B.C’s B’DOS – Obstruction agent
THE PHONE RANG once before being “answered” – but it took six minutes of recorded messages, and a whole heap of buttons being pushed (including my own) to reach a living person.
“Hello,” she said brightly, “thank you for calling X Ltd. We know you have a choice and appreciate your choosing us. My name is Miss Taken. How may I help you?”
I resisted replying “by shutting up so I can do my business, hang up, and go on with my life without X Ltd”, and settled for the less combative “by letting me pay my bill by credit card”.
“And what is your name?” she asked. I spelt it for her as she typed. I could imagine her computer monitor, the little headset on one ear, and the big mindset that would soon overwhelm us both.
“And how do you pronounce your surname?” she asked. “It rhymes with ‘series’,” I replied. “It’s Portuguese, not Spanish.” “Thank you, Senor Perez,” she said, “and what is your address?”
I told her.
“And your telephone number?”
I told her.
“And your driver’s permit number?”
I told her.
“And your account number?”
“I don’t know it,” I said, “but you can see it on the screen in front of you.”
Even over the phone, I could feel her sudden coldness.
“You have to tell me your account number,” she said, “like how you told me the others.”
“I don’t remember it,” I said, “which is why I’m paying by phone and not at the supermarket, where they wouldn’t be able to call it up on their computers.”
“But you can’t pay without an account number!” she shrieked.
“I did it last month,” I replied.
“If you can’t tell me your account number,” she said, “you could be someone else. And suppose you have two accounts? I could pay off the wrong account!”
“We’re in luck,” I said, “because I only have one account; and it shouldn’t matter who pays it, once it’s paid.”
“Well,” she said, “I have been very well trained, Mr Perez, and I am telling you quite clearly that you have to give me the number.”
“And I’m telling you equally clearly,” I replied, “that I paid without it last month.”
“Are you suggesting,” she said, “that whoever you spoke to last month was better trained than me?”
“She was certainly more helpful to a paying customer than you,” I replied. “And she collected the money I owed your company far more efficiently.”
As she was drawing herself up to defend her efficiency – I could hear the long intake of breath – I unearthed the account number. I looked at my watch. No time for an object lesson in etiquette; not with the time added on for talking to her supervisor, then the shift manager, then the manager, and so on, until I stumbled upon a human being.
“The number is I124Q,” I said, “and my credit card number is 1234 5678.”
She paused, contemplating her imminent defeat. Before she could speak, I volunteered: “Expires 10/12.”
“Yes,” she said, regretfully, “that’s correct.”
There was silence on the other end for a moment or two as she searched for another obstacle to put in my path. Finding none, she said: “Okay, Mr Perez, I’ll put through the payment. You realise it will take four working days?”
I declined the challenge.
• B.C. Pires is phone ethically challenged. Happy birthday, Mrs Hitler, and welcome back, Honey.