I was inspired by MouthyMaven's tale of terror in a magazine clearing house to share my own stories of customer service hell in a corporate environment.
I'm a receptionist for a company that's basically synonymous with "My car broke down! I'd better call (insert company name here)."
Let me state right off the bat that I love my job. My coworkers are (mostly) awesome, the management actually cares about us, and I get crazy things like sick time and vacation time (what, you mean I can go on vacation? Seriously?)
My office is a combination of retail space selling travel-related products like suitcases and carry-on safe bottles, an insurance agency, and a travel agency.The whole space is open to the public, so even though we spend a certain amount of time hunkered down in our own cubicles, we constantly have customers coming through too.
My job is to greet people and give out free maps to members while also answering the switchboard for the office. My desk is adjacent to the travel store, so people constantly ask me to ring up their purchases even though I don't have a cash register or even a log-in code for the registers, which are all of five feet away, but we all know customers don't read signs.
Now I'll get into the meat of my story.
My office is sandwiched between a very wealthy suburb and an interstate, so we get a nice mix of mostly polite, intelligent customers and tourists who saw our logo from the freeway and need directions. 98% of customers are kind, and I really enjoy giving them lots of maps, guides, tourist magazines, and brochures to make them excited about their trip.
Nearly everyone is at least kind of happy when they come into our office (that's the great part about working in the travel industry), and I like to think they leave as happy or happier.
Except, of course, those special customers.
I realize that road service, insurance, and travel planning services maybe don't seem to to have a lot in common to the average consumer. (Hint: They all involve cars or other ways of getting from here to there.)
I also understand that a neighboring state's offices provide DMV-type services like car registration, which we can't do in our state. This seems to lead to a certain segment of our customer base thinking that we can do absolutely anything at any time simply because they pay their membership dues.
For example, an older couple with German accents blew up at me and a few of my coworkers because we wouldn't weigh and add postage to their package.
The wife kept saying, “I JUST want you to weigh it. We are your customers!”
WTF? How did she get the idea that we were the post office? Does she also go to the grocery store and ask them for upholstery?
The real award in this category goes to a lady I'll call Redhead Bitch.
Redhead Bitch was an attractive, well-dressed woman in her mid-thirties. She looked totally normal. She came to my desk and said calmly, “I'd like you to print my airline tickets.”
At first this seemed only kind of weird. We have a call center (only a call center, no walk-ins allowed, which pisses some people off) that handles domestic airline reservations. The call center is located more that eleven miles from our office and we don't have any access to the reservations they make.
“Do you remember the name of the agent who helped you?” I asked, thinking that maybe I could get one of our travel agents (who only handle international travel and cruises—I know, it's confusing) to call her airline agent and maybe our travel agents could access her reservation and print it.
“Oh, I booked it through Alaska,” Redhead Bitch said, not bitching yet.
Here, my natural desire to be as helpful as possible—I really take pride in holding up the company image, since they've treated me so well, especially coming straight from Old Slavery as I did—hit a wall with what I could imagine my boss saying if she found out I let someone behind my desk to access their personal booking, which they didn't book through us.
You know, a potential corporate security type of thing. I said, a little uncertainly, “I'm sorry, I don't think we can do that for you. If you'd like, I'd be happy to get you a local map and show you how to get to the library where you can use their printer.”
Redhead blew up. “I don't WANT to go to the library. I want you to print my tickets! Is that so hard? Can't you just print them?”
“I'm really sorry, I just don't think—”
“Fine, whatever,” she said, and changed track suddenly. “I need to renew my membership.”
“Straight back, under the 'membership/insurance' sign,” I said, pointing. She walked off.
From down at the other end of the office, I could hear her dinging the bell for service and then telling the agent who came up to meet her, “That girl at the front desk wouldn't let me print—”
I went over to the cashier desk to tell one of my buddy coworkers what just happened.
“She wants us to print her Alaska tickets that she booked through Alaska?” I whispered. “Isn't that like going into Gap and demanding that they print your Nordstrom receipt?”
We were whispering and giggling a little over it—well, what else can you do?
Then Redhead Bitch seemed to be done with the membership department and stopped at the travel agency. I could hear her saying, “I just need to print my tickets!” and one of the agents saying, “Did you book them through our Air Express line?”
“God!” Redhead Bitch yells. “I just want to print my tickets! Why is that so hard for you people? I JUST WANT TO PRINT THEM.”
I scuttle back to my desk. She storms by, leans on my desk, and snarls, “I heard you talking about me with your little friend. I'm not going to forget this.”
And she storms out. She said it so intensely I felt like she was putting a gypsy curse on me or something. It was kind of terrifying, the kind of thing that makes you wonder if she'll be back with a flamethrower to torch the building.
As soon as the door swung closed after her, the whole office erupted in howls of laughter. Coworkers came over to congratulate me on withstanding the brunt of her rage attack.
It's been over two months since then, and I haven't heard anything from her since then. I still want to know how she heard me talking about her, since we were out of her sight at the time and whispering more than thirty feet away while she was yelling at the membership agents.
RHUers, have you had custys demand services that not only you can't provide, but which have nothing to do with your entire company?
--Triple Letter Receptionist