Your Accent Doesn’t Change As Quickly As Their Attitude

, , , , , , | Right | January 8, 2019

(I am British, but I have a really odd combination accent because growing up, I lived in places with vastly different dialects — Essex, Hampshire, Norfolk, and I even spent several years living in America, so on top of all those, I have a slight American twang, too. I am very used to people asking where my accent is from. Most are polite and just mildly curious. I am working in a call centre, though, when the following exchange happens.)

Me: “Hi. You’re through to [My Name] at [Company]; how may I help you?”

Customer: “Oh, your accent. Where is this call centre?”

Me: “It’s in Hampshire. I have a mixed accent because I moved around a lot growing up.”

Customer: “Are you South African?”

(This is a common guess; many people I speak to ask this.)

Me: “No, sorry. I’m British; my accent is just a mixture.”

Customer: “You’re lying. Why would you lie about being South African?”

Me: “I’m sorry, madam, I am not South African, but even if I was, it is irrelevant. Now, how can I help you?”

Customer: “I bet you’re foreign. Probably claiming benefits, stealing from taxpayers, and you’ve stolen that job from an honest British worker. You’re f****** scum, you know that? No wonder you won’t admit to being South African!”

Me: “Madam, this is your first warning and only warning. If you continue to use language like that, I will disconnect the call. However, if you will tell me what it is you are calling about, I will be happy to help you.”

Customer: “Oh, f*** off, you b****. I want to speak to a British agent, not some foreigner w***e like you!”

Me: “As previously advised, I am going to terminate the call. Have a nice day, madam.”

(I hang up the call and go and speak to my manager to inform her of the call, just in case. The customer did not even give me a name, so I cannot pull up an account to make a note on. However, as I am talking to my manager, one of my colleagues comes up and says she has a customer on the line demanding a manager, saying that some “foreign worker” called her names, was rude, and swore at her before calling her a b**** and hanging up. Evidently, the same customer called back as soon as I hung up. My manager looks at me and sighs.)

Manager: “Get back on the phones. Don’t worry; I’ll deal with this.”

(A few hours later, my manager asked me to come to her office. She informed me that she had listened to the call and found no issues with my conduct, and applauded me for my patience and tact with this particular customer. She then told me that she had informed the customer that she had listened to the call and found no indication that I had done any of what she’d claimed, but that, in fact, she had been the abusive one, and if she continued to do so, she would be barred from calling us. Then, the customer shouted abuse at her and she was forced to end the call. A few weeks later, we got a big complaint letter from this customer claiming that my manager and I had insulted her, called her several racial slurs, and called her a w***e. She demanded £100k as compensation. She never got it, but for months we kept getting letters. Each time she ramped up the story until eventually she was claiming that we’d made threats of violence against her, her family  — including claims that I, the “South African,” threatened to shoot them all — and that we threatened to add — in her exact words — a “£1000 b**** charge,” which I personally thought was hilarious. She also threatened to report us to the police, to tell the energy watchdogs about our “conduct’,” and to tell the papers about how our company hired and protected “South African terrorists.”)

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