We're all used to giving out those last four digits in all kinds of circumstances, but I hit the ceiling at today's request.
I'm down at Mom's. We were sitting around the kitchen watching CNN. The cable went out. We puttered around a few minutes, and when it didn't come back, I offered to call in the outage.
Mom accepted my offer and made a trip to the bathroom.
All went well until the so-called service representative asked for the last four digits of my social security number.
"Excuse me? Why do you need that?" I asked. "I'm just reporting an outage."
"It's company policy. I need the last four digits of your social security number."
"This isn't even my house; I'm calling for my mother."
"Then I need the last four digits of her social security number."
She went into a long, complicated explanation of why reporting a service outage required accessing the account, and for security reasons, that required the last four digits of the social security number. I tried to explain to her that since I wasn't asking for confidential billing information or to add the Hot-Cha-Cha channel to our cable lineup, I failed to see why the last four digits of anyone's social number was needed.
Did this mean, I asked, that if I were housesitting and didn't have access to the last four digits of the SSN, I would have to simply live without cable until the owner returned and could help me? Didn't they want to get reports of outages promptly, so they could fix them as soon as possible and avoid avalanches of calls? Couldn't they just put out an alert that cable in our neighborhood was probably on the fritz, and have someone check on it, without the damned irrelevant SSN number?
No. Company policy.
I told the non-service representative to hold, went to the bathroom, and got the last four digits of Mom's SSN.
Wrong number, the non-service representative said.
It then occurred to me that perhaps the account was set up with Dad's social security number. I told her to hold again, though actually about that time Mom returned from the bathroom to watch, puzzled, as I did battle with her cable company.
The last four digits of Dad's SSN worked.
"My father has been dead for two years, and we have to tell you the last four digits of his social security number to report a service outage? That's absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard."
I asked her--I think I was reasonably polite--to pass along my complaint about this policy to management. Somehow I doubt if she did. Mom thought it was pretty silly, too. Their policy, not my complaint.
So just for the record, Cox Communcations in York County, your policy stinks, and Mom and I will be looking around to see what your competition is.
"What are those things people get when they don't have cable?" Mom asked.
"You mean books?"
"No," Mom said. "Those things you put on the roof."
(Well, it's a thought. I've run out of space in every other part of the house.)