This Man Is An Island

| Cork, Ireland | Extra Stupid, Geography

(I work in a call centre taking reservations for a large hotel chain. Some of the exchanges will stick with me a very long time.)

Me: “Good Afternoon. Thank you for calling [Hotel] central reservations. My name is [My Name]. How may I help you?”

Caller: “You sound weird; where are you located?”

(The caller is overflow from our American centre and has a strong southern US accent himself.)

Me: “We’re in Ireland, sir.”

Caller: “What island?”

Me: *trying to pronounce the ‘r’ as clearly as possible* “Ireland, it—”

Caller: “Yeah, I heard you. What island?”

Me: “No, the Republic of Ireland. It—”

Caller: “Look if y’all don’t know what island you’re on, why the h*** would I get a room from you?!”

That Power Was Just A Rental

| Hampshire, England, UK | Criminal & Illegal, Money

(I am working for one of the major energy companies in the customer service department when I get the following call.)

Customer: “Hi, I think there’s been some mistake. I’ve got this letter but I think it’s an error or something, like maybe the system sent it out by mistake.”

Me: “I can certainly look into that for you. Does the letter come with a reference number?”

(The customer gives me the number. I pull up the account and ask the customer’s name, which is the same as the one on the account, so I confirm security details like date of birth and address to ensure this is the named account holder, and the details all match.)

Me: “What does the letter say? Because the only letters I can see that we sent are your welcome pack and the bill—”

Customer: “That’s exactly it! Why did you send me a bill?”

Me: “We’re your supplier. You used energy, so you have to pay for it.”

Customer: “What? No. I’ve been paying.”

Me: “Okay, let me just check the account to see if I can figure out what’s going on.”

(I check the account. There hasn’t been a single payment, but it looks like the customer is a new tenant who moved in a few months ago, so I check the previous tenant’s account. It’s not uncommon for old tenants to leave behind their payment cards since they won’t be needing it anymore and for new tenants to use it, either by mistake or because they don’t realise they need to get their own card. However, there are no recent payments on the old account either.)

Me: “I’m sorry; I’m not seeing any payments, but if I take some details, I should be able to trace them. First, how much did you pay and when did you pay it?”

Customer: “£600 on the first of every month since September.”

(I become a little suspicious, something isn’t quite right – this seems a ridiculously high amount to pay for gas and electric.)

Me: “Sorry, did you say £600? Six-zero-zero?”

Customer: “Yes.”

Me: “And you said you’ve paid this every month? It’s not the total of all your payments so far?”

Customer: “No, it’s £600 every month. So like… over two grand by now.”

Me: “Who told you to pay that much?”

Customer: “The landlord.”

Me: *starting to see what’s happening* “That’s your rent, isn’t it?”

Customer: “Yeah. I’ve been paying every month without fail.”

Me: “This is for your energy bill, not your rent.”

Customer: “I know. But I’ve been paying my rent, Why do I need to pay for the electric if I’m paying my rent?”

Me: “Does your tenancy agreement say that utilities are included in the rent?”

Customer: “My what?”

Me: “Your tenancy agreement.”

Customer: What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a contract outlining how much rent you pay and the conditions of your tenancy. You would have signed one before you moved in.”

Customer: “Oh. I think I signed something like that. But I pay rent, so I don’t have to pay for my bills. Everything is covered. You shouldn’t be sending me a bill.”

Me: “Unless your tenancy agreement states bills are included, you are liable for the balance. Do you have your tenancy agreement to hand? I’ll go through it with you and help you find the part which details what your rent covers.”

(The customer goes off to fetch the paperwork, and then comes back. I get him to read me the table of contents and I guide him to the page the information we need is likely to be on. I’ve dealt with enough new tenants and disputes of liability to know my way around a tenancy agreement – particularly as most landlords use the same standard template. It’s not uncommon for a landlord to charge an extortionate amount of rent and justify it by claiming it includes utilities but then not pay it, or put the tenant’s name on the bill to try and weasel out of it. I am concerned that this is what is happening to this customer. Then the customer reads aloud to me.)

Customer: “Oh, here we go, this says ‘rent is not inclusive of utilities.’ What does that mean?”

Me: “It means your rent does not include your gas and electric or any other services such as the Internet. So you have to pay this bill. We can discuss payment plans if you cannot pay it all in one go.”

