Tuesday, October 10, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

Adventures in Customer Service 

In any customer-service related position, you get the crazies. Some nights, you get all the crazies at once. Last night was one of those nights.

"Good Evening, *place of work*, Johanna speaking."
"Yes."
(long pause)
"Hello? *place of work*, can I help you?"
"Yes. (quickly and in a Japanese accent) I would like to know if my book come yet. Confirmation number 118..."
"Pardon me, what is your name please?" (Books that have arrived are shelved under customer name, not their confirmation number. The confirmation number is used to liase with the shipping side of things.)
"Yes. Confirmation number 11834..."
"Your name please."
"Yes. Book name is 'Successful Writing for High School and College'"
"Thank you. And YOUR NAME PLEASE."
"My name? Or Book name?"
"YOUR NAME."
"Oh. Neeson Goh. Spell: R-I-S-E-O-N K-O."
"Thank you. May I put you on hold to go look for your book?"
"I think, yes."

I run downstairs to look at arrived books. It's not here yet. My co-workers tell me to let her know that when her book arrives, we will notify her with a phone call. I tell my co-workers that they are certainly welcome to try and let her know themselves.

"Hello, Neeson?"
"Yes. I think."
"Your book is not here yet."
"No? Yes."
"We will call you when it gets here."
"Yes. It is here?"
"No. Not here yet."
"Yes."
"When it does get here - we call you. We call you, then you can come get it."
"Yes. Ok. I think. Book here? No."
"No."
"Ok."
"Have a good night."
"Yes. Ok."

I don't know how long this could've gone on for because I hung up after her response to "Have a good night". I suppose this is not an example of a crazy, just someone who speaks English as a second language. I just thought this exchange was amusing, though it came on the heels of a full hour during which I couldn't find a single book customers asked me to find. So it was more than a little frustrating.

"Good evening, *place of work*, Johanna speaking."
"(News about Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration and the current war campaign plays loudly in the background throughout)Yes, hello dear. Could you possibly look up a book for me and tell me if you have it and how much it is?"
"Sure thing. What's it called?"
"*book name*, *author's name*"
"We have 4 copies, and the book is $35."
"Is that hard cover or paperback?"
"Hardcover. It's quite new, so I don't think the paperback edition will be available for a while."
"Why yes. I didn't think of that. I suppose it is quite new. I just heard about it on the radio. The author was being interviewed. It was quite interesting."
"That's cool. Would you like me to go find a copy to put on hold for you?"
"You said it was $35 dear?"
"Yes."
"Well, that's a little steep, for just a book. Perhaps I will put it on my Christmas list."
"*chuckle* That's not a bad idea."
"Gosh, I don't want to think about Christmas just yet - but it is going to be coming up fast isn't it? I suppose none of the decorations are going to be put up before Halloween, but that isn't too far away now, is it? What about at your store dear? Do you have Christmas decorations up yet?"
"Um. No. We're still in a bit of a Halloween mode here."
"Oh well, you'll be putting up Christmas things in no time at all, I assure you. I suppose it's a sign of my getting older, that time goes by faster and faster. It seems like there used to be more time between Halloween and Christmas."
"Uh huh."
"You know, about that book, that's something I like to do for Christmas, to tell people exactly what I want. I also like to ask people for what they want. I just think it's more practical that way you know? Some people like to, like to.."
"Surprise?"
"Yes, that's right, they like to give surprises. But you know that doesn't always work out. You must know what it's like when people rush to the stores after Christmas to return their gifts. And then the worst part is that people will know how much you spent on the gift. I really don't like that idea. I think how much you spend on something is very personal you know? That's one thing about surprises is that people don't always like the gift and they bring it back and find out how much money you spent on them."
"Right. I see what you mean."
"Oh well dear. Thanks for looking up that book for me. You have a good night."
"You're welcome. Bye now."
"Bye."

It wasn't a completely pointless conversation. I did manage to get updates about the situation in Iraq. It would've helped though if the customers in store didn't look at me like I was having a personal conversation on company time.

