Just the other day I wrote a letter to the Corporate Headquarters of Air Canada commending Alexis (a man) on how kindly he treated me in accommodating my spinal issues for my flight and all connections. I praised him to the nth wordiness degree. I believe in commending people who do a great job. Customer Service is all about the customer, and is so-named perhaps to remind said representatives. Right?
Other times, not so much. One can run into peevish types; patronizing and scoldish, even if they have antiquated methods and know gosh darn well that there is a problem on their end, yet somehow still feel like scolding you, even if you are completely innocent of all charges. That was my experience today.
I have a storage space at A-Z Rentals in Easthampton. It is not cheap. That place is a goldmine. Do the math. Even I can do that math. An art studio is cheaper, my new plan. It is such a gold mine that I dare guesstimate that they can afford a few computers, some training, and one of those springy date-stamp thingies, with a matching pad of ink. Every month my bank sends a check out – what is called a RECURRING AUTOMATIC PAYMENT – perfectly scheduled to arrive 1-2 days before the end of the month, to pay for the upcoming month’s rent, at the lofty A-Z Rentals in Easthampton. I have never had a problem with my bank sending out a check on time, in the perfect amount. They use computers to do this. BIG complicated computer networks, with data regularly backed up, on servers kept in fire- and bomb-proof rooms, kept at controlled temperatures, and with generator systems to account for every emergency, and backup systems for the backup systems and backup generators for the other backup generators, probably in an underground bunker somewhere, like the one my old company had in a town in Germany called Erding, manned by 3000 employees in shifts covering 24 hours every day, so that no data could ever be lost. At the beginning – so nervous was I at this little operation – I used to manually stop in and hand deliver my check so I could get a receipt with the date on it. When I moved, I stopped in with a check for another two months so as to pay one month ahead, knowing full well that this bill paying stuff, and, well, just about everything, gets all confused and crazy when moving, and so, at that time I gave A-Z Rentals my new address, in person. With the extra month rent paid ahead. I said, “I have a new mailing address. Can I give it to you?” <— clear and concise, yes? The woman behind the very formal counter, dividing THE OWNER and the employees from us renters, wrote it on a piece of paper. I asked a few times if this was to be entered into some sort of computer system. “Yes, of course”, I was told. I felt uneasy about such lax processes – and my intuition is always spot-on – but no amount of nagging could get her to put it in the computer at that moment, and I was assured that it was now in my “file” and I was not to worry and so on. I left uneasy at this little handwritten note in my manila folder. I love that phrase, it reminds me of grade school – MANILA FOLDER.
I left picturing data entry and a green screen, with visions of my new address in the hands of cat-eye glasses on a fake-jeweled chain, and blueberry-stained “teeth”, but no rainbows and unicorns, no, this was not a kumbaya premonition and it was to come true, with wrist slaps and scoldings and interruptings and phones a’ slammin’. AND, I must note, I had also given them my phone number AND my email address, when I first filled out the very formal application (Congratulations! You have been FULLY APPROVED for a 10 x 10 space at $75/month!), Though I did NOT leave that time-warp assured of deft use of any interwebby mail stuff. But, a phone…. everyone can operate a phone, yes?
It was a tired old place, with bright fluorescent lights and dust and possibly some framed “prints” on the walls, though my recollection is of standard eggshell paint walls – of course – and way too bright lights and dustiness. It left one un-invigorated. It left one uneasy, well, me anyway. Yet I still left $143 lighter, having left that check, for one month due, plus ONE MONTH IN ADVANCE because I knew things would get scatter-y and crazed while moving – that thing one does when they cart their junk around and frequently end up needing storage spaces – such that it would not be a stretch to assume that people working in the STORAGE SPACE INDUSTRY might understand; changing of addresses and how to contact people and all that rigmarole. Right?
