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What Is HAPPENING Over There?!

, , , , , , , , | Working | January 5, 2022

My spouse and I, after many years of saving up, bought ourselves our first house. The house has a fairly old refrigerator, and when we test the electrical draw, we find that it’s gotten inefficient, so we save up to buy a new one.

We first attempt to buy it online. It’s “Cyber Monday” (in November) and there’s a huge sale on refrigerators, so we’re able to order one for about a quarter of the original list price. Because the deal is so good, they say that they’re low on stock, and the earliest time they can get us the fridge is several months later, in March. We call the energy company to have our old fridge picked up for a $50 rebate.

In January, we get an email from the refrigerator company saying that they cannot fulfill our order and that they’re canceling it against us. We call the energy company and cancel the pickup of our old fridge. Then, we start looking for a good deal on a fridge from a brick-and-mortar company.

Somehow the cancellation didn’t stick, and the energy company shows up to take our fridge in March as previously agreed. We talk to the fridge recovery people, and they look at our client notes and agree that it says in the notes that it should be canceled. Because of those call notes, we’re able to talk our way out of a cancellation fee.

In May, flush with our tax refund, we finally find a fridge we like, and it’s at about half of the original list price. We buy it and schedule to have our fridge picked up by the energy company.

The energy company initially refuses to do it because they think they’ve already picked up our fridge. Then, they cancel pickup because someone read the notes from the old pickup. Then, they come, but they somehow get the address wrong; they end up on the West version of our street rather than the East.

Finally, in June, they get the old fridge and take it. The $50 rebate is applied correctly to our energy bill for that month.

Fast-forward a year and a bit: on July 17th, a group of refrigerator delivery people shows up. This is almost but not quite two years after we placed the original order online.

We explain that we already have a refrigerator and they take it back. They promise that we’ll be refunded within three or four days. Refunded?! We check and, sure enough, money was taken from our bank account to pay for the refrigerator in late April and we hadn’t noticed.

Three or four days pass. No refund happens. We call the online retailer. Customer service is very understanding; they tell us they’ve fixed it, and if we give them three or four days, we’ll have the money.

Three or four days pass. No refund happens. We call the online retailer. Customer service says that there’s an error with the supplier. They forward our call to the supplier. The supplier makes some sort of changes in the computer system. They say it’s good, and we should give them three or four days and we’ll have the money.

Three or four days pass. No refund happens. We call the online retailer. Customer service says that there’s an issue with the supplier. They forward the call to the supplier. The supplier says that there’s an issue with the delivery people. They forward the call to the delivery people. The delivery people make some sort of changes in the computer system. They say it’s good, and we should give them three or four days and we’ll have the money.

Three or four days pass. It is now August. No refund has happened yet. We call the online retailer. Customer service says there’s an issue with the supplier.

Before they can forward it, I ask:

Me: “I’ve done this before. Can you please transfer me to a supervisor who can just give me my money back, and you guys can deal with whatever labyrinthine bureaucracy you’ve got to deal with on your own time?”

They transfer me to the supervisor.

Supervisor: “Yeah, I can fix it. This is going to be easy.”

This is followed by some frantic typing.

Supervisor: “Um… I think I can fix it, but something weird is happening.”

There’s more frantic typing.

I’m a bit unnerved by this response.

Me: “Something weird?” 

Supervisor: “Yeah, the number keeps changing on me… It shouldn’t.”

Further frantic typing follows. Then, she speaks once more.

Supervisor: “Okay. Well, at least I’m not going to be making this any worse.”

My eloquent and confused response is:

Me: “Uh… what?” 

Supervisor: “You’re going to get a lot of weird emails. Please just disregard them.”

It’s meant to be reassuring, but her tone is tense and afraid.

I stay quiet through more typing and arcane interjections.

