I refer, of course, to telecommunications provider Mobily (pronounced moBUYlee).
I should make it clear that I have no beef with their actual phone service; it's not like I get a lot of dropped calls or fading signals. It's the customer non-service I'm talking about. Well, that and a few other things...but mainly the non-service.
Specifically: 1100, the Number of the Beast in telecoms.
That's the alleged number you call to get any kind of customer non-service, short of trudging off to visit one of their offices. (Of course that's a frustration in itself because you may get to a Mobily office, take a number, wait for your turn to come up--assuming no one has jumped in front of you--and then find out the particular office doesn't offer the service you need or need to have fixed. Even something as simple as renewing your USB modem gigabytes can be your undoing if you go to the wrong office.)
I should mention that there is no other number provided in any Mobily literature anywhere except the 1100 number. And if you wait 45 minutes to see a Mobily rep at one of the offices and complain about having to drive all the way there, they'll just cheerfully refer you to 1100.
In short, the 1100 is about as useful as a flyswatter on a bowling ball.
First off, no one ever answers. Ever. Even after you've gone through their maddening phone menu. OK, so perhaps after 50 or 100 tries you do get a live person. The connection will either be immediately terminated or you'll find yourself with someone who speaks English with such a heavy accent that you need to have him repeat what he says 5, 10 or even 15 times for everything he says.
But enough yakking, let's try out the 1100 number right now:
"Welcome to our new Mobily customer service menu. For Mobily services, press 1. For Broadband at Home press 2."
At this point, instead of getting the option you requested, a recorded commercial starts: "Internet roaming..." (annoying commercial plays for about 16 seconds) "...to subscribe to this service, press 3. To go back to the Main Menu, please press 'star.'
"For information about the balance and recharging, press 1
"For settings, 3G services and internet packages, press 2
"To activate and deactivate Mobily services, press 3
"For (nacawfee?) program, press 4
"For reporting the harassment complaint, press 5
"To change the language, press 6
"To listen to the services list again, press hash"
A new menu option list now starts up, the last of which, hidden after the "listen to the list again" item, is:
"To contact a Mobily customer care representative, press zero"
"Dear Customer, you can now evaluate the quality of service provided by our customer service representative immediately after this call. Dear Customer, to ensure service quality, this call will be recorded." (Mobily is big on prefacing all their statements with "Dear Customer.")
Of course there is no evaluation because you will never get a live person to evaluate.
At this point the system often simply hangs up on you, so you call back a dozen times until you finally do get through to an actual live person (who, remember, you will have to ask to repeat everything he says at least 5-10 times to understand him). Alternatively, a live person may answer, who promptly gets drowned out by the previous recorded announcement...and the call is dropped. So you call a dozen more times until a heavily accented person comes on the line. This whole Abbott & Costello routine can go on a dozen times.
Now, is it just my imagination that Mobily customer service is renowned throughout the Kingdom for being slovenly and poorly engineered?
I've asked several of my student classes and every time I mention Mobily they all wake from their gerund-learning-induced stupors and start laughing and shouting about how much they despise the 1100 number.
I did find out while I was visiting the Mobily booth at an electronics exhibition recently (from a guy who probably shouldn't have told me this): Mobily has a 5-tiered system for responding to calls on 1100. It starts with their VIP customers, works down to "post-paid" phone customers and finally dead ends at the "pre-paid" customer level. That's me. I buy pre-paid cards worth 60 riyals every month or so. You'd think these would be among their most valued customers.
Back to the job at hand. In case you're wondering, I've now been on music-hold for more than 90 minutes -- about the time it took to write this blog, get some coffee, check some other e-mails and read a few chapters of a book. I'm just feeling ornery enough to plug my phone into its charger and see how many hours it will take for someone to answer.
In the meantime, I have suggestion for Mobily: Why not just change the number to 666 and get on with the business of ignoring customers without the subterfuge of a help line?