So now they also had my phone number and email address, as filled out on the very official hand-typed-looking form. And then one day I decided – because I really don’t feel the need to drive across town to hand deliver a piece of paper, especially in the winter – to set up a recurring payment to go out automatically, every month, from that behemoth, Bank of America. No problem. Or so I thought.
So, to get to the point of this rant, today I received a snippy letter saying, “We have continually sent you bills reminding you of the rate increase ($1) that began November 1, 2009 (all in bold, on a sheet that looks a LOT like it came off an actual typewriter). At this time you owe a balance of $7.00.” It goes on to threaten/say how they reserve the right to lock my unit for unpaid rent, and fees that accrue for all unpaid rents, and so on, exponentially increasing their take. Then it says “Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions…”
So, I contacted the office, only to be told by a woman that all the letters sent to me – to the old address, which she VERIFIED, (I just knew this would happen) – were returned (VERY odd, as ALL other mail was duly forwarded to my new address and I have never missed a thing from any other source. This seems so very very archaically and peevishly odd). So I asked, “well, then how did this snippy letter manage to get to me here at my actual address?” Miss Scoldy-Miss said they had noticed at some point that the return stamp electronically-generated by the very modern post office, where they use computers and that interwebby thing, indicated my new address. Well, WHY didn’t you notice that when the very first one was returned?
Then she admits that there is a note in my file about my new address. Uh huh, so someone fell down on the job, didn’t they? AND THEN.. …it gets worse. Out of nowhere she tells me, in a scolding and superior tone, “You know, rent is due on the FIRST of the month. And our records show that you are always a few days late. Nothing to worry about of course, but they really should be here by the FIRST.”
So I get on my computer – while on the phone with Miss Admonishment- and pull up my account and tell her that actually, according to the modern day electronic methods that BofA uses, my check is ALWAYS there 1-2 days before the end of the month which is, of course, before it is due. She rambles on about something to do with something (I got the very clear and unmistakable feeling that she was ad-libbing, especially when she started ad-libbing) and goes on to explain that they get “thousands of checks” from renters and companies every month (hmmm, if everyone even only paid the $75 that I do, this would add up to like 75,000 to 300,000 and up per month, which would easily pay for a data entry person and a computer, for starters) and then, inexplicably, she actually starts naming off large area companies (large, for the area) as in, their exact company names! At this point I interrupt her because I don’t want to hear their client list. Upon further questioning she finally admits that it takes days, and days and days, because they do data entry by hand, AND, this is the crucial part,
“the checks are logged in as being received on the day that the data entry person logs them in, NOT on the day that they arrive in the mail.”
WTF? I ask Miss Peevy (not her real adjective, but rather, a descriptive one) WHY the checks are notated as being received on the day they are entered, rather than the day they arrive, which would be legal and honest and fair. She starts another lengthy explanation of all the checks and companies and I interrupt her again – because I still do not want to hear their client list which is actually none of my business, and is irrelevant (as if the exact company names should both impress me and validate her workload, and as if that should in any way negatively contribute to my credit rating? Because at the end of the day, marking me down as paying things only when they get around to data-entering my check, is by NO means an exact or fair assessment of my bill-paying habits. So now I have interrupted her again by asking her to please stop listing their clients’ names and she says, angrily, “LET ME FINISH“, and goes back to her litany of time-consuming checks to post and etc. I realize that somehow her workload is justification, by her logic (oh, great and misunderstood philosopher), yet to me this seems like something irrelevant that she should take up with her boss, or THE OWNER (angels sing), and not me, and my credit rating.
Would anyone really want to hear any of this, after being SCOLDED for being late when they have NEVER been late? Ooooooh. Are you kidding me? So we debate whether or not my checks are late and she says, “Well, what does it matter? We have a 10-day grace period so it is ok anyway.” I first ask why she bothered to scold me, if it does not matter, then tell her it does matter to me because I have an excellent credit rating and am not going to let their archaic record-keeping methods ever change that in any way, even if it just for another storage company calling them for a reference (which is seeming more likely by the litany) I also tell her I do NOT LIKE to be scolded (when did she become my mother or boss or anything like that?).