Supervisor: “What if I credit it to the account directly?” “No, please don’t revert. Please don’t revert.” “What? Why?! That can’t be right.” “No, no, no! I have to start over again?!” “Okay, easy does it. Easy does it… Please take it… No!” “Why does it think that the ice maker hose was delivered with a different company?” “It’s the ice maker hose!” “It’s not the ice maker hose.” “Maybe it’s the ice maker hose?” “Okay, I can refund the fridge, but not the ice maker hose, but if I try to refund the fridge without the ice maker hose, it cancels out and I lose my work.” “Are you still on the line?”

Me: “Yeah. I’m still on the line. How’s it going?”

Supervisor: “Well, the problem is the ice maker hose, but I don’t seem to be able to resolve this within the system. I’m going to work around the system; I’m going to put in a fake order, apply the payment from the first order to it, and automatically refund it, okay?”

Me: “Uh… okay.”

Supervisor: “Okay. Good. Here goes.” *More typing* “And that was $918.17?”

I check my invoice.

Me: “Yeah. That’s correct.”

Supervisor: “Good.”

She’s literally panting on her end.

Supervisor: “I can see why. I can see why you weren’t getting your refund.”

She gives a slightly unhinged-sounding laugh.

Supervisor: “Uh… So, you should be seeing a credit to your account within twenty-four hours.”

Me: “Thanks. I appreciate the effort.”

Supervisor: “Thank you for your patience. Really.”

She says this with such heartfelt earnestness that I feel awkward and uncertain about how to respond.

Me: “Um… You’re welcome?”

Supervisor: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

She asks this sounding like she’s just lost a boxing match with a kangaroo.

Me: “No. I’m good. Thank you very much.”

All in all, the supervisor portion of this phone call took about forty-five minutes.

Exactly twenty-four hours later, sure enough, the credit showed up on our account. My spouse and I also double-checked to make sure they didn’t accidentally take more money from us, and they have not yet.

I want to thank that call center supervisor, who apparently wrestled some sort of arcane crocodiles to make sure I got my money back. Thank you. I hope that you have easier cases going forward.

It’s Lonely At The Top… Because You’re Bad At It

, , , , | Working | January 5, 2022

My husband and I are regulars at this popular global pizza chain outlet. We always ask to be seated at the same set of tables because of this awesome waitress. She’s always smiling, she’s super attentive, she never gets the orders wrong, and she has great customer service overall. Every time, I compliment her in person and to her manager and leave fabulous online feedbacks.

During the course of about three years, I gather that she is studying in college and works here part-time. Once, I ask her about her wages, and I am upset because she doesn’t get paid a lot. My husband is a manager at a global footwear chain and I persuade him to hire her as they pay considerably higher. He just says that he would rather consider her after she’s finished her college degree as she can join as a manager-trainee rather than a store assistant — that’s if she is willing.

Then, just like that, we start eating more at home and we do not visit that restaurant for about a year or so. One afternoon, we are both back from work early and plan to meet at this restaurant for a quick lunch. The place is not so busy. There is no host, so we just seat ourselves at our usual table.

A new waitress brings us the menu. I am a little disappointed that we do not have our regular waitress but do not mention that. We place our orders: two meals (one drink, appetizer, and a personal pizza), one additional large appetizer, and a pasta. The waitress seems a little stressed out in general. We talk about the old waitress and think that she may have graduated and left this job.

We wait for a few minutes and our drinks have not arrived. We flag down our waitress and she signs at us that she’s getting our orders. Soon, she brings our drinks and just two appetizers that come with the meals. The large appetizer is missed out.

Me: “Hey, where’s the additional appetizer?”

Waitress: “Sorry, ma’am, it will take a while.”

Me: “Okay, no problem. And I ordered my drink without ice. This has ice in it.”

Waitress: “Oh, sorry, let me take it back.”

I never order drinks with ice because I start wheezing. When my drinks get mixed up, the staff (at all restaurants I have ever visited) usually remake the drink without ice, or, if it can’t be made without ice, they suggest me an alternate one. This drink can definitely be made without ice, so I send it back for a new one.

