Monday, January 10, 2005

A Talk With A BellSouth Field Worker

Talk to the BellSouth workers. And the Cox ones for that matter. In my experience they are good folks; and while they've been feed a line by their employers they are local people who talk sense if you scratch the surface just a little.

Coming back from the doctor's this morning I saw a BellSouth truck pulled up on a side street. I had earlier resolved to talk to one of the guys in the trucks to see what they thought about being "allowed" to carry it around it so I took the opportunity to ask.

He was a local guy (our accent is clear) and I opened by asking him if he was carrying "that petition" around in his truck. What followed was a good conversation that reconfirmed my feelings that they guys who do the work are good folks and that BellSouth has really stepped out of bounds by setting its local employees to the task of tending its political messes.

After a little back and forth he told me had put his "copy of the petition in the shredder" and wasn't intending to ask any of his neighbors to sign the thing. He didn't feel like that was his job. And, he made it clear, in part he felt that way because he didn't really trust his company's motives: he thought that "they were all about the money." He didn't like the way that when you called up with trouble on your phone that you didn't get local people like you used to. Instead you got someone in Birmingham or Nicaragua. He was a good enough member of the Communications Workers of American to know that BellSouth's policies weren't always good for him or his fellas.

I dont' want to misrepresent him. He was also a company loyalist who had been with the Bell through decades of changes. He thinks LUS overcharges. He is proud of his and his colleagues technical expertise in splicing cables and such and thinks LUS is currently taking advantage of their expertise. He has no sympathy for competitors like EATEL and AT&T who he believes are renting lines below cost and making BellSouth maintain them at below cost prices. He doesn't really trust the city to act any differently from his own company and believes that working and poorer parts of town won't get service soon from LUS either. You get the drift. He's proud of his work. He thinks he and his fellows do a better job than those other guys. He's earned his pride. It's guys like him that have kept the services I've enjoyed so clear all these years.

So he's proud of his work and his company; at the same time he resents being asked to carry around a petition on a local political issue for out of state bosses he doesn't particularly trust.

We ended up shaking hands and exchanging names. I recommend you repeat my little experiment. I think you'll enjoy it and find out that the official line is not necessarily the position of the guys on the line. And you'll have the opportunity to let these guys know, that like them, its the BellSouth executives you don't trust, not the people who actually do the work.

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