Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nightmare on Gran Via

I think every expat in Spain has a Telefonica story to tell. The futile attempts to get phone service installed, the internet routers that mysteriously stop working, the head-bangingly frustrating efforts to get phone service, once installed, turned off. It's practically a rite of passage.

I've been through that passage--many times. So I knew that my visit to Telefonica headquarters was going to be trying. But I had no idea that it would be quite like this.

We had a problem with our bill. Actually, with both bills--land line and cell. With documentation in hand and an admirably Zen-like attitude, I showed up downtown. I was ushered to a desk staffed by security guards where, as if I've accidentally stepped into a 1950's Guardia Civil station, I have to surrender my passport in exchange for a security tag. The tag must be worn at all times, the guard tells me. I put the plastic card around my neck.

"Do you want to speak about your land line or your cell line?" she asks. I tell her both. "Well you can't do anything about your cellphone here--that's Movistar." (Note: Telefonica and Movistar are the same company). Okay, so where do I go for Movistar? "I'm not sure. Maybe on Capitan Something-Unintelligible." Where is that? "I'm not sure."

I decided to stick to the landline. Another security guard comes over. She will be my permanent escort for the rest of the time I'm in the building, I'm told. We go up to the floor where the single, pinched customer service person has her grim office. I tell the security guard I'm surprised that I need an armed escort to talk to someone about charges on my phone bill. She smiles knowingly.

Finally, I--I mean, we--are ushered into the customer service woman's domain. There is no one else around, but she clearly does not have time for me. As I start to explain the problem she interrupts to tell me there is no solution. Of course. But I've been doing this long enough to know that the first answer is always no. So I press on. She interrupts me again to call a colleague and ask about my problem. Colleague tells her they'll review my bill and get back to me within 14 days. Service person hangs up and begins to usher me out the door. I ask another question. Service person rolls her eyes at me and snaps, "If you're going to have multiple questions, could you please ask them while I have my colleague on the phone.?" I start to ask another. But she glares at me and cuts me off to call her colleague.

Nothing, needless to say, accomplished. But as we close behind us the door of what is quite likely the rudest customer service I've ever encountered, my security escort turns to me with a smile. "Now do you see why we need guards?"


Anonymous said...

My pilot friend refers to Telefonica as "Timofonica..." and for good reason!

My favorite moment of the last week - I am in Italy for an audition (this trip is una putada típica italiana so far, see the blog for more), bought a vodafone card to recharge my phone so I can, yanno, make calls while here. Automated service didn't recognize the card number. So I got Vodafone customer service on the line - in Spanish, yet, very proud of myself, and explained the situation. His response: "Oh yes, the Italians...they're so disorganized."

I about fell over laughing. Italy: We make Spain look organized!

granny p said...

Telefonica!!! Oh God. (After a 2 month battle.) The helpful people are the phone ones in Madrid. The local operatives are helpful in a way, but can't seem to mend anything. I never thought I'd sigh for BT. Spain makes them look efficient. Don't know about Italy

Almendra said...

I love that. The Italians are disorganized...