Most Concierges Get A Call For A Different Kind Of Taxi Driver

, , , , , | Right | July 20, 2020

This is in the early 2000s, so none of us have smartphones, and while we all have Internet on our computers at school, nobody brought a computer with them. We are in a hotel for a school event. It is well after lights outs and my roommates and I are “sleeping”. So, our conversation is odd, and what follows makes perfect sense at the time.

Roommate #1: “It’s like that guy that tried to kill Reagan to impress the actress from Taxi Driver.”

Roommate #2: “Yeah, exactly! Just like… s***, what’s that guy’s name?”

Roommate #3: “Jodie Foster?”

Me: “No, that’s the actress. The guy was… f***, I can’t remember, either.”

Roommate #1: “It’s gonna bug me until we remember.”

Roommate #2: “Oh, I know!”

[Roommate #2] grabs the room phone.

Roommate #2: “Hello. I know this isn’t in your job description, but can you tell us the name of the guy that tried to kill Reagan?” *Pauses* “John Hinkley. Thank you so much.”

Roommate #3: “Who did you call?”

Roommate #2: “The concierge.”

Telling this story to the rest of the group started a new tradition of trying to find a question that would stump the concierge at any hotel we stayed at. We’d always leave a tip for the night shift concierge when we checked out.

This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

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Why Do We Even HAVE That Team?

, , , , , , , , , | Working | July 17, 2020

I work as a head of confirms for a large bank. Basically, we pull transactions from our system, receive a similar list from a counterparty (CP), match them off, and send a confirmation notice back, as well as an email to another department for regulatory purposes. 

Management one day had — in their minds — a brilliant money-saving idea: moving the confirms department to a new office in India and shuffling the London team around to other departments, with just me left to oversee things. This office proved themselves to be woefully incompetent, rude, and lacking in any industry knowledge during the setup.

Eventually, we had to remote into their PCs and set up everything for them, as well as train and show them what to do. During said training, we realised they weren’t there anymore and had gone to lunch. Despite our pleas to management, they still insisted on pushing ahead. But this was only the tip of the iceberg of what was to come.

Their initial responsibilities were: incoming emails, matching and emailing CPs back, with a view to set them up on incoming and outgoing calls. Needless to say, we dreaded what was going to happen.

Within the first week, none of the reports went out to any CPs or the regulations team; the Indian office claimed they never received anything to match with. After a few days of searching with no solution as to why, they suddenly said they had email and web portal rules set up to delete anything that didn’t come from the London office and that they were not changing that rule. With two days wasted, we had to get the CPs to re-send everything to the London team, format it, and then send it to India. Problem solved, right? Wrong!

We got more complaints from CPs that most of the reports were not being sent back to them and the ones that they did receive were full of mistakes. So, we investigated again. It turned out their lack of industry knowledge was so shockingly poor, and they were incorrectly matching everything by hand — despite being given our automated system; apparently, they preferred manual effort — and matching [Bank] New York to transactions with [Bank] Singapore and making countless typos in the process.

So, it was decided that London would have to verify all matching, but India would still handle matching and outgoing emails. The London team quickly took over the matching as everything was constantly late — even though management told us not to.

Two days after this was decided, the Indian office sent our entire list of transactions to every CP — a serious regulatory breach. Most CPs were understanding enough to delete it but some never replied. The Indian office was warned about doing this, and the day after, they sent the transactions for [Other Bank] to everyone.

The regulatory team was also told by the office manager they didn’t want to send them their email, no further context, and they hung up whenever questioned. The decision was quick to assign outgoing emails back to the London team, but any phone and email queries would be routed to India. We were reassured they would be more than capable enough to handle this; we were not so optimistic.

Within the first two weeks of this going live, we received the following complaints:

  1. The Indian office calling up several US banks, not identifying themselves, and asking for transaction details with our bank.
  2. Swearing under their breath in Hindi and English whilst on the phone to people who understood both languages.
  3. When a bank phoned them to ask something, they answered, “I don’t know,” and hung up.
  4. Not answering the phone at all, because they just left the office.
  5. Keeping a customer on hold whilst they chatted and laughed in the background.
  6. Not telling anyone when their phones went down for several hours.
  7. Phoning the wrong CP and giving transaction details.

That one was the last straw.

It got so bad we had CPs telling us there was a scam call centre impersonating us, and we had to admit, embarrassed, that they were our genuine confirms department, prompting plenty of remarks of disbelief. 

Following the regulatory breach, all phones were directed back to London. Also important, none of my London team had moved department in this whole saga given how we had to fix — and eventually take over — each one of their responsibilities, so we just kept our jobs. 

The process now is: emails and transactions come to the London team, where all the formatting is done, and we send it to India. London then does all the matching and queries and then sends all outgoing emails to CPs. At some unknown point, the matching email from India is received; it’s late, full of errors, and promptly deleted.

In two years of doing this, the Indian office has never sent back something on time or correct. It’s always a minimum of eight days late and with 60% of it incorrect, no matter how much training we provide, so we have given up trying with them. Given that we are now back to the original process, only with an extra office, one more employee in London as a liaison, and our reputation tanked, management still sees this venture as a success!

