Friday, May 9, 2014

Torture Via Whitney Houston

Hello everyone! I hope you have all had splendid weeks!

This week I found myself at the mercy of one of the most baffling customer service experiences of my life.

Everything started out innocently enough. I went to buy groceries, as my alternative was once again eating a peanut butter and jelly tortilla. Only, when I went to pay for my groceries with my bank connected credit card, which is the only card I had on me at that moment, it didn't work.

No, I wasn't denied. The machine just refused to read my card at all. I might as well have been attempting to pay with a slice of swiss cheese, which was one of the things I wanted to buy with my nonworking card.

After apologetically digging out a check, amidst grumbling noises from the other people in line, and paying, I did what any rational person would do; I called my bank to order a replacement card.

Now keep in mind, having worked customer service jobs I know they are not easy. These jobs are an endless stream of frustrated people, oftentimes who are angry that you cannot magically solve a problem they probably caused. This is why I always try to be nice to people on customer service lines. Usually, this works for me. Some days, though...

I navigated the automated instructions and waited through several minutes of the same six bars of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" in a constant loop broken up by advertisements for services I did not need. Finally, a service representative joined me on the line.

I verified my name, address, birth date, last four numbers of my social security number and ultimately got my chance to say, "So, my card has stopped working..."

Before I could continue the representative, in her super perky voice, said, "Oh, let me send you over to fraud!"


It was too late. I found myself listening to more crackly Whitney Houston.

After a few minutes someone from the fraud department picked up. I verified all of my information again and the fraud representative looked over my account, "Miss Hawn, there doesn't seem to be any fraud on your account, and your card has no active balance. This must be a problem with your card, I'm going to send you back to member services."

"AND I WILL ALWAYS LO --- Did you know that you can pay your bills online? Our automatic bill-pay is really the bees knees! It's the greatest invention since Al Gore invented the internet! --- VE YOUUUUUUUU!"

When I was again connected with a customer service rep, I verified my information and said, "Fraud sent me back here because my card isn't working, and---"

"Oh, that's a question for our fraud department, I will connect you with them now!"

And round and round and "I will always love you" round we went.

So True
Representative number four asked me if I had accidentally swiped the wrong side of my card, or perhaps tried to swipe the narrow edge. Sighing I said, "I was born at night, it wasn't last night, though."

"This must be a job for the fraud people!"

By the time I verified my information with company representative number five, I was truly terrified that Whitney was going to always love me because I would never be free of the phone.

By person number six that picked up my call I had hit the customer service breaking point. At this juncture it was seven in the evening, I had been working all day and hadn't eaten anything since my peanut butter and jelly tortilla at lunch. I believe the adjective that aptly described my state of mind at that moment would have been "hangry" (so hungry that you're angry), which is perhaps how this happened:

"Hi this Bob! How can I help you!"

"Okay Bob, my name is Allison Hawn. I live at [insert address]. The last four digits of my social security number are [insert numbers]. You aren't supposed to ask a lady her age, so don't. I am 5'3" tall if I'm wearing tall shoes, blonde, am currently wearing a red bra because it's the only one I have clean, hate the slang word "totes," will admit to having used the same knife in both the peanut butter and the jelly today out of pure laziness and regularly change the oil in my truck. Am I verified yet, or shall I continue?"

There was dead silence on the other end of the phone for a full ten seconds before the customer service rep said, "I think I wish I lived in Spokane."

Suddenly realizing that his boss could very well be listening, Bob quickly switched to, "How can I help you today?"

I took a deep breath and said, "Alright, I am going to say words. Do not act on these words until I am done saying them. Do not transfer me. Do not make me listen to Whitney Houston on a loop. Do not assume that I am an idiot who does not know which side of the credit card makes the magic happen. I will let you know when I am done speaking and then you can have your turn. Are we clear?"

The representative on the other end of the phone let out a nervous chuckle, "Yes?"

"Alright. My card doesn't work. It isn't fraud. It isn't user error. The card is broken. I need a new card. I need a card that allows me to buy groceries without having to dig out my checks and pay for food like I am 82 years old. I am now done explaining and you may suggest further action now. Go."

There was a beat of silence before the guy on the other end of the phone asked, "How many representatives have you tried to tell this to?"

"More than I should have."

"Fair enough."

I now have a new card and I think I learned some important lessons while I was at it:

1. As Mick Jagger so nearly sang, "You can't always get what you want, but if you get hungry/angry enough to start talking like a crazy person into the phone, you might get what you need."

2. Apparently mentioning your bra color to the customer service representative on the phone speeds up the process. As this was my first time trying this tactic I have no scientific proof that it works, but as further experiments continue I will report my findings here.

3. Whitney Houston will always love you.

Don't forget I have a book signing for "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" in Boise, Idaho at Hyde Park Books on June 13th!

As always, you can follow my constant adventures on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads!

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