And we wait! After a long wait, the waitress is back. By now, we have finished off our appetizers.

Me: “Hey, did you just remove the ice from my old drink?”

Waitress: *Without missing a beat* “Yes, ma’am.”

Me: “But I had taken a sip out of it. Even otherwise, why would you do that? Don’t you just remake it?”

Waitress: “No, ma’am. We are not allowed to remake drinks. You can place a fresh order, but we won’t replace this one for free.”

Me: “But my order said, ‘No ice’.”

My voice is stern and the waitress looks like she’s about to cry.

Husband: “You know what? Leave it here. Get a fresh one without ice this time. And please bring our appetizer soon.”

She looks relieved and goes away.

Husband: “Before you say it, I know; you were right and she was wrong. But she looks like she’s having a hard time.”

Me: “It’s not even crowded. Why would she be so stressed?! [Old Waitress] was super awesome; we never had trouble!”

After a while, the waitress brings our pizzas out. There’s no sign of our large appetizer and my fresh drink at all.

Me: “Hey, what about the appetizer and fresh drink?”

Waitress: “Ma’am, I’m really sorry about the delay. I will get them for you right away.”

Husband: “The pizzas are already cold!”

She just looks at us in tears.

Me: “Never mind. Please go and get the rest of the food.”

We eat the cold pizzas with no drink. We have waited long enough to just want to go away now. We flag her down again.

Me: “Hey, you know what? Please cancel the rest of the orders and get us our bill. We’d like to leave.”

Waitress: “Bu, ma’am, the appetizer is ready; I can bring it out.”

Me: “Go ahead and bring it immediately. But please cancel the others.”

She goes away teary-eyed and comes back with the appetizer, which is awfully cold already. I can’t take it anymore!

Me: “I do not want this; it is cold. Please return it and do not charge us for it.”

Waitress: “Ma’am, the manager will not allow it. You have to pay for what you have ordered.”

Me: “But we have only eaten cold food and you have gotten every order wrong so far. We have never had this bad an experience here.”

Waitress: “Okay, let me check with my manager about what can be done!”

Every time she goes inside the kitchen, she comes back looking worse. She’s now almost in tears again.

Waitress: “Ma’am, the manager does not agree. We will bring you the drink and pasta, too. We cannot cancel anything as it has been so long since it was ordered.”

Me: “Exactly, that’s the point. It has been so long and we just want to get away now.”

The waitress starts sobbing slowly.

Husband: “Hey, are you okay?”

Waitress: “Sorry, sir! The manager is cooking today as the cook has called in sick. She’s slow and has been getting all orders wrong since morning. We are having a tough day.”

Me: “Oh, no! That explains your stress. I’m so sorry for being harsh on you. Calm down; it’s not your fault anyway. Please get your manager here. We will explain the problem and cancel the rest of the stuff.”

She goes away to bring her manager. I hear someone screaming from the kitchen that the orders cannot be cancelled. A minute later, the “manager” walks out angrily with the waitress in tow.

My husband and I look at each other in disbelief; it’s our regular waitress! The moment she sees us, she’s all smiles.

Old Waitress: “Hello, ma’am! Hello, sir! How are you?”

Husband: “Well, not having a good time, as you may know by now.”

She looks sheepish.

Me: “You cannot remake drinks, orders are delayed, and food is cold. And you cannot cancel the orders?”

Old Waitress: “Ma’am, it reflects badly on our sales metrics to cancel orders.”

Me: “But you did it all the time when you were a waitress.”

She’s struggling to explain!

Me: “You knew that you couldn’t just take the ice out of drinks. Is that even allowed? That’s so unhygienic!”

Old Waitress: “Well, I made some changes since I took charge. But I can remake the drink now. We will get your food out soon. We will fix it, ma’am!”

Me: “No, you gave our waitress a hard time all this while and now you want to fix it. You have changed so much, haven’t you?!”