This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

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Poor Planning On Your Part Does Not Constitute A Major Inconvenience On Mine

, , , , , | Working | July 15, 2020

I have just arrived at my hotel after an eight-hour drive on one of the hottest days of the year, I dealt with traffic jams nearly all the way, and I’ve gratefully collapsed on the bed with the fan going full blast and a nice cold drink.

The hotel has another location nearby, but this one has a fitness suite with a sauna and swimming pool, and the other one is just the basic hotel. There’s a knock at the door. I open it to find the receptionist who just booked me in looking nervous. 

Receptionist: “Hi, um, sorry to disturb you, but there’s been a bit of a mistake.”

Me: “Okay?”

Receptionist: “Yeah, I just had a platinum member show up and his booking got deleted somehow…”

Me: “…”

Receptionist: “So, yeah, uh, you’ve only just arrived, so I thought maybe I could get you to move to our other hotel? I mean, you haven’t unpacked yet.”

Me: “Are you serious?”

Receptionist: “Yeah, we could offer you, uh, uh, maybe a drink voucher?”

Me: “No.”  

Receptionist: “Oh, but, you know, it’s a platinum member, and you’re not, so, really, he should have this room.”

Me: “No, stop. I’ve checked in. I’m in my room. You are not seriously suggesting I check out and drive another half an hour to your other hotel because someone here screwed up. Sorry, but no.” 

Receptionist: “Oh. Uh. Yeah, okay. Sorry.”

Five minutes later, I could hear yelling coming from the lobby. I guess Mr. Platinum Member wasn’t impressed.

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You Know What Happens When Mama’s Not Happy…

, , , , , , , | Working | July 13, 2020

I’m the author of the story Oh, Brother!. I am driving down the way that the old restaurant used to be and notice that a new place has opened up: a new Italian place, even, with a sign very similar to the old one. I’m curious at the odds of an Italian business so like the old one opening up, so I go to walk inside, and I’m stunned to see the brothers there working. 

They see me, they obviously recognize me, and they give me a big, genuine smile. I feel like I’ve walked into another universe, so I go up and ask what’s up and if they’ve decided to try again.

One of them laughs kind of uncomfortably and looks back towards the kitchen and then leans in and whispers, “Mama heard our fighting ruined our business and came to America just to kick our a**es and make us work together again.”

Just then, a frail, old Italian lady hobbles out of the kitchen, smiles at me, and asks her sons if they’ve taken my order in one of the sweetest, gentlest voices I’ve heard.

I decide to go ahead and get something to support the new business. All three are nothing but genuinely polite to me, and I end up wishing them the best and heading home. The food is better than what they were making when I was working at the old place and it’s so delicious I end up making it a frequent stop for dinner. And it stays open for longer than four months this time. 

Moral of the story: there is no force of nature that’s more terrifying and more capable of stopping familial conflict than an enraged Italian matriarch.

This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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Church Fairs Aren’t All Sunshine And Rainbows

, , , , , , , | Working | July 10, 2020

My mother was known for the perfection and beauty of her knitted and crocheted items. She always made a couple of afghans or sweaters for the church to sell at their fairs.  

One year, a committee member approached and asked if she would make an afghan for the raffle. Mom agreed and went out to get new yarn. Those of you who knit know that yarn is not cheap and that making something beautiful and perfect takes time.

Mom created a lovely afghan: it had many rainbow squares surrounded and bordered in white. I would estimate that there was $75 worth of yarn — this was in the 1980s, so probably more today — in it, and it took her several weeks of working nights to put it together. She presented it in a nice wrap with a ribbon. All the church ladies oohed and aahed.

When I was home from my job that weekend, we went to the fair to see what was going on. We went over to the raffle table and there was… a grey and brown afghan draped over a chair and showing every dropped stitch and every oversized loop. Mom and I stared at it and then at each other.

The woman running the raffle turned to Mom and shook her head.

“I wish they had asked you to donate an afghan,” she said, “because no one wants this one.”

“I did donate an afghan,” Mom replied, and she described it in detail.

The raffle lady shook her head. “Haven’t seen it.”

Mom and I began to search the fair and finally found her afghan at the knitted items table. Or rather, behind it, hidden under several other items. The plastic wrap was removed and the ribbon was gone and it was all bunched up in a heap with a price tag of $10.  

“Oh, no,” said Mom. “That isn’t happening.”

She took the afghan and said to the knit items table lady, “I hope you don’t mind, but there is more than $75 worth of yarn in here and over a month of evenings spent working on this. This was requested for the raffle. And I found it hidden under a bunch of other items with its packaging missing.”

The table lady looked like a deer in the headlights.

“So,” continued Mom, “since you don’t think it’s worth enough to even put out on display, I will take it back and give it to someone who will enjoy it.”

“Oh, but… um—” was all the woman got out before Mom walked off with me following behind. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on because at the time, I wasn’t much of a crafter and, being a self-centered twenty-something, I was thinking, “Why is she so upset? They’re selling it, aren’t they?”

She found the person who ran the fair, told them what had happened, refused to let the item be put up for the raffle and, with the organizer’s blessing, took the afghan out to the car.

It turned out, as we learned from the organizer later, one of the ladies had snatched Mom’s afghan away and substituted the other. She was hiding it with the low price tag because, yup, she was planning on buying it herself.

When my cousin got married the next year, he and his bride received several presents from my side of the family, including a rainbow afghan bordered in soft white yarn. They still have it.

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