Sunday, August 07, 2011

Adventures in oye-land.

Today would've been my father's 93rd birthday. As regular readers may recall, I lost him a long, long time ago1978!and I am certain that the narrative of my life has not been the better for it. It also occurred to me the other day as I was memorializing my sister that more of my (original) immediate family is now dead than alivethree of the five of us. For some reason, that realization brought me up short. But rather than devolve into the maudlin remembrances that have become typical for me on such occasions (e.g. this or this), I've decided to pay a different, more offbeat type of tribute to Dad.

See, my father did not complain about a lot of things. He was a stoic sort of fellow who didn't ask or expect much from life
in other words, the antithesis of my generation, which spends most of its time screaming, me, ME, ME! But my father did have one major pet peeve, and that was customer service. Or the lack of same. And it occurs to me that some of the more scathing or satirical musings I've presented on this blog (e.g. this, this or this) really had their genesis in my father's sporadic dinner-time sermons on the insufferable incompetence of the folks at DMV, the phone company, the local Pizza Hut, etc. F'rinstnace, after the phone company had torn up our Brooklyn neighborhood in order to "upgrade" our service, my father nightly bemoaned the constant static that had newly appeared on our line. After a few weeks he called the phone company and said, "I'm requesting that you downgrade my service again so that I can actually make a viable phone call." He was abruptly disconnected.

Anyway, in that spirit I
present a conversation I recently had with a perky young CSR from a well-known credit-card company. (Hint: Its name rhymes with Bapital Gun, and its ubiquitous TV spots are always asking me what's in my wallet.) This was pursuant to several voicemails I'd received in regard to my "missing a payment." I returned the woman's call, and the rest is self-explanatory. We're picking things up after the opening pleasantries have been exchanged.

Her: "You will need to pay $78 to bring your account current through July 16."

Me: "Why are we worrying about July 16? July 16 is a month away. Let's talk about the June statement payment that I supposedly missed."

Her: "Yes, sir. You are one month behind."

Me: "I am? A month behind? L
ook, I grant you, I misread the May statement. I thought it said $75, which is what I sent. It really asked for $76. So I'm one dollar behind. Not one month."

Her: "Would you like to pay $78 to bring your account current?"

Me: "Can we look at that statement together?"

Her: "Yes, sir."

Me: "Good. What does it say under 'amount due'?"

Her: "It says $76."

Me: "Correct. And what does it say I paid?"

Her: "$75."

Me: "Correct again. And I paid that by the stipulated due date, is that correct?"

Her: "You made a partial payment by the due date, yes."

Me: "A partial...? [composing myself] So all these phone messages, all this aggravation is over a dollar?"

Her: "If you fail to pay your payment, you are behind."

Me: "Did I fail to pay my payment?"

Her: "You did not pay your payment on time."

Me: "I did not pay my payment on time?"

Her: "You did not pay the correct amount on time."

Me: "I was off by a dollar."

Her: "Yes, which is why I'm asking you if you'd like to pay $78 now to bring your account current."

I pause. I sigh. I regroup.

Me: "If I'd intended to miss a payment, do you really think I'd miss by ONE DOLLAR? If I didn't have the money or was in some sort of financial difficulty that affected my credit-worthiness, would I have sent $75 out of $76?"

Her: "I can't speak for what you were thinking, sir. I deal all day long with customers who get behind in their payments and have different reasons why."

Me: "Are they usually off by a dollar?"

Her: "The amount varies."

Me: "While I'm on the subject, have I ever missed a payment with you folks?"

Her: "That's what we're talking about here today."

Me: "I mean in the past. I've had your card for four, five years now."

Her: "Sir, I don't have that information."

Me: "Oh, but you have my missing dollar from last month underlined in red, huh?"

Her: "It is very important that you keep your account up to date."

Me: "Do you folks not believe in something called customer good will?"

Her: "Sir?"

Me: "I have been an exemplary customer of yours. I have always paid my bill on time. Most months I paid off the entire balance."

Her: "That may very well be true. Until last month. Sometimes when customers begin missing payments, it's the first sign that

Me: "When they miss by a dollar? All sorts of alarm bells go off then, do they?"

Her: "By any amount."

Me: "How about this. I'll go online right now and authorize my bank to send a dollar to you. It will go through first-thing tomorrow. Will that settle the matter?"

Her: "I can arrange right now for you to make your $78 payment, and that will bring you current through July 16."

Me: "You're not really saying you don't trust me to make a one-dollar payment through my bank. Are you?"

Her: "I'm merely trying to get this important matter settled."

Me: "This important matter."

Her: "I would assume your credit rating is very important to you, sir."

Me: "It is. Which is why I paid your bill promptly. I just made a minor error on the amount. Is none of this getting through to you?"

Her: "I don't know why your tone should be so sharp with me. I'm not the one who failed to keep up with the terms of my credit contract."

Me [deep breath]: "OK. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go online this very minute, as we're talking, and authorize a payment for $78 through my bank. I think you might've mentioned something about how that would bring me current through July 16. Can I do that? Would that be acceptable to resolve the matter and end this phone call?"

Her: "If that is what you insist on, I will note your account accordingly."

Me: "Excellent! So are we all set, then?"

There is a pause on the line. Then she says, very brightly, "Now, are you sure you wouldn't like to make a telephone payment of $78 to bring your account current through July 16...?"

(At this point, I think my father would've reached through the phone line and torn her throat out.)

Happy birthday in heaven, Dad. This one's for you.


a/good/lysstener said...

Steve, that is hilarious, and SO TRUE!!!

Happy birthday to your Dad in heaven as you said last time. He sounds like a wise man, not unlike his son? ;-)

Anonymous said...

First timer, and I agree with Alyssa. I also think Alyssa is a honey!

RevRon's Rants said...


Suggest you send a copy of this exchange to Bapital Gun's Investor Relations department. And by all means, don't be stingy with your disdain... hell... slap them with some good old messianic rage! You'll be surprised at the results. Remember now... Investor Relations. not Customer Service. The poop will fly laterally, then roll rapidly downhill.

Fun post, by the way. And Anonymous... you certain you're not a regular. I mean, yeah, we already know that Alyssa's a dish, but the DNA in your drool looks remarkably familiar.

Dimension Skipper said...

I present this past sunday's Pearls Before Swine (by Stephan Pastis).

And even though I'm not a Comcast Cable subscriber if I ever have reason to refer to them I will now call them Bombast Cable. (I'm somewhat embarrassed I never thought of it myself.)