Monthly Archives: August 2008

Surviving Customer Service

It’s done. It’s out. I’m moving on.

Surviving Customer Service: Maintaining Sanity In The Work-A-Day World has been unleashed:

If you’d like a copy of your very own and not wait for it to unfold slowly, wander on over to my store to get one.

So, to celebrate (and further erode my sales) I’ll be putting up a chapter every Friday so you can see what’s been occupying my time (and annoying the shit out of me). I’ll start with the foreword writting by my good friend and guy who proved sometimes it’s not the customer by trying to charge me double for an item just yesterday, Dan McCaffrey and the introduction to the book.

Thanks for all the support over this project.

FOREWORD
CUSTOMER SERVICE: A SUICIDE NOTE

I’ve just finished calculating the grim sum that tells me exactly how much of my life I’ve wasted in that field that some joker, obviously in the throes of hideous black sarcasm, has dubbed “customer service.” As for the calculation, I won’t divulge that shameful number, but suffice to say it’s enough to have ruined my entire life.

My life is a complete wash due to the employment I have managed to trap myself in a few times. The crushing psychological derangement that has gripped me thanks what I’ve seen on the front lines of customer service has utterly eradicated any hope for a normal life.

I admit it’s slightly embarrassing to carry on this way, especially when I know of fellow soldiers who carry their burden with far more grace – not to mention far less melodrama – than I. My good friend Chris, for example, was working in customer service long before I was ever a condom factory lawsuit, and yet he trudges on, only a little psychotic, and virtually harmless once you take away his guns and meth.

But hey, I’m sensitive, which is really just a way of saying I despise people. People, of course, deserve to be despised, and it’s really not good for one’s health to always be smiling and polite, when really you would rather murder the slack-jawed imbecile standing in front of you. Such is the tragedy of receiving a paycheck in return for being nice to people.

I wish I could say that my customer service story has a happy ending, much as I wish I could say the same for Chris. Alas, we working men must continue to trudge through a sea of shit-heads, on our noble quest for a paycheck. (As I write this I am laying in bed, with my head poking up from the sheets just slightly, because today is pay day.) So enjoy a few laugh at the expense of those of us who suffer from our jobs and remember: The laughter is what keeps away the killing.

– Dan McCaffrey

Written from an undisclosed location,
August 2008

INTRODUCTION

Congratulations! Whether a barista or barrister, phone jockey or personal assistant lackey you are now a proud member of the customer service family! Customer service is one of the most exciting and growth oriented careers you could embark upon. The daily stimuli of interesting people; the self-confidence you’ll acquire when you help them solve their problems; and the exhilaration you’ll feel at the end of the day when you and your colleagues discuss the exciting events that give meaning to your life. But, before you can jump headfirst into the customer service fun pool, let’s get familiar with the important skills needed to turn yourself into a customer service superstar!

I think that paragraph contained enough bullshit to satisfy those management dweebs, don’t you?

If you think I’m worried one of those ass-kissing phonies read that last sentence, trust me, they never read more than a paragraph of anything. Especially when it fills their rotting melons with the ‘action’ words they live for. So there’s your first lesson: write a first paragraph filled with buzzwords and flowery enemas and fill the rest of the report with dirty limericks.

I’ve just cut your workload by a third and amplified your drinking time ten-fold. What? You don’t drink? Well, you may not drink now but, trust me, you’ll spend your first meager paycheck at the closest bar. So get to know the bartender. You’ll want to run a tab.

How do I know so much? How can I be so self-assured? How come my monthly bar tab is a third higher than my mortgage? Customer service is my life. And my life is a swirling cesspool of shit and I’m just a kernel of corn.

I’ve been a member of the customer service industry for 588 C.S. years (a C.S. – or Customer Service – year is 49 times longer than that of any other profession and no, it’s not a coincidence that we age 7 times faster than dogs. We work harder, do more ass licking, and fetch aimlessly all without the benefit of a flea bath). In that time I’ve come to one irrefutable fact: The customer is always right. . .out of their minds.