Hell, if I am going to be marked down as late, I might as well BE late, right? Why prioritize this bill by its due date? Maybe by the 10th they will have sorted through most of their data entry and can get to my check promptly, and then my money will have stayed in my account 12 more days, thus earning me interest, right? So, Miss Judgement says, “Well, I can go back and pull all of your checks and see the exact date they arrived”. So I say, “Okay.”
“What?”, she asks, sounding furious and incredulous.
“Okay. Yes. Let’s do that. And then the records will be straight and I won’t have that ‘SPOTTY PAYMENT RECORD’ (her exact words) for which you admonished me”.
“You can’t expect me to go back and pull all your old checks to see when they arrived. That would take too much time.”
“But, you just offered to. And I accepted.”
And, she does have a good point, but only because of said archaic record-keeping practices. If one is keeping physical logs and etc then of course there would be no time left over for pulling files, BUT, didn’t you just offer to do just that? AND, how about a date stamp? Now there is an implement that also dates back to the 50s or whenever data entry was invented, so I have a BRILLIANT idea! Why not date stamp each check as it arrives in the daily mail and enter THAT date into my account so I am marked as paying exactly on the date on which I do pay, 1-2 days early EVERY SINGLE MONTH?
She says she won’t do this, so I tell her “Ok, then do not ever scold me again for being late when I am not”. She goes off AGAIN about how it is ok to be late and the 10-day grace period and etc and this is really just too much to take so now I do what she did before – I yell over her, EXACTLY in the same manner in which she yelled over me when I tried to speak earlier, and say, BUT I HAVE NEVER EVER PAID THE RENT LATE.
She fumbles a bit and says “THE OWNER (angels sing again, street sweepers cower, everyone else yawns) says you can call her tomorrow.” Evidently I am either on speakerphone or they use also-archaic hand signals or some such thing and she has caught the onwer up-to-date on our debate and the owner has answered, also in sign language, that I have permission to call her tomorrow, after her nails dry.
Gosh!, thanks for that permission. But I DON’T WANT to talk to the owner tomorrow. What I want is to NEVER receive a snippy demand letter again; for them to take responsibility for getting the address which I gave them on September 30, 2009, correctly entered or, hand-signaled, into the “system”; to be marked as paying on the EXACT DATE that my payment actually arrives; and I want them to never ludicrously scold me for “always being a few days late” ever again, rather than having me in “the system” as ALWAYS LATE.
Mind you, BofA – oh great behemoth of electronica and interwebbyness – can prove EXACTLY when my payments are delivered to A-Z Rentals. Mind you, other customers are actually late, or don’t pay, and I am a GOOD customer.
But she is yammering away and won’t let me speak so I speak over her again TRYING to AGAIN reiterate that ALL I want is to be credited when my check actually arrives, NOT when they “find time” to “data enter” it, along with that whole list of “big” area companies. Sigh. I am not impressed by “big companies” or “Owners”, or even by money. I am impressed by intellect, kindness, manners, and soul. Material things and spending one’s life “owning” a storage-rental complex is not my life goal. Happiness is. And my good credit rating, in case I ever want to rent another storage space, which is becoming more and more likely by the minute.
And then, she hangs up. On me. So evidently she is not much qualified to be a Customer Service Representative. Maybe she should be a Street Sweeper or Disciplinarian, She who must be allowed to finish sentences, but who does not allow others to finish sentences.
BRILLIANT CUSTOMER SERVICE.
I will not be humped. (Explanation of my new phrase “humping”, will be in the next post.)
THIS CONVERSATION WAS RECORDED FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE PURPOSES. Maybe I will post the audio here, so everyone can enjoy the great intellectual debate. ;-)
STILL WAITING FOR A GRAND APOLOGY.