option, but after I make a few selections, the line goes dead. I’ve been cut off.

I find a different CenturyLink number, but it turns out this number is for a CenturyLink store in my town. They don’t offer any kind of support, but the guy is kind enough to give me a different number to call which should put me in contact with someone who can help me. So I call this number, but again I’m in the middle of a phone tree, and none of the options represent my current situation. The closest I come up with is “press one if you’ve caused damage to a pole or line.” I haven’t caused any damage, but I do want to report some damage, so I select this and wait. But it turns out this isn’t even CenturyLink I’m calling… but an agency designed to report insurance claims or something.

In the mean time Avista shows up and confirms that it’s a phone line. I express my frustration with finding a number for CenturyLink and he wishes me luck, telling me that he doesn’t have a number for them. But he does roll up the wire and hang it from the pole, so at least it isn’t a hazard anymore.

Now I’m kind of angry. This is definitely a CenturyLink problem and I can’t even get ahold of them. Maybe my best bet would have been to use one of their chat services online, but I should also be able to call them. They are a freaking phone company.

I bust out my Google Fu and spend a few minutes on the internet with some more specific keywords and eventually end up with an actual person on an actual phone with what appears to be at least a limited understanding of what my problem is. Unfortunately it is taking his “system” a long time to “load,” so I’m put on hold. “It will just be a few minutes,” he says.

As I wait, I’m told that I can sign up for Direct TV through CenturyLink, but based on my current experience, there is not a single thing in the world I would order from CenturyLink. The representative comes back after a few minutes to tell me that “Unfortunately it is taking a really long time for the system to load. It will just be a few more minutes.”

Okay. I’m fine. I’m just listening to the hold cycle on speaker while I do something more productive on my computer (such as begin writing the thing you are reading right now). But honestly? How long can this possibly take? And what kind of “system” are they using? Is it Windows 7 or something? Is this guy lying? What is actually happening on the other end of this Direct TV ad?

Eventually he gets my information entered and tells me someone will be out to “repair my problem” tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow… afternoon…

I don’t correct him by telling him that this isn’t really my problem. I’m not even a CenturyLink customer. I’m just trying to report a CenturyLink problem. This is a CenturyLink problem, not a “me” problem.

Soon after this, a Comcast service guy comes out and I apologize for wasting his time, that I’ve since discovered it’s not a cable line. He probably doesn’t care. He’s just doing his job. He says it’s no problem at all and I believe him. He takes a look at the coiled telephone line, commiserates for a few minutes with me, then leaves.

So tomorrow someone will supposedly come and do something about the telephone wire looped and hooked onto the pole outside my house. I don’t really care anymore either. But I am thankful that I’m no longer a CenturyLink customer. And this has been a good reminder that no matter how frustrating other utilities and services can be — they could also be a lot worse. How CenturyLink remains in business, I’m not exactly sure. But the thing is… I really, really, really don’t have to care.


One day later: The coiled up wires are still there.

More about me: Terry Bain. Read my book: You Are a Dog.
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