Sometimes they truly are members in good standing of the Tin Foil Hat Society but other times they’re schemers looking to pull something over on us. I’ve had customers run me ragged while switching expensive items into boxes of cheaper items. I’ve had customers become indignant when I’ve stopped being their personal slave (remember, it’s customer service not customer servitude). I’ve had bosses put me on shitty details to extract petty revenge. I’ve been threatened, followed, robbed, cajoled, pushed, hit, screamed at, sworn at, thrown up on, cleaned up the vomit, docked pay, cheated hours, fired, accused, searched, banged, bruised, ripped, stitched and had teeth knocked out.

And that was just my first week.

I hope I’m not making your choice of Customer Service Representative as a career sound bad. There are many things about customer service that are fulfilling, exciting and interesting.

For the first month.

After that, it’s a mind numbing, soul sucking, patience melting pit filled with people who couldn’t make a decision if the choices were shit on white bread or shit on the other side of the slice. I’ve sold high ticket items and things that cost less than a candy bar and have had the same,

“Why can’t I just kill these people?” moment.

It doesn’t matter what you are offering, how great the product, or how helpful you are. After a steady stream of customers has washed over you like a delousing, they will merge into a writhing mass of whiny, delusional, helpless dregs hell bent on shredding your vestige of self worth.

Customer service is very Pavlovian. But instead of salivating at a bell, we cringe at phrases (“Excuse me. . .?” “Can you. . .?” “Does this. . .?” “Do you. . .?” “Hello.”) and panic at sounds (doors, entrance buzzers, shoes on tile, intercom pages, petulantly sighing customers because you took 8.3 milliseconds to respond to their virulent throat clearing).

Customer service is also repetitive. Customer service is also repetitive. You will be asked the same question, repeat the same task, and be asked why you won’t do something that’s not only against company policy but probably the laws of 90% of the free world.

Customers come in every size, shape, shade. You will have ones you have to strain to hear and others you’ll have to step back from so as not to puncture your ear drum. Others will have a scent that will shut down your vemeronasal organ. Some will be the friendliest, most charm oozing, greatest seeming people on the planet.  Others will be dressed like extras in ‘The Night Of A Million Bar Fights’ and tip you at the end of a painless transaction. Yet, there is one thing that connects them. A single strand that unites everyone who walks through the door and up to you with expectation in their eyes.

They all suck.

A good Customer Service Representative treats all alike. Oh sure, there will be customers you like. That’s just human nature. But, trust me, they’ll turn on you so it’s best to lose that useless piece of humanity right off the bat.

They don’t mean to but once they cross that line and become ‘your friend’ they’ll see nothing wrong about asking for special attention. Whether that’s the use of your employee discount or the floor plan and camera layout, when you turn them down they’ll get pissed because they thought you were friends. We don’t have friends. We have carbon based troglodytes with no purpose in life but to chip away at our sanity.

So every day, right after you punch in, during that first fifteen minutes spent screwing off on company time, take some time and go to the restroom. Walk right up to the mirror, screw on your fake smile and repeat your mantra,

“Serve all. Hate all.”

Then swing the sword of service on to the floor of fools where they will attempt to suck out your will to work until you, batted and bloodied, reach for your first shot of scotch.

And we’ll be there to lead you through the minefield of customer service with our solid advice and tricks of the trade. Barring that (which we will because it sounds like too much work), we’ll make up a bunch of things that, if used properly or at all, will quite likely lead to your dismissal and possibly litigation (which, our lawyers are making us state, will be of no fault of ours because you’re a dumbass). So remember,

“Serve all. Hate all.”

But don’t say it out loud until the customer has left the building.

If you’d like a copy of your very own and not wait for it to unfold slowly, wander on over to my store to get one.

International Playboy Scouts

Do you want it all?
Do you want it now?
Then see if you have what it takes to become one of the special people, one of the privileged, a member of The International Playboy Scouts. 

http://home.comcast.net/~boundandgags/ips.htm

For those who. . .

