Time for a Qwest boycott…

I know, I know, they won’t notice. But I’m done doing business with them.

(Note: If you work for Qwest, please read on, and feel free to respond. After all, it only takes one person to completely destroy your company’s image. It’s possible, though only remotely, that one person can save or restore it.)

So… I’m hard at work trying to bang out the last two pages of Bonus Story for the next book. I have seven more rows to color, the flooding is done, and I’m painting. My music is blaring, the house is empty for the next three hours, I’m in my happy place…

And the phone rings. Number Unavailable. Private caller.

I pick up.

“Taylers’, this is Howard.”

“Are you Howard Tayler, of Blank Label Comics?”

Sounds like a salesperson, but he might have legitimate business with our little collective.
“I am.” I say, with that practiced inflection that says if you have legitimate business with me, now is the time to get to it.

“Has anybody from Qwest talked to you about lowering your small-business calling rates?”

“No, they haven’t. Please put me on your no-call list.”

And I hung up, cranked the tunes, and got back to work.

The phone rang again. Number Unavailable. Private Caller.

Ohhh-kay. This is either ILLEGAL (No-call means just that, and there are legal ramifications to calling in spite of it), or accidental, or it’s a coincidence.


The same voice I spoke to before begins, as if we were old friends who had been cut off accidentally:
“Why would you want us not to call? We’re trying to lower your rates, not raise them.”

I let him have both barrels.
“You are quite possibly the rudest salesperson who has ever called me. When I-”

“I’m not a salesman,” he interrupted. “I’m trying to lower your rates, not-”

“And I said put me on your DO NOT CALL list.” (Note: I may have actually raised my voice at this point.)

“-lower them. And you’re the one being rude. Maybe we’ll raise your rates instead. How would you like that?”*

And then he hung up.

Had I the presence of mind to get his name (and had he lacked the presence of mind to refuse it) I would be on the phone with Qwest right now demanding an apology. Or maybe I’d be contacting an attorney, trying to find a way to sue these people for what has to be the most flagrant violation of “do not call” I’ve ever experienced.

Regardless, I don’t currently do business with Qwest. Our land-line is provided through my ISP, Comcast/AT&T. If this guy had my phone number, he also had the ability to look that information up, and could quite easily have determined that “lowering my rates” also required him to sell me something. In fact, I doubt he’s calling existing Qwest customers. He’s calling FORMER Qwest customers, trying to get back their business.

Hey, Qwest! At this point if you want to get my business back, you’ll beat AT&T’s best rate by 95% or more for a period of no less than two years no, wait… screw that. You want me as a customer? Fine. Free phone service for two years, no strings. If I’m satisfied come August of 2009, maybe I’ll decide not to switch back to the folks who are currently taking pretty fine care of me.

These folks, after all, are the ones who provided me with high-speed internet access back in 2001 when you said it couldn’t be done. You whined and made excuses about how the line between my house and the switching station was too long for DSL. AT&T came by and laid new cable — no excuses, just great service.

In fact, now that I think about it, I still have quite a bit of loyalty towards my current provider. Forget it, Qwest. You could offer me free phone service for life, and I’d tell you to offer it to one of my fixed-income neighbors who needs it. But I’d warn her that your salespeople are pushy, and should be hung up on at her earliest convenience.

(*Note: The conversations above were not transcribed real-time, nor do I have recordings. I’ve paraphrased as accurately as I can, but rest assured, I’ve made nothing up. This guy really did threaten to raise my rates.)

59 thoughts on “Time for a Qwest boycott…”

  1. I just had a thought…

    If you don’t want to join a boycott (and I’ll be the first to say it won’t work), you can probably still let Qwest know how you feel by linking to this in your own blog. Maybe we can make enough of a stink for them that my fixed income neighbor actually GETS free phone service.

    1. I will continue to boycott qwest. After I am content with my local phone and ISP, but I agree it won’t have any significant effect on their poor service.

    2. I linked to your other blog, so that’s what they’ll be seeing.

      BTW, Howard — there IS a way for you to find out what that bastard’s phone # is:

      1. Call up your ISP, then go to the telephone dept, then get a live person on the line.

      2. Ask the person if you can get a log of all calls TO your phone # for the past month – *including* the ones that show up as “private” on your caller ID. (This may involve a small fee, but it’s worth it.) If they ask why, tell ’em what you told us –and tell ’em that you want to turn them in to the Feds. (Yes, logs are proof as they show just when & at what time the call was made.)