Husband: “Just cancel everything and give us the bill for our food. We are done here.”

She tried hard to convince us to wait, but we were beyond done by then. When we just placed the money on the table and started leaving, she was forced to give us the bill.

We tipped the waitress and apologised to her for the hard time she had. We really felt bad for her for having to deal with that obnoxious manager. I did give feedback about our experience and we haven’t been back to that place since.

My husband dodged a bullet by not hiring that lady. Now, any time we want to talk about someone moving up the ladder and becoming rude and obnoxious, we use her name!

Deadlines: Emphasis On “Dead”

, , | Working | January 5, 2022

I’m a year and a half into the development of a new web application for managing complex data sets. Our boss has never been able to provide proper specifications for what he needs, just a flood of vague ideas with no real detail and constantly changing scope.

My job is to try and turn this into a comprehensible list of tasks that the dev team can actually follow. Each month, I have a planning session with the boss where we hash out the next period of work. Each session, I remind him that changing the scope means adding more time.

We agree and sign off the work to be delivered by the end of the month. So far, we’ve hit every deadline.

I thought we had a pretty good system in place until:

Boss: “I can’t believe we’re so far behind and how poorly you’ve managed this project.”

Me: “What do you mean? Haven’t we met all the agreed deadlines throughout the project?”

Boss: “I’ve made a spreadsheet of all the dates I wanted each feature done by. So far, you’ve missed every single one of them.”

Me: “Excuse me? We’ve always delivered what’s been agreed on time. Where have these new dates come from?”

Boss: “This is how long I thought the work should take and I made up my own timeline.”

Me: “I’ve never seen these dates before, let alone agreed to them. At a glance, many of them seem extremely optimistic.”

That’s business talk for “f****** mad”.

Me: “We agreed at the start this would be at least a three-year project.”

Boss: “Well, I decided it should take less time and you’re late. I’m going to have to pull the plug on this project if you can’t have everything wrapped up within the next month.”

I politely remind the boss that there was at least another year and a half of work left to complete the project. I’ll probably be looking for a new job shortly.

They’ll Let Just Any Jerk Be A Big Wig

, , , , , , | Working | January 4, 2022

About two years ago, I started at a tech support help desk. I don’t have any certifications (A+ or N+, for example), but it’s not really needed here since we aren’t supposed to handle networking issues and we don’t have any actual hands-on with hardware. I just get computer stuff, so I just naturally fit the job. The tech support job is to do basic troubleshooting and learn basic software troubleshooting for the proprietary software that the company designed and supports.

There is no real training offered. New hires just get sat down by another tech that has a bit of experience, listen to them take incoming calls, learn how to create a new ticket, and maybe pick up on some basic issues and how to resolve them during their first day on the job. The second day, they are kind of just tossed to the wolves. There is no training manual to follow and the troubleshooting guides for the hardware and software we need to help customers with are scattered across multiple places; this includes new hardware and old hardware and new software and old software. Needless to say, it’s a cluster bomb.

I spent countless hours in my first six months constantly asking questions, reading up on software and hardware, and tracking down resolutions for problems, and pretty soon, I was more experienced than people that had been there for a couple of years. I taught myself how to navigate the MS Access databases used in the older software and learned how to rebuild databases from scratch. I found easier workarounds for problems and learned how to talk down to customers (without making it sound like I was) to find out specifically what their problem was. I excelled at the job, and the manager for the help desk took notice.

After about a year at the job, the help desk manager had me helping on calls when needed, but I was mostly going around and coaching other Tier 1 techs on how to resolve issues that are very suitable for T1 techs to handle and to stop escalating tickets to Tier 2 so often. Too many stupid issues were pushed to T2 because T1 didn’t know how to resolve them and no one was around to really train them.

