One of the great regrets of my life is that much of my livelihood derives from the presumed necessity of catering to dimwits. While conventional wisdom has it that 20 percent of one's customers cause 80 percent of the work, the numbers at 42nd and Treadmill run closer to 10 and 90 respectively, and of course the ten in question are utterly clueless about how utterly clueless they are.

One of our Customer Service staffers was fearfully abused yesterday by a doofus who demanded to know how come we'd charged twenty dollars or so to her credit card last month. The staffer looked up the account, was unable to find any transaction of this sort, and duly reported same; "I'll prove it!" shouted the doofus, and within a few minutes there appeared a fax of what appeared to be the transaction history of her Visa check card. The staffer looked at it, probably giggled, came back to the server farm to show me the fax, pointed to an entry, and said, "Is this, or is this not, a credit?"

It was indeed a credit; what's more, the word DEPOSIT was placed in the item description. I suggested she inform the doofus that stupidity was its own punishment. She didn't, of course — our beleaguered staff is scarcely ever rude — but I recall the days when I had to talk to dolts like this on a regular basis, and I don't believe there was ever a single moment when being kind to them resulted in any tangible positive return.

Besides, a dispiritingly large number of these people simply do not understand how plastic works. One of them, called by CS after she'd placed an order and her MasterCard charge was declined, asked baldly, "When did you run it through?" Evidently she was hoping for some float she didn't get, but she's not entitled to any float: once the Submit button is pushed and the transaction is processed, that's that. And she didn't show any gratitude to the CS person who let her redo the transaction, either. Were it up to me, I'd have cancelled the transaction entirely and put the offending card on a semi-permanent blacklist.

Even when people are barred, they keep coming back, often with a relative's card they "borrowed." I find this astonishing. I mean, I don't let my kids use my freaking gas card except under my supervision, but here are these clods, destroying a family member's credit — sooner or later, the replacement card becomes every bit as worthless as the card it replaced — just so they can feed their obsession one more time.

More than once, I have suggested putting CS on a 900 number, at, say, $2.95 a minute. I've tried arguing that "We could make it a profit center!" and "Think how much work we could get done if the phones aren't ringing off the wall!" No soap. I think my next pitch will be to outsource CS entirely, preferably to some place like Moldova, and when they complain about the expense this would entail, I'll fall back to my 900 proposal, which will suddenly look that much better. And I really think this position is unassailable: if we're going to have to deal with the same dillholes week after miserable week, they should be paying for the privilege.

The Vent

15 May 2004

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