Contest-ing The Facts

, , , | Right | September 13, 2019

(I just started working at a library, where it’s not uncommon to get patrons who have never used a computer and want help. We also are in a fairly poor area with majority non-English speakers, making communication sometimes difficult.)

Patron: “Hello. I won a contest and want to get my money from it. I need to email them.”

(He holds up a bottle cap, which I assume has some sort of contest rules on it.)

Me: “Sure! Our computers are just over there, or you can connect your laptop to our Wi-Fi.”

(The patron walks over to the computers and sits down, and I continue my work. He comes back after a few minutes.)

Patron: “I need help with my email.”

(I follow him to his computer, which has not been logged in. It turns out he doesn’t have an email account, nor does he even really know how a computer works. I walk him through the entire process, which takes longer than usual because of slow Internet. Finally, I get him set up and write his information on a piece of paper so he can access his email later.)

Me: “Okay, you’re all set to write the email. Good luck!”

(I leave him to it and get on with my work. After a few minutes, he returns to the circulation desk.)

Patron: “I need to go. I’ll come back another time.” *leaves*

(Part of me feels bad for not helping him more, but his skill level was so low that he needed an intro computer class to really make a difference. With the hurried way he left, I don’t expect him to see him again. However, the next day, the same patron comes in.)

Patron: “I need help with my email. I need to see if I won the contest.” *holds up the bottle cap again*

Me: “Okay, do you have that paper I gave you? With your email login?”

Patron: “No.”

Me: *face-palming, because I remember the email, but not the password he chose* “Okay, let me show you how to reset your password.”

(I go through the process with him only to learn that because it is a new account, it needs to be connected to a phone number to reset the password. I explain this.)

Patron: “But I don’t have a phone.”

Me: “Do you know anyone with a phone? It doesn’t have to be yours; you just need to bring the phone here and give the computer your number so it can text you.”

Patron: “My mom has a phone. I can use that.”

Me: “Great! Okay, you need to go get the phone and bring it here so we can access your email.”

(He leaves and comes back in a few hours.)

Patron: “I got the phone.”

(He holds up a piece of paper with a phone NUMBER on it, not an actual phone.)

Me: “I’m sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear. The computer is going to send the phone a text, so we need the phone here. You need to come back with the phone.”

(I know I explained extremely clearly earlier, because I know this guy doesn’t know anything about technology. Obviously, I wasn’t clear enough. The patron leaves, and the next day is my day off. When I come back two days later, I’m on desk with a coworker, who has been here for years. Guess who comes in and hightails it to me?)

Patron: “You! I need help with the contest again.”

Coworker: “[Patron], I told you, it’s not a contest! It’s just a bottle cap.”

Patron: “No! This girl helped me with a contest!”

Me: “What? Can I see the bottle cap please?”

(He gave me the bottle cap, which was an ordinary bottle cap with a joke printed on the inside. I was absolutely dumbfounded, considering I spent probably a full hour with this guy over the past few days trying to win this contest for him. I guess he didn’t read English well — I don’t know how he planned to write this email — saw writing on the cap, and made the logical leap to a contest win? Unluckily for me, since I helped him, the patron was convinced that the contest was real and it took a while for him to realize the truth. This was one of my first difficult customer experiences and from then on out, I was careful to check into whatever a customer said and ask more questions.)

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