M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, June 12, 2003  

Flying High

The company I work for is a 401(k) recordkeeper. One of our most important functions—arguably, the most important function—is sending out quarterly statements to participants in the many plans we keep records for. It keeps them up to speed, and it gives them a means to keep us honest. It’s all about communication, customer satisfaction, and an environment of trust and respect.

Yesterday we got a call from a customer who wanted no part of that.

After almost nine years at this company, I figure I’ve heard, or at least heard about, every possible customer complaint. The guy who was angry about getting a statement every quarter, though, that was a new one. The representative who took the call explained that the statements go out automatically (which isn’t strictly true—a lot of work goes into getting all those documents accurately generated, printed up, and sent out four times a year). He didn’t care. She explained that quarterly statements are a required provision of our contract with his employer, our client. His employer, our client, could go screw as far as he was concerned. She pointed out that quarterly statements are mandated by the SEC, the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, the President of the United States, and the baby Jesus. He made it clear that as long as we planned to send those quarterly statements, he was going to stay on the phone and generate a ruckus.

The rep’s team leader was sitting at the podium with me at the time, monitoring the call and giving me a play-by-play.

“Maybe he’s getting a divorce and wants to hide the money from his ex,” I theorized.

“Maybe he’s just crazy,” she countered.

I’m not going to say I miss dealing with customers on the phone, but obviously the above exchange and its sequel demonstrate that after years of disuse, my instincts are as sharp as a cue ball.

Eventually the team leader had to take the call herself, because this guy was clearly ready to take his issue all the way up to the baby Jesus and she was the next step in the hierarchy. Apparently she was highly-ranked enough for him to explain his reasons:

“I’ve got half a garbage bag full of mail here, and I’m calling all the people who sent it to me and telling them to stop sending it,” he said in one second flat.

Ah, so you’ve already taken apart all of your home electronics then, have you?

Seriously, is this how a person not on speed would address this issue? I mean, I can see people’s objection to the sheer volume and irrelevance of most of what turns up in their mailboxes, but what he gets from us is three or four pages of highly detailed financial data that applies to nobody but him. In terms of annoyance and percentage of the total volume, he’s going after the wrong people.

Leaving that aside, why doesn’t he just invest in a file cabinet and a wastebasket instead of calling innocent people who are doing their jobs and harrassing them for doing their jobs? How would he like it if someone harrassed him for doing his job while he was doing his job?

Which happens to be airline pilot?

So, I don’t know what this guy’s like in the air, but at home he’s bouncing off the walls in a way that seems chemcally assisted. I can see needing an extra cup of coffee to stay alert on, say, an overnight flight from LAX to Sydney. But maybe, just maybe, if you’re taking an afternoon off at home to do your ginkwork and you find yourself with enough time to personally contact everyone who ever sent you anything, you may want to consider cutting back on the go-pills or at least switching to a larger size captain’s hat or something. I’m just saying.

The team lead tried to talk him down, but he remained insistent, talking at the speed of a Concorde. “Rules are made to be broken,” he chattered over and over again. I wonder if he’s shared that philosophy with the FAA or the Department of Homeland Security. That actually might explain why he has time to sit at home and bug people now.

Which is kind of too bad, because it might be fun to bang on his cockpit door sometime and demand that he fly in such a way as to keep the sun out of my eyes. “Get it on the other side of the plane,” I’d snap. “I’m trying to sleep back here.”

“I can’t do that without returning to our destination,” he might say.

“So fly upside down. Rules are made to be broken!”

Needless to say, such an exchange in a post-9/11 world would probably result in me swapping my podium for a chicken-wire cage at Guantanamo Bay. But until somebody kills three thousand people with a 401(k) recordkeeping company, we have to sit and take it.

posted by M. Giant 3:25 PM 0 comments


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