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Just Save Your Breath

, , , , , , | Working | February 9, 2021

My doorbell rings. I look out to see two representatives of an energy company I’ve never heard of standing at the front door. I open the door and look at them without saying a word.

Rep: “Hello! We’re with [Company] and we’d like to talk about saving you some money on your electricity.”

As he talks, I slowly and deliberately go from looking at them to leaning out of my door to look at the prominent “NO SOLICITING” sign I have posted. Yep, it’s still there.

The rep falters a bit but continues his spiel.

As he talks, I go from looking back and forth from them to the sign, to pointing at it while staring at them with raised eyebrows. I still haven’t said a word.

Rep: *Indignantly* “Look, we’re just trying to save you some money!”

Me: “And you think the best way to attract new customers is by breaking the law?”

Ignoring a “No Soliciting” sign is against a city ordinance.

Rep: “…”

Me: “Goodbye.”

Rep: “Well, you don’t have to be such a—”

The door shut before I heard what a “such a” he thought I was.

Internot Getting It, Part 2

, , , , , | Right | January 20, 2021

I work in the renewals and billing department of a large UK energy company. In November 2018, said company made it so that certain tariffs and deals are ONLY available online. We did not have access to them other than the names. At least three times a day after this, this conversation occurs.

Customer: “I would like a quote on this deal I have been recommended.”

Me: “I’m sorry for this, but unfortunately, that deal is an online exclusive. We do not have access to it.”

Customer: “But I don’t have a computer.”

Me: “We don’t have access to that deal; I can give you basic information on it but I cannot put you on it.”

Customer: “Well, get me someone who can.”

Me: “The deal you are looking for is an online exclusive; none of us over the phone have access to it.”

Customer: “Stop repeating yourself! I don’t have a computer! I am elderly and I cannot believe you are discriminating against me like this!” *Violent sobbing*

Me: “Unfortunately, we cannot do this deal over the phone. I can go through the ones I have but they may not be at the same price point. But if it is this deal you want, it needs to be done online. Do you have any family members or friends who can help?”

Customer: “I do not have a computer! No one I know has a computer! Just put me on the deal!”

I banged my head on the desk repeatedly.

Internot Getting It

We Can’t Swear That You’re Not Stupid

, , , , | Right | November 16, 2020

I work in a call centre for an energy supplier.

Customer: “I don’t understand why I have a debt. I pay my monthly direct debit. I don’t see why I should pay more.”

Me: “Well, yes, sir, you do pay by direct debit, but you’ve only been paying [amount] and you’ve been using [higher amount], so your payments are not covering your usage. That’s why we will need to up your payments, both to cover your actual usage and to gradually pay back the debt.”

Customer: “I use [amount] and that’s what I pay. I’ve never had a debt.”

Me: “Sir, do you have your statement in front of you?”

Customer: “Yes.”

Me: “Can you read to me the first line?”

Customer: “Your balance on the last statement was [amount].”

Me: “You see, sir?”

Customer: “But that’s credit.”

Me: “No, sir, that’s debt. If it were credit, there would be the letters C and R after the number. If you look further down, it’ll show those letters near the amounts where we recognise we have received payments from you.”

Customer: “Look here. I have never had a debt. I resent the fact you claim I have debt. I made my payments and I can prove it!”

Me: “Sir, the issue is not whether you made payments—”

Customer: “Then what is wrong with my bill?”

Me: “Nothing, sir. The bill is correct; you just haven’t been paying enough.”

Customer: “How dare you?! Are you calling me cheap?!”

Me: “That is not what I said, and I’d appreciate it if you did not put words in my mouth.”

Customer: “Well, if you’re just making things up and trying to squeeze money out of innocent people, then why shouldn’t I?”

Me: “Sir, you provided us with a meter reading of [number] for [date], correct?”

Customer: “Yes, that’s right, but my bill is wrong; you’ve added extra charges!”

Me: “All we have done is bill you up to those reads. It is what you’ve used.”

Customer: “Then what are these standing charges, hmm?”

Me: “That is what we charge you per day for supplying your meters.”

Customer: “No, it isn’t. You’re trying to rip me off! My friends say I don’t have to pay standing charges.”

Me: “I’m afraid your friends are mistaken.”

Customer: “Other suppliers don’t charge standing charges!”

Me: “All suppliers charge a standing charge, sir. If you got a quote from another supplier, they would give you the price for it.”

Customer: “Well, maybe that’s what I’ll do. You money-grubbing liars aren’t getting any more money from me!”

