Going WAY Off-Script

, , , | Right | October 14, 2020

I work for a bank’s fraud department. One evening, at midnight, all of our systems go offline. Debit cards, credit cards, and ATM cards are not working because of this, and checks run as debit will not work, either. It also knocks support offline, so our back-to-back call rate immediately drops to forty-five minutes between calls.

My crew are the only people left on the floor for the night, as our shift doesn’t end until two in the morning. There are only six people there, including the supervisor. I write up a quick little script and send it to my coworkers to recite on the rare occasion that a caller manages to get through to us.

Script: “Thank you for calling [Bank] Debit Card Fraud Services. Unfortunately, all of our fraud analysis systems are currently offline, and we are unable to service any account at this time. Please call back tomorrow after eight am, Central Standard Time, to see if the issue has been resolved. Thank you, and have a nice night.”

We mute our phones and talk and joke, going quiet when someone indicates a caller has gotten through. Between midnight and 1:57 am, we receive a total of six calls, and the first five are very understanding of the issue, though a couple were a bit frustrated at the same time.

Then, the last call comes through on my phone. I recite my script and the caller freaks out. Realizing I may sound like the automated voice system, I break from the script to tell him with a little more detail what we know about the issue.

He starts screaming at me.

Caller: “NO! NO! SHUT UP! YOU STUPID F****** B****, SHUT THE F*** UP! I am going on vacation tomorrow, I have to be on the god-d*** plane in three hours, and you’ve shut my f****** card down! I need to buy my tickets now!”

Me: “Sir, I’m very sorry, but our systems are down which is why your card isn’t working. We don’t know what’s happened, and we can’t authorize anything. I have no way of even pulling your information up right now.”

Caller: “I SAID TO SHUT THE F*** UP! IF YOU DON’T UNBLOCK MY CARD RIGHT NOW, I WILL COME DOWN THERE, AND I’M GOING TO SHOOT AND KILL YOU, AND YOUR ENTIRE GOD-D*** FAMILY!”

I’m not scared or worried; I am just done. I grab my orange, laminated paper with directions on what to do in a situation like this and, as instructed, wave it at my supervisor. This is my last call, everyone else is gone, and it’s just the two of us on the floor.

She looks just as annoyed as I feel, asks “Really?”, and comes over with a notebook and pen, taking the headset from me to take over the call. I walk off the floor to use the restroom, play on my phone for a couple of minutes, and then come back to the floor and sit there with her while she talks to the customer. It takes a half-hour to get what she needs and let her hang up. I am finally free to go home for the evening.

When I come to work the next day, the quality manager pulls me aside to tell me what happened after. The information my supervisor had gotten from him was passed along and it was discovered that this man had a documented history of similar threats against bank staff, and as a result, the bank was done with him. They closed down every account he had with them, sent him a check with his remaining balance, and blacklisted him so he can never open an account with them again.

It turned out that the systems were being updated and no one had informed us, because they didn’t realize that our location was one of the late-night call centers. But, the bank was impressed with my script, and it’s now a required script to use when the systems unexpectedly go down again.

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