I think the most memorable part of vacations is usually when things go wrong.
Seriously. You make plans to take a trip. You come home with a bunch of pictures that people politely look at. But it’s when something goes really wrong that you have a great story to tell people.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were on vacation, and while we were in the middle of nowhere, we had two flat tires. At the same time. They’re shredded. And the state we were in had shockingly few gas stations. Oh, and we’re in a car from National car rental, so that’s fun too.
I braced myself and put on my “please-for-the-love-of-God-help-me” voice to make what I was sure would be a pain and numbness inducing call to the car rental hotline. I hate talking to customer service reps. Sure enough, we were six hours away from their nearest rental office. This was going to be a disaster.
Then something funny happened. I realized the girl on the hotline was being really compassionate toward me. She was typing away on her computer for a long time and then told me she had reserved a new car for me at a competitor’s office. A tow truck picked me up a while later. And the girl at the competitor’s rental office ended up staying at work two hours past closing time to be there when I arrived for my new car. Wow.
I’m not usually pleasantly surprised by customer service. Usually, I’d rather be waterboarded than call an 800 number. But every once in a while, I’m surprised that I haven’t been insulted by a massive corporation.
I’d like to write a whole post about all the surprisingly great customer service I’ve recieved. But I just don’t have enough stories. But I have plenty of these…
My Six Worst Places for Customer Service
Most cell phone shops seem the same. They’re basically staffed by high schoolers who somehow don’t know a thing about cell phones, but even this stood out. After a few months with Verizon, I started getting bills for another customer. Except this other customer appeared to have the same address and phone number as mine. Odd, I thought. I spent hours sitting in the Verizon office while a low level clerk pretended to be “Encyclopedia Brown,” attempting to solve the mystery. She was convinced this was a textbook case of “cell phone bill fraud” (though I doubt that really is in a textbook.) Turned out, another employee assigned another new customer my phone number. Case closed.
Black Friday Christmas shopping is great. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were looking for a record player. I found one on Target’s website, which was, amazingly on sale for $25 off. But it’s “in store only.” Still, it’s two days before Black Friday, and I can waltz into the store and get a great deal without all the crowds. I went to the store, and it’s there, but at the full price. I asked a manager about this, who says the online prices don’t apply to the store, and she cannot honor the online price. Wrap your brain around that one.
I offered the brilliant rebuttal that the website says “in store only.” She didn’t let up and I didn’t get the sale price. I went to a different Target to try again with a different manager. This one actually knew what she was talking about and says the website was updated early, and my item would be on sale for Black Friday. I guess Mr. Manager was just too busy to be bothered with knowing what their store’s sales were going to be for the biggest shopping day of the year.
Does anyone actually work at Hobby Lobby? Because I can never find one single person. This store is like an endless forest maze of fake flowers and googly eyes. At least when I go to Home Depot, I can find an employee who will give me that look of revulsion that tells me I don’t belong there, and then tell me where to find the puff paint.
I can’t name any particular thing I don’t like about K-Mart, except for the profound sense of unmitigated dread and anxiety I get from stepping into a store. Every employee seems morbidly depressed, like they’re having a blue light special on puppy funerals. Sure, they never have the one thing I want, and even Raymond Babbit knows K-Mart sucks. But I almost feel guilty for walking out without buying anything out of pity. It’s like seeing a handicapped child and his adorable three-legged dog sitting at a lemonade stand, raising money so he can take his terminally ill cousin to Disneyland. How could you not buy any lemonade, you jerk?
But if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s being guilted into buying stuff, so K-Mart, you’re on the list.
We have a Sears near our home, but there’s something fishy about it. I know the store used to be a K-Mart. I know K-Mart is a very depressing store. And there is something oddly ominous about our Sears. It’s as if they just changed the signs and the employees turned their shirts inside-out to conceal the “K-Mart” logos. It still never has anything I want. They didn’t even bother to set up their outdoor stuff this year. The employees are at least trying by offering free popcorn to customers, but even that seems depressing.
I like my Dell laptop. But a while ago, it completely froze up for the first time. No combination of button presses would unfreeze it. So for some reason I can’t quite understand, I called tech support. A woman answered, and from her extraorinarily poor grammar, I surmised that she had not yet completed her community college English class, and probably didn’t really know a single thing about tech support. She proceeded to try to sell me a kit for $150, which would then enable me to “fix it myself.” I hung up, and took the battery out of my laptop, thus unfreezing it. That’s how I do it myself.
How’s your relationship with customer service? What are your best / worst stories?