Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An exceedingly helpful "How To" post that will completely and utterly change every fiber of your being

I'm here on my couch, simultaneously unemployed and yet wearing a suit, an incongruous situation owing to a morning spent impersonating a low-rent mobster for a corporate team building scavenger hunt. This, apparently, is my life. So be it. At least I look dapper.

I'm also typing on a computer that, as of this time yesterday, was not working. I had just finished watching The Young and the Restless---which, first off, is a sentence I hoped I'd never write, at least not until I transmogrified into a brandy-soaked grandmother and second, a sentence I need to explain at the asterisk*---when I was greeted with the unsettling aroma of melting plastic. Since I hadn't been smoking crack out of an Evian bottle lately, I was understandably perplexed. Burning plastic is an unholy smell, a smell I'd really only dealt with once, when, as a high schooler, I bought lawn seats to Ozzfest so I could see the 98th Black Sabbath Reunion Tour, and a bunch of countrified rubes made a bonfire out of disposable cutlery and liter-size Pepsis. It literally took my breath away, in a "wow, I can't effing breathe" sort of way. I learned two valuable lessons that day: thou shalt not burn plastic and thou shalt sing the guitar solo to "War Pigs" with thousands of inebriated longhairs. But I digress.

It didn't take long to note the fact that the Macintosh I was using had stopped charging and that the olfactory problem was emanating from my crotch. Not my loins, per se, but the computer that sat on top of them and, since this isn't my computer, well, this was a problem. (Also a problem: burning crotch). The central issue was the AC power cord, which had melted, and my wallet, which has been dieting lately. I needed a new cord and I needed it to be free.

Which brings us to today's helpful blog post: "How to Navigate the Horrible Labyrinth of Customer Service Call Centers, Retain Your Relative Sanity, and Get Free Shit in the Process."

(Note: Between copious touring for the last album, I worked at a call center which shall hereby remain nameless. It's not a job I'm proud of, but it paid much better than pretending to be a mafioso while drinking far too much coffee and perplexing nearby patrons. Onwards)

1- We begin with a rule taken directly from the great and knowledgeable Patrick Swayze (also known as "The Swayze") in the highly underrated film Road House. The Swayze plays a "cooler" (read: glorified bouncer) who is recruited to turn a bar named the Double Deuce (owned by Locke's dad from LOST, to my unending pleasure) from a seedy dive frequented by toothless, violent alcoholics, to a swank yuppie bar where floozies do coke in the bathroom. It is from The Swayze's opening speech to his cadre of bouncers where we take rule one: "Be nice." You will be frustrated by this phone call. You will be transfered, you will be left on hold listening to Tesla, you will be asked to repeat the same information at least ten times, but you will be nice. Just be nice. It's just like when one of the Double Deuce bouncers asks The Swayze, "What if [a customer] calls my mother a whore?", and Swayze answers "Well, is she?" then continues "Just be nice." That's rule number one.

2- Have a goal and clear your schedule. You're not calling in to Apple or United Airlines or Verizon to let them dick you around. You have to know what you want, what you'll accept, and whether they're the same thing. The only thing standing between you and a waived fee or a complimentary ticket is dedication.

3- So you missed your payment or you're being charged some magical fee for something you never agreed to or, say, a cord melted on your wang. The company you're calling does not want to give you anything. It screws with their profit margin which screws with their investors who pay the salary of the people at the company who make the rules which prevent you from getting any recompense. The first person you'll speak to in this Kafkaesque Mobius Strip is a "Tier One" representative. These folks cannot help you and, largely, they are either very new or very stupid. But remember, be nice. "Sir, your computer isn't under warranty anymore and we can't get you a new power cord," is something they might say. To which you politely respond "That's unfortunate. I'd really like to get this problem fixed. Is there anyone else there I can speak with?" You will be transfered because you were nice.

4- Here's where it gets hairy. Odds are, you will be "escalated" up several layers of the diabolical call center hierarchy. You'll talk to at least one unbelievable idiot whose only goal is to frustrate you into hanging up. You'll speak to a middle manager type who, depending on your problem and level of nice-ocity, may be able to help you. You'll start growing tired of repeating your case number, your serial number, and your account number, but that's their strategy. A call to a customer service center is like the Ironman Triathlon: you don't so much finish it as it finishes you. But ask yourself, dear reader: would you rather fall in a heap during the bike ride or at the finish line, coated in blood, gatorade, and a brand new power cord? Exactly.

5- Empathize. The guy or girl on the other end of the phone hates their job. They spent all day dealing with irate pricks who were less wronged than you and who pointlessly feel that reaming some anonymous phone jockey will alleviate their sadness and financial loss. Things like "I'm not trying to be difficult" and "I used to work in a call center too, man, I understand" go a long way towards the ultimate goal. And empathy is reciprocal. And it's transfered. When you're escalated to each ascending level of the call center, the workers talk amongst themselves about you and your case. If you're empathetic, casual, and pleasant, they'll say things like "I really want to help this guy out; he seems like a decent sort" instead of "Fuckwad on line 2."

6- Do not, under any circumstances, hang up until you get what you want (or, as we discussed earlier, what you'll accept). They cannot hang up on you. You'll notice that most customer service reps say things like "is there anything else I can help you with?" or "is that all, sir?" That's because you have to conclude the call. It's the ultimate trump card in this war of attrition.

7- And lastly, call early. Find out when the call center opens and catch them before a whole litany of uptight cheesedicks has ruined your chances for positive adjudication. This isn't highly important---indeed, it can be counterproductive, as sometimes the aforesaid cheesedicks make your overall niceness seem even nicerer---but its worth keeping in mind. Definitely don't call at the end of the day. Think of it like going to a Chinese food buffet ten minutes before closing: sure, it's still open, but don't page me when your innards are liquifying.

And now, for my infomercial-tastic conclusion:

"Using these seven simple steps, I turned 'I'm sorry sir, you aren't under warranty' to 'We'll get that out in the mail today, sir. Sorry for the inconvenience.' Birdmonster's program is simply amazing. It changed my life. Even a baby can do it! Thanks Birdmonster!"

* To explain: my girlfriend's aunt had a brief cameo on the Young and the Restless, so I parked myself on the couch to watch her three scenes. Of course, now, I desperately want to see how the first issue of Restless Style turns out and if Nikki will marry David. I hope she doesn't. They just don't seem genuinely happy, you know?


Anonymous said...

ok, first of all, i read that first bit as you being dressed as a "low-rent lobster", which was a FAR more amusing image to me.

i have also done my callcenter time (hooray for low standards! i should be in a reality show called "Who Wants To Hire A Hobo?), and the niceness thing is seriously Rules Number One Through Nine.

also, the fact that you COULD sue them for damage to your fiddlestick combined with the fact that you are very obviously NOT SAYING THAT probably goes a long way, too.

and David is no good for Nikki. he clearly could have handled the Cujo problem with more finesse:

birdmonster said...

Hobo: I love you. I love that you referenced the pet's name. I love that I'm about to tell you I think it's "Pujo," which reminds me of the "Shinning" from an old Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. "Shut up boy! Do you want to get sued?"

And, admittedly, part of me wanted to give my rules the Fight Club treatment, (Rule #1 is be nice. Rule #2 is be nice), but since I'd already referenced Road House, I didn't want Fight Club to look lame in comparison. Dalton is God. God I tells ya.

Ryan said...

Hahahahahahahahah! stuff like this gives me nightmares of my Bargain Network days... I think airlines really F you the most...

birdmonster said...

Ryan: Either phones or banks, for sure. I have Wells Fargo, which behaves like a big brother, breaker your piggy bank and daring you to tell Mom.

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