When customer service goes wrong

Manners are quite important when you’re trying to look like an adult and not a sociopath, but customer service representatives can sometimes make one’s blood boil in a Glenn Close gets cooking with rabbits kind of way.

penelope whitson customer serviceIn lieu of serving up bunny surprise, in a recent altercation with customer service representatives I was merely exceedingly obnoxious.

‘No, not you, Penelope,' you’re probably thinking. ‘You’re a delight. Such manners! Such a lady.’


My abhorrent behaviour was the result of being pushed back and forth between a website I booked some flights through and the large institution that holds most of my cash. Neither wished to accept responsibility for a boo boo and neither made finding a resolution very easy. The eventual answer required more of my fast disappearing money. There is nothing quite like two organisations childishly claiming, ‘It’s their fault,’ to make one develop a meaningful relationship with Nutella.

However, I was quite ashamed of my behaviour. I’ve worked in retail and I’ve made mistakes, and the customers who politely ask for refunds or gently point out when something is wrong are the ones you act quickly to help. The ones who behave like spoiled children, such as me, just made me dig my toes in like a budgie.

Of course being obnoxious can reap rewards – sometimes in the effort to shut you up, everything you wanted and more is thrown your way. A pony? Don’t mind if I do. You feel vindicated and triumphant, they feel small but whether or not they feel repentant is another matter. Possibly they’ve spat in your food or made an equivalent gesture by way of showing how they really feel. A waiter friend likes to evacuate the excess gas in her system when passing rude customers’ tables.

We can pretend that customer service is a bit us and them, eg, I’m a consumer and I don’t work in a shop so others serve me and they better do it well, or else I’m putting on my bitch pants. But really, customer service extends its creepy long arms into all aspects of life. Although in my current job I never meet clients, the work I do is farmed out to these fee payers and if I do a bad job (obviously highly unlikely) then it reflects badly on my organisation.

Customer service equilibrium was restored to my life after the bank/travel website incident by another website I bought a book from. It sent me the wrong book accidentally, apologised because it didn’t actually have the book I wanted, gave me a refund and told me to keep the book it had sent.  It’s unfortunate this free book wasn’t Erotica Through the Ages but I concede TheDiary of Anne Frank is indeed well worth reading.

Do you find being nice when others err is better for getting a refund, working on the ‘you catch more flies with honey’ theme (disgusting mental image there) or are you a ferocious demander of your rights?

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