From My Window: Having to dial all 11 numbers for local call not progress—or good biz

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
My window is muddied up with what could be perceived is a case of lousy customer service.
I’m not happy. But who cares? Right?

It is clear outside my windows that I am not the only person at least in the Meeker area who isn’t happy. I have received several phone calls already in just the past few days that it seems Union Cellular has lost its mind.
It happened to me a few times last week, But I didn’t think anything of it. Now it is happening all the time when I call either Meeker or Rangely phone numbers, which, with Union Cellular, have been local calls.
Not any more. Now, I was told, Union Cellular cell phone users have to use all 11 of the telephone numbers to call local phones.
They tell me I have to dial 1, to signify it is long distance, dial the area code 970, which usually means it is a long distance number, then I have to dial the local number using all seven digits, such as here at the Herald Times with 878-4017. Until the past week, those last seven digits were all I had to dial.
I remember when there were party lines, when there was more than one household per phone number.
I have lived in small towns in which you only had to dial the last four numbers.
I have lived in towns where all seven numbers were required.
And I have lived in big cities like Phoenix or Denver, where different area codes were needed because the different metropolitan zones were in different area codes.
But in a town of 2,500 people and a county of maybe 6,000 people, it can be called ridiculous to have to dial 11 numbers to talk to your friend next door.
I tried to call Union Wireless on Monday.
No luck first time—after 9 a.m. Had to wait on hold 9 minutes. Told supervisor would call me back.
Supervisor didn’t call.
No luck second time. Told supervisor still in meeting after 11 a.m.
Still no call from a supervisor.
Third time I got through after only six minutes on hold. Talked to Brian, who said he was not a supervisor.
Brian was asked why it becomes necessary in Rio Blanco County to have to dial all 11 numbers to call someone across the street. He was very cordial. He was right to the point. He wasn’t apologetic; probably didn’t need to be. He also didn’t seem to be very sympathetic, but he was at least very to-the-point and direct.
“We have had changes in routing,” he said “On cell phones, you can’t always determine where the call is meant to go.”
He went on to explain that if you are in Salt Lake City and needed to call back to Meeker that the 11 numbers are necessary so that the local prefix in Colorado doesn’t go to that prefix in Utah.
They used to to be able to handle it.
When I lived in Arizona, it was 34 miles from home to the Nevada line. If I was in one of the Nevada casinos right on the Colorado River, which is the state line, I would have to dial the Arizona area code even if I was 100 yards into Nevada in neighboring Clark County.
When I was coming home and dialed the phone to home, I could get through from Arizona even if I was less than 50 feet from the border.
The signals knew.
They must have gotten dumber.
Anyway, back to Brian.
He was asked if folks have to re-enter all their local phone numbers and add the 970 to the prefix. He said that some of the newer phones will automatically add the number and some won’t if they are older. I asked how new a phone needs to be to able to reprogram itself. He said it totally depends on the phone, its age, its make and its model.
He was asked why it is that Union Wireless is requiring this while I could’t find any other cell companies are requiring this. Brian answered straight-forward, “We must have different engineering and technology.”
OK, got it.
Brian is a good employee. He answered the questions he should have in the way he should have. No emotion. No sympathy. He was just carrying the company line like he should have. Good job, Brian.
But I would certainly like someone to explain to me why it is that Union Wireless didn’t seek input from anyone I know regarding this change.
Not only is it tough to remember 11 numbers when dialing someone’s number, it is going to be a major pain to go in and have to reprogram every local phone number in the phone in order to get through.
Brian also pointed out that if you take the number that registers when someone calls you, you can automatically enter that number into your system with a few pushes of the correct buttons, so the only real problems are the numbers you want to call out to.
In this day and age, when there are a lot of rocket scientists and telecommunication experts popping out of the woodwork, one would think that it would be possible to get to someone whose phone is across the street or down the street a block or two.
I have long expected that the day would come when the entire telecommunications world will come tumbling down and they will say that there are just too many telephones and cellular phones out there and that dialing 11 numbers isn’t going to be enough. Then they will tell us that all calls outside of the immediate area may need to dial 13 or 15 numbers. That day, believe, me will come.
But I am not convinced that this multi-number dialing is a necessity here in Rio Blanco County at this time.
We have maybe 6,000 residents in the county, many of whom work and live with land lines and a lot of others are with some cellular company other than Union Wireless such as Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, etc.
In other words, in the grand scheme of things, Union Wireless doesn’t have a whole pile of phone numbers within Rio Blanco County that make it so unique.

Sunday’s 130th birthday party thrown by the Rio Blanco County Historical Society for the Herald Times was really quite informative and enjoyable.
It was also a good opportunity to meet some of my comrades, who over the years have been linked to the Herald Times.
The Sunday party all started with some of the first editorials in the Meeker Herald, written by publisher James Lyttle in 1885, in which he envisioned an end to the newspaper bowing to pressures from any individual or group and making it clear the paper would be run as a business.
The process started out with lugging a huge printing press press over the mountains from Leadville; then the process continued through a succession of publishers who couldn’t make the newspaper support itself up, to the more-present day, when the Meeker Herald had to be combined with the Rangely Times in order to become once again a business that is financially stable.
Had that not happened, Meeker and Rangely residents may well have found themselves without a newspaper.
Gratefully, I think for all, that didn’t happen. The Herald Times is (we think) the oldest continuously operating business in Rio Blanco County and one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in the state, will move on into the future providing Meeker and Rangely with the latest and the most important news facing Rio Blanco County.

Welcome to all of the OHV riders, campers, etc., who will be riding into Meeker this week and enjoying the annual OHV workshop and rendezvous that seems to have grown exponentially the past couple of years.
We hope and expect that our area, which includes all of Rio Blanco, lives up to and exceeds your wildest dreams and most beautiful terrain. Your presence here is most welcome, and please know that we all appreciate your stopping in to see what we see as our own little diversified piece of heaven.