My Worst Call of the Day

From the dozens of idiotic calls I take each day as a customer service representative, I humbly submit the winner.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Out to Get Me

Today’s worst call came from a man who has something of a persecution complex. On the surface, his complaint was a simple dispute about a meter reading that his electric company had taken. He believed that the company misread his meter and overcharged him as a result. I get this complaint a lot, of course, but this particular caller insisted that his case was special.

“I have enemies,” he said in hushed, fearful tones. “There are people out there . . . relatives . . . neighbors . . . co-workers . . . who take great pleasure in causing me pain and suffering. I have no doubt that they are the ones behind this.” The caller spoke with such solemn earnestness that I involuntarily started choking with laughter.

After I stopped hacking up phlegm, I wheezily replied, “Um, okay . . . and do any of these people work for the electric company?”

“No, not that I’m aware of,” he confessed, “but it wouldn’t matter. My enemies have a great deal of influence in this town. They have ways of getting at me . . .”

I tried to reassure the caller that misreadings occur frequently, and suggested that he take a meter reading now and report it to the electric company. That way, the company could compare his reading with the one they took, and see how far apart the two are.

“I’m not going anywhere near that meter,” he wailed. “That’s probably just what my enemies want me to do. For all I know, they booby-trapped it, and I’d be blown to kingdom come!”

Fighting back more riotous, snorting laugher, I informed the caller in my most deadpan voice that this issue was well outside of my jurisdiction. I urged him to contact law enforcement if he felt that someone was trying to kill or maim him by tampering with his meter.

“I already have,” he hissed, “but they wouldn’t investigate either! It’s clear to me now that this conspiracy is even larger than I thought. All of you are in league with my enemies!”

And with that, he hung up, robbing me of my chance to reply, “Curses! Foiled again! But we’ll get you next time, mark my words . . . .moooahhbwahahaha . . . BWA-HA-HA-HA . . . BWA-HA- *ack, koff, hack* . . . damn . . . *wheeze* . . . fucking cigarettes . . ."

Monday, October 17, 2005

My Demands Are As Follows . . .

As you’ve perhaps noticed from my earlier posts, gentle reader, many of my callers possess an unwarranted sense of entitlement. As such, they foolishly subscribe to the following series of myths:

1) There will be no negative consequences for anything I’ve done.
2) It’s always someone else’s fault.
3) The world owes me something.

But even among these clearly delusional people, there is a group of callers that has moved beyond mere entitlement to nothing less than the diva-esque issuing of edicts and demands. And it is, of course, my tragic lot in life to deal with these petty dictators. For your reading pleasure, then, here are some of the recent demands that have been shouted at me, along with the replies I desperately wanted to make.

Demand: I want you to arrest the CEO of my electric company on charges of fraud!
Reply: I can’t actually arrest anyone since I’m not a police officer, although I do enjoy dressing up as one and dancing around the house to “YMCA.”

Demand: You need to call my boss and tell him I ain’t coming to work today on account of the emotional anguish I’ve suffered since my heat got turned off!
Reply: Sure, I’d be happy to, ma’am, but I might just replace the words “emotional anguish” with “a white-hot, pustule-popping case of chlamydia.” Do you still want me to make the call?

Demand: Come to my house and help me balance my checkbook—I can’t tell if my payment to the gas company has cleared.
Reply: I want a pretty pony!

Demand: You need to get your ass down here and read my fucking meter!
Reply: Is “read my fucking meter” some kind of code for a specific sex act? And if so, how much would you pay me to perform it?

Demand: I want your agency to be disbanded ‘cause you’re all useless, and in bed with the utility companies!
Reply: I AM NOT USELESS IN BED!!! . . . what? . . . oh, I see . . . “useless, AND in bed.” Oh yeah, that’s all true—we’re totally corrupt! Sorry, my mistake.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Attack of the Crones

If I believed in utter scams like astrology or feng shui, gentle reader, I’d be forced to conclude that Uranus was out of conjunction with my rising sign, or that my velvet painting of Richard Nixon was hung in an unfortuitous location. My callers today have been so horrible, and yet so similar, that the universe must be trying to send me a message of some kind. And the messenger in this case happens to be a phalanx of bitter old crones, each one more unpleasant and addled than the last.