      3. Go to http://www.donotcall.gov and put YOUR number (including any cell phone numbers you have) on the List.

      This way, you can get back at them –legally. In the meantime, consider ME linked (just see MY LJ’s recent post (http://ketira.livejournal.com/ ) and I’ll spread this to my newsgroups as well. :> You know how fast bad news travels across the Web….. ;> …especially if one of your friends is on AOL or MySpace.

  2. I am completely dumbfounded. I have dealt with other customer service people who didn’t understand how to act with an irate customer, but this person takes the cake. He should be fired. There’s no excuse for his behavior.

    1. Hmm (sorry, I may be missing my latin keys, or pressing extra ones, although Im doing my best not to)

      Anyhow, I’d say, he shouldn’t be fired.

      He should be fired repeatedly. Repeatedly. So says I, the phone technical support person (in my past). Not sales.

      Sales should fire, and execute him, just to resurrect (haha Im not sure how this word is wrote when I am drunk! Bite me, Im russian!) him, and fire and execute him. Repeatedly (for some reason I suspect that there are some extra letters there, but that might be paranoia. ZAP ZAP ZAP PARANOIA!).

      1. Heh. I’ve done phone support too and I agree with you completely. I’ve had customers chew me out. You’re not supposed to take it personally. You’re suppose to be a professional. Some people don’t understand that as a rep, while you do have the right to hang up on a customer who is cussing, customers still have the right to be angry, which is something some reps never understand.

        1. Meh. I meant as support that you are supposed to understand and accept it.

          And as sales support (that I did), SALES are supposed to understand and acceopt it but _Doubly So_.

          Well, I understand that it maybe so for legitimate companies, and not some nefarious ISPs :> But I mean, what the hell?

        2. And 2 meh, I did not have a right to hang up on a customer. Only to calm them down, and try to understand what’s their problem (calming up and undestanding was the fun bit, I loved a lot. Even that I do not like agitated custmers, and they were rare in my area of expertise with customers).

    1. My moment of inarticulation came while I was on the phone. Had I been thinking clearly I would have kept this guy on the phone for several more minutes, and gotten the dirt necessary to stick him with a nice, juicy fine.

      The good news is that the conversation was short enough that I was able to remember much of it word-for-word.

      1. You’re also not the only one to experience this. I’ve had callers get that way with me when I interrupt and say please put me on the DNC list. I shouldn’t have to wait until their spiel is done before I tell them that I didn’t want them to call in the first place. One of the reasons I may never get a home phone again (as opposed to my cell, which I love) is that I have never gotten a telemarketing call, even from my cell provider, in the 6 years I’ve had the phone.

  3. *blinks* Wow. I’m just…


    That’s a special kind of stupid, right there. How the heck is he going to raise your rates when you’re not even a customer??? Not only that, but if you’re on the nationwide Do Not Call list, and you haven’t done any business with them for (I think) eighteen months, it was a violation for them to call you in the first place.

    I dunno, an escalation to the FCC might be in order. They can get fined something like $11,000 per violation, and I’d say they deserve it–twice. But I’m evil that way.

      1. From the FAQ:

        My number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. After I bought something from a company, a telemarketer representing that organization called me. Is this a violation?

        No. By purchasing something from the company, you established a business relationship with the company. As a result, even if you put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry, that company may call you for up to 18 months after your last purchase or delivery from it, or your last payment to it, unless you ask the company not to call again. In that case, the company must honor your request not to call. If they subsequently call you again, they may be subject to a fine of up to $11,000.

        An established business relationship with a company also will be created if you make an inquiry to the company, or submit an application to it. This kind of established business relationship exists for three months after the inquiry or application. During this time, the company can call you.

        If you make a specific request to that company not to call you, however, then the company may not call you, even if you have an established business relationship with that company.

  4. Out of curiosity, are you on the Federal DNC list? If so, and if you’ve specifically requested that you be put on the company’s DNC as well, then it is absolutely illegal. A company can only call you if you’re on the DNC list if you’ve done business with them before AND if you’re not on their list.

    I highly recommend calling the BBB and filing a complaint against the company, and contacting the DNC Registry as well.

    1. Note that the Federal DNC isn’t for business numbers; the Qwest guy was calling about small-business rates, so *that* part was probably legal. On the other hand, “put me on your do-not-call list” *is* permitted for businesses, so that part is still right out.

      1. And I’ll agree that the first call was quite fair. It’s the second call that was in clear violation of every rule I know about “Do Not Call” lists.

    1. I assume you intended that pun, because I’m not going to let the Sergeant shove his plasgun into that particular dark cavity and NOT have it subsequently fired.

