Adventures In Customer Support

Note: I originally wrote this several  months ago, but neglected to edit and post it. Since our phone and internet contracts are now finally running out, I thought it would be appropriate.

This is an age-old tale. Age-old in that it all started more than two years ago and age-old in that it surely has happened before to other people from other countries – in other centuries, even. As a matter of fact, I am sure that in ancient days cavemen were waylaid in their caves by travelling wheel salesmen who, unimpressed by the fact that the axle had yet to be invented, wanted to sell them Authentic Neanderthal Copperworks Wheels with Matching Sabertooth-Hide Hub Caps. And before that some guileless amoeba was wondering why that strange bacterium in the pinstripe suit kept insisting that it needed to buy ten pairs of gloves (special offer, only valid as long as the Hadean eon lasts!), when it didn’t have any hands and the primordial  soup it was swimming in was quite warm enough on its own.

Some of you may already have guessed what, or rather who, has made me so exceptionally aggravated. Right. Salespeople. To be more precise: telephone salespeople. Not as in telemarketing, those ones are bad enough, but as in people who are trying to sell you telephones and telephone contracts.

(Telemarketing is fun too. There’s one company that keeps calling to invite us to a totally free exhibition of totally high-quality totally authentic French kitchenware. Or something like that anyway, the people who call have at best a tenuous understanding of the German language and ridiculously thick French accents. It’s rather amusing, really.)

But back to my tale. Jonas and I got married in the summer of 2009. While the actual wedding was great and something that we both wanted, the event also brought us a whole lot of paperwork, mostly connected to changing my name with insurances and internet providers and the like. The one that I sort of left until the bitter end was our telephone provider. (Bitter end meaning until about a year later.) I won’t name any names, but let’s just say that their logo is sort of sickly pink and they used to sponsor a cycling team that didn’t do much except use lots of illegal substances and lose a lot. Got it? Yeah, that’s them. I should have guessed after that cycling debacle, really.

Instead of writing them a letter you only had to show up at one of their stores and say “hey, I got married the other day, could you change my name please?” That, incidentally, is the other thing that should have made me a little suspicious. I used to work for one of the bigger German cellphone providers and there you couldn’t as much as ask how long your contract was still going to last without a passport, a birth certificate and a signed and stamped horoscope. At the pink place I only needed my phone number.

Name changed. Done. Wonderful. “Can I interest you in one of our internet flat-rate offers?” asks the woman behind the counter. “No,” I tell her. I also add, quite truthfully, that I had only recently renewed our contract with our current internet provider and wouldn’t be able to get out of said contract for at least another year. “Oh”, she says, “but you’ll think about it, yes?” I answer, quite politely, that when the time comes I will weigh all my options and maybe change providers or maybe not or whatever… a year is a long time, lady. The woman behind the counter only smiles, gives me her card and wishes me a good day. And at the precise moment, in the far-off distance, the God of Fuckwits can be seen to cry tears of joy.

Three days later we have an envelope from the Tele… our telephone provider in the mail. I ignore it, they send enough adverts to deforest the South American rainforest to our house alone.

Six days later I get a phone call from them. Customer satisfaction survey, they say. “How did you like your recent interaction with our company?” I am a little flummoxed, but I answer quite pleasantly “fine.” The man seems eager for more. “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate our handling of your request?” Flummoxation increases, seeing that changing my name in my account information doesn’t leave much room for grey zones. Surely this is more of a binary-type answer? Still, they changed my name, so I say “ten.” The man continues. “Were you satisfied with the information provided by our employee?” I frown, wonder if they maybe think that the employee chose my new name for me or something, but I still say “yep.” “On a scale of one to ten?” I sigh. “Ten, very satisfied.” I reason that this is probably some sort of standard questionnaire. So I relax and let the whole thing wash over me. And then I forget about it. They’re funny, these telecommunication people.

Two weeks after that there’s another letter in the mail. Might have been three weeks, not quite sure, because (guess what) this one goes straight to the trash as well.

Five weeks after the original visit to the shop another letter arrives. Number three. This one I open, because it looks like it might have some actual content. And boy am I right.

“Dear Mrs. Kyratzes,” the letter says. “We’re very sorry to say that we haven’t received confirmation of the cancellation of your internet provider contract yet,” it goes on. “Here’s another cancellation letter that you just need to sign and send to them, in case the first one got lost,” it continues. If it is feeling ashamed of itself, it doesn’t show it. My right eyelid starts to twitch. “As soon as we get the confirmation,” the unblushing paper proclaims, “we will send you your new digital TV receiver (199,- €) and you will have access to 34 channels as well as unlimited telephone and internet usage with our new BloodyExpensiveDeluxe Package (54,99 €/Month).”

Jonas looks slightly concerned now. I am standing next to the mailbox, open letter in hand, frothing at the mouth and screaming incoherently. I concede that he might have a point, wipe the froth from my mouth, and we leave on some errand or other.

Later that same day: “[Redacted] customer service, how may I help you?” I take a deep breath. Shouting at that man won’t solve anything. Yet the temptation is there. I manage to contain my temper, but what comes out might still be the most heated telephonic monologue that I have given in my life so far. I explain. I explain about my visit to the shop and about the letters and about the frequent phone calls at increasingly ungodly hours. I especially explain about how I am not ever going to buy anything off them again even if they should turn out to be the last telephone provider on the planet. That last bit gives the guy some pause. “So you don’t like our BloodyExpensiveDeluxe Package (54,99 €/Month)?” he asks. No… I don’t. In the end I get transferred to another desk, because the first guy is bleeding from the ears and maybe also because my problem is outside his area of expertise. First day on the job, poor guy, hasn’t even learned how to butcher babies. Right.

Next dude. “Hello. [Redacted] customer service, how can I help you?” I have to repeat everything again. I can only assume that Dude #1 is sitting next to Dude #2 and that he is smirking. Maybe I’m being paranoid. When I’m done this creature doesn’t ask if I would like to switch to a different service package, thus proving that he must have some semblance of a self-preservation instinct tucked away somewhere, but instead begins to take down my complaint. Very. Slowly. When he is done enough time has passed to copy down the Bible… in Maori. He reads the thing back to me, a task which isn’t made easier by his thick Bavarian accent, and would you believe it, a tiny mistake has slipped in there. Wonder how that happened. “The customer will sign a new contract with [redacted] once her old contract has run out in eleven months,” he reads. Aha, I think, is that so? This isn’t good for my heart. I point his mistake out to him and he’s all sorry-and-forgive-me. Dude #1 is still sniggering, I presume. Never call me again, I say. Or write or anything. Close your shop in our part of town. Whatever. I make him take that down too. Then I hang up.

The moral of the story is that you should never, ever, not under any circumstances, talk to salespeople. Honest. It will be bad for the rainforest and it will be bad for your blood pressure. And doping is bad. Yep.

At least I haven’t gotten another call, letter, telegram, email or smoke signal from that bloody pink madhouse since then. That’s something.

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