The first aged emissary called me regarding the imminent disconnection of her electric service. I had a hard time understanding the woman at first, because her voice sounded like two balloons being rubbed together. Eventually, though, I managed to piece together her story. She was outraged because the electric company told her that her cat’s recent diagnosis of feline leukemia did not consititute a medical emergency, and would not affect the impending termination.

Unfortunately, I had to agree with what the company told her. As tragic as her pet’s condition was, only a human medical emergency can forestall a disconnection. In response, the caller squeaked that the electric company and I were in league with Satan, and she hoped we’d all freeze to death during the winter. The caller hung up before I could point out that it’s always nice and toasty in Hell.

My second old bat was a sprightly gal who hailed from one of the more, um, rural parts of my state. Apparently one day she was doing dishes and saw a squirrel climb up a utility pole in her backyard. Upset that a posse of the little critters had eaten some vegetables in her garden, and desirous of some sweet Old Testament-style vengeance, my caller reached for her shotgun and put the squirrel in her sights.

Alas, the caller’s aim was not what it used to be, and her shot missed the squirrel. It did, however, strike a transformer on the pole, showering the panicked rodent with sparks, and leaving her neighborhood without power for most of the day. Subsequently, she received a repair bill from the electric company for the sum of four-hundred dollars. She called my agency to demand that this amount be broken up into ten-dollar installments over forty months. I informed my addlepated Annie Oakley that I had no jurisdiction over this issue, but that she should thank her lucky stars the company didn’t have her rickety old ass tossed in jail. (I did actually use nicer words than this, so get that prissy look off your face.)

The last withered old crone made the most unusual request I’ve had in a while. She wanted me to call the optometrist and see if her glasses had come in yet. She said that she had been calling them every day until an employee told her to stop bothering them (I love this person), and that they would call her when the glasses were ready. I patiently explained to the woman that I worked for a government utility agency, not a messaging service, and would thus be unable to fulfill her request.

In response to this information, the caller suddenly morphed into a shieking, hissing squallcat, and launched into a rant about how no one cares if old people live or die, blah blah blah. I think her little tirade must have gone on for a few more minutes, but I can’t really say for sure since I took my headset off and went to gossip with some co-workers. By the time I came back a little while later, she had apparently hung up or died, either of which was a perfectly acceptable outcome in my eyes.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Death of Diplomacy

Not too long ago, gentle reader, I wrote about how I endeavor to treat my callers with some degree of diplomacy. This is an admirable approach, and certainly one that all customer service reps should emulate. However, the intervening months since I wrote those words have been . . . well, challenging at best. The vast sea of idiots and assholes crashes mightily upon me each day, and, as a result, my rock of diplomacy is now somewhat eroded.

All of this, I hope, will serve to explain why the following sentences escaped my mouth when speaking to various recent callers:

“Let’s see if I can reconstruct the assorted, um, chunks of information you’ve given me, and try to arrange them into something approaching coherence.”

“I’m sorry your electricity was disconnected today, sir, but the last time I checked, the electric company wasn’t providing service out of the goodness of its heart. You might want to consider actually sending them a payment now and then. Call me crazy, but this seems to work okay for the rest of us.”

“Yes, ma’am, I understand that you don’t agree with our state’s utility laws, but you see, I wasn’t really asking for your opinion.”

“While I am personally thrilled to know that you’re a taxpayer, a member of the AARP, and a veteran of the Korean conflict, sir, I was supposed to go home five minutes ago, so if there's a point to this conversation, I recommend that you get to it right now."

And finally:

“Ma’am . . (squeaky, high-pitched babbling) . . . ma’am . . . (still babbling) . . . MA’AM!!! My ears are bleeding! I need you to slow your mouth down from that chipmunk chatter to a level that humans can comprehend. And please bear in mind that I’m also taking notes, and that I only type fifty words per minute, not five-hundred.”

Given these lapses in customer service etiquette, all I can say is, thank God my job's protected by the union, or I would be so fucking fired.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Haven’t Updated My Blog

Yes, yes, I know I’ve been a bad blogger over the past few months, and I’ve violated your sacred trust, blah blah blah. But I have some really good reasons for my prolonged absence. Wanna hear them?