Me: “If that’s what you feel is best, sir, you are within your rights to do so, but the bill is still valid and we do expect payment.”

Customer: “You close my account right now! I’m not having you be my supplier another minute.”

Me: “Sir, I’m afraid I can’t do that. That’s not how energy suppliers work.”

Customer: “What?”

Me: “Sir, what you’re asking is for us to close the account, which is not something we do, as that means you would have no gas or electric because we would have to disconnect you, which we won’t do as that prevents you from switching to another supplier. It’s also illegal for us to do that.”

Customer: “So what am I supposed to do?”

Me: “You can agree to a contract with another supplier and they start the process to take the supply, a process which takes two to three weeks.”

Customer: “You can’t trap me!”

Me: “I’m not saying that, sir. You just need to agree to a contract with another supplier if you want to leave us.”

Customer: “But you said that can take three weeks!”

Me: “Yes.”

Customer: “That’s ridiculous. Switch it from today!”

Me: “Sir, I have no power to do that. No one does.”

Customer: “Get a manager, then. You’re useless!”

Me: “A manager will tell you exactly the same thing.”

Customer: “Ah, for f***’s sake! Just get the f****** manager!”

Me: “Sir, if you swear one more time, I will hang up this phone and you can wait in that call queue for another half an hour to speak with someone else. You get one warning.”

Customer: “What?! I wasn’t swearing at you! I was swearing about the situation!”

Me: “Nevertheless, I haven’t sworn or raised my voice to you during our entire call, and I would appreciate the same courtesy.”

Customer: “What, you never heard someone swear before? You’re a grown woman! You’re just gonna have to deal with it!

Me: “Actually, I don’t.”

Customer: “What?”

Me: “I wasn’t lying. If you cannot be civil, I will disconnect this call. Now, if you can do that, I will log a complaint for you and get a manager.”

Customer: “Fine, but I’ll be mentioning your attitude. Never has someone been so rude to me.”

Our complaint procedure requires us to write them in the customer’s own words, and I follow this to the letter. When we reach the manager, I then have to give my view of events, all with the customer listening in. When I am about to finish explaining what I’ve told the customer and what he has said to me, the customer interrupts.

Customer: “Hang on, you’re making it out like it’s my fault!”

Manager: “Are you saying events did not happen this way?”

Customer: “She’s twisting it! I’ve done nothing wrong!”

Manager: “Sir, let me look at this and see if we can come to an understanding.”

I then listen as the manager apologises for any perceived rudeness and sticks by my decision to end the call if he becomes abusive. He then goes through the bills with the customer point by point, explaining how he’s using too much for his current payments, and no, we can’t switch him to someone else in twenty-four hours.

Customer: “This is ridiculous. I remember when it was simple and you could switch anytime. Now it’s all tariffs, standing charges, and contracts, and you have to wait weeks for something that should just be simple like pushing a button!”

Manager: “I’m sorry you feel that way, but the process is not that simple.”

Customer: “I shouldn’t have to go through this, anyway. I made my payments; you made a mistake. I’m not stupid!”

Manager: “No one said you were, sir.”

Customer: “You don’t have to. I hear it in your voice, and you’re patronising me by going through every little thing, like I’m thick, like I don’t understand the statements.”

Manager: “That was not my intention at all.”

Customer: “You’re liars and thieves.”

Manager: “Sir, I’ve explained everything to you. The debt is valid. We cannot do what you are asking.”

Customer: “Then f*** you! Liars!”

Manager: “Sir, we have already warned—”

Customer: “F*** you!”

Manager: “—you about the swearing.”

Customer: “F*** you, f*** you, f*** you!”

Manager: “Goodbye, Mr. [Customer].”

Customer: “F*** you! Wait, what?”

Manager: *Click*

Maybe Her Brain Has A Leak, Too

, , , , | Working | November 3, 2020

It’s a holiday, so most offices are closed. I leave my house and see water bubbling up out of the street. I call the water company to report a break. The recorded message tells me the office is closed for the holiday but to hold for emergencies. Eventually, someone answers.

Clerk: “This is [Water Company]. How can I help you?”

Me: “I need to report a water main break at [Street], [Town].”

Clerk: “A water main break? I don’t have any reports of a water main break in [Town].”

Me: “That’s why I am reporting it.”

Clerk: *Loud sigh* “Fine. What’s the nearest cross street?”

Me: “It’s on [Street] at the corner of [Cross Street].”

Clerk: “And I’m going to need your name and a good phone number so my on-call guy can have you show him where the break is.”

