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.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Ideal Caller

Today was a horrible, no-good, very bad day for yours truly. From the first call to the last, it was one long parade of people who are just too damn stupid to live. To add insult to injury, the calls were also unbelievably dull—not a single blogworthy one in the whole bunch. This onslaught of idiocy got me thinking, however, about the kind of caller I’d be thrilled to talk to, and what qualities this mythical caller would possess.

First and foremost, the ideal caller would have a pleasant speaking voice. This is a fairly rare commodity in the state where I was born (and foolishly continue to reside). The folks here tend to pronounce the word ‘fire’ as rhyming with ‘bar,’ where, by the way, they spend the bulk of their waking hours. I could even handle the hillbilly accent if it weren’t coupled with the kind of grammar that results in sentences like: “They done come ‘long and wuz jest ‘bout to switch my ‘lectric off.” Imagine being forced to listen to the State of the Union Address for eight hours a day, and you’ll have a sense of why I sniff glue on my coffee breaks.

The next quality the ideal caller would possess is the ability to relay information in a logical and coherent manner. The most difficult part of my job is to not only decipher the stream of nonsense that callers spew at me, but to convert this babble into readable case notes that might be used in an investigation. On any given day, I will have to make sense of drivel like this: “Um, hi . . . last year . . . no, it must have been before that . . . now when did Sara have her baby . . . uh . . . a couple months after that . . . let me think . . . oh, shit . . . can I start over?”

And oh, how I want to respond, “Sure, but could you take your Ritalin first? And maybe wash it down with a tall, cool glass of lighter fluid? Would you do that for me, sweetheart? Thaaanks, you’re a doll.”

Finally, the ideal caller would have some sense of personal responsibility, however miniscule. Most of the people I talk to each day are filled with such a raging sense of entitlement that they act like they’re doing me a favor by calling to complain about their utilities. These callers will ignore their bills for, say, a year, using every ounce of charity or public assistance at their disposal. Then, after the well runs dry, they scream bloody murder when their heat or power is disconnected. “Well, what am I supposed to do now?” they roar. “I’ve got kids here and there’s no heat in the house.”

Because I’d like to hold on to this job for just a little while longer, I fight the urge to reply, “Gosh, I feel so bad for your kids. It’s not their fault that they have stupid fucking parents who should have paid their goddamn bills like the rest of us." But I bite my tongue and help them maintain the illusion that they're not worthless deadbeat parasites.

It occurs to me, though, having enumerated the traits of the Ideal Caller, that the reason I’ve never spoken with this person is because someone with these qualities is able to resolve problems on his or her own, and doesn’t need my help. That being said, I suppose I wouldn’t have a job without my half-wit callers. And I certainly wouldn’t have a blog. So God bless the morons—may they continue to provide employment and amusement for many years to come. Or at least until the economy picks up and I can get the hell out of this job! Pray for me.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Dumb As a Box of Rocks

Today's worst call was a milestone in my long and undistinguished career as a customer service rep. With the possible exception of some high-ranking elected officials, today's caller was the stupidest goddamn person I've ever talked to. Bear in mind that the people I deal with every single day are incapable of stringing three words together to form a complete sentence. So yeah, this guy could be outwitted by a cantaloupe (and not even a particularly clever one). But let me start at the beginning . . .

The caller started the conversation off by saying that he wanted to file a lawsuit against the electric company. I advised the caller that he was welcome to do that, but that he could file a complaint with my agency before resorting to legal action. He agreed to this, and explained his grievance with the company.

The problem, he stated, was that a power line had fallen onto his driveway during a storm. He called the company to report the downed line, but after waiting for half an hour, he decided to move the line himself. He did this, he informed me, because he was "a very busy man with places to go and people to see." The caller also told me that, at the time, he suspected it was a live wire, but that he wasn't too worried about moving it.

Given this information, should it come as any surprise that Mr. Dumbass received the jolt of his life upon touching the wire? Apparently the patron saint of complete morons was on duty, however, as he was merely injured and not reduced to a pile of idiotic ash. Unfortunately, the caller was no wiser despite his brush with death, and blamed the electric company for his own stupidity.

