Monthly Archives: May 2007

Minor revenge

I got a small revenge on a customer today. It’s not much, granted, but it’s something and, more importantly, it’s the only thing someone working in a call center ever gets.

Day 1:
Customer has a warranty replacement set up, and pays to have the new parts sent out immediately. Full refund is given when bad parts arrive to our company. Customer uses the same card that paid for the original order, without knowing that depending on which bank you have, using a debit card for online purchases is one of the most stupid things you can do.

See, what happens when you make a purchase online is that the company that owns the website immediately verifies all the payment card information and then places a hold on the funds on your card, so you can’t spend the money until it’s legitimate to actually charge it – when the product you purchased is shipped to you.

Most debit cards take over a week before that hold drops off the account, whether the charge takes place or not. In some cases, if there is a rounding error when the sales tax is calculated, there will be enough of a difference between the hold and the charge that the hold never drops off, at least not until the company that instigated it tells the bank that it is no longer needed. The difference required for this to happen is one cent. One single penny is all it takes, and that’s what had happened to this customer, and as a result, it looked as if he was charged twice for one order, and because the hold was still there, he had $123 less in his account than he thought he had. In other words, there was not enough funds available to charge for the replacement parts.

Day 3:
Because there isn’t enough funds on the card, a notification is sent to me that the exchange I set up a few days ago needs some extra attention, the card on it has been declined. I send an email to the customer, informing him that there has been a problem with the card, and asking him to call in to provide an alternate credit card for us so we can send him the new working parts.

Day 4:
Customer calls in, absolutely livid. He screams, cusses, and makes such liberal use of the infamous F-word that the co-worker of mine that received the call actually hung up on him. (Yes, we are permitted to end phone calls when customers are abusive.) My co-worker,who is a very easy-going and laid back sort of person that does not get angry easily, listened to the expletives for about 30 seconds, then politely but very firmly told the customer to stop using that language, or the call would be over. The customer didn’t stop, so my co-worker promptly ended the call, and then sent out a department-wide email with the customer’s name, informing everyone that if this man calls back he should go to a supervisor right away.

The customer called back, and came to my phone. He recognized my name as belonging to the person sending him the email, and that of course sent him into a new screaming fury. Since I recognized the name from the emailed warning that had gone out only minutes earlier, I immediately read the notes from the previous call, then informed the customer that there was no need to either scream or cuss at me. He insisted he was doing neither, which was such a ludicrous claim that I didn’t bother to grace it with a reply.

I instead explained why things were the way they were, and in spite of this man using a language that would have gotten him thrown out even from a bar on a college campus, I explained what needed to be done to resolve the situation, and offered to do my best to get it done.

While I was staying professional and attempting to be helpful, the word “retarded” was used in reference to my co-worker as well as my employer, various highly unflattering remarks of the parentage of everyone working for the company were made, and strong wishes to see us all burn in Hell were uttered.

The only reason I did not follow my co-worker’s example and hung up was that the customer did not use that fabled F-word anymore, and he did not attack me personally.

Instead I put him on hold for ten minutes, while I spoke with the credit card division about what would need to be done to resolve the situation, and it is surprisingly simple. The customer needs to call his bank and inform them of the error in their system, tell them that the so-called “charge” is in fact just a hold that is no longer needed, and he needs to ask them to remove it from his account. We cannot do that, because banks don’t do things to their customers’ accounts just because a stranger asks them to, whoever that stranger says they are.

The need to have to lift a single finger to do anything to fix the problem sent the customer into a new fury, and he demanded to know what he needed to do to get all his money back from us.

Just send all the parts back, I’ll set that up for you. We can’t give you money back until the parts are here, but I’ll make it easy as easy as possible for you to send them in.

But the customer, again, does not want to lift a single finger, and is deeply offended and angered that we have the nerve to request the parts back before giving back his money. He never wants to hear from us ever again and then he hangs up, very noisily.

Day 5:
I receive a notice from the System That Watches that there is an exchange, that I set up several days ago, that needs a little extra attention. The payment card used on the order has been declined.