      That’s the only way to make sure it comes back out clean, after all.

      Asses to ashes, dust to dust…

  5. Not that I was likely to switch to them anyway, but I’ll definitely keep them in mind as “definitely not.” I do get asked my opinion from time to time.

  6. Y’know… Maybe, just maybe, it might not have been a call from Qwest. It sounds too much like some sort of scam or crank call to me. Most likely, a little investigative work through the Blank Label Comics site, or a little social engineering over the phone could have gotten enough information about you to glean a phone number from somewhere (unless your number is unlisted and unpublished).

    I’ve encountered a few companies who have “unavailabvle” as the CID name, but they ALWAYS have a telephone number attached to it. I’ve never seen “Private” as the telephone number. That raises my suspicions (and a few red flags) right there.

    Since your current phone service is from AT&T (whom I work for, by the way. Thank you for being an AT&T customer), Qwest has no jurisdiction to “raise your rates.”

    To me, it’s smelling more and more like someone wanted to “sell” you something while, in reality, wanting to get as much personal information from you as they could. But you nipped the whole thing in the bud when you hung up on them.

    I would ask your phone service if there’s a way you can set up your CID to automatically reject calls from “Private” numbers. If it turns out it’s from an important client, they can always temporarily turn off the CID privacy when they call.

    Don’t be too harsh on Qwest when it might not be their fault.

    1. I get telemarketing calls from PRIVATE all the time. Typically they don’t even have someone on the phone when you answer, just “please hold while we connect you…”. Ha ha.

      Since the vast majority of the time PRIVATE or UNKNOWN means “telemarketer”, I don’t usually even answer those calls anymore, and they never leave voicemail, and none of my clients have complained that I don’t answer my phone. 🙂

      1. OK, that’s fair enough. I’ve checked with my own phone service, and found that I already have a “Private” number block in place (which explains why I never get those types of calls). I know I’m on the Federal DNC list, and my number has been unlisted/unpublished since I got it in 1988 (which also helps put the kibosh on telemarketing calls… they can’t call you if they can’t get your number).

        It still smacks of something not 100% legit to me. But, that’s probably my inner cynic talking.

    2. You’re right — this certainly doesn’t sound like the behavior a legitimate customer service rep for Qwest would engage in. It’s surprising behavior for ANY telemarketer, though.

      Why do I think it’s Qwest? For starters, a lot of these big companies employ headhunter-type salespeople to go after new business accounts. “Blank Label Comics” is incorporated, and the phone number listed for the business is my home phone, which is not served up by Qwest, making me a prime target for this kind of caller… who might very well be working out of his own home.

      Secondly, scammers tend to be MORE careful and MORE polite than regular callers. After all, they’re not after a $6.50 commission. They’re after your credit card number and access to your bank account. If you’re hostile, suspicious, or disinterested, they’ll quickly move on to a proper sucker.

      Still, I’ll allow for the possibility that this wasn’t actually someone in Qwest’s employ, but the only allowance I’ll make is this comment right here. My boycott and blog-rant shall stand unedited (until there’s more evidence, that is.)

      1. It was more my intention to play Devil’s Advocate in this case. Admittedly, my experiences with telemarketers is (blissfully) minimal. I have had experiences with credit card retention “specialists” contacting me after I closed all of my credit card accounts, and they can be a right pain in the kiester.

        1. The only case I could see being made for “Not QWest” would be that it was an outside firm contracted to perform this service.

          Which still means – in my mind – that it’s QWest…

    3. If you’ve got the gear to run any size of telemarketing call center (or even just an ISDN line with the right “terminal adapter”) you can *set* the caller ID info. Including the “private bit” which is what determines whetrher or not the number shows.

      I’ve gotten calls that gave a disconnected number as the CID number..

  7. Yep, been boycotting them for years already. Evil company. Had to go through the BBB to get any sort of relief from their stupidity. Last I looked their BBB rating was horrendous as well.

  8. If Qwest were in California, I would totally not switch to them. Instead, I must look on with envy at those in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, South and North Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota who have the option of not switching to Qwest.

    Unfortunately, I don’t share your positive experiences with AT&T. They kept buying out my DSL and phone providers, and there aren’t a lot of credible options left, so I’m still living on the death star.

    1. What I love is how I keep getting Qwest offers in the mail for service that they cannot provide in my neighborhood. There’s a rather large area (several square miles) that’s in the city but too far from the phone switch to provide DSL. But they still send offers for DSL, and for packages that require DSL as one of the components.