I did this for about a year. I got a lot of T1 techs up to a reasonable level, but what I didn’t realize was that my own metrics were bad compared to all other T1 techs. Most T1 techs would usually handle thirty-five calls a day on average and close around twenty tickets a day, but with my manager having me walk the floor and help others, I handled around ten calls a day and closed around ten tickets a day. In my position, I was given a $.50 raise and therefore made more than the other T1 techs because I was considered a lead.

Around the two-year mark of my working at the company, in comes new upper management. They want to make an example of how good they are and they want to weed out the bad employees. This “big wig” manager runs his metric data and sees that I’m paid more, but I produce fewer results. He wants to fire me on the spot to set an example. Thankfully, my immediate manager takes the bullet.

Manager: “It was my call to pull [My Name] off the phones to help others. You shouldn’t fire him for my decision.”

Big Wig: “Put him back on the phones. If I don’t see any good results, I’m going to fire him.”

My manager pulls me off to the side the next morning.

Manager: “I have to put you back on the phones because your metrics aren’t good. I took the blame for my decision to pull you from the phones. I want to make sure I don’t lose you as an employee.”

Most T1 techs, as I stated earlier, average around thirty-five calls a day and close around twenty tickets a day. On my first day back on the phones — which is hard to get through — because I have so many T1 techs wanting me to come and help them — I take seventy-four calls and close out fifty-two tickets. This is a normal day for me; I just hammer out calls and close out tickets.

The very next morning, the big wig manager walks past me and pats me on the shoulder.

Big Wig: “Keep up the good work!”

My immediate manager sits and talks with me.

Manager: “I’m thrilled that you were able to put [Big Wig] in his place by blowing the rest of the help desk out of the water with your metrics! I walked into [Big Wig]’s office earlier with my chest puffed out and told him that it felt awesome to straight-up tell the new management team that was the reason why I took you off the phones — so you could help other T1 techs, so we’d handle more issues and take more calls as a team and not just rely on you to pick up the slack.”

A short while later, I was promoted to Tier 2 because I handled harder stuff that most other T2 techs didn’t know how to do. Then, I became the T2 lead, and the story kind of repeats itself. In came new management, and the whole song and dance started again.

Thankfully, I left the place right when the third new management team took over a few years later.

Makes You Want To Throw The Book At Him. Literally.

, , , , | Working | January 4, 2022

My boss is a seventy-something-year-old man with barely a clue on how to get a computer to boot. He gave me an old book and wanted me to convert it into an ebook to sell. And mind, this was a thick, large-format book chock-full of maps and other illustrations with tiny blackletter script.

Me: “Sure, I can do it, but I’d have to scan it in a massive resolution so the detail isn’t lost. The final file would be massive; it wouldn’t be practical to download it, and a normal ebook reader wouldn’t be able to display it correctly.”

Boss: “So, we’d have to make it less detailed.”

Me: “How do you mean?”

Boss: “It wouldn’t be possible with the illustrations; you’ll just have to make the writing bigger on all the pages.”

Me: “…”

Boss: “As for the pages with only text on them, you will just convert them into a Word document.”

Me: “That’s not how that works.”

Boss: “Why not?”

Me: “It’s just straight-up not possible, at least not with the software we have.”

Boss: “Can you do it on the Internet?”

Me: “No.”

Boss: “How do you know?”

Me: “I know.”

Boss: “Show me.”

I showed him that it’s not possible to convert a scanned book page into a text document on some random converter found on page one on Google.

Boss: “Okay, so you will instead cut the text out in Photoshop, make it larger, and arrange it on a new Photoshop file the same size, with less of a rim around it so the number of pages doesn’t get much higher.”

I flat-out refused, telling him it would be months of absolutely pointless work. He didn’t believe any of my claims, anyway, so I just converted the whole d*** thing into an ebook, which, in the end, was like 8GB in size. Since our server had 10TB, he also didn’t believe me when I tried to tell him that it was an absurdly massive file that few people would want to buy on that account.

Ah, well. At least I didn’t have to rearrange like 300 pages of text.