It’s how you play the game


A week and a half ago, a horrible, horrible thing happened. My computer died.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It didn’t die, it was killed–think negligent homicide. And there was more than one bad guy in the story.

I was getting my keyboard replaced. Actually, I just needed one key replaced, but Dell Premium Service, in its infinite wisdom, decided to replace the entire thing. In the process, somehow its fantastic technician screwed up the internal whathaveyou so that the thing wouldn’t boot to Windows at all. The technician left me with a black screen of death on my computer screen and a black mood of death spreading across my heart.

I picked up the phone.

Now a decade ago, I took pride in my ability to take down customer service with biting words and ranting threats. But age–or maybe the Maiden–mellowed me out a bit. So instead of just being Scary Customer, I’ve  now added the Nice Lady and the Sad Lady and the Stressed Lady and the Confused Cute Girl and the Damsel in Distress to my customer relations repertoire.

This time, nice didn’t work. Sad didn’t work. My blood pressure rose. I reasoned. He wouldn’t listen. I pleaded. He wouldn’t listen. I begged, almost cried, used every trick in the Polite But Unhappy Customer arsenal. Nothing.

It was time to take out the big guns.

And so I did. Right there, in the middle of the kitchen, I threw a good, old-fashioned hissy-fit-tantrum right through the phone lines and across the Atlantic to wherever the Call Center was located. I was mad, steaming mad, and this was all their fault, and they had left me stranded on publication day with my work computer not working, and they had the gall to expect me to be totally okay with no computer for a week and a half and lose all these days of work that I’d have to make up later, are you kidding me?!? This customer service was obscenely awful. They broke my computer and THEY BETTER FREAKING FIX IT NOW, DAMMIT!

I was still seething, but with a righteous jubilation, when I hung up the phone for good. After hours and days of my ranting, Manager #5 had acquiesced. I was getting a new hard drive and motherboard. A credit of $70 would be posted to my account so that Best Buy could salvage my files. Things were being fixed, and Manager #5 was even calling every few hours to make sure I was happy.

But I wasn’t.

See, as I put the phone down in the cradle–okay, slammed it–the Maiden looked at me and stopped me mid-grin. “Uh, Mommy,” she observed coolly. “You were kind of rude on the phone.”

I started to say something. I didn’t want to give an excuse–yes, but they blah blah blah. That would put the lie to any time I’ve told her there’s no excuse for rudeness, right? For all I know she’s felt aggrieved, too. But I couldn’t say I was sorry I had acted that way, because I wasn’t. Without the fit I’d never have gotten past the initial Call Center guy. In fact, I had to be rude just to get help on a warranty my company was paying for. The system required it!

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Over time there’s emerged a system that rewards rudeness–and I’m not just talking about computer technical support. In fact, our culture has developed such a climate of antagonism that we no longer know how to survive or thrive without outright animosity toward one another.

My rant on the phone with Dell is just a microcosm of what’s become the norm, the expectation, even, of human behavior. Maybe we’re the most technologically advanced of any society in history, but we’re certainly among the most cowardly. In fact, we fear even basic niceness–terrified that if we act human, if you will, we’ll  be trampled. Is it any wonder our world can’t seem to move forward in peace?

Growing up we were told that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s how you play the game.” I won the fight. I got what I was supposed to get. I’m no sucker! I’m a success in the computer relations department. and should feel nothing but pride.

Yet here I am working on my fixed-up laptop, and I don’t feel like a winner at all.

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4 responses to “It’s how you play the game

  1. I can relate to this very much. My ex-husband was behaving poorly over the weekend and I said something to him that was the truth, but less than kind. I said, “Stop with the control-freak business,” and my little boy heard me say it. As soon as it was out of my mouth, I wanted it back, but I could not get it back. My son told me later that he had not liked what I had said to his father and I wanted to say, He deserved it,” but instead, I said. “You are right. I should not have said that and I am sorry that it upset you.” Tricky business, walking our talk in the face of less than hospitable people, but I am determined to keep on trying!

    • Hey my friend! I hear ya on the how we talk to exes when in front of our kid, but what do you think about the customer service bit? I’ve been in the same place as (can I say your name here Twisting K.? don’t wanna out you) Twisting K. and nothing civilized worked . . . often I’ve had to resort to legal-sounding nonsense just to be heard. Honestly, I usually beg Travis to handle these situations. I don’t know what the answer is! Gah!

  2. Ohhhhhh this is such a great freakin’ post. Wow. I gotta think some more on it but wanted to comment right away before I forgot. I don’t know what the answer is!

  3. You kick a**! I will admit I get a bit of a high when I can get customer service to roll over and beg me for forgiveness. I’d like to think I do it with charm and grace–I’ve been known to pull out my southern accent and flutter my eyelashes (don’t tell me feminist friends ;P)–but sometimes you have to bring on the get-it-done attitude.

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