I gladly admit to being a shameless tattle-tale when it comes to my rights as a consumer. Okay, now, I am not talking about the issue of a cashier having a bad day. I have been a chambermaid, waitress, hospital worker, telephone surveyor, answering service operator…you get the idea. Anyone who works or has worked in customer service knows that we are the last people who will call you out. We’re usually sympathetic in spite of it.

What I am talking about here is my experience with my ISP. Not that they deserve anonymity, but I will refrain from using their name because, well, I just don’t know the rules about this kind of public airing of grievances. I’ll be happy to tell you privately if you email me. Odds are, you know me or you’re in my state and you know who’s to blame.

I ordered internet from my ISP in February. They did not turn it on until April. In the intervening time no one was ever able to give me an idea what the problem was or when it might be fixed. The notes they were supposedly writing on my account would disappear and no one even once called me to let me know what was going on, even when they promised they would.

The only reason I discovered that the net was on was because I called in May to check as part of my periodic calling in routine. When they finally sent a modem I hooked it up and…nothing. A month later they finally sent a tech to fixed it.  So, from order placement to functioning internet, I waited for 3 months.

Then the first bill came. And lo, I am being charged for the month of May when I was waiting for the tech. This takes several calls to get credited back to my account in which time they also screw up my automatic payment request. They also have the most unnavigable web site and it only works with Internet Explorer.

The second bill is normal and, to their credit, the internet has worked flawlessly since they got it up and running. Then comes bill three, wherein they charge us for the modem they promised wasn’t costing us anything and that first month again. So I call and get the May credit and get the modem credit. Do I have any faith whatsoever that this is the end of my billing woes? It was a rhetorical question.

My household has decided we needed to go back to a land line, so I order phone three weeks in advance of our cell contract completion date to give them plenty of time to figure it out. The day comes and, you guessed it, no phone. And they don’t know what the problem is or when it will be fixed. But they’ll call on Monday. They didn’t call.

Instead of waiting indefinitely for a land line, I sign up for Vonage and cancel my previous phone order. Why do I give these people any money at all, you ask? Because they are literally the only company that can or will deliver internet to my house, I can’t live without the internet. But I keep shopping around because eventually someone will come out my way and I will drop my ISP like they’re going out of style (PS-they are going out of style).

So, there’s the short version…trust me, it’s the short version. The point you ask? The point is this. I know this isn’t news. Most everyone who can get services from this company is having a similar or worse experience. There are plenty of people whom they seem unable to serve at all in spite of their many promises to bring high speed internet to the far reaches of this state. The problem is that people only complain in the most dire of circumstances and don’t complain to the right people.

I always log a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. They cover businesses in the US and Canada. While they can only act as an intermediary on your behalf in the event of a complaint and they have no legal authority to enforce anything, it’s the stats on their website that count. I check out every company I do business with on the BBB website, so I feel it’s my duty to log the complaints if necessary so that someone like me can have the benefit of full disclosure. Even if you are not seeking any kind of resolution, you can state that in your submission when you file a complaint.

Also, sure, log a formal complaint with the company. But in the case of my company, they are clearly incapable of  any level of self accountability. The people you want to know about your complaint are the people who regulate them, who oversee them, and who sign their permits to have a business at all. For Vermont, that the Vermont Department of Public Service. Every state has an equivalent.

In the case of this particular company, theVTDPS is already taking action against them statewide, so these complaints are really more of a bump to the tally, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important! In fact, it’s more important now than ever, lest the company try to convince VTDPS that they have improved. You know otherwise. You should let the Department of Public Service know, too, by filling out their complaint form or emailing their complaint line at consumer@state.vt.us.

Finally, because I like to end on a positive, when I get great service I always try to write a review or an email to someone. Usually someplace where it can be taken into consideration by the public. For example, with  restaurants I like The 7 Nights Restaurant Guide Online (by Seven Days Newspaper) because I use it when I’m looking for restaurants. Basically, if I use it as an evaluation tool I like to contribute back to it. We don’t just need to know what to avoid, we need to be able to skip them and go right to the good stuff.