10. I’ve spent every waking hour since May working on my tan. My skin is the color of burnt toast, and its texture is reminiscent of beef jerky. I feel pretty.

9. Inspired by the deranged rantings of a major Hollywood crackpot, I have joined the cult of a mediocre science fiction writer, aka The Church of Scientology. As part of the brainwashing process, my sense of humor has been completely erased. As a result, I am no longer able to find humor in the mewling spastics who call me each day and waste my time with their foolishness. In fact, I am no longer able to find humor in much of anything, which makes “Battlefield Earth” a hell of a lot more difficult to watch.

8. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Hold me.

7. You don’t honestly expect me to stay cooped up indoors writing my blog, when I could be cooped up indoors surfing the internet for free porn and drinking myself to death, do you?

6. A family emergency came up. That is, if by “family” I mean someone I’ve been screwing, and by “emergency” I mean a last-minute invitation to join this person for a 10-week stay at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas, then yes, it WAS a family emergency. Don’t tell my boss, okay?

5. One morning when I was in a horribly foul mood, my boss foisted pictures of his newborn grandson on me. When forced to respond to the inevitable, “Isn’t he the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen?” I honestly replied that he looked like an undercooked meatloaf with eyes. What can I say? I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

4. I’ve decided to channel my creative juices into that gay historical romance novel I’ve always wanted to write. It’s an epic tale of love and sodomy between two pirates, and it’s called, “Bluebeard’s Sword, Blackbeard’s Scabbard.” The book is supposed to be published in time for Valentine’s Day 2006, under the Roughe Trayde imprint. Pre-order your copy now!

3. I finally caved in and followed the urgings of my friends, family, co-workers, and therapist, and started taking industrial-strength antidepressants. My job still sucks ass, of course, but I just don’t care anymore. In fact, I hardly even get upset when I discover that I’ve shit myself. Again.

2. One word, three letters: jail. I swear I didn’t know that the goat was underage.

1. My tragic substance-abuse problem took a turn for the worse three months ago. After injecting a cocktail of embalming fluid and fabric softener into a vein in my eye, I passed out and have only just regained consciousness. My doctor is calling this little episode a coma, but I prefer to think of it as an extended catnap. So can anyone tell me what’s been happening on “Days of Our Lives”?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Gentle Art of Diplomacy

Following in the footsteps of my last post, I'm writing once again about the vast difference between what is said, and what is true. With this entry, I'll be translating my typically polite, diplomatic language into the brutally honest sentiments that lie just beneath the surface.

What I say: Can I put you on hold for a minute? I need to look something up.
What I mean: I'm going to take a leak, grab a doughnut, and sneak outside for a smoke. I'm hoping you'll have hung up by the time I get back.

What I say: Oh, that's okay, sir, don't worry about it. A lot of people can't remember their own phone number.
What I mean: You shouldn't be allowed to breed, you dumbf*ck.

What I say: You want to talk to my supervisor? Sure, I'll put you right through.
What I mean: And he'll tell you the exact same thing I just did, jackass. Just because you didn't like what I told you, doesn't mean it's not true.

What I say: I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm having trouble understanding what you're saying.
What I mean: Surely you can find a better time to finish eating that piece of chicken.

What I say: If you use profanity again, sir, I will disconnect this call.
What I mean: And because I have your name and address, I'll sign you up for a lifetime subscription to the raunchiest gay porn magazine I can find.

What I say: It appears that the gas company is investigating your account for some fraudulent or unauthorized usage.
What I mean: Duuuude, you are so f*cking busted, man.

And finally:

What I say: Thanks for calling us today, and feel free to call back if you need more assistance.
What I mean: You have wasted fifteen minutes of my life with your foolishness, and I can only pray that one of my co-workers will have to deal with you next time. So goodbye, and good riddance!