      I’m also annoyed about their pushing DirectTV as the apartment owners won’t allow installation of the dishes.

        1. Q: If I live in a condominium or an apartment building, does this rule apply to me?

          A: The rule applies to viewers who live in a multiple dwelling unit building, such as a condominium or apartment building, if the viewer has an exclusive use area in which to install the antenna. “Exclusive use” means an area of the property that only you, and persons you permit, may enter and use to the exclusion of other residents. For example, your condominium or apartment may include a balcony, terrace, deck or patio that only you can use, and the rule applies to these areas. The rule does not apply to common areas, such as the roof, the hallways, the walkways or the exterior walls of a condominium or apartment building. Restrictions on antennas installed in these common areas are not covered by the Commission’s rule.

          Since the only places such an antenna *could* be installed are the roof or exterior walls, they *can* say no. No balconies or the like.

          Also, this being section 8 housing, they get to set restrictions that normally aren’t allowed.

          And since my apartment is on the north side of the building, installing an antenna doesn’t work very well anyway *unless* it was on the roof.

          1. Eh. I’ve got Comcast cable and broadband. Not for phone service, thank you. Of course, even *that* wasn’t available the first few years I lived here. And then it was a real pain getting it installed because I had to arrange for the apartment maintenance guy *and* the cable guy to be here at the same time (so the cable guy could get into the wiring closet)

  9. Won’t do you any good *this* time, but for the next time, you *can* report a “private number” call to your phone company. Unlike “out of area” or “number not available” calls, the caller ID info *is* sent, it just has a flag set that tells your phone exchange to not forward it to you. But if you can get hold of your phone company fast enougfh, they can still get the number.

    They won’t give it to you, but they will give it to the authorities.

    Personally, I think it should be illegal for tele,arketers of any sort to display a false name or to display any number other than one that they can be contacted thru.

    Likewise, unless it’s a small business making strictly local calls in an area that doesn’t have caller ID they should be required to provide it (rather than the current practice of many where they are deliberately set up to not provide it)

    1. Actually it is illegal for a telemarketing company to call you and have their number displayed as “Private”. The national do not call laws provide that:

      You must display a number that can be identified by the person being called in case they wish to have themselves removed from the calling list of the company contacting them.

      3 groups of people are exluded from compliance or usage of the National Do Not Call Database. These groups can call you despite your registration with the do not call database, however, most will remove you from their calling lists as a courtesy if you request they do so.

      Politicians (they made sure to exclude themselves from the law, of course!)
      Business with which you have an EXISTING relationship

      So the gist of this is…if it was Qwest calling you, they were not in compliance with the telemarketing laws. First, by not displaying their number, and second, by calling you without an existing business relationship.

      I have to agree, I seriously doubt this was a legitimate call from Qwest.

  10. I just switched from Qwest to Vonage about a month ago. I think I’ll make extra sure they’re not still charging me, even though they sent me a partial refund for the service I’d paid for but didn’t use…

  11. That is, indeed, quite the rudest sales call I’ve ever heard of.

    Second place, in my experience, falls to the second-to-last Netbank rep I ever spoke to.

    Capsule summary: I forgot to write down a transfer, nothing had bounced yet but pending checks were about to. We asked if we could FedEx them a check made out to , for immediate deposit. They said “Yes, we can do that.” We sent the check, priority overnight, they received it and deposited it, we called to confirm it has been deposited, they said yes. Emergency averted. The next day, they reversed the deposit, and didn’t tell us. The first we knew was a week later when there was a large check against the account that I knew damned well I hadn’t written. When we called for an explanation, they said they’d reversed the deposit because it was a third-party check.
    “But you’d agreed to accept the deposit!”
    “That doesn’t matter. We have a policy that we don’t accept third-party checks.”
    “The check was made out to my wife, and you agreed in advance to accept it, and noted that agreement in the account!”
    “That doesn’t matter. We have a policy…”

    During this conversation, the telephone asshat went on to tell us to “think of this as a learning experience.” Well, yeah, it was a learning experience all right. We learned that Netbank’s word isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

    The reason this asshat was the SECOND to last Netbank rep I ever spoke to, was because the conversation with the last Netbank rep went roughly like this:

    “Have you received our deposit?”
    “Good. have you deposited it?”
    “Good. Our account balance is now zero?”
    “Good. There are no outstanding checks. I want this account closed, IMMEDIATELY.
    “Uh, may I ask why?”
    “Because your account services people are rude, lied to us, went back on their agreement to accept an urgent deposit, and cost us over $100 in NSF fees.”

