A Customer or a Guest?

By Larry Teren

Waiting in a line of one person at the Red Bullseye Pharmacy to pick up some medicine for Ma. The pharmacy assistant calls out, “will the next guest step forward?”.

Now you all know that when you pick up medicine at a pharmacy (when did they stop calling it a drug store anyway?), they ask a series of questions to see if you are who you say you are. The lady clerk asks me Ma’s street address, phone number, maiden name, color of eyes and the nickname of her high school basketball team. There is no margin for error. The clerk looks at me and tsk tsk’s when I say that Ma’s eyes are blue. She whips out a photo taken of Ma at my niece’s wedding a year earlier and says that her eyes look more hazel. I’m told to step to the back of the line and start over. Since no one has joined behind me during this interrogation, my number gets called again. This time the clerk is willing to forgive my one slip up and places the package containing the prescription bottle on the counter. I pick it up, turn and start to walk away.

She yells, “hey, come back.”

I turn to her and ask why. Looking at me in an odd fashion, she says, “you didn’t pay. You gotta pay., buster.”

I reply, “but you said I’m a guest. Guests don’t pay.”

She now says, “don’t be a wise guy or I’m gonna call “Security”.

I smile, take out my wallet and suggest she start thinking of visitors such as yours truly as customers rather than guests. She says something in Spanish and we left it at that because my response would have sounded more like Portuguese.
Continue reading “A Customer or a Guest?”

Customer Service Gone Wild

By Larry Teren

Customer service in today’s world is an oxymoron. You can say that maybe I tend to overreact or expect to get satisfaction at my convenience rather than at the one providing service. It seems, though, that more and more the only time you get a helpful, glib, clearly understood, sympathetic customer service representative is when he or she asks you to rate the assistance he or she just provided.


If you agree with me, read on, otherwise you will think that I make this stuff up or over-embellish the facts. Here is a recent situation that caused me to want to get my pound of flesh in retribution:

Continue reading “Customer Service Gone Wild”

Is The Customer Always Right?

Remember the old slogan, “The Customer is Always Right”? It seems as if in today’s world, that axiom has gone by the wayside. Nowadays, consumers are encouraged to call toll-free numbers to get customer service assistance. More often this is what they hear:

“Welcome to the XYZ Company customer service hotline. Si habla espanol, pulse’ ocho” or something like that. The caller waits a few seconds until it is safe to speak in English, as if it is a crime in the United States to do so.

The thing about these automated dialing systems once you get past the greeting is that regardless of language they are programmed to prevent you from talking to a live person who can help facilitate solving your problem. So, what good is customer service if you can’t reach them?

As it happens, complainers like me have learned the tricks of the trade on how to navigate through the labyrinth of circular digital detours that end up back to the ubiquitous “or press 9 to start over the menu choices”. The best thing to do is rapidly press the number 0 several times. This will cause the switching system on the other end to figure out that one very ticked off person is holding on the other end expecting to talk to a live person.

When this happens, you hear “okay, you will be routed to the next available customer service person shortly. Please have patience as all of our customer service persons (the two that are not on coffee break) are helping others.” Then there is a slight pause, and you next hear “your call is important to us. Your estimated waiting time is 5 minutes. There are 2 people ahead of you in the queue.” Of course, this does not really mean that you will be connected in 5 or less minutes. You just know that the person ahead of you is going to take fifteen minutes to get his or her issue resolved.

Then there is the other tact that these automated systems pull. A mechanical voice prompts you to
say or enter your 10 digit customer account code. Sometimes this is how the action goes:

“Please say or enter your account number and press the number sign when done”. Or, “press the pound key when done.” Half the people over the age of 60 are looking for a button on their phone that reads “lb”. They have no idea what a pound key is. Sometimes the voice will offer, “press the star button to go back to the menu.” That’s nice, but it ain’t a star- it’s an asterisk, dummy.

On some systems they don’t give you an option to press a validation button to confirm the entry of the account number. When that happens, after a voice actuated entry of said account, the mechanical response may go like this:

“Sorry, we do not recognize ‘one, eight, seven, oops- I mean five, four, no make that five, what the heck’ as a valid account in our system. Please try again.”

After the correct account is entered, the system will acknowledge that you are worthy of speaking with a live human being even if they are seven time zones away from yours. As soon as the customer service rep comes on the line, he or she will say, “Hi, this is Maleek, can I have your name?”

You reply with, “I can understand why. I wouldn’t want yours, either.” The support person doesn’t get the joke so you change the tone of your voice and give him your name as if Perry Mason is asking you to do so on a witness stand.

The next thing you hear is, ”may I have your account number?”
So, you reply with, “but I just typed it into the system so I can get to talk to you? Why do I need to give it again?”

He or she replies with, “we need it to verify who you are.”

“But I know who I am.” So, in order to not lose the call you give him your account number, your social security number, drivers license number and grade transcriptions from college.

Ten minutes into the call you finally get to explain why you bothered to telephone in the first place.
Whether they end up making you happy or not, they always ask you to please fill out a survey if asked
by their company and mention how pleased you were with the help you received over the phone.

This is where you can get even and rid of several days of frustration. You reply, “sure, can I have your name? I’ll also need to verify your home address and mother’s maiden name.”

Thank you, good night and drive safely.