To his dismay and my delight, I informed the caller that he had no basis whatsoever for a complaint. After being stunned into silence for a moment, he shrieked something about including my agency in the lawsuit, and hung up on me. I hated to see him go, because I felt it was my duty to warn him about other possible hazards that he's clearly too damn stupid to recognize. These warnings would have included:

Don't pee into an electrical outlet.
Fire is pretty, but it can hurt you.
Do not poke a sleeping bear in the genitals (or anywhere else, really).
Avoid stepping into the path of an oncoming train.

And finally: Don't piss off a customer service rep who has access to all your personal information. Moooowah-bwa-ha-ha-ha!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Posts Coming Soon

Gentle Readers,

I just wanted to reassure you that there will be more "worst calls" to come. The last couple weeks have been pretty busy, but I should be able to sit down and write some more posts very soon. Thanks for your patience and support.

Kind Regards,
Anonymous Me

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Call Me Back After Taking Your Meds, Okay?

Today's worst caller may well have earned the dubious honor of being the most mentally ill person I've ever spoken with (outside my own family, of course). The caller started out by announcing in a weird, hazy voice that she had a whole laundry list of things she wanted me to take care of. This by itself is not unusual, however irritating I might find it. The trouble is, none of her complaints had anything to do with utilities; and furthermore, I believe that the caller's problems existed only in the carnival sideshow that passes for her mind.

Crazy lady's first complaint was that all her mail was being stolen. And the culprit? "It's all the goddamn illegal aliens in my neighborhood," she said, her voice beginning to slur. She added that these were especially clever illegal aliens, as they had stolen not just her incoming mail, but letters that she had sent out, as well.

The caller then regaled me about her many instances of nearly being raped, assaulted, or murdered by these people. "And on top of that," she continued, "they break in here and steal the fish out of my fishtank. God only knows what they do with them."

At this point, trying hard to rein in my laughter, I felt compelled to inform the caller that there was nothing I could do about these issues. "You mean you can't arrest these bastards and send them back to their own godforsaken countries?" she asked incredulously. I replied that I could not, given that none of this had anything to do with her gas, electric, or phone service.

As I started to refer her to local law enforcement (on the off chance that any of what she said was true), she became angry and accused me of being "in league with THEM." The caller then proceeded to slam the phone down, thus ending my glimpse into the sad but entertaining world of the irretrievably unhinged.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Do I Look Like the F*cking Yellow Pages?

In addition to the dozens of complaints I listen to each day, I also receive a fair number of misdialed or misdirected calls. This is par for the course at most government agencies, but it's complicated by the fact that our customer service number appears on every utility bill that's issued within the state. The number is there for people who are having unresolved disputes with their gas, electric or phone companies, and is labeled as such on the bill.

However, because people tend to randomly dial any phone number listed on their utility bill, they get connected to my office without knowing who they're actually calling. That being said, here are three recent, painful conversations I've had along these lines.

Caller #1

Me: Welcome to [the name of my agency]. How may I assist you?
Caller: Yeah, I need to pay my bill. You need my Visa card?
Me: I think you have the wrong number. Who were you trying to call?
Caller: The phone company.
Me: This is not the phone company. This is a government agency.
Caller: What's their number?
Me: Whose number?
Caller: The phone company's.
Me: Sir, I have no way of knowing who your phone company is.
Caller: So you don't have their number?
Me: I'm sure I have it, but you haven't told me which phone company it is.
Caller: You mean there's more than one?

Caller #2

Me: Welcome to [the name of my agency]. How may I assist you?
Caller: Did you shut my gas off?
Me: Um, no.
Caller: Why'd you shut my gas off?
Me: I did not shut your gas off, ma'am.
Caller: It says here you did.
Me: This is a government agency, ma'am, not a utility company. We do not shut people's gas off [however annoying they might be].
Caller: Ain't you the gas company?
Me: Again, this is a government agency. We are not your gas company.
Caller: Well, what's their number?

Caller #3

Me: Welcome to [the name of my agency]. How may I assist you?
Caller: Can you answer a question for me? Why are gasoline prices so high right now?
Me: I'm sorry, this agency only regulates natural gas.
Caller: That's pretty much the same thing.
Me: No sir, I'm afraid it's not. We have absolutely no authority over gasoline prices.
Caller: Well, who WOULD have authority? These prices are OUTRAGEOUS!
Me: I'm sorry, I have no idea.
Caller: [condescendingly] Don't you think you should KNOW about this?
Me: Sir, there's no way I can know which agency would regulate every single thing that we have no jurisdiction over. If I had to guess, I'd say you should contact someone on the federal level, the Department of Energy, perhaps?
Caller: Fine, I'll call them. Now what's their number?

