Ameritech and me

For the two and a quarter years that I have lived in Bloomington, I have restrained myself from complaining about Ameritech.

I’ve finally had it — I cannot hold back anymore. I had to call them for customer service last week and had yet another bad encounter. They just cannot get things right without making it complicated or taking multiple tries.

The sad part is that I am but a minor cog in the Ameritech system; other people have gone without service for a month and have never had their problems fixed. These problems have been so bad for so long that the five states that Ameritech has screwed over are finally ganging up on the company, and, thankfully, Indiana is in there.

Regulators from these states voiced their displeasure to the company in a meeting in Chicago. In response, Ameritech promised to have its service restored to “normal levels” by Dec. 31.

The problem is that it’s not good enough. Hoosiers need at least decent, if not good, phone service and Ameritech’s “normal level” of service is somewhere between awful and terrible.

When I moved here, it took them about three tries to get my phone service right — they gave me features I did not want and did not give me the features I wanted.

Let’s just say that of all the utilities that I’ve had to deal with in Bloomington, Ameritech has been the only one that has caused me any headaches. The others actually resolve problems quickly when they occur. On the other hand, Ameritech has lied to me about service issues, including a huge mistake that left me without phone service for several days last year.

Since then I have been on a personal quest to reduce Ameritech’s profits, and trust me, the company and its parent are making a lot of money.

After an exhaustive search in which I couldn’t find another local carrier, I decided my only recourse was to reduce the number of features on my phone, so the latest item I dumped was voice mail. It too proved to be a problem.

You see, I called the number listed on my phone bill for Ameritech Local Service, and I was routed into a telephone push button hell. First, they wanted to know if I was calling about service on the number I was calling from. Then, they wanted to know if I was calling to add or subtract service, and finally, they wanted to know my great-grandmother’s aunt’s uncle’s first name and country of birth.

I finally was rewarded with a human being, who immediately tried to convince me that dropping Ameritech’s VoiceMail ’98® service was going to be a terrible tragedy.

I explained to her that I was switching from Ameritech Voice Mail to a cheap Web-based voicemail service from, and she said it wouldn’t be able to pick up while I was online. I told her it would, once I implemented call forwarding and busy line transfer — for less than the $5.95 Ameritech was rooking me for.

She deferred and asked me the next critical question, “How long have you had voice mail?”

I said, “Oh, two and a quarter years or so.”

“You’ll have to call another number, we can only cancel voicemail accounts that have been active for less than 30 days,” the voice on the other end of the line told me.

I told her I wasn’t going to press another button on my phone to disconnect my voicemail service. Between her and her supervisor, they transferred me directly to the voicemail help center, where the human being I connected with first asked me my phone number and then told me again that switching off Ameritech VoiceMail was going to be a terrible tragedy. I had to explain myself to her again before she gave up and told me that my voicemail would be disconnected within a few days.

Other relatively inexpensive alternatives to Ameritech’s voicemail service exist, including services that will pick up your phone while you are on the phone and send you e-mail alerts that somebody has left a message.

Hopefully, real competition and choice in local residential service will be the end of Ameritech, because trust me, as soon as a true competitor comes to town, I’m gone.

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