Customer: “But… but I pay rent.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but your rent only covers you for the property, not any of the bills, unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise which yours does not.”

Customer: “You have my name on the bill… How did you get it? I didn’t call you.”

Me: “It looks like the landlord sent us all your details when you moved in.”

Customer: *smugly* “Well, I’m not liable for the bill. He is.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but we’ve already established that is not the case. You live in the property and are responsible for all the bills—”

Customer: “Look, I’m studying law at uni. I know my rights. I didn’t sign a contract with you, so you can’t bill me without my permission. If my landlord did it, well, that’s fraud.”

Me: “That’s not how it works with utilities, sir. We were your supplier when you moved in, therefore you or your landlord were obligated to inform us that you moved in.”

Customer: “But you don’t have my signature on a piece of paper giving you permission, right?”

Me: “Like I said, we don’t need it; we’re a utility company.”

Customer: *laughs* “Yeah, good luck with that, lady. You’ll never get a penny from me. I know the law; I’m top in my class. You need my signature, and I need to be fully aware of entering a legal, binding contract.”

Me: “So you’re saying you won’t pay unless you signed a legally binding document agreeing to do so?”

Customer: “That’s right.”

Me: “Your tenancy agreement is a legally binding document. Would you agree?”

Customer: “I’m not f****** stupid; of course it is. It’s a f****** tenancy agreement.”

Me: “Go to the next section, the heading should be ‘tenant’s obligations.’ Read me what it says.”

Customer: *pauses, groaning down the phone* “Fine. But I don’t see what an agreement you said was just for the property has to do with this bill…”

(Customer begins reading. The first line says they must pay rent on time and then the very next line is: Tenant MUST pay ALL utility bills. As soon as the customer reads this line they pause and the line goes quiet for a while.)

Me: “Would you like to pay the bill in full, or would you like to set up a payment plan?”

Customer: “You think you’re so f****** clever. This doesn’t change anything. I’m not paying the f****** bill, I never agreed I would, and I’m paying my rent so I shouldn’t have to! I know my rights! I’m a law student!”

(The customer started going on and on about how he knew his rights, how he’d never pay because he was paying rent, and how if he was paying rent it was illegal for us to charge him for energy. The call was going nowhere and the customer was getting more and more aggressive by the minute, swearing up a storm. In the end, I informed the customer of the consequences if he didn’t pay and informed him that unless he wished to discuss payment, then I would terminate the call because it was going around in circles. The customer then threatened to come down to the office and (his exact words) “smash your face in,” so I terminated the call, informing the customer as I did so as per company policy. The customer called back and asked to talk to my manager, trying to get me fired by claiming that I swore at him, called him an idiot, and that I threatened him. Obviously I didn’t, so I wasn’t fired.)

Making Wild Claims

| OR, USA | Criminal & Illegal, Money

(I work in an insurance call center for mental health and substance abuse. We get some real gems, usually regarding unpaid claims. This caller is asking about two claims that were paid inaccurately with the wrong amounts and wrong provider name.)

Me: “Okay, I see the issue. The claim form asked for the doctor’s tax ID number, and it wasn’t included. Because of that, our system searched by her name and paid according to this incorrect doctor’s rates.”

(Keep in mind, the actual check went to the patient, my caller.)

Caller: “I put it in there.”

Me: “I’m looking at the scan of your claim forms and you put in their license number.”

Caller: “But I also put in the NPI [National Provider Identification] number.”

Me: “Right, but that’s not the Tax ID number. We asked for the NPI later on the form and you filled that out perfectly, but on this line we needed the Tax ID.”

Caller: *seeing his error* “Oh, well, the provider didn’t include that on her bill.”

Me: “Some providers don’t give it out unless you ask. But we do need it to pay the claim.”

Caller: “But you paid the claim already, so it’s no big deal.”

Me: “Well, it is to your provider. Our systems need to show who we’re paying correctly so she can prove it on her taxes, just in case. Also, the incorrect provider will probably ask us to reverse the transaction so she doesn’t get incorrect info for her taxes.”

Caller: “But you paid me. So it’s not an issue.”

Me: “Right, but that’s because you paid your provider. So technically we paid for your service.”

Caller: “Oh. So can I call her and get the Tax ID and call you back and have you fix it?”