. . .can’t sing, we salute you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ak1cpi74RM

Spirit Of Competition

I don’t know what it is about Olympic time but it turns far out of shape men into the failed high school jocks they were. I was at a cookout where the host brought out a TV so we wouldn’t miss a moment of the majesty. I was okay to be stuck watching basketball when we all know what a fan I am so would much rather have been watching rhythmic gymnastics.

I enjoy watching sports so I’m pretty calm with my viewing habits. I didn’t get either fever (patriotic or sportive) nor did it wind me into getting up and tossing the old horsehide around. But something happens to the more casual sports fan during the Olympics. That thing, in technical terms, is they lose their fucking minds.

They forget they’re decades past the prime they didn’t come close to accomplishing what the last finisher in any event will. But does that stop them? Not as long as there’s a field of dreams, my friend. It’s at this moment they experience what can only be described as delusions of gamer.

It starts out pretty simple. Just a couple o’ guys tossing a ball back and forth. They repeatedly asked if I wanted to join in but I had two things in my ‘letting this one pass’ favor: being left-handed there was not a suitable glove in the house. The second is, I had no fucking desire to be that far away from my frosty adult beverage.

So I got to sit there sipping watching this simple childs game escalate. At first there were a couple of louder snaps of leather as the ball picked up some speed. It wasn’t until I heard a snap most identified with bullwhips that I turned my chair around to face them. I sure as hell didn’t want to miss this.

I’m not saying a guy bringing some heat is a bad thing. It was what this desire would accomplish that was questionable. What was accomplished was a sick, echoing crack of a hardball against the side of a wooden structure. Oh sure, it’s fun and games until someone loses a shingle.

The host decides to reign in this event and try to move the testosterone feast onto something less damaging. It was a noble attempt but one doomed to fail. What he didn’t understand was that this bull had left the chute and nothing short of a stunning victory or agony of defeat would stop it.

“Hey, why don’t you go to the basement?”

Sounds interesting. Maybe a little Greco-Roman wrestling, some pommel horse work, maybe a little random drug testing.

“I have a ping pong table down there.”

Fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, I like table tennis. I’m a pretty good player but, in this group, I’m Ma Fucking Lin. I know what happens when you get guys in a ‘friendly’ game like this.

When I was on the tennis tour I was at a guy’s house and we went to the basement. Playing in this format it’s winner plays on. I let everyone play first, not because I thought I was too good, but, honestly, it was a day off from racket sports as far as I was concerned.

I finally get pulled into the game and, after watching everyone play, I knew this could be a long day at the table for me. I mean, I could have tanked to get in and out but I’m not that type of person. I was once pitching to my girlfriends daughter before a ballgame and hit her with a pitch because she was crowding the plate. Hey! I own the inside!

Oh, relax! I didn’t hurt her.

Much.

It turns out I was right. It was a long day. Two, two and a half hours. After everyone else had dropped out the owner of the house just wouldn’t let it go. He was losing his shit with each loss. I’m sure it didn’t help when I started keeping a beer in my open hand when I wasn’t serving. I wasn’t showing off. I did it because I knew it would push him over the edge and maybe, just maybe, he’d die.

Down in this basement, again, I let everyone play. I sort of hoped the rush of competition would die off before I got a turn. It didn’t work out that way so, after I ran through the cycle a couple of times, a few guys dropped out but others couldn’t believe just how fucking lucky I was. After I pull the old ‘drink in my free hand’ bit one guy gets so pissed he really bears down. All that accomplished was, while running to his backhand, he slipped and banged his head on the table.

“Hey,” I hear the host say. “There’s a basketball court down the street.”

I didn’t blame him for trying to limit the damage, but, taking a look at the gathered masses, I hoped there was a crash cart nearby.

We do a quick shoot-around then choose sides. I’m not friends with most of the guys so get passed over a couple of rounds. But, as had to happen, I get chosen and, how’s this for a surprise, the guy who banged his noggin made sure I was not on his team. He’s got six inches and a hundred plus pounds on me. Boy, do I hope he guards me. I may have lost a step or seven but I’m still able to see my dick.

