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Customer Service Is Going Downhill

, , , , , , | Working | March 30, 2021

I am at University in the 1980s, living in a shared house at the top of a long hill. Although money is tight, I am just about able to afford to own and run an old car. I even manage to get enough money together to get basic car breakdown coverage.

One morning, I find my car will not start, so I call the breakdown service. After giving my membership number and current location, there is a pause, and then the telephone representative comes back to me, very apologetic.

Representative #1: “I’m sorry, sir, but it seems your car is currently located at your home address and you do not have the optional ‘home start’ coverage.”

Me: “So, how far from home do I need to be for my basic coverage to kick in?”

Representative #1: “At least a mile, sir.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I hung up, went back into the house, and rounded up my housemates, who helped me push the car onto the road and face it down the hill.

Ten minutes later, I phoned the breakdown service again.

Representative #2: “And where is your car currently located, sir?”

Me: “At the bottom of [Road], about one and a quarter miles from my home.”

The breakdown service arrived fifteen minutes later and my car was started.

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Needs More Assistance Than We Can Provide

, , , | Right | March 18, 2021

I work at a call center for roadside assistance. Weekend nights are generally fun, with the usual complement of drunk or intoxicated people, but this is one I’ve never heard before. My coworker takes the call, so I only hear his side of the conversation. Some excerpts:

Coworker: “No, sir, I need your license plate before we send someone out; we need to look up your contract information.”

Coworker: “Where do we need to go? Your address?” *Pauses* “And what is your address, sir?” *Pauses* “No, we don’t know your address.” *Pauses* “You don’t want to give it? Then we can’t send anyone to help you.” *Pauses* “Why not? Because we don’t know where to go.”

Coworker: “Could you give me your phone number so we can contact you if necessary?” *Pauses* “What do you mean, a conspiracy? A conspiracy using your cell phone? Sir, we just want to be able to contact you, nothing more.”

As if we’d sell his number to a telemarketer…

Coworker: “Well, then, do you have a home phone we could call?” *Pauses* “Your phone is tapped? And you don’t want people to hear your conversations?”

On a phone call. Which is recorded for quality purposes, as indicated at the start of the conversation.

And on and on… I was nearly doubled over laughing; my coworker not so much!

They’re Gradually Driving You Insane, Part 2

, , , | Right | October 26, 2020

We get a lot of calls from customers who have a light or other indication on their dashboard. Before sending someone out, we try to troubleshoot on the phone to see if it warrants towing the car. This customer, who sounds like she’s in her fifties at least, makes me wonder how she ever got her driver’s license.

Customer: “I have two green arrows on my dashboard. I don’t know what they mean, but I think they have something to do with my headlights.”

Me: “Two green arrows? Do you mean your hazard lights?”

Customer: “I don’t know what they are. They just started burning.”

Me: “And if you push the button for the hazard lights, do they go out?”

Customer: “What button?”

Me: “The red button with a triangle in the middle of your car’s dashboard.”

Customer: “Where?”

Cue me pushing the “mute” button on my phone and asking my colleagues if this is an April Fool’s joke in June.

Me: “In the middle of your dashboard, near your vents and your gear shift.”

Customer: “I don’t have a gear shift; it’s an automatic.”

Me: “Near your right hand, then. A button with a triangle on it, probably red.”

Customer: “What button?”

It took five whole minutes of me alternately explaining what the button looked like, in my most patient and polite voice, followed by pushing the mute button and swearing, until she pushed A button — she still didn’t know which one — and the green arrows went out. I believe the average road user IQ went down a few points that day.

They’re Gradually Driving You Insane

You Can Tow A Horse To Water…

, , , , | Working | May 26, 2020

I work for a towing company that starts up in October 2016. This is exactly one day after it opens up, and all we offer right now is roadside assistance like jumpstarts and tire changes. We don’t have any tow trucks to drive quite yet, though we do have “Towing” in our company name. 

We’re also contracted with a large insurance company, and apparently this customer got a card from her insurance company that had our number on it for her roadside assistance program.

Me: “[Towing Company], how can I help you?”

Customer: “Hi. I’m calling ’cause I got into an accident. What do I do?”

Me: “Have you called your local police to report it?”

Customer: “Yes, but I need a tow.”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but all we provide is roadside assistance services like jumpstarts and lockouts. We aren’t capable of providing towing service. When the police arrive on scene, they can call you a tow truck.”

Customer: “Isn’t this [Towing Company]?”

Me: “Yes, but we don’t offer towing services yet. We still don’t have the permits or trucks to do so.”

Customer: “But my insurance gave me your number. It’s on my card. Are you calling [Insurance Provider] liars?”

Me: “No, but that number is probably there for more minor roadside inconveniences. If you had a flat tire, I could help you, but all I can suggest is that you wait for the police to arrive or to call your insurance provider and have them call you a tow truck.”

Customer: “I’m going to report you to [Insurance Provider] and make sure they never use your towing service again!” *Hangs up*

Me: “But we don’t even do towing.”

Towing started up a month later. We’ve never had that person on our records since as far as I could tell.

So Trucking Nice

, , , | Friendly | May 5, 2020

I am driving cross-country, and see occasional waft of smoke coming from my engine. Worried, I pull over as soon as I can, which happens to be a truck-stop.

I open my hood to try to identify the problem. I admit I am a young guy that works in tech, and I don’t know a lot about cars or mechanics, so I am having trouble. This is apparently not lost on the group of truck-drivers who are sharing a conversation over some cigarettes in the corner. They approach me.

Driver #1: “Having some car trouble?”

Me: “Yeah, my engine is smoking a little bit, but I don’t know what to do.”

Driver #2: “Well let’s have a quick look, see what we can see.”

What follows, is four burly truck drivers huddled around my car, talking among themselves in a foreign language to me, talking about things like alternators, crank-shafts, and cylinders. It is, quite honestly, amazing.

Driver #1: “We think we know what the problem is. Lucky for you, [Driver #3] has the parts to fix it.”

Me: “Really? That’s amazing! Is it a quick fix?”

Driver #3: “Should be. How far are you driving?”

I explain my route and how I have about 300 miles left to go. He looks at the other drivers for a moment and then goes to his truck. He returns with a toolbox, and it is absolutely beautiful. Wrenches of every size you can imagine, other parts and contraptions I could never hope to identify, and again, the drivers huddle together, like a group of greasy-fingered angels.

There is a tap on my shoulder, and [Driver #1] is there, holding out a hot mug of coffee.

Driver #1: “You still have a ways to go. Make sure you stay awake and alert.”

Me: “Thank you!”

Driver #1: “It’s part of the job. When you drive thousands of miles you know how to fix things, and how to keep awake.”

Within twenty minutes, the drivers have fixed up my car, written down the exact problem and what they did, and advise me to take it to a mechanic when I get to where I am going so that they can look it over, but that I the fix should be enough to get me where I need to be.

I am so incredibly grateful, and try to offer some small compensation, but they are having none of it.

Now, whenever I am driving on the freeway and see a truck-driver, I remember this kind encounter with this group, and how they went out of their way in the little time they get for themselves, to help a mechanically-challenged stranger. I’d love to tell them that I took an online course (I’m still a tech-nerd) and read my car manual so I should be able to not be so completely lost if my car fails on me again!

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