Me: “I’m really sorry, but we can’t take her tax info from you verbally. She can call it in and I can reprocess the claim, or you can resubmit the claim to us with it corrected.”

Caller: *annoyed* “So you trust me to submit it by paper, but not by phone?”

Me: “If you submit it to us on a claim, that’s a claim submission. If I tell you to go get it from her and call back, I’m soliciting her tax information from you. And that’s potentially fraud, and I’ve been told by my supervisor that our company is against fraud, even at the expense of our customer’s convenience.”

Caller: “Okay… Sounds like you’re punishing me for making a simple mistake.”

Me: “On the contrary. If you put in the time to get the claim submitted to us correctly, you will be rewarded with fraud-free payment of your service. If you decide not to, your provider could potentially sue you and us. So submitting the claim again is the opposite of a punishment.”

Caller: “Goodbye.” *click*

It Definitely Seems Like Their First Time

| PE, Canada | Technology

(I work in a call center doing tech support for a cable/Internet/home phone company, usually on night shifts.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Company] technical support. My name is [My Name]. How may I assist you today?”

Customer: “Yeah, hi, I was trying to order a pay-per-view movie and it will not let me”

Me: “I am very sorry about that. Let’s bring up your account so I can assist you further.”

(Once I bring up the account I look over the account to see if it is suspended or if there are any notes or blocks preventing them from ordering a pay-per-view movie.)

Me: “Thank you. Everything regarding your account seems to be in order. Are you getting any error messages?”

Customer: “Nope.”

Me: “All right, may I have the name of the pay-per-view movie you are trying to order?”

(At this point I here a bunch of shuffling on the line.)

Customer: *directed to a female in the room with him* “You tell her..”

Female: “No, you tell her…”

Customer: *still directed to the female* “Fine.”

(More shuffling and then a sigh.)

Customer: “Couples Try Porn For The First Time.”

(At this point I am holding back my laughter.)

Me: “Thank you. May I place you on hold while I see if there is something preventing more than just you from ordering this tonight.”

Customer: “Okay, thank you.”

(Once on hold I go tell my manager about the chat, who agrees that we cannot look that up on one of the main TVs we use to help customers on calls. So instead, still laughing, I go back to my desk and pull myself together to continue the call, skipping that step.)

Me: “Thank you so much for holding. So you are sure you are not getting any error message?”

Customer: “No, there is none.”

Me: “All right. What I am going to get you to do to is try and order the pay-per-view movie again, this time with me on the line. Can you please go into [Cable Service Guide] and click on pay-per-view, then movies and try to order this again?”

Customer: “Sure.” *after about two minutes* “It is asking for a PIN.”

(We have an option to set up a PIN on channels and services so that younger children or others in the home cannot access or order them.)

Me: “Great! Please enter the security PIN you have previously set up!”

Customer: “I didn’t set one up.”

(Whispers from the female in the room.)

Customer: “Oh, right. Yes, we do have a PIN! Okay, we ordered it!”

Me: “Wonderful. Is there anything else I can assist you with tonight?”

Customer: “No. Thanks!”

Me: “Thank you for calling [Company]. Have a great night!”

Customer: “Oh, we will!” *click*


| Atlanta, GA, USA | Bad Behavior, Bigotry

(As with most call centers, we are required to use phonics when spelling names. Especially if we have difficulty in understanding the caller. This is one such time:)

Operator: “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m having difficulty understanding the letter you are using. Is that ‘M,’ as in ‘Mike’ or ‘N,’ as in ‘November?'”

Caller: “Excuse me?”

Operator: “Are you saying ‘M,’ as in ‘Mother’ or ‘N,’ as in ‘Newspaper?'”

Caller: “Do not make me say it. Do NOT make me say it.”

Operator: “I apologize for this inconvenience, but I need to make sure the spelling is proper. ‘M,’ as in ‘Microwave’ or ‘N,’ as in ‘Necktie?'”

Caller: “FINE! It’s ‘N’ as in ‘[common racial slur beginning with the letter ‘N’]’! I hope you are happy with yourself. What kind of bigoted company do you work for? We are ALL brothers and sisters and shouldn’t be divided by such hatred.”

(The caller continued for an additional few minutes, raging about how the operator forced her to use a racial slur.)

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