The game begins shortly before the wind sucking does. We’re playing to twenty and by the score of 4-2 and there are grumbles to call next basket wins. I’m not winded in the least. I’m jogging half speed back and forth and the guy guarding me (ping pong pud) hasn’t been close enough to me to spit check much less hand check me.

Although I wasn’t actually responsible I was dribbling the ball when the bodies began to hit the floor. I set-up a give and go at the top of the key so the guy who was covering me at the change had to spin around to reposition himself. While doing that he trips over his own feet and kerplunk! A guy from our team helped him up and volunteered to sit out so the sides would remain even. Gee, what a sportsman!

A couple of other guys start coming up with solid reasons why we should only play to ten. Things like the wife may want to leave, kids may be cranky, they have the heart rate of a humming bird, you know, the classics.

At 8-6 it’s decided we’ll stop at ten. While this timeout is going on I look over to the guy guarding me. He’s talking to a couple of teammates and I can tell they’re going to put the final push on to catch up and surge ahead!

I didn’t have a good feeling about this. I wasn’t afraid of losing (I’m not that competitive an asshole) but I was concerned that, if anyone out there exerted more effort, bad things could happen. But, what do I care? My insurance is good.

I try to inbound the ball while the guy guarding me is jumping around doing a mime version of the song, ‘YMCA’. I head fake left and inbound the ball over his head. I’m three steps ahead of him when I get the ball. I stop at the foul line pretty much unguarded. I did have to go through some congestion at mid-court because that’s where most of the players had taken to playing. Step over the centerline, they’re on offense, a step back over, defense. It’s the middle-age mid-court method.

After we score, I jog back to play defense, after excusing myself to the mid-courters, to see that, with the spirit of the Olympics surging through them (it resembled heartburn if you need a description), two guys are making a run for it. I take my position and wait. For a surging juggernaut it sure seemed to take them a long time to get to me. But, nonetheless, they arrive.

And stop.

At the top of the key the ball handler leans on his thigh and implores me with his eyes not to come near him just yet. I back off and watch a bunch of guys who should know better (some of them are middle managers for fucks sake!) limping and rubbing their shoulders and backs like it was a masseuse convention.

I just wanted to get this over before someone did something so bad to their body that I’d laugh hard enough to blow snots outta my nose. I knew that’s what would happen so, with the speed of a jackrabbit who’s sold three of his good luck charms, I stepped up, stole the ball and jogged down court for an uncontested lay-up.

I could tell the opponents were pissed. Not that I’d scored, but that one of them was going to have to walk down court to get the ball. But, after a frantic game of rock/paper/scissors ping pong pud gets the ball and draws a bead on me. I figured after a few steps he’d slow down but he did something I couldn’t have anticipated. He keeps coming. I stand my ground and notice that, by my estimation, he left the ground about two feet before he should have.

At this moment I have two options: take the charge from this fat, sweaty guy who wants to show me a thing or two or I can step aside and watch the carnage like everyone else. So I step off and watch his expression to go from ‘Oh yeah!’ to ‘Oh shit!’ in 1.6 seconds.

With his girth all of six inches airborne I watched as he released the ball frantically in an attempt to get it anywhere near the basket but, mostly I’d have to assume, hopefully try to keep his body from kissing asphalt. Two failures in one play! That’s a hard one to top!

As he collapses in a grunting groaning heap I grab the board (because it fell into my hands), toss it to a teammate at half court who seemed perturbed to be disturbed, but, nonetheless, gamely dribbled to the other end where he dropped in a lay-up.

As people start limping off the court I take up the rear because I had to get the ball. The reason I had to get the ball is because I was the only one left who could bend over to accomplish such a momentous feat of athleticism.

I get back to the party to see disdain ripple across the party as grown men gingerly approached their wives to show their battle wounds and hope to get a little kiss a boo-boo. Trust me. I’m sure each and every wife and/or girlfriend would have punched them in the appendage offered if they were not in public.