"Available bookseller to cash please, available bookseller to cash."
(I walk down to the cash desk to see what they want)
"Hey, you looked bored earlier, now you can help this lady find eight books."
"Eight?!"
"Yeah, she's right here."
(I turn and see an Asian lady with long hair and blue contacts. She seems to be about middle-aged, but the kind of middle-aged lady who uses all those creams and things to make herself appear younger.)
"Hi, I'm Johanna, how can I help you?"
"(thick Cantonese accent)Hello, hi. I have eight books on hold in a blue bag like that (gestures to our carrying bags). Should be there, but I don't know where now."
(I look around where books are put on hold. All the books are on shelves, there aren't any in a blue bag, and there certainly isn't a pile of eight books lying around.)
"Sorry, it looks like someone might have taken the books to put them back."
"Why they do that? The books had my name and my phone number. If they put back they should call me right? My phone number was there! Why they don't call me first?"
"I don't know what they were thinking. I think maybe they didn't see your name and number and went to re-shelve it. I'm sorry. I can help you find the books again right now though."
"Eight books! How to remember eight books that I want? And I call this morning you tell me I can pick up tonight. Now I come tonight and you tell me my books no more? Who would do this thing? Why they no call me before they put back the books? I don't understand it. I call already this morning to find out if my books are here to pick up."
"I'm really sorry. I understand that this must be really frustrating for you. The best I can do now is to help you find your books again. I know the store pretty well so it shouldn't take that long."
"How I remember eight books? I remember one is brahma."
"Brahma?"
"Yes. Brahma."
(I look "Brahma" up on the computer. There are a number of books that show up, but certainly none that have been stocked at the store.)
"We don't have any Brahma books."
"No, BR-AH-MA. You know, GR-AH-MA."
"Grammar?"
"Yes, yes, brahma."
(For reference, we have over 300 English grammar books. So I stall.)
"Any other books?"
"Cannot remember."

What else can I do right? She remembers that all eight books are bargain books, which means we are limited to the shelves on the first floor. As we walk around the shelves she starts to say that her reserved books must still be hiding in that promised blue bag somewhere in the back because she doesn't see any of the books she put away in the first place. The whole time going "who would do this?". (I also call other branches looking for her blue bag to make sure that she isn't at the wrong branch. The other branches have not seen a bag like that.) All the while I was interacting with her I was overwhelmingly reminded of Sophia Wang on So You Think You Can Dance:

(Not the dancing part, but the end where she's talking about the judges.)

Eventually she leaves. As I'm about to go upstairs I'm accosted by an elderly Indian couple. The husband begins talking to me.

"Hello girl. Do you have Internet?"
"You mean wireless internet? No, we don't."
"No, not wireless. Internet computer."
"This computer here is connected to the internet and I can look something up for you if you want."
"No dear, I have to sit and work for a while."
(Light comes on for me)
"Oh, you want like an internet cafe. No, we don't have computers connected to the internet, but if you ask some of the other staff, they might know of a place near here that has internet computers."
(The Wife interjects)"You don't have though? But the other branch of the Vancouver Public Library has computers."
(I don't know how to react to this, luckily the husband saves me.)"This is bookstore, Sheila, not the library."
(Wife)"Oh, so this different?"
(Me)"Yeah, we don't have public use computers. But like I said, others who work here probably know an Internet cafe close by."
(Husband)"Ok. Thank you."

As they leave, the wife still looks troubled by the fact that despite the copious number of books on shelves surrouding her there are no computers connected to the internet for public use.

Finally it's time for the store to close. The manager asks me to stand by the front doors to let people know that we're closing. Right at 10pm a guy walks unhurriedly through the doors.

"Sorry sir, we've just closed."
"That can't be right. I just called 15 minutes ago and some guy told me that you close at 11."
"You might have called somewhere else. There are no guys working on the floor tonight."
"No, I know I called this store. Are you sure you're not open until 11?"
"Yes. I'm sorry, but I don't know who spoke to you. There are no guys working tonight. All girls here."
"Ok."

He walks out, looking defeated. I feel kinda bad for the guy, but at the same time I'm thinking that he just made up the fact that he called in to try and get some time to get what he needed to buy. I go upstairs to relate this to my co-workers.

"So this joker says he called and some 'guy' told him we close at 11. We have no guys on tonight though! Ha ha."
"Uhhh, yeah. I know what happened."

Turns out my co-worker was running toward the phone to answer it when a random customer picked it up before she could get to it. He was the one who dispensed the 11pm closing time gem to the poor guy. He was even completely unembarrassed when she approached him about picking up the phone - according to her:

"...so he was like 'oh whatever, the caller just wanted to know what time you guys were open until.' And I said, 'We close at 10, not 11.' And he just shrugged and walked off."

Seriously: WHO THE FUCK PICKS UP THE PHONE?! No, think about this for a second. Would you walk past a ringing phone in a store and decide to PICK IT UP?! Why would you PICK UP THE PHONE?! And how are you unembarrassed about it when confronted?

Ah, the joys of customer service.

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posted by Joie! at 11:32 AM

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