Friday, January 30, 2004

As regular visitors know, I've often vented about my frustration with the lunkheaded lack of manners on the part of clerks, drive-through attendants, and other customer service agents.

I never read Florence King (or the National Review, for that matter) when she was still writing for NR, but they occasionally reprint one of her "Misanthrope's Corner" columns online. The one they have up today perfectly encapsulates my frustrating experiences, including a quintessential illustration:
Take my catalog order. In the "Color" block I wrote "1st choice, blue; 2nd, green," but all I got was a postcard saying, "We are unable to fill your order. Please call our toll-free number." I did. When the rep came on, I gave her my order number and she pulled it up on her computer and read my name and address back to me. "Right," I said.

Then, silence. A long silence. I thought she had put me on hold but there was no rock music, and it didn't sound like hold somehow. The silence had a nice antiquated sound, making me think of the days when a clerk simply laid the phone down and "stepped away from her desk" to retrieve an actual file from an actual file cabinet.

As my reverie faded, I had an eerie feeling that she was still there. "Hello?" I said.

"Yes." Just that, no more, not even an inflection.

"I got a card saying you're unable to fill my order but it doesn't say why."

"We didn't know what color you wanted."

Nearly two minutes had passed in total silence, yet she had sat there in ox-like placidity, waiting for me to speak first, unable even to bring herself to prompt me. I had to supply all the initiative.
Ever experienced the slack-jawed stare of a moron who's just handed you a bag of McDonalds, and because he hasn't said "thank you" or "have a nice day," or whatever, you don't know if the order is complete yet or not?

Many know my pain, but Florence has expressed it perfectly.

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