Fight the Power

Monday, November 05, 2007

I've been thinking a lot about Mona Shaw.

We spent the weekend at my mother-in-law's. She has Verizon high speed internet; FIOS. Quite speedy... when it works. Not this weekend, though. Nope. So my husband spent about four hours, cumulatively, with customer support. At one point he clocked 40 minutes on hold... just listening to the pretty music. Three days later, my mother-in-law still has no internet. See, they have to make absolutely certain that it can't be resolved over the phone, without sending out a tech, even though everybody knows that it's an equipment problem. Everybody knows it. The techs know it. My husband knows it. The switchboard operators know it. The entire city of Mumbai knows it, because my husband was on the phone with most of the population. But, they can't just send out a tech... not until they execute a tier 3 support ticket. They'll call back, within 24 hours. The tier 3 techs. Just like the tier 2 folks did... except that they never did. Come to think of it... Nope. We just sat by the phone waiting, like a bunch of teenage girls, for the call that never came.

So, I've been thinking about Mona Shaw. The woman has guts. Guts and nothing left to lose. Mona Shaw is my new hero.

It seems that Mona bought into one of those "bundling" packages that cable companies like to arm-twist you about through endless phone calls and mailings. The service combines phone, cable and Internet service.

Her provider was Comcast. Without saying anything more about Comcast's reputation in the cable community, I will merely point out that there's a blog called that does a lively business on the Web.

Anyway, Mona and her husband scheduled a service call. The company failed to come on the appointed date. When they did show up two days late, they left with the job half-done.

Two days after that they cut off her service.

Mona and her husband decided the best way to get this misunderstanding straightened out was to visit the local cable office. When they arrived, a customer service representative told them the manager would be right with them and asked them to please take a seat.

They did - for two hours. At that point, the customer rep cheerfully announced that the manager had left for the day.

Shaw told the Washington Post, "They thought that just because we're old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone."

So after a weekend spent at low boil, Mona, armed with a claw hammer, visited the Comcast office again.

But there was no waiting this time. Mona delivered a few well timed blows to a computer keyboard and monitor and, for good measure, to the telephone.

"After I hit the keyboard," Mona said, "I turned to the blond who had been there previously, the one who told me to wait for the manager, and I said, `Now do I have your attention?"

Mona Shaw is a 75 year old woman with a heart condition. Comcast left an elderly woman with a life threatening condition and her elderly husband without phone service and blew off her every attempt to rectify the matter. But to hear them tell it, they're the victims, so scared of a little old lady they took out a restraining order.

"Nothing justifies this sort of dangerous behavior," Comcast spokeswoman Beth Bacha said.

Police arrested Shaw for disorderly conduct. She received a three-month suspended sentence, was fined $345 and and is barred from going near the Comcast offices for a year.

Mona has no regrets.

"I stand by my actions even more so after getting all these telephone calls and hearing other people's complaints," she told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

Mona Shaw got fed up. It's passed time to be fed up. The law is not on the side of the citizen; not on the side of the voter; not on the side of the consumer. The day is coming when none of us will have anything left to lose.