    1. How long ago was this? That is a straight up breach of contract right there. You could TOTALLY sue them in small claims for the amounts that you were damaged (NSF fees) and have a very good chance of winning. Assuming, that is, that the statute of limitations on this kind of thign hasn’t run.

      1. Statute of limitations is probably expired by now … this was about 2002. besides, we had no tangible proof that they’d agreed to accept the deposit, so it’d be our word against theirs backed up by their documented policies.

        1. If it was notated on the account, yes, there’d be a record of it, and that sort of information is discoverable.

          Buy yeah, I’m pretty sure 2002 is way past the SoL.

          *hope Schlock doesn’t try to collect a bounty on me, I’m not a lawyer yet, dammit*

  12. I’ve been having the same problem at work with AT&T… and when I called their customer service they told me that they couldn’t do anything about it because they out source the sales calls.


  13. I hate Qwest with a fiery passion. After they disconnected our phone last year after an unsuccessful switch to VOIP and numerous reassurances that they would NOT disconnect our phone, after years of terrible service from them, I gave them the boot permanently. I went and got a cell phone that night and I had already switched my internet to Comcast, so I’m done. Heck, I’ll get satellite internet if I have to in the future to avoid having Qwest as my high-speed internet provider. Anything’s better than paying them anymore money.

    Oh, and to add insult to injury, I had a credit with them and it took months to sort that out and get them to stop billing me, believe it or not.

  14. They laid new cable to give you DSL? I suppose that’s ONE thing the American phone network has over the Australian one. In Australia, when you are too far from the exchange, or there is infrastructure on your phone line that prevents you from having your line ADSL-enabled, you’re SOL.

    Given this, I’m a bit more tolerant when an ISP would tell me that I couldn’t get DSL on a line, as I’d expect it to be impossible to rectify the infrastructure. Things really sound different for ADSL in America…

    1. Actually, they laid new cable so that everybody could get digital cable, which included high-speed internet access. We declined the cable service (which continues to amaze the Comcast folks who come around annually offering upgrades and the like) and use only the phone and internet.


    I tried out Qwest’s free 1 month of service when I bought my home here in Orem last year. At the end of the month, I quit, switched to Comcast, and was done.

    But then, maybe two months later, they said I owed them $100+ for some mystery charge. I had to spend half an hour on the phone talking to various people before the charge was removed.

    Then I remembered the special cable modem router thing they had lent me, and the box to mail it back in. Oops!

    So I got a free useless router for half an hour’s worth of my time.

    That’s me, sticking it to the man! STICK STICK STICK! BOO-YEAH!

    I also, however, have a free dish attached to my roof that I wish they’d take down.

    Last point: I’ve hated Qwest longer than all of you, I swear. I hated it back before it was cool to hate it. In fact, one time I saw Mr. Qwest and I keyed his car. I’m totally not making thatI’ll shut up now.

  16. I’ve taken to selling whatever I’ve got handy to the poor sod that’s unlucky enough to have called me.

    ‘Hello, can I speak to Mr. Smith please?’

    ‘This is Mr. Smith, and I’m so glad you called, are you aware of how important it is to take vitamins? Of course you are. I’ve got a fantastic deal on Super Once A Day’s – bottles of 90 high quality health care tablets, that’s a 3 month supply in just one bottle. You are concerned with staying healthy aren’t you? Of course you are, so you’ll want to take these vitamins all year, do you want to purchase a 6 month supply now, or save yourself a call and order a whole years worth?’

    I realize that some of these phone jockeys are just trying to make ends meet, but I’m tired of getting hassled all the time, and simply hanging up I find isn’t nearly satisfying enough.

  17. My ISP is TDS Metrocom where I live. I called Ameritech to see if I could get DSL and they told me the same thing that you were told. TDS Metrocom tells me that I can be setup within a few days and Ameritech came out and did all the work setting me up. You can taste the irony.

  18. Grrrr…I had trouble with Quest about ten or twelve years ago when my brother (in the Air Force) lived in Guam. Apparently there are a lot of 900 number calls that get filtered through Guam or something, because when I called my brother (supposedly only a long-distance call, since it was to a military base) I was charged hundreds of dollars for calling a 900 number! The number I called was ON my bill and I had to run around in circles with them to convince them that I shouldn’t be charged for any dirty phone calls! They had to have been able to see that it wasn’t a 900 number! It took MONTHS to sort out. VERY frustrating.

  19. I would suggest sending this to consumerist.com – I don’t know what their policy is for determining what to run, but if they do, it’d get a pretty good audience.

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