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

The End is Near . . . Isn't It?

Today’s worst caller was so painfully deluded that he’s more to be pitied than scorned. However, my dozen or so loyal readers have come to expect a certain, shall we say, hard-heartedness from me, and I’m not one to disappoint my fans. So I’ll dispense with the pity and serve up a generous helping of fresh-baked scorn with a side order of cool disdain.

The conversation began typically enough, with the caller informing me that his power was about to be shut off. “I’m not sure I’m going to pay my bill, though,” he added casually. “I don’t think I’ll need my electric for much longer.” And, fool that I am, I asked him why this was.

“Well,” he replied, “have you ever heard of eschatology?” His voice was bubbling with the kind of glassy-eyed enthusiasm usually reserved for the hosts of infomercials, Amway distributors, and Mormons. Feeling a fresh headache being born inside my skull, I murmured that I had not. “Eschatology,” he lectured, “is the study of the ‘End Times,’ from the book of Revelation, in the Bible.” (As opposed to the book of Revelation in, say, The Joy of Cooking?)

“Mm-hmm,” I said noncommittally, hoping he’d get to the point of all this.

“The ‘End Times’ are near, I can tell you that,” he said with authority, “and the Pope’s death is a sign. It’s just a matter of days at this point before ‘The Rapture’ occurs.”

“And,” I replied, trying to mask the ridicule in my voice, “this is why you’re not concerned about your power being shut off? And if so, I’m not sure why you contacted my agency if you didn’t need assistance.” The caller paused a moment, then conceded that he might need a couple days’ extension to pay his bill, just in case the coming apocalypse didn’t proceed on schedule.

So I helped the caller get his extension from the electric company, then bid him bon voyage on his imminent departure. After I hung up, I began thinking about his talk of “The Rapture” and “End Times,” and it filled me with a warm, tingling feeling. If what he said were true, the number of inane phone calls I receive each day would plummet as he and his ilk rose heavenward. Let us pray.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

Up Jumped the Devil

Today's worst caller was the Prince of Darkness. I'm not kidding. Satan himself called me today, and while I wasn't surprised to find out that he's a slumlord, I did rather expect him to have better manners. But let me start at the beginning.

Halfway through my introductory spiel, Satan interrupted me and asked to speak directly to a manager. This is never an auspicious way to begin a conversation, but I played along. I asked the caller's name, to see if he was following up on an earlier call. I couldn't find anything in the computer, but to double-check, I asked him to spell his last name for me. Satan was in a snit, though, and he snarled back at me, "I asked to speak with a MANAGER! Is one available or not?"

So I transferred Satan to my supervisor, giving him my customary warning, "I've got a live one for ya, boss!" And with that, the Prince of Darkness was no longer my concern, and I could move on to the next inevitable douchebag.

About ten minutes later, Boss-man dragged himself into my very cluttered cubicle to give me the scoop (as I dearly hoped he would). In an exhausted but triumphant manner, he recounted his little chat with Satan. It turns out that the Prince of Darkness wanted to know if he, as a landlord, could have his tenants' utilities shut off immediately, and without notice. And why, you might ask, did he want to do this? Why, in order to force them out of their apartments, of course! Apparently the legal eviction process was just taking up too much of Satan's precious, precious time (stealing souls and driving up the price of gas aren't just hobbies, after all).

Well, Boss-man set the Devil straight, of course. Most of the landlord/tenant utility laws on the books are designed to prevent exactly this kind of situation, protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords, Satanic or otherwise. Upon hearing the bad news, my boss informed me, the Prince of Darkness flew into a cloven-foot-stamping, batwing-flapping rage and promptly hung up.

You know, it's small victories like this, against the forces of evil or ignorance, that allow me to make it through the day without handing in my notice. That, and the fact that I have no other way of making a living, except possibly as a street whore. And believe me, that job's looking better every day.

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