Dorothy Rosby
Contributing columnist
I once ordered virus software from a particular company. Turns out, it would have been easier to have a virus.
I was unable to download the software, so I emailed the support desk for help as directed. When none was forthcoming, I purchased another brand and emailed the first company asking for a refund. That’s when they offered to help. Then they couldn’t find any record of my order. Then they asked me to tell them what happened. Then they asked me to tell them again.
After more than a month of emails back and forth, they sent me a message saying, “Unfortunately, these issues are best resolved over the phone. Please call at your convenience.” They must have meant at their convenience because they didn’t include a toll-free number and they left me on hold for twenty minutes—twice.
Eventually, I was able to speak to a real person, or so I thought. I’ll call him SJ for Smug Jerk because he was one, not because that’s his name, which I can’t remember. His helpful response was “You’re past the thirty-day refund period.”
“But I’ve been emailing you for thirty days.”
“Doesn’t matter. That’s our policy.” The only thing more infuriating to a customer than saying, “That’s our policy” is spitting on them.
SJ said his supervisor would email me the next day. I told him I’d rather give him my phone number.”
“He won’t call.”
“Why not? Your email said these issues are best resolved by phone.”
“Only within thirty days.”
That’s when I did something that I normally reserve only for the people I love; I yelled at him. I don’t remember what I said, but I know it did nothing to change the policy.
And SJ was right. His supervisor didn’t call. Nor did he email. Nor did he send my refund.
Customer service has changed in the age of online shopping. Now we spend our days emailing faceless companies, being put on hold by people who may or may not go to lunch while we wait, live chatting on our computer with technicians who can type faster than we can and talking to recordings, my personal favorite. At least AJ was a real person—sort of.
I’d already kicked the wall and cursed the credit card industry by the time I got around to calling the customer service number on the back of my credit card. I was hoping for a helpful human being or a reasonable facsimile. Instead I got Recorded Rita. “If you would like help in English, please say English or press one.”
“English or press one.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. If you would like help in English, please say ….” Apparently she didn’t get the joke.
“Please say lost card protection, new card features, rate quotes or problems with my bill.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Please say lost card protection, new card features….”
“Problems with my stupid bill.” I’m a slow learner.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. Please say….”
“Problems with my bill.”
“Are you having problems with your bill? Please say yes or no.”
“Well, duh!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. Are you having problems….”
“Yes,” I said, as loudly as I’d screamed at SJ.  Then I remembered this call might be monitored for quality assurance purposes.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” But she didn’t sound sorry. “I’ll transfer you to our billing department.”
“Wait! Are there real people there?”
She didn’t answer. Clearly Rita has poor hearing and no sense of humor. But I’ll say this for her. She never loses her temper and she’s very polite. Her last words to me were, “Thank you for using your (name of worthless) credit card.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”
Dorothy Rosby