My first jobs included burger flipping and retail, two classic teenaged vocations that sadly have become adult vocations, but that’s another topic. Back in what we sometimes refer to as “the day,” when both televisions and microwaves sported dials and superfluous epaulets were the height of lightweight jacket fashion, my managers impressed upon me a maniacal devotion to quality customer service.
Thirty years have passed, but those lessons stick with me. Regardless of what we do for a living, we’re all in the customer service business in one way or another. Our bosses are our customers and so are our clients, our readers, our constituents, even our kids. Most of the time we provide pretty damned good service, which is what makes the cruddy stories so fun to share.
So, here in no particular order are my all time most horrendous customer service stories.
1. The Sodomizing Doctor. My family attracts colon cancer like Kardashians attract celebrity spouses. In my early thirties I read an article suggesting that extremely high risk individuals like me should be screened beginning at age 30 rather than the standard 50. During my next physical I passed this nugget along to my doctor.
“We don’t screen until 50,” she said.
“Yes, I know, but this article indicated–”
“We don’t screen until 50.”
“But I’m really high risk, and–”
My doctor unleashed a sigh that still lingers high above the Sacramento Valley. “Look,” she said. “If you want me to stick my finger up your butt I will.”
And that was the end of that conversation. I’ll show you, doc! I’ll just go home and die and then you’ll be sorry!
2. The Holy Dry Cleaner. I’m not a clothes horse but now and then I somehow manage to own a nice sweater or some such. “Some such” in this case meant a silk shirt that I immediately christened with beer. I took my pricey napkin to a dry cleaner who promised to remove the stain. A week later I had the remnants of my shirt back.
“What happened?” I asked. “Did it get caught in a piece of heavy machinery?”
“I guess the fabric didn’t react well to the chemicals,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“That’ll be $4.50.”
“The dry cleaning.”
“I’m not paying you for this. You destroyed my shirt.”
“Yes, but I got the stain out,” she said.
Well played, dry cleaner. Well played.
3. You Want Butter On That? I’m not a mega-bucket popcorn movie guy. I get the “junior” size, also known as a slightly larger than normal serving of popcorn. This means that every kernel counts, so when the young lady behind the counter handed me a half filled bag of popcorn, I asked her to please top it off. She glared at me, turned around, grabbed a mega-bucket and filled it. Then she turned, restored her “people are idiots” glare, and dumped five pounds of popcorn into a one cup space. My little bag was buried in a mound of yellow kernels. She dug her meaty arm into the pile—still glaring straight into my eyes—retrieved my junior serving and handed it to me, and then with one graceful movement of her arm swept the rest of the popcorn onto the floor.
4. You Gonna Pay Up Or You Want We Should Send Vinny? I subscribed to a popular fitness magazine, but when the renewal letters started arriving I decided not to renew. For the next few weeks I chucked the renewal reminders into the recycling, along with the last chance, final chance, and we’re not kidding this is really your last chance to renew reminders. That’s how you break up with a magazine, right?
Apparently not. A few months passed, and I received a letter from a collection agency demanding that I pay Popular Fitness Magazine for another year or they’d destroy my credit. Classy!
5. Can’t You See We’re Busy? I needed a garage door opener. My local home renovation-type store shelved the openers on a high shelf, and by “high” I mean “home store towers of stuff” high; “honey hand me the binoculars so I can check out that top row of toilets” high.
Anyway, have you ever tried to find someone to help you in one of those gigantic warehouse stores? Finding Amelia Earhart is easier. I walked the aisles, occasionally bumping into someone in a vest who offered at best a half-hearted “that’s not my department.” I made a lap around the entire store, which qualified me for the Boston Marathon.
When I returned to the garage section, two vest wearers stood beneath my coveted purchase. Hooray! They were engaged in a conversation about [sports team], more specifically how if [sports team] could just get [player] then “we” could win [prestigious sports event]. They seemed well versed and highly opinionated on the topic, and having taken their cues from [sports network] they treated their material like they were playing for a studio audience.
Theirs was a Sports Talk worthy performance, but all I needed was a garage door opener. “Excuse me,” I said.
Vest 1 did not turn to face me, simply stuck his hand toward my face, the universal symbol for “don’t interrupt.” So I scooted behind them, climbed the shelves like a monkey, and retrieved my merchandise. It was a do it yourself store, after all.
You know, I love a good bad customer service story. I could go on like this all day, but writing is lonely work. I should get up, get out, and interact with some people. Maybe I’ll look up that doctor.
Categories: Good Men Project