It’s An Obitual Hazard

| Buffalo, NY, USA | Money, Time

(I work in obituaries and someone called to place one for their aunt.)

Customer: “So when do I need this in by to have this in the Sunday edition?”

Me: “The deadline is Friday…”

Customer: *interrupting* “HOW DARE YOU!”

Me: *confused* “Ma’am?”

Customer: “You are an insensitive, horrible person for saying that word! I have just lost someone very close to me and you use a term like that… What, are you trying to rub it in?”

Me: “Um… well deadline is a term we use often in the newspaper industry. I’m sorry to have offended you.”

Customer: “Ugh, fine. What’s the word limit?”

Me: “It depends. The cost goes up the longer it is.”

Customer: “What?! You would actually CHARGE me for that service?”

Me: “Yes, it costs money to have obituaries put in our paper.”

Customer: “You people are such opportunistic vultures, just waiting around for people to die so you can get as much money from their grieving families as you can! You are monsters!” *click*

Me: “Well, guess you won’t have it in by the deadline, then…”

Stopping The Presses Is No Sweat-Er

| Santa Ana, CA, USA | Bizarre, Crazy Requests

(I’m a page designer at a community paper in Southern California and work a later shift than the reporters and editors. Around 10 pm one night the phone rings.)

Me: “Hi, [Newspaper]. Can I help you?”

Woman: “I hope so. This is terrible.”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Woman: “You published a story about me today. I don’t like the photo.”

Me: “Okay… Which story was this?”

Woman: “It’s the one about [describes her job].”

Me: “Oh, yes, I know that one. I designed that page.”

(I call up the page from our PDF archive and I’m relieved I didn’t crop the photo wrongly. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with the photo — she’s sitting in a nicely decorated and furnished living room.)

Me: “Can you tell me what’s wrong with the photo? I’m looking at it and it looks OK to me.”

Woman: “I don’t like the sweater I’m wearing.”

Me: “The sweater?”

Woman: “Yes, I bought a new one for the interview and photo but I forgot to put it on.”

Me: “…”

Woman: “Can you do something about it?”

Me: “Um, not really. The paper’s been printed and it’s online so basically that’s it.”

Woman: “You mean you can’t take another photo of me in the new sweater and publish the story again?”

Me: *I literally did not know what to say at this point* “Er… no.”

Woman: “Oh.” *hangs up*

Not Aiming For A Photo Finish

| IN, USA | Crazy Requests, Money

(I am a clerk in a small-town newspaper office.)

Customer: *on phone* “Hello, I’d like to purchase the photos of my daughter [Name] that ran on June 13, 14, and—”

Me: “Sir, I can’t place an order for you over the phone, but I can give you directions to order the photos through our website.”

Customer: “Well, that won’t work for me. I’m computer illiterate. And I can’t come in to your office because I’m in [Town more than an hour away]. Can’t I just give you my credit card and you can do it for me?”

Me: “I apologize, but the only way to order copies of our photos is through a third party on our website. Do you have an email address? I can email you directions for using the website. They’re very simple.”

(The customer grudgingly agrees to this and gives me his email address. He promises to call me back if he can’t understand the directions, and I tell him that as long as he is in front of a computer I will be happy to walk him through the process. Sure enough, a couple hours later, he calls back.)

Customer: “Well, all right, I’m at [University] library in front of a computer.”

Me: “All right. Did you receive the directions I emailed to you?”

Customer: “Yes, but they didn’t make sense. I told you, I’m computer illiterate.”

Me: “Can you open the Internet?”

Customer: “Well, now the computer’s restarting. The screen’s gone black. I’m pressing buttons.”

Me: “It might be best to get a librarian to help you.”

Customer: “There’s no one here! It’s just me!”

(I sit on the phone for almost ten minutes while he gets the computer to restart. Eventually he gets a browser open, and it becomes clear to me that he doesn’t understand how to enter a URL into the address bar, but he does recognize Google and knows how to enter search terms. I get him to google our website and walk him through the photo-ordering process. Everything is actually going smoothly until we hit a dead-end on our search for the pictures.)

Me: “Sir, it’s possible the pictures were submitted photos. We only have the right to sell photos that were taken by our staff photographers.”

Customer: “Well, can’t you just make a copy of it for me from your files?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I can’t. If you send us a check to cover postage, I would be happy to send you some copies of the newspapers.”

Customer: “I don’t understand why you can’t just copy it and blow it up to an 8×10. I know you have the printing capabilities to do that at a newspaper!”

(We actually don’t have the capacity to print anything on photo-quality paper in my office, which is one of the reasons we contract with a third party to print and sell our photos online.)

Me: “Sir, I don’t feel comfortable identifying which photos you want if we aren’t able to look at them together. I would hate to send you the wrong photo or the wrong size. Like I said, I would be happy to send you some copies of the newspaper, and you can take them to Kinko’s and make whatever copy you would like.”

Customer: “Well, I’ll send you an envelope, but I don’t understand why I have so much trouble with your newspaper! I’ve left several messages over the last week trying to order these photos and everyone has been too cowardly to call me back! I don’t understand why I can’t just give you my credit card number and you can do this for me! I run a business, you know! I always pay people to do things for me! I demand retribution for the service I’ve received!”

(Yes, he did say “retribution.” I’ve always wondered how someone who runs a business in this day and age can be quite so computer illiterate. I also wonder why someone who runs a business was so eager to give his credit card information to someone who doesn’t work for the company that sells the photos and therefore isn’t authorized to handle credit card information for them.)

Improved Your Pun Ten-fold

| Essex, England, UK | Awesome Customers, Puns

(I’m the deputy editor of a paid newspaper and I am answering phones whilst we have a competition where readers have to phone in with their best pun. I receive a call from a customer.)

Me: “Hello, [My Name] speaking; how can I help you?”

Caller: “I’m phoning about the competition in your newspaper.”

Me: “Certainly, sir, what do you wish to enquire?”

Caller: “I hate to say but I have a complaint.”

Me: “That’s perfectly all right, sir. What is your complaint?”

Caller: “Well, I entered your current competition and not expecting many other puns to be entered, I entered ten.”

Me: “Yes, what is the problem, sir?”

Caller: “Well I expected one to win but no pun in-ten did.”

Me: *speechless*

Caller: *maniacal laugh* *click*

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Sex Sells The News

| USA | Language & Words, Rude & Risque

(I work at a local newspaper. A man comes in to discuss the online membership for the local news website I have built. He starts innocently enough by asking for the URL – some people are too scared to try a business name with a .com after it, so this is a common question.)

Me: “It’s WWW dot [City Name] news dot com.”

Customer: “Excuse me?”

Me: “[City Name] news dot com.”

Customer: “One more time?”

Me: “[City Name].”

Customer: “I got that.”

Me: “…news. Dot com.”

Customer: “Are you saying…” *he leans in to whisper* “Nudes? Like an adult website?”

Me: *holding up that morning’s paper, and pointing to the URL near the top of the front page* “NEWS. Do you recall walking into the building for the NEWS paper. We are [City Name] NEWS, so we own the website of the same name.”

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