My broadband service has been really hinky. Earlier this week, my wife called AT&T, and spoke to a tech support person who ran tests, and said she fixed the problem. It seemed like she did, but the next day — yesterday — it was back to the same old tricks, cutting in and out.

“What we need to do is call AT&T back,” my wife said to me as she headed out the door to run errands. “Why don’t you do that while I’m gone? You’ll have to go through the horrible phone tree, but when you finally get to a real person, be sure to tell them up front that we ran all the tests a couple of days ago, and the fix didn’t take, so we need to get the local guy out here to look at the line.”

So, off she goes. I phoned AT&T, which, you may recall, is a doubleplus unfun thing to do. ‘Memba this?:

Well, the deadline came and went, and no phone service, and no Internet. I phoned AT&T myself. It took four minutes and 56 seconds of navigating through the automated customer service system before I finally got put through to a human being. And off we went again. It was as if the entire set of conversations Julie had had the day before had never occurred! After 45 minutes or longer on the phone with this particular person, and getting absolutely nowhere, my head was throbbing, and I lost my temper. I asked to be put through to a supervisor … and was transferred back to the automated system, at the very beginning.

I really do lack the words to describe how incandescently angry I was at this point. I had to give the phone to my wife to handle from that point on. I heard her say the words, “What do you mean it won’t be on till Friday?! That is unacceptable. You all have had over a month to make this work!”

So, today I finally hacked through the phone tree (hint: after the questions wear you down, just start pushing zero), and got a real person, a very calm and polite young man.

“Sir, I’m going to need to run a few tests on the line.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” I said. “We did all this a couple of days ago with one of your colleagues. Her fix didn’t work. We really just need to get your technician out here to have a look at the situation.”

(N.B., the technician’s office is about a two-minute drive from where I sit, but he can’t come out here until and unless the guy at the AT&T call center, in wherever it is, puts in a work order.)

The polite AT&T tech support worker said no, he really needed to do these tests.

“OK,” I said, sighing. “I’m just pointing out that AT&T just did these tests two days ago. The fix didn’t work. We need a technician.”

“I hear you, sir,” he said. “Let me do these tests for you.”

And so, after 20 minutes of testing, we are … back where we were the day before yesterday, except now a technician is coming this afternoon to my house to check the line. Exactly as I asked for in the first place. To be fair, the tech support guy was probably locked into a corporate script he had no choice but to follow. I wasted 20 minutes of his time, and 20 minutes of my time. It was as if the entire conversation Julie had had with AT&T two days ago had never occurred.

There must be some reason behind running customer service this way, but I swear, I can’t see it.

UPDATE: Our local AT&T guy just left, having fixed the problem quickly and efficiently. You can’t ask for better service than that. I knew that we would get that kind of first-rate service from our local technician; it was going through the official rigamarole that was the real beatdown.