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Liar Liar

My many years as a customer service rep have robbed me of several things. These would include, but are not limited to: my patience, my optimism about humanity, and my overall mental health. However, for each item lost, I've also acquired something new. Along with the carpal tunnel syndrome, various drug addictions, and the occasional homicidal urge, I have gained the unerring ability to recognize when someone is not telling me the truth. Whether my callers are merely exaggerating, omitting certain information, or telling me a whopper of a bald-faced lie, I hear the whispers of truth buried beneath their chattering lies. Some examples:

Caller says: I was only a little bit past due on my phone bill.
What I hear: I could only be bothered to make one payment in the past six months, and I sent it to the company knowing the check would bounce.

Caller says: The customer service reps at the gas company will not assist me.
What I hear: After I threatened them with bodily harm, I was permanently barred from calling their office.

Caller says: The electric company disconnected me without any warning!
What I hear: Except for the notice on my last bill, the letter I received, and the message on my answering machine, all of which I decided to ignore.

Caller says: I’d like to file a class-action lawsuit against the electric company.
What I hear: I have no idea at all how the legal system works, except for what I’ve picked up from TV. I threaten to file lawsuits all the time because I am a sad, bitter, lonely old man, and I desperately need attention.

Caller says: When I called my cell phone company after my service was cut off, they were very disrespectful to me.
What I hear: They had the nerve to insist that I pay my bill before they would turn my service back on.

And finally:

Caller says: I have NO idea who authorized these charges on my phone bill for “adult entertainment,” whatever THAT is, at 1-900-SHE-MALE.
What I hear: I was drunk, horny and lonely last Friday night. And I have some VERY specific sexual tastes.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Who's on First?

Today’s worst call was from a woman whose hillbilly accent makes Granny Clampett sound like the Queen of England. Fortunately, I grew up speaking the redneck dialect, so I can usually converse with other people from "down in the holler." However, Ma Kettle's deep-backwoods brogue was a little thick, even for me. And that, along with her, um, peculiar way of putting things, led to a conversation worthy of an Abbott and Costello routine:

Me: You have reached [the name of my agency]. How can I help you?
Caller: Tha gay-uhs comp’nee ain’t showin’ a payment I done made lay-uhst week.
Me: What was the amount of the payment?
Caller: Twunnuh-fie dollah.
Me: And when did you make this 25.00 payment to the gas company?
Caller: Awn tha fee-uff an’ tha uh-lay-vunth.
Me: So you made two payments? One on the 5th, and one on the 11th of this month?
Caller: Nawo, jes’ wun payment.
Me: I’m sorry, which day did you say you made this on?
Caller: Awn tha fee-uff an’ tha uh-lay-vunth.
Me: (shaking my head in confusion) How could you make one payment on two different days?
Caller: It wuz jes’ wun day, tha fee-uff an' tha uh-lay-vunth.
Me: (growing irritated) Ma’am, those are two different days. Which date is on the receipt?
Caller: Tha fee-uff an’ tha uh-lay-vunth.
Me: (feeling my ears grow red) How can a receipt have two different dates on it??? (At this point an eavesdropping co-worker chimed in with, "It's magic!")
Caller: It's jes' got wun date awn it; the fee-uff and tha uh-lay-vunth.
Me: (literally quaking with frustration) Ma'am, how on EARTH can the 5th and the 11th be ONE day? (Again I hear, "It's magic!" from my co-worker next door)
Caller: It's tha fee-uff monf and tha uh-lay-vunth day.
Me: (comprehension slowly dawns). . . and by this you mean . . . May 11th? Am I understanding this correctly now?
Caller: Thass riyaht.
Me: Okay, I'm glad we got that straight. I'm going to put you on hold now. It might sound like I'm hanging up on you, but I'm not, so just hang on the line until I come back.
Caller: Way-ell, okay, if--
Me: *click*

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Monday, May 16, 2005

How You Can Help Me Kick My Drug Habit

Oh my sweet lord, did today suck ass! The beginning of the week is terrible for everyone, I realize, but it's worse for customer service reps. Monday always has the highest call volume of the week, and it's not unusual for me to be taking calls back-to-back all day long. In addition to the sheer number of phone calls, it seemed like everyone I spoke to was either a freak, an imbecile, or both.

