Ed Spletzer retired from AT&T in 1990 after 34 years in the business.
As a former manager who oversaw telephone operators, he adhered to one steadfast rule.
"Back in my day, service was paramount," he said. "We really cared about service, and you followed through no matter what. That was pounded into all of us."
Times have changed.
The Lake Barrington resident, now an AT&T customer, has been trying since August to get a phone line buried in his backyard.
No one at his former company seems to care, he said.
"It's just frustrating and disappointing," Spletzer said. "Since I left AT&T, it's been fractured a number of times, and I don't even know what the AT&T is today compared to what I started with."
His recent interaction with AT&T began last summer, when his home phone line began giving him fits.
"We didn't have consistent, good service," he said.
An AT&T technician came out and laid a new service line across Spletzer's patio, through his backyard and over several neighbors' lawns. The new line did the trick, fixing the scratchy phone reception.
That part was fine. It was the follow-up that bothered him.
Weeks later, the cable remained unburied, so Spletzer's wife, Paula, called and asked AT&T to come back and bury it.
Initially, the telecommunications company told the Spletzers that the condominium community where they live, Lake Barrington Shores, wouldn't let AT&T bury the line, out of concerns about underground pipes.
Paula Spletzer said she called the public works manager for the condo community and was told that as long as AT&T had the waterlines marked, then avoided them when digging, burying the cable was fine.
Months passed and the line remained above ground. Paula Spletzer said she called AT&T repeatedly but could gain no traction.
In late May, a worker mowing the lawn accidentally severed the cable, cutting the Spletzers' phone service.
A technician fixed the line but neglected to bury the cable.
With their patience running thin, Ed Spletzer called AT&T on June 6 and told the representative that he had seen enough — he was contacting the Tribune.
Later that day, he fired off an email to What's Your Problem?
The threat of bad publicity seemed to get AT&T's attention, he said.