Verizon FIOS vs. Panera WiFi

We woke up this morning to a house that was technologically cut off from the world.  No phone, no TV, no Internet.  For no apparent reason, other than our Verizon FIOS service decided it didn’t want to work anymore.

After spending 10 minutes on the phone with a female robot, who wanted me to provide either a three-digit number only available on my bills or the amount of my last bill, neither of which I had readily available because I signed up for paperless billing and I couldn’t get online to check my bill, I finally got a human being on the line.  He listened, had me unplug some stuff and everything was still kaput.

A Verizon technician will come for a visit on Thursday afternoon, because they are booked until then.  I found out a neighbor is having a similar problem with her service, but when I called Verizon again to let them know, the person I spoke to didn’t particularly care.  Their system wasn’t showing a wider outage, so there isn’t one as far as they’re concerned.

You’d think this forced vacation from electronics would call for a party, but I’m experiencing withdrawal. The irony is that I have nothing earth-shattering that needs to be done online, except for my writing.  But like so many other people, my computer is my lifeline to what’s happening outside the four walls of my house. Sad, but true.

That house is now quiet.  Not in the literal sense.  It just seems more silent than usual because the things I generally do at this time of day tend to involve my connecting to the vast wireless world with my computer, which I cannot currently do from the comfort of my home.

So I packed up my electronics and made my way to Panera where, for about 30 minutes, I was unable to log on to their network.  For a second, I thought the gods were trying to force me to deal with my addiction.  But I had nothing to fear.  It turns out Panera has a technical support line you can call if you encounter any problems with their WiFi.  Yes, it’s true.  They have an entire staff located near Atlanta, GA, helping customers across the country who are using the Panera restaurants as rent-free offices (well, rent-free if you don’t count the purchase of food or drink).  Before I knew it, my forced solitude was over, and I was checking my email, reading the latest nonsense posted on Twitter and writing this blog post.

After dealing with the relative indifference of the Verizon FIOS staff, what a pleasure it was to come to Panera.  What makes the juxtaposition of the two experiences all the more interesting is that FIOS is one of Verizon’s primary business lines.  Having people successfully use their Internet, TV and phone services directly impacts the company’s bottom line.  And yet Verizon’s technical support was completely frustrating.  On the other hand, feeding people is Panera’s primary mission. Providing free WiFi access to Panera’s customers is an ancillary service.  And even though I’m sure the company has determined that providing WiFi helps their reputation (if not their profits), the fact that they have a dedicated team of people making sure their customers can stay connected is awesome.

Thanks, Panera, for feeding my addiction.



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