Since I was not very eager to call Mr F-Word again, or contact him at all, I went to my supervisor and explained in detail the events that took place after his shift ended on Day 4, and asked for advice on how to handle the situation. I provided an order number for the original order, the one where the rounding error caused the hold to stay indefinitely on the customer’s debit card, even after the charge had taken place, and explained how that led to the replacement parts being delayed because of insufficient funds on the customer’s card.

My supervisor listened to me, read the lengthy notes I took during my call, and the notes my co-worker put in, and then said, “Cancel the replacement order. If he is going to be abusive, we’re done with him.”

So I of course did that, taking great pleasure in knowing that the very unpleasant man will never get working parts from us, and in knowing that I have a supervisor who agrees with me that my job is to help customers, not take abuse from them.

What is, from my point of view, the best part about this situation is that though it was not the customer’s fault, it was not ours either. It’s his bank, whose system cannot distinguish between a hold and a charge, when made to a debit card. Never the less, we could still have helped him; we really could. Although we can’t call the bank and ask for things we have our other ways, and even us lowly front-line call-serfs have power enough that I would not need supervisor approval for a single one of the things needed to be done to make the whole problem completely go away.

We could have helped this man and solved the problem for him during one single phone call.

However, instead he now has a hold of $123 on his debit card, a hold that may never go away, especially if his bank refuses to take his word only that the hold is no longer needed. He also has a set of dead parts that will never work, and that he paid full price for. He will get that money back if he sends the parts in; we’re not thieves, and everything is set up to ensure a full refund as soon as said parts arrive in our facility. The customer was made aware of that fact when the exchange was created, half a week before Day 1, and he may eventually remember that.

I’ll certainly not going to remind him. After all, he didn’t want to hear from us ever again.


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Fumbling adventures in Ubuntu-land

I reinstalled Ubuntu 6.06 on my laptop recently, this time with the intention of keeping it there for quite some time. Dropping the encryption level on the home network to one the poor old thing can manage (an additional bonus was shorter load times and faster browsing) means all of a sudden the laptop’s built-in wireless adapter can work with the wireless router upstairs, and if I could only figure out a way to extend the effective battery life past 25 minutes, I’d be all set.

Installation and setup was a bit more of a hassle than I remembered. The Automatix2 scripts would for once not work quite right, and I ended up reinstalling the little application a couple of times, from various different sources. Eventually it worked, through the easy installer in the Automatix Wiki, and all plugins and codecs I need to enjoy music and flash in Swiftfox were duly installed.

Wine gave me a bit more problems… You see, one of the reasons I wanted Ubuntu back and Wine installed and working is that several of my old favourite games–and with old I mean published before the year 2000–no longer work under WinXP. The ones that do just don’t run very well on the much faster hardware computers today use. My laptop is a Compaq Evo N410c, with a BIOS start date of January 2002, so I figured the hardware would be just the right age to run my games without any glitches or speed problems. The problem was that I don’t have any Win98 CDs laying around, and even if I did I would be reluctant to use that OS. I have vivid memories of Blue Screens of Death… so I decided to give Ubuntu another chance.

Back to Wine. Simply put, it’s a compatibility layer running within my Ubuntu installation, and within that layer I can run Windows applications. Since Linux has native browsers, office applications, messengers and media players, and everything else I might need for day-to-day computering, I plan to use Wine exclusively for my old Win98 games.

But the stupid thing would not install properly. I tried to simply do it via the Add/Remove… function in Gnome, Ubuntu’s desktop environment of choice, but no dice. Next I went on to try it via Automatix2. No dice there either. Next I went to command-line installations via aptitude, and that worked. I was very happy, until I ran winecfg and promptly crashed Wine at my first attempts to configure sound. Several reboots later I had managed to remove every single trace of Wine from the little laptop, downloaded the latest version from WineHQ, installed, and I was all set to go.