By midafternoon, in a desperate attempt to numb myself, I began freebasing a cocktail of rocket fuel and copier toner. After seeing an image of the Virgin Mary on a tortilla chip, I had a moment of clarity. "If only you could tell your callers how they should behave when they call you," I thought to myself, "then you might not have this tragic substance abuse problem. And one more thing," my inner voice continued, "your fly has been open all day--thought you should know."

So after I stopped twitching, I started putting together this list of things that will make my job easier. I realize that, to some degree, I'm preaching to the choir here--my readers (being perfect in every way) are already very customer service savvy. But this is the only soapbox I've got, so here I go:

1) Do not start out the conversation by saying, “You people have been pretty much worthless in the past, but I’ll give you another shot at fixing my problem.” This opening gambit will only ensure that I live up to your low expectations.

2) Please have a writing implement handy when you call. Do not waste ten minutes of my time (which could be spent helping other callers) by tearing your house apart and screaming at your children for stealing your pens.

3) Speaking of children, please do not call customer service while your infant is shrieking in the background. My headset tends to amplify this particular frequency into something approaching a million decibels. Bear in mind that I'm not very helpful when there are rivulets of blood streaming from my ears. Now that you're aware of this, surely there's a warm oven--uh, I mean a playpen you can chuck the howling little beast in while you make the call.

4) Please do not call me at 4:55pm on a Friday afternoon and begin the conversation with, "I hope you have a some time to spare, because this might take awhile . . . "
If you do this, I will start crumpling up a piece of paper to mimic the sound of static, and you will hear, "Hello? Hello? Are you still---" *click*

5) And finally, to a certain group of ladies out there:

Despite how well this technique may have worked for you in the past, copious weeping is simply annoying, and makes it hard to understand what you're saying. You may call me cruel or insensitive, but all my years in customer service have left my heart somewhat callused. As such, you would receive more sympathy from a slab of granite than you would from me. Oh, and any man who cries while speaking to me will be openly ridiculed. You can't say you haven't been warned.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Stupid Question, and Some Very Stupid Answers

Following in the footsteps of last week's post, Double Trouble, I humbly submit another "two-for-one" for your reading enjoyment.

A Stupid Question

Yesterday, I was speaking with a very unpleasant woman who was whining about her phone company. She wanted to file a formal complaint against them, but her grievance was without any legal merit. I informed her of this, and our conversation took a turn toward the snippy. After threatening to sue both me and my agency, she squealed, "How do YOU know what the law is here? Isn't your call center in India or one of those other godforsaken places?”

While I ended up reassuring the xenophobic shrew that I'm in the U.S., this is how I wish I could have replied:

“Well, you found me out, Miss Marple! Even though I was trained by professional linguists to speak English with a redneck American accent, you managed to see right through me. My call center is located deep within The Black Hole of Calcutta, and there are cows roaming up and down the aisles. Vrishnu be praised!" I would then begin chanting at the top of my lungs until the horrified caller hung up, or until my co-workers wrestled me to the ground, whichever came first.

Some Very Stupid Answers

Me: Good morning, you have reached [the name of my agency]. Could I have your phone number, please?
Caller: 555-1234
Me: What area code is that in, sir?
Caller: 75115
Me: (rolling my eyes) I'm sorry, that's a zip code, sir. What is your area code?
Caller: Uhhh . . . Texas?
Me: (cursing under my breath) No, that is a state, sir. What is your area code?
Caller: Uhhh . . . oh, shoot, you asked me too quick . . . err . . .
Me: (blowing air out sharply through my nostrils, drumming my fingernails on my desk)
Caller: What is it you asked me for, again?
Me: (the veins in my forehead become prominent) Your AREA CODE, sir--the three digits that precede your phone number.
Caller: Oh, okay, 555.
Me: (grabbing my foam anti-stress ball, and squeezing the shit out of it) Sir, that is not an area code in this state.
Caller: Hmm . . . are you sure?
Me: (picking up the pieces of my ruptured anti-stress ball) Sir, 555 is not even an area code anywhere in the country. Let's just skip it, though. (taking a deep breath) What can I do for you today?
Caller: I just wanted to know if you wuz goin' to pick up my garbage today.
Me: (in a murderously calm voice) This agency has nothing to do with that, sir. You have called the wrong number.
Caller: Well, how would I get ahold of them?
Me: *click*

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