QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Brush with Insanity

A true story from summer of 2007, which prompted me to write the letter which follows to management:

Dear Misters Y*** and G***:

I am a dissatisfied customer, to say the least.

Three weeks ago I contacted [bleep}, via a tedious, touchtone customer response process, to make an appointment for servicing our 3-year-old [Bleep] refrigerator at our vacation home at the beach. We had purchased, because of [Bleep]'s excellent reputation, our refrigerator, dishwasher, and oven/range from [bleep] when we renovated our house 3 summers ago. While I was quite surprised that the refrigerator should, at its young age, be in need of repair already, I nonetheless counted on [bleep]’s fine reputation for service and repair.

After having made the appointment for a time we would be at our vacation home, we received a call from [bleep] the day before informing us we would need to reschedule. Already down at the vacation home, I phoned [bleep] (again through the laborious touch tone system) to reschedule the maintenance call, which happily I was able to schedule for the next day, Tuesday, 22 July. The technician was scheduled to arrive between 8 am and 5 pm. If I were to say what ensued were unsatisfactory, I would be greatly euphemistic! Please endeavor to place yourself in my proverbial shoes as I relate my experience with your service department as objectively as possible:

I was informed by the mono-toned customer service representative that, were I to call Tuesday morning, I would be able to obtain a more specific time at which the technician might arrive. I did indeed call Tuesday morning (again through the 3-minute touch tone process) and was told the technician would be here between 1 and 3. The agent took my cell phone number and told me that I would be phoned with yet a more specific time. My cell phone rang around 12:24 pm while I was outside for a moment; I could not grab the call quickly enough. The identification of the call was the 800 number I laboriously had used to set up the appointment. I returned the call to the 800 number, again clumsily jumping through the touchtone hoops. When I reached a human voice (hallelujah), I was told that, because I was not at home when the technician phoned, I had been "taken off of the technician's route." I was, therefore, dropped from the service schedule without the technician's ever having knocked at my door or spoken with me! Sensing an incredulity at the manner in which the system functioned (or not, rather), I asked to speak to a manager, at which time I was transferred to a mono-toned manager named "[bleep]." [Bleep] listened to my story and then, without due apology or comment, asked me again for my phone number and to confirm my name and address. She then, without asking or warning me, put me on hold; when she returned to the call she informed me that I would have to reschedule. I asked to speak to her supervisor, at which point she hung up the phone. [I am not making this up].

On my third phone call into the touch tone labyrinth-o’-frustration, I asked to speak directly to a supervisor so that I might expedite my call's purpose; after all, ostensibly the technician was close to my home. After I was put on hold for 7 minutes in complete silence, the call disconnected. [It really did]. On my 4th call (now 12:54 pm), after plodding again through the touch tone “response” system, I again told my sad story. The slightly more helpful representative put me on hold and then disconnected me. I was in a really good mood now.

It was at this point, I believe, that I saw an actual [bleep] repair truck driving down my street. I ran downstairs as quickly as humanly possible and tried in vain to catch the truck, which took a right hand turn onto the highway and kept going. Alas.

My 5th call entailed the representative's phoning her manager for advice and calling the routing center (duh?). I was subsequently informed that a couple of messages had been sent to the technician who, in this modern day and age, cannot call customer directly; no, rather, the routing center contacts the driver/technician through some sort of "beep" system. ok. I took a deep breath, said thank you, and hung up. On my 6th call, at 1:06 pm, I again made my way through the maze to a manager: a friendly, fantastic, manager with excellent people skills and who apologized and validated my frustration (the secret of customer service!). His name was Steve and his employer id is P-1713 and I would like heartily to commend him to you. Steve listened patiently to my situation (which, in retrospect, I should have recorded to make my life easier) and apologized! He was probably rolling his eyes, but that’s the beauty of the telephone! This was an up! He sent a SUPERVISOR'S message (a notch up from a regular message) to the technician (through the technologically advanced "beep" system at the routing center) and assured me that the technician or routing center would be calling me - that it was their job to ensure communication among the drivers, customers, and routing center. I joked with my new buddy Steve, telling him, hopefully inoffensively, that I didn't have much faith that the [bleep] service folks were terribly good at their jobs and that, though I had been promised a phone call since 12:00, none had come. Steve again assured me someone would, indeed, call. I asked Steve whether I could be in direct contact with him since he was the only one so far who seemed compassionate to my situation and tried to help me; however, he laughed at the silly idea that I could do so. I waited until 4:30 for my 7th call to the 800 touchtone h*ll. Perhaps I'm not being so euphemistic now... The representative with whom I spoke this time put me on hold a few times, creating false hope for me; she then got back on the line and hemmed and hawed a bit, only to confess that: "um, I think you're going to need to reschedule." "May I please speak to a supervisor?" I queried weakly. "You realize that he's just going to give you the same answer," she unaffectionately informed me. "I do, indeed," I responded; "still, I would very much like to speak with a manager, please." The phone was then disconnected. [Really; I am not making this up].

Almost defeated, yet spurred on relentlessly by a cursed tenacious personality, I sighed and called again, at this point knowing I could shrewdly cut off the friendly customer response touch tone voice’s questions with my answers, which I already knew by heart from vast unfortunate recent experience:

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Welcome to [Bleep], blah, blah..."

me: "Repair."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "To make the process more efficient [insert belly laugh], please type in or say your home phone number."

me: ***-***-****

customer service sardonically friendly voice: Thank you. Our records show that you already have an appointment today. Are you calling to verify the time of the appointment?"

me: "no."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Thank you. How can we help you? Would you like to: make an appointment,”.... etc.

me: "Make."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: " You said make an appointment. Is that correct?"

me: "yes."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "For what kind appliance are you calling?... For example..."

me: Refrigerator."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Did you say … refrigerator?"

me: "Yes."

customer service sardonically friendly voice: "Thank you. Please hold for the next representative..."

During the last phone conversation I was connected with "Applet," who was friendly enough but informed me I would have to make a new appointment. Again, I asked to talk to a manager. I was connected then to another fabulous person with wonderful social skills. He tried calling the technician, leaving another message, etc.; alas, the call was disconnected even after I asked him please not to disconnect me.

Needless to say, I am out of energy to call that 800 number again. I will be biting the bullet about the warranty, calling a local repair technician, and hoping to solve the problem that way.

I have, at times, exhibited a playful tone throughout my telling of my [Bleep] Service Saga; however, I am very much serious when I tell you that I will NEVER, EVER again purchase a [bleep] appliance or anything else from [Bleep], in order that my own sanity may be preserved (if it is still, indeed, intact).


[my signature]


  1. ARG! I've been there, but it was with British Telecom. And they are the only broadband in our area. It is soul-destroying to experience such feelings of powerlesness and rage! I feel waves revulsion every time I hear their on-hold music!

    Anyway, I love your stories and will keep checking back!

  2. Julie, love the blog!

    The repair man was out today as the refrigerator on its almost fourth birthday decided to stop producing ice. The problem is diagnosed and the repair man says, "Before I give you the cost, I need to warn you it's going to be expensive."

    "Umm, new refrigerator expensive or go ahead with this repair expensive?"

    "Oh no, not that expensive."

    "Okay, how much?"

    "$313 at a minimum."

    "How much to replace the entire thing?"


    "Okay", I say with a sigh.

    I now have my third dumping of the ice cubes tonight. Ice will never have tasted so good.

  3. hmm. I don't feel too sorry for you since ostensibly you didn't have much trouble getting the repair man out there... :)


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