Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Service, Please"

It’s a standard cliché: Old people complaining about the service they receive. So, as if more proof were needed, here’s me, being crankily old.

These two events took place on the same day. Within an hour of each other. (The words “For heavens sake!” are understood. I left them out because, you know, how old do you want to look? I include them in brackets, because I’m old, but I’m honest.)

I had a colonoscopy; I wanted a treat. I went to this restaurant called Swingers, which I don’t go to very often, but I know they have a terrific chocolate milkshake, and that’s what I want for me treat. I knew Swingers had a terrific chocolate milkshake, because I’d enjoyed one from there eight months earlier, after they had put a camera down my throat to look at my heart. You need a treat after that stuff. You just do.

I go up to the counter: “One chocolate milkshake ‘to go’.” The restaurant server says, “Four sixty-six.” I try to forget that milkshakes used to be a quarter, and I hand the guy a five-dollar bill. He gives me back a quarter change. I say, “I gave you five dollars.” He looks at me. “And you gave me back a quarter (meaning he ‘shorted’ me on the change.)” The server explains. “We don’t have any dimes or nickels or stuff like that.”

I’ve never heard of that before. A restaurant, where a quarter is the smallest denomination of change they provide. What that means is, that in order for a customer to get back the amount of change they are actually entitled to, they have to supply exactly the right amount of change, such that the change they receive in return will be a quarter.

I was, not surprisingly, unprepared for a place of business requiring me to do that. On top of which the restaurant server made me feel like that was somehow my fault. I was totally intending to tip that guy; unfortunately, I didn’t have the correct amount of change.

Then, back at home, an hour later…

I’m on the phone, ordering flowers for my stepdaughter Rachel’s birthday. Rachel’s out of town, and I want to send the birthday flowers to where she is. I am speaking with a young-sounding woman from 1-800-FLOWERS, who, when I ask, informs me that she’s from…it doesn’t matter where she’s from, that’s not a part of the story. I don’t want you thinking I have anything against people from Guatemala.

Okay, I’m not prejudiced against the handicapped, but…

You don’t hire a blind bus driver. You just don’t. I know it’s discriminatory, but you have to draw the line. Now. Just as you would not hire a blind bus driver, you should also, it seems to me, be entirely justified in not hiring a person to take orders over the phone who is clearly dyslexic. “Dyslexic”, in this case meaning “the inability to retain and repeat a not particularly long series of numbers in the correct sequence.”

She asks for my credit card number. I read her my credit card number, slowly and distinctly. “5…4…6…6…”, and the rest of it. There’s a long pause, after which she says, “Could you give me that number again?”

I read her the number again. “5…4…6…6…”, and the rest of it. She says, “May I read that number back to you?” I say, “Yes.” She goes,

“4, 6, 5, 4…”

“No,” I break in. “5…4…6…6…”

“I’m sorry. 5, 6, 4, 4…”


“6, 4…”

5. 4. 6. 6.”

By the second round of mistakes, I am starting to break up, because that’s what I do, not when someone makes a mistake – that would be rude – but when they consistently get every single thing they’re being told wrong. However, not wanting to offend this numerically challenged order taker, I struggle to stifle my amusement, though I am unable to control the extended pauses before my responses, pauses which get progressively longer with each numerical inversion I receive.

She then asks for the address where I want the flowers to be delivered. I take a steadying beat, in anticipation of disaster; and then proceed to give her the address.

ME: Four seventy-one…

HER: Three seventy-one…

I stop. And not just to completely fall apart. Something is different this time. What is it? Ah, yes. Instead of simply mixing up the numbers, the order taker was now reducing the first number she was given by one. Four seventy-one became three seventy-one. This was a new one to me. I’m not sure they have a name for that affliction.

I was toying with the idea of saying, “Five seventy-one” on the next go-round, in hopes that my subterfuge might help her get the actual address correct. But I didn’t. I just repeated the address three more times, till she finally got it right. Biting my lower lip as I went.

Hey, I’m trying to do a nice thing – order flowers for my stepdaughter on her birthday. And as luck would have it, I’m assigned to an order taker with numbers issues. I will give her this, however. When I told her what I wanted on the card, she replied, “That’s a beautiful note.”

I said, “Thank you.”

No matter what, you are never too old to be flattered by troubled young lady from Guatemala.

1 comment:

diane said...

Apparently I've gotten grumpier in my old age than you have. I've gotten so tired of talking to people who get my words or numbers mixed up that I don't order by phone anymore. I'm strictly an order by internet gal. But I wouldn't mind the flattery part. The internet never does that for me. And I'm certain that your note for your step-daughter was beautiful. You do have a lovely way with words.