I arrive at our table and my girlfriend asks if anyone died. I told her that may happen to one or two guys later. I ask if she needs anything as I head to the cooler. She orders up a wine so as I’m heading to the cooler I stop to look at the assembled battered and bruised warriors. I hold the ball high over my head and say,

“And this concludes this years O-gymp-ics!”

As I take a jump shot at the basket on the garage.

Nothing but net.

I Have To Ask

All of you have been in grocery stores. You often see odd things in grocery stores. Sometimes you’ll have weird interactions. See kids throwing tantrums. I don’t want to tell you what I’ve seen in the produce section. But if you have any stories like these, please, let me know.

I just don’t want to think I’m alone in this world.

I walk in. I see a woman. She is alone. She is having an animated conversation. With a melon. Wait on it, it’s not a,

“Is it thump a melon squeeze a lime or the other way around?”

conversation. I do not know the entire conversation, but, when I passed it went something like this:

“I wonder how you’ll taste? You have a nice color but you could be misleading me. I’ve been mislead by your kind before.”

No, sadly, I wasn’t on meds (Becky wasn’t around) so did not mishear her conversation.

Passing her (quickly) I approach two people I heard before I saw. It was a mother/daughter team losing their shit at each other. I’m not sure what caused such a loud and lengthy (I could still hear them clearly ninety seconds later when I was checking out at the front of the store) but they both had opinions they needed to express.

Did I mention they were doing it loudly? I did? Did I mention that, when I was walking past, the mother was bouncing the cart up and down making everything in it pop like over stimulated corn.

Good thing they hadn’t been to the egg aisle yet.

I accepted both those situations is stride. Come on! I’m a guy who’s seen a woman squat in piss in the canned vegetable aisle. It’ll take a bit more than talking to fruit and a mother/daughter spat to shake me.

At first, I didn’t think I was seeing what my eyes told me they were processing.

It was a woman, stopped in the middle of the aisle, shucking the husk from corn and dropping it on the ground. Is that some sort of cost cutting measure they teach you in fucking crazy ass loon school? Is she going to snack on the raw cobs while shopping? I sure as fuck don’t want to imagine that she’s going to do some special dildo popcorn trick.

Although I may have spent more time wandering the aisles to find myself a more fulfilling lunch, I grabbed the item as closely resembling lunch that was closest, found a unpopulated aisle and scurried down.

While in line, moments from leaving, I hear above the cash registers, various conversations, the sounds of shopping, I hear.

“Fuck you, ma! I’m getting fruti pebbles.”

“You know I hate them! Get coco puffs like I said!”

May I suggest some bran flakes?

Vehicles

I’ve seen a lot of weird things but this time I’m only going to talk about vehicular weird things. But not your average weird things like eating and texting while driving, leaning your seat back far enough while driving so you can watch the DVD, or even the woman in a wedding dress hanging halfway out of the vehicle screaming,

“Fuck you, you fucking asshole!”

At a car that may or may not have done something to snap her out of her newly wedded bliss.

I’m talking things that I, a grizzled veteran, even had to go,

“Oh, wait, no.”

Like a guy in an SUV walking his dog.

Or the guy slowly driving down a side street kneeling on the drivers seat pissing out the window.

Then there’s the woman who didn’t pull up to the drive-thru teller close enough so threw her handful of change toward the money intake. Mostly she missed.

Why I bring up those vignettes, which have been sitting in files for years with no place to go, is because today, parked in the middle of a tree-lined, suburban street was a four or maybe even five year old kid sitting on a big wheel yelling into a cellphone.

I guess there’s stress when your job is playing too.

It did make me think of a greeting card:

That image on the front with the tag:
“Sorry I haven’t called.”

Inside:
“Now that I’m a big wheel I’ve lost track of time.”

Not great but thinking random thoughts gives me something to do while I keep passing the open windows. While watching out for urine, dogs, and random brides.

Idiotic Table of Elements

http://home.comcast.net/~boundandgags/itoe1.htm

I know it’s a pain in the ass going to the other site but it’s the only way I could make it look anything close to passable. I put the text here and it was a mess.