Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hanging on The Telephone

  When the National Do Not Call List was implemented , a lot of people I knew joined immediately as some sort of protest and a way to stop getting calls during their dinner, but I never did. Most of the unwanted calls I get come from people I know who call just as soon as I start to take a nap. I have no problem hanging up on a telemarketer if I don’t want to talk, but a friend or relative is a different story. I feel obligated to talk to them and even if I tell them I was taking a nap and they hang up, it’s problematic that I’ll get back to sleep anyway. I normally don’t mind calls from telemarketers because they provide me a constant source of amusement and now this blog post.

  When I was writing shoe store software for a small company, I got a lot of offers in the mail for free computer magazines and I’d put down ‘MIS Director’ as my title on the forms. This led to me getting a lot of calls for free subscriptions to other computer magazines. I’d patiently answer all the questions from the telemarketers and then right at the end of the call when all I needed to do to confirm my subscription was say YES, I’d ask for the braille version of the magazine. I could hear the jaw drop on the other end of the phone and then I’d casually mention that I was blind and needed the braille version of the magazine in order to be able to read it. When I was told that there was no braille version, I’d try my best to sound crestfallen and say I was sorry, but there was no way I could subscribe to the magazine. It probably wasn’t very nice, but it sure felt good at the time.

  I learned a long time ago that telemarketers and customer service reps of big companies are rarely allowed to hang up the phone unless the customer hangs up first. Once I took Matt (who was all of 2 or 3 at the time) to the supermarket and he wanted some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese where the macaroni was shaped like the characters from the X-Men cartoon show. When Kathy cooked it for us, there was barely any Macaroni and Cheese for us to eat. I looked at the box a lot closer than I did at the store and it was only 5.5 ounces (printed in hard to see white against the yellow mac & cheese on the box), while the same sized box of the regular Kraft variety was 7.5 ounces (printed in black in the same position on the box).

  Luckily for me, also on the box was a ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed or your money back’ pledge and a phone number to call. I called the number at work during my lunchtime one day and was greeted by a customer service rep who said he would be happy to help me. I explained my dissatisfaction with my 5.5 ounces of Mac & Cheese in a 7.5 ounce box and said I wanted my dollar back (I bought 2 boxes for 50 cents each) like the box guaranteed. The rep told me that he couldn’t give me my money back just because I was unhappy with the portion in the box. I read him the pledge on the box and noted that it did not say ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed unless you were dissatisfied with the small portion in the half-empty box’. This went on for a few minutes and the customer service rep finally told me there was nothing he could do for me and if there was nothing else he could help me with, I could hang up. That’s when I realized he couldn’t hang up on me! I said “I would like my dollar back, please.” and that’s all I said for the next 15 minutes of repeated attempts to get me to hang up and awkward silences until I was transferred to a lady who took my name and address and told me I would get my dollar in a few weeks. Luckily, I had a speaker phone! A few weeks later I received a check for a dollar in addition to a packet of coupons for fine Kraft products.

  I’ve used this technique of repeating a simple request over and over whenever I have a customer service complaint and I don’t think the rep is allowed to hang up on me. One time the GM card people deactivated my card when I tried to buy my two boys a membership to the Internet Chess Club. I didn’t know 2 online transactions for the same amount was such a red flag and didn’t pay much attention when I had to use a different card for the second membership. I didn’t find out about the deactivation until 2 weeks later when I tried to use my GM card in a GM dealership to pay for an oil change for my GM car. My GM card was rejected, the clerks treated me like a loser, and I had to use another card while the clerk called it in to make sure I wasn’t using a stolen card. When I got back to work, my wife called to tell me that the GM card people had just called to say they had put a hold on my card 2 weeks prior. I called the GM card company and read them the riot act for making me look like a GM deadbeat at a GM dealership. No one could give me a reasonable explanation as to why I wasn’t told my card had been put on hold and as soon as I realized the rep I was talking to didn’t have any answers, I’d say the magic words, “I’d like to speak to your supervisor, please.” The fourth supervisor put me on hold for 20 minutes, and then told me it was just a mistake and they were very sorry and then asked if there was anything else he could do for me. I told him “Yes, I’d like $50 for my trouble”. He told me over and over that they couldn’t give me $50, but at this point I knew he couldn’t hang up so I kept repeating myself. After 20 more minutes I got a $25 credit to my account because I was such a loyal customer (and I asked to be connected to the division where I could cancel my card). Of course, this was before GM went broke and couldn’t afford $25.

  My favorite telemarketing call came when my sister-in-law and her daughter were visiting from Missouri to see Matt graduate high school last May. The phone rang and I saw on the Caller Id that it was the National Rifle Association calling. I put the phone on speaker and when the telemarketer introduced himself and told me he was calling for the NRA, I said in my best ‘Borat’ voice “YES, I would like 2 rifles very much, thank you!!” The telemarketer told me he didn’t sell rifles and I asked him “And you are call for who?”, whereupon he said he was calling on behalf of the National Rifle Association and I would try to order the rifles again. This went on for about 5 minutes with me mixing in the occasional question about how many people I could shoot and how far away I had to be with NRA rifles until our guests started laughing too loudly and the telemarketer realized he was being pranked on and starting laughing along with us.

  A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Wells Fargo. It wasn’t really from Wells Fargo, just from a company they sold my number to. The representative was trying to sell me Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance. I asked if I could get a special rate on the Dismemberment Insurance since both my legs had been amputated. The rep didn’t even have to think about it, but instead told me that the insurance was still a great deal and after all, I still had my arms, fingers, and toes that were eligible. I reminded her that my legs were amputated and that I had no toes, but there was still no discount. By this time, Kathy was giving me the evil eye and it was getting time to walk Daisy and Baxter so I played my final gambit to get a dismemberment discount from the rep. I told her I was scheduled to have surgery to have one of my arms removed and what kind of discount could I get then? There was still no discount so I sadly hung up and went for a walk with Kathy and the beagles.

  Someday the telemarketers will have their own ‘Do Not Call’ list and I’m sure I’ll be on it. I’ll probably never notice all the missed calls, but I’m sure I’ll miss the fun of getting even with the telemarketers and customer service reps of the world.