Not to sound like too much of a dinosaur, but it used to be when one had a problem with a product or service, one picked up the phone, called the company and spoke to an actual person to voice one’s complaint.
If two had a problem, you went right to the company’s front door and tried to look threatening, with or without a baseball bat…but that rarely worked out well, for either the two of you or the company, or the local authorities, who tended to frown on that kind of thing.
Nowadays, you pick up the phone and speak to someone who sounds like the same lady, no matter what company you’re calling.
This lady—I like to think of her as Gladys— is apparently very much in demand due to her cheerful, soothing tones.
Gladys always thanks you for calling, as if you were doing her a favor.
She also apologizes for any trouble you might be having, including the odd looking crustacean that’s formed at the end of your ear.
Then she enthusiastically announces, “Let’s get started!” and prompts you to tell her how she can best direct your call.
Depending on the type of company you’re calling she’ll ask you to say in a word what you’re having a problem with.
· Technical assistance
· Crustaceous growths
· Castle and Becket's complicated relationship
But she never mentions anything concerning a real live customer service representative.
At this point I usually start pushing zero about a thousand times, hoping this will put me through to an actual breathing person, possibly named Skip, and sometimes Todd, who may or may not have a foreign accent.
Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I then mutter something lewd into the phone, which, for some reason, Gladys never recognizes as an authorized selection…
Instead, Gladys reluctantly tells me that she’s having trouble understanding me for some reason and asks me to repeat my selection.
I do, and it’s still not recognized, at least not in most of the more conservative southern states.
Finally, after about 3 or 4 rounds of this, Gladys, in a tone, dripping with judgment, tells me to hold on while she connects me to a customer service representative…but first she would like me to tell her my account number, in order to better serve me, which shouldn't be difficult since, up to now, I haven’t been served at all.
I dutifully supply my account number, plus a few extra letters—just to mess with Gladys—for which I’m rewarded by the sound of papers shuffling or a keyboard clicking, presumably by Gladys, or even by something that sounds as if Curly from the 3 Stooges is popping his finger back and forth in his mouth.
After being assured by these comforting sounds that my business is indeed being attended to, Gladys comes back on and tells me in a subdued manner, reflective of one who is comforting a friend over the loss of their gerbil, that due to excessive call volume, all customer service representatives are busy serving other customers. However, Gladys immediately perks up and tells me to please stay on the line as my call will be handled in the order in which it was received, by the first available representative…which comforts me greatly.
I’m then transferred into some sort of Twilight Zone where over modulated, distorted music, oddly reminiscent of the soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, numbs me into a state of catatonia.
An unknown number of minutes, or possibly hours, pass, until the music suddenly stops, followed by a series of clicks, a hiss, and then finally the sound of a thousand voices talking at once in the background.
I've either been transferred straight into heaven…or, even better, the customer service call center, where beings more ephemeral than angels reside.
A distant, single voice, sounding as if it actually is beaming down from the stars breaks through the cacophony and says, “Hello, my name is Skip, sometimes Todd…how may I help you today?”
Your heart begins to race and your senses begin to stir as you desperately try to relocate the mechanism that allows you to speak.
Which you do discover, only to find that you've totally forgotten the reason you needed help today, in the first place.
And as you begin to speak to Skip, sometimes Todd, imbuing him with the respect and awe that is befitting an actual living, breathing customer service representative…you suddenly hear another series of clicks…followed by a hiss…and then nothing, but the deep, muted void of silence.
Finally, you manage to say, “Skip…Todd…are you there?”
But you know…deep inside, you know…they’re gone…you’ve lost them.
And there’s nothing left to do but push re-dial until you hear….
“Thanks for calling…I’m sorry you’re having trouble…Let’s get started….”
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I know...too many options. Probably better to just go back to bed....