Customer Service
Social Security Card

I have a problem. Frequently, when seeking customer service over the phone and sometimes online I am asked for my Social Security Number. I don’t have one. As a Canadian snowbird I pay property taxes here and file an income tax return for my roommate’s rent, but I don’t have a Social Security Number.

Recently, I had to call Citibank to ask them to stop sending mail to a former roommate and was unable to get through because of my numerical incapacity. When I emailed them, they told me to phone. It took several exchanges of messages to be able to talk to a person, and sadly his English wasn’t really up to the task.

When I first moved in to my home in San Jose, I faced a similar dilemma many times with banks, insurance companies, and government officials of various kinds. Even the library asked for my Social Security Number.

This weekend I tried to contact the cable company, Comcast, to change my “bundle.” I decided  I no longer want to pay a small fortune for movie channels. Of course, I could not reach a real person because the first thing they ask for is a Social Security Number. The online system won’t allow me to change my choices without making a phone call. George Orwell would have understood. So would Joseph Heller.  With great patience and gritted teeth, I emailed and explained that I couldn’t get through, and then I was told to press 0 twice. I shake my head. If that is all it takes, why is everyone asked for their Social Security Number? Even when I actually spoke to a real person, he asked for my Social Security Number. It’s a national obsession.

Today, as luck would have it, I received a phone request for feedback on the customer service I had received from Comcast. I asked the caller for his Social Security Number. He demurred. I answered his questions anyway, giving points out of ten for various aspects of the company’s effectiveness. Guess how much I gave them for customer service.


  1. LOL! This post was hilarious! I read it out loud to Graham and Steph. “I asked the caller for his Social Security Number” was an excellent punchline. 😀 I hope everything is all sorted out with Comcast now. 🙂

  2. Update: This will blow your mind. Today, for no apparent reason, we no longer had an tv channels, so we called Comcast. They said that’s what I asked for. No, I said, I asked for basic cable with HD and OnDemand. No premium channels. After twenty minutes and both my roommate and I trying to explain, eventually the representative apologized for our inconvenience, activated the services I had requested and…wait for it…gave me FREE for six months, premium movie channels. I am currently banging my head against a wall.

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