Monday, June 08, 2009

Phoney War

The first law of capitalism: you are the customer, therefore you are an idiot.

In this obviously fictional sketch, there is an Idiot Customer, several Clueless Employees, and a Faceless Corporation, let’s call it AT&T. The Idiot Customer has a broken Sony Ericsson mobile phone, his second in two weeks, and is back in the AT&T shop where he bought it. Twice he has plugged it into the re-charger overnight, only twice to discover next morning that the previously functional phone has completely died. The first time, AT&T sent him a brand new one, after a long interrogation about what happened to the old one, and much messing with the broken phone in the AT&T Shop with Clueless Employee 2. Now, on the phone again to the warranty office while pacing around the AT&T shop, the Idiot Customer listens as Clueless Employee 3 offers to send him another new phone. The Idiot Customer points out that it would perhaps be a good idea to send a new re-charger as well, because the re-charger seems to be responsible in some way for knackering the phones.

[The following conversations have been heavily edited in order to reduce a one-hour phone event to a manageable length.]

Clueless Employee 3 [reading off an English-language crib sheet somewhere in The World]: I am only authorised to send you a new phone, sir.

Idiot Customer: But if you only send me a new phone, there’s every chance that the old re-charger will break the new one, and then we’re back to where we started, only now with three broken phones.

Clueless Employee 3: I am only authorised to send you a new phone, sir. If you like we can send you the new phone, and then when you receive it, you can contact us to send you a new re-charger.

Idiot Customer [incredulous]: Why not just send me the re-charger together with the phone and save us both a lot of time, effort and money?

Clueless Employee 3: I am only authorised to send you a new phone, sir.

Idiot Customer: I am standing in an AT&T shop under a big slogan that says, AT&T: Solution Provider. I want you to provide me with a solution.

Clueless Employee 3: I would like to apologise on behalf of AT&T, sir, for all the inconvenience.

Idiot Customer: I don’t want your apologies. I want a phone that works.

Clueless Employee 3: I will see what I can do and get back to you, sir.

[Idiot Customer is put on hold.]

Idiot Customer [to Clueless Employee 2]: Jesus Christ on a flying fucking motorbike.

[Clueless Employee 1 has long since ducked out of the shop, Clueless Employee 2 is ignoring him and thinking, “I wish this bastard customer would stop ranting down the phone and leave.” He’s the same Clueless Employee who was peeved two weeks ago when Idiot Customer inconveniently came in just as he was settling down to watch Barcelona versus Manchester United live on his computer. Yes dude, I’d like to be watching that game too, but I’m not because the crappy phone you sold me doesn’t work any more.]

Clueless Employee 3: On behalf of AT&T I would like to apologise for putting you on hold for such a long time, sir. I have checked in my computer, sir, and I am only authorised to send you a new phone.

Idiot Customer [sighing, and hating himself for having to deliver this line]: Can you put me through to your manager, please?

[Many more minutes of holding, apologies and repeated explanations about the probably malfunctioning re-charger later.]

Slightly Less Clueless Employee 4: We can send you a full phone kit as a special one-off courtesy, sir, but it will invalidate your warranty agreement.

Idiot Customer: I don’t care, just send it, and don’t even think about charging me for postage, and it’s no special courtesy, by the way, I’m actually trying to save you money here by not having another one of your phones break because the re-charger you sold me is faulty.
[Another ten minutes combing through the fine print. Idiot Customer isn’t really listening as he verbally signs away his rights to any future replacements. He’s mourning the loss of the good mood he was nurturing on a fine summer’s morning just one hour ago. Of the old-fart school, he still hates mobile phones and their moronic, ubiquitous intrusiveness, and wishes he didn't have to go through all this just to get back a device he wants to live without.]

Clueless Employee 4: Thank you very much for calling AT&T today. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Idiot Customer: Yes, please. Could you set about destroying your sorry excuse for a company from within, preferably today, and with the ruthless efficiency of a ravenous rogue crocodile happening upon a nest of newborn seal pups? Please?

Though the Idiot Customer only thought of saying that afterwards. Idiot.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, I know the feeling. Congratulations on keeping your cool.

Call centres really are a curse. In the good old days before evil call centres, you could still get some satisfaction. Like the time, before cellphones were introduced in SA, when our telephone cut off our phone, for no good reason. The story is best told in its long version, which involved a sick wife at home and me screaming in a spectacular burst of anger at the poor idiot woman who told me: "Sorry there's nothing I can do" ("Then put on somebody who can").

Next day I decided to fax an eloquent letter of complaint to the regional manager, outlining how their error led to me not wrapping up an appointment to interview Nelson Mandela (whose trip to Cape Town I was covering, though the was no chance of a face-to-face; I lied to the regional manager).

A few days later, the regional head of accounts phoned me at home. My sphincter has never recovered from the furious licking he applied. I must call him by his fist name, but he must call be by my surname because he is but a humble servant and jester; he had to look up some of the big words I used etc. The poor fucker humbled himself abjectly. And he was working for a monopoly!

Now, that to me is a story of excellent service. Oh, the nostalgia...

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Thanks for the comment, dude - I was beginning to think that in the twitterFace age (due to end Tuesday week in favour of something shorter and faster) my unusually long post had deterred even my loyal band of three readers from commenting.

I try not to yell because I've worked in retail and know what it's like being a blameless stooge getting shouted at by a customer. My new phone arrived by FedEx next morning, with recharger. Shame I had to waste two hours being an insistently pompous pain in the arse to get it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't sweat it when people don't comment. Last week I posted a '60s soul mix, which was downloaded something like 200 in a day. I had 1,400 hits that day...and not a single comment. Another 1,000+ over the following three days, and something like two comments.

So I "complained" on Facebook about that (my blog has a FB page; I'm dead modern, I am), and one chap said that he doesn't comment because he thinks he has nothing other than banality to add. And I sort of understand the feeling.

Yesterday I posted a new instalment in a series of original songs, and the guy commented, prefacing it with a banality warning. He pointed out that he didn't know Reason To Believe but having heard it now really likes it, and how the original version of Galveston is better than Campbell's. Banal? Hell, I enjoyed that comment. It was brilliant feedback.

But that fear to look stupid just by saying "Thanks for a great post" is pervasive. I just commented on a blog by a chap who posts retro photos and album covers etc. (you might enjoy it: Somehow he rarely gets any comments. I had nothing to add, really. I wrote something like "Yeah, wonderful picture", and closed the window feeling inadequate. Although I know, from experience, that the blogger will probably appreciate even that banal a comment.

See, I'd be really shit at Twitter.