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Roadside assistance feat. Mobile Operator Services

In the early 2000s I worked in a call center in a Central European country. I was a night shift specialist, where we had a lot of different clients’ lines. Most of them were easy tasks like taking a callback for the next day, but we also serviced some highly specialized services like a mobile phone provider’s service line and – you guessed it – a roadside assistance provider’s helpline.

It was an easy friday night, mostly drunk customers wanting to lock their phones, because they had lost it. Also people who wanted to have the VAT on their bill explained in the middle of the night (probably also drunk) or needing quotes for their car insurance (again, probably drunk).

At around 3 a.m. I got a call on a roadside assistance line, and it starts like the story told by u/tracemcree a few hours ago, which reminded me of this experience. I will shorten it for redundant parts.

Me: Roadside Assistance, my name is snezefelt, how may I help you?

Customer: Hi, our car broke down in the forest, can you send a technician?

Me: Sure, what’s your address?

C: I’m not sure, somewhere in the woods?

Me: Do you have a street name, do you see any signs?

C: No, we’re in the middle of nowhere.

Me: What’s the last town you were passing through, and which direction were you going?

C: We don’t know!
(Lots of tries followed to find out anything concerning the customer’s whereabouts)

Me: Could you please secure your position with a breakdown triangle, get a signal vest and walk until you get any info on where you could be?

C: Can’t you, like, trace us on our mobiles? (Note: at this time mobile phones did not yet have GPS)

Me: No, sorry.

C: And our mobile phone provider, can’t he?

Me: No he can’t.

C: I’ll try.

At this time, a little more background info: well, technically your mobile provider CAN approximately triangulate your location. Also there was a tool to do this, and I was one of the few people who had access to it, after a long and exhausting training by the legal team. The use of this tool was heavily monitored, only to be used after police had sent me lots of paperwork via fax, and signed by a judge. And the paper trail afterwards was horrendous.

Well, as chance would have it, our customer was also a customer of the mobile provider we worked for, and soon after the previous chat, the service line rang.

Me: mobile phone provider, my name is snezefelt, what can I do for you?

C: Hi, our car broke down in the woods, and the roadside assistance said you can trace our location? Could you tell me where we are please?

(I reeeeally had a hard time not laughing. For one, he didn’t realize he was talking to the same person as before. Secondly, well, unfortunately what he said wasn’t true)

Me: Unfortunately I can’t do that. I would recommend you secure your position with a breakdown triangle, get a signal vest and walk until you get any info on where you could be?

C: Yeah, that’s what the other guy said, but could you please tell us where we are?

Me: Unfortunately only police can find out the position of your mobile, and they’re only allowed to ask in certain circumstances, where this is not one of them.

C: So I should call the police?

Me: No, you shouldn’t. You should secure your position with a (rinse and repeat)

C: OK, I’ll call the police.

Just when my colleague and I were done laughing (like 20 minutes later) roadside rang again, same guy again.

Me: roadside assistance, my name is snezefelt, how may I help you?

C: I called police as you told me and they told me the couldn’t help me! Instead they told me to secure my position with a breakdown triangle, get a signal vest and walk until I get any info on where I could be!

Me: That’s a wise recommendation. What did you find out?

C: I’m at Certainstreet 190, Thistown.

Me: Truck is on its way.

Man, this story lived for years, and I would have loved to share our side of the story with the involved cops.

tl,dr: Guy goes for lenghts to make someone triangulate his phone’s location, ignores the advice everyone gives him just to not have to walk a few steps.

Edit: line breaks, typo

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“I don’t know where I am!” A comedy and tragedy all i one

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