Yesterday my friend Brian phoned me looking for information about WebTV, which is a Microsoft product that lets you surf the Internet and email through your television (a WebTV unit is basically a black box with a single-purpose computer and a modem).
I know something of WebTV from the “back end,” as I’ve worked to make websites WebTV-compatible over the years (they have a very good developer guide on this subject). But I didn’t know if their service was available in Canada. So off I went to the WebTV website to find that out.
For some reason, however, this information is missing from the website. Their find a retailer function only searches by U.S. state or ZIP code. The best I could find was that they have local access numbers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (but not PEI).
So I called the WebTV toll-free number, pressed 2 for “I’m not a WebTV customer but i want to know more” and got a message back saying (and I’m not lying here) “You have reached an invalid termination; please call…” and then it gave me back the number I’d just called.
So I called back and pressed 1 instead, and then selected the option for billing problems. I talked to a very nice man, who answered on the first ring, who told me that I’d reached the wrong department. I told him that I knew this, and explained about the invalid termination. He said he could transfer me to someone in pre-sales who could help.
Then he put me on hold for 6 minutes and 30 seconds (granted he did pop back in a couple of times to apologize for the wait). Finally I got to talk to someone in pre-sales. They told me the service was available in Canada, and explained a little bit about it. I asked them where I could buy a WebTV box in Canada, and they tried to look this up in their system, but found that, like their website, they couldn’t search in Canada.
I asked them if there was someone else who could tell me this information, and I was put on hold again. Finally, at 11 minutes and 27 seconds into the call, my agent came back on the line to tell me (and I’m not lying here) that nobody there could tell me where to buy a box in Canada. I asked her what she suggested I do, and she replied that I should call around to local retailers, or try and buy a used box from someone.
I’m at a loss as to what to suggest to Brian now: can I recommend to him that he should deal with a company that makes me wait 12 minutes to tell me that they can’t help me?