I give my name and phone number.

Me: “I don’t think he’ll need to call.”

Clerk: “Of course, he’s going to call. He needs someone to show him this ‘break.’”

The on-call guy takes thirty minutes to arrive. By the time he does, the police have blocked off the street. The bubbling water has now turned into a twenty- to twenty-five-foot high fountain. He parks the truck and gets out and starts filming. Once he’s taken his video, he removes some tools and manages to shut off the water. I’m standing on my porch watching him when he starts to make a phone call. My phone rings and I answer it.

Tech: “Hi, I’m the on-call tech for [Water Company].”

I wave and call to him instead of talking on the phone.

Me: “Hi. I’m assuming you found the leak.”

Tech: “Yeah. I got a dispatch that said I had to call you to locate the leak. I’m assuming that was it.”

Me: “Yes. It wasn’t that bad when I called.”

Tech: “I figured. I still don’t know why I had to call you.”

Me: “Me, either.”

Tech: “That dispatcher is known for not believing there’s a broken main until she gets at least five calls. I guess she didn’t believe you.”

The Time 911 Called Me

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: EisConfused | September 23, 2020

Please note that at the time of this story I was running on hope and caffeine, and had been awake for thirty hours, so some details might have changed due to my recollection.

It is the winter of 2018. I work at a call center for a power and natural gas company. The worst polar vortex storm the state has seen in ages hits us, with temperatures frequently hitting -25 or below for over a week.

Even the waffle houses closed; waffle houses are so reliable FEMA uses something called “the waffle house index” to rate disasters!

I was living close enough to work that they called me in a few times and all hours of the day over the weeks because the number of people who could arrive safely is small.

At the beginning, our queue could be over 500 people. By day three it is mostly just shouting that we need to reconnect their power before anyone else because of any number of reasons, none of which changed the reality that we couldn’t do that. The power grid is like a vascular system. If the end of the line isn’t getting blood it isn’t because the immediate juncture is stopped up. This is compounded by weather and reconnection surges frying an entire second batch of equipment and causing a second wave of outages.

Me: *Taking a call* “Thank you for calling [Power Company], my name is [My Name]; how may I help you today?”

Caller: “I’m not sure you can help, please let me know if you need to get a supervisor. My name is [Caller’s Name] and I am with [Major cellular company]. We donate facilities to be used as 911 relays and switchboards, and the 911 branch in Minnesota town has a problem. See, we have generators and fuel, but only enough for 86 hours. We are currently at about 76 hours without power. We have a fuel delivery being made on an emergency basis tomorrow after they will have been out of power for about 90 hours. With this weather, we need to remain active so our last-ditch hope was to contact you guys and see what can be done.”

I am staring blankly at the address search screen trying to process this.

Me: “Well… let me put you on hold for just a second, I want to see if we have a protocol for… this. Can I get the address of your building?”

Caller: “Oh yeah, absolutely, ask around! Anything that may help. Our address is [Very Minnesota road in very mid-west town].”

At this point, I just mute and ask the girl next to me what the h*** I do. The supervisors are beyond busy, sometimes even taking calls themselves, but she had worked there for six years and just gave me a blank stare for a moment.

Supervisor: “Huh, that’s new, call dispatch I guess. It is an emergency. Several actually.”

I hop on the line, check to make sure an order to investigate the outage is already there, check-in with the caller and get his callback line, all that, then call dispatch.

Dispatch: “Dispatch, what’s the issue?”

Me: “So I know we don’t prioritize who gets reconnected b—”

Dispatch: “Ya d*** right we don’t!”

Me: “Yes I understand that, but I have a fellow from 911 on my line. He says they’ve exhausted their options for keeping the lights on themselves. They won’t get fuel for the generator until they’ve been offline for several hours. That town was hit some of the worst, the last thing they need is to not be able to contact emergency services.”

There is a long pause.

Dispatch: “Okay, I need to put you on hold.”

I hear a bunch of shouting into different rooms because he didn’t put me on hold or even mute me. The dispatcher’s boss gets on the line.

Dispatch Boss: “This is [Dispatch Boss], I hear you’ve got 911 on your line?”

We go back and forth, I bring the cell rep into the call and hop around in the system getting our protocol stuff done, and letting my team lead know what’s going on. I never heard about the issue again, so I have to assume it worked out.

Honestly, I think that dispatch actually giving a hoot was more surreal than being called by 911. Those guys always sound like every request you make is like squeezing lemon juice in their eyes.