Or so I thought. While Wine worked fine, and there were no further crashes, and both Sanitarium and Fallout and all their patches installed just fine, I had no sound. The magnificent intro to Fallout just is not the same without the happy music in the beginning. Argh.

After some online research, and after visiting various forums for help, I discovered it was my own fault. Apparently you need to set winecfg so Wine knows to use the same kind of sound driver that the rest of your system uses. Well, I guess if you want to be logical… ! Sheesh.

Fallout intro played with music. It was awesome.

I have not yet tried to play either game in Wine, but will make sure to do so before I take the laptop with me for my two-week trip later this summer. Who needs a PSP when you have a laptop with Wine and old games?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go attend to a whole different kind of wine; I have an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and hickory smoked ribs waiting for me in the kitchen.

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Peter Jackson’s unforgivable offense

I want to make one thing very clear, before we move on. I love the Lord of the Rings movies. While they were not following the books to the letter they were close enough that I recognized almost everything. The Nazgul were scary, the Fellowship was extremely well cast, and even Cate Blanchet as Galadriel worked out very well.

There was one thing however that really, really bothered me from the first moment it appeared. Gimli, son of Gloin, was portrayed as a buffoon.

Gimli is originally a fearsome and very competent warrior, a 4’10” and 350 lbs of solid muscle, covered in mithril, carrying a large axe. He has a strong sense of honor and duty, and he is very scary when he is angry. He is also a beyond being a professional warrior, it’s a lifestyle for him, not a job. He has trained for life on the battlefield since before he could walk, and he is capable of taking out five orcs with that axe, without help, despite the differences in height.

And in the movies he is used almost entirely for comic relief. This angers me.

Gimli is badass, a great warrior, and a very frightening one at that. He should not be diminished in this way.


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Trivia of the Day:

Female Gamer:
Mythical creature, extremely rare compared to the number of male gamers in the world. Hardly ever recognized by non-gamers, the origins of this mystical species is shrouded in legend and myth.

Stories of these unusual creatures are whispered in the dark corners of LAN parties, with a mixture of awe and hopelessness, and in the unlikely event that one is spotted entering the room carrying what looks like a PC, she quickly collects a following of wide-eyed males, who proceed to carry her heavy bags, open doors for her, offer her seats, and fetch items for her throughout the LAN party.

Researches have yet to puzzle out the complex rituals that govern how to interact with a Female Gamer. One thing they all agree on however, is that a certain way to earn a Female Gamer’s eternal enmity is to come across as giving her preferential treatment while gaming, be it extra help across a map, gifts of free items and equipment, or even open admiration and adoration of her skills and abilities in the game, just because she is “a girl”.

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Adventures with the Bowflex

I have been trying to keep up and work at least one muscle group per day on the Bowflex, for that beach honeymoon in my future, and it remains an evil torture device in every way. My shoulders hurt today, which could potentially be very bad, as I have a desk job and do lots of typing at work.

Fun historical triva: The first known prototype of a Bowflex Extreme can be viewed at the Tower of London.

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Work-related venting

Don’t tell me to just shut up and fix your problem.

Don’t say “I’m not a complaining kind of person”. According to the timer on my phone I’ve listened to you do just that for the past 25 minutes.

Why would we intentionally ship you a malfunctioning part?

No, it’s not my phone. It doesn’t matter that no one else has problems hearing you or that no one else points out the static, if there was anything at all wrong with my phone it would have been replaced by now, because I can’t do my job without it. And I would have this problem with all customers, not just you.

Don’t put me on hold. You called me… if you don’t have time to focus on the conversation for ten minutes, call back later. That goes double if you’re on a call on the other line as well, while talking to me.

You’re not funny. You really, really, are not funny.

Jokes about needing more memory, when I apologize for a temporary computer problem, are not funny either.

No, I don’t have a direct extension, we’re a call center here. And even if I did have one, I’m not going to give it out just so you won’t have to wait on hold when you call back in ten minutes to place your order.

No, it’s not your fault the part isn’t working. But it’s not ours either, so stop accusing us of making it fail just so we can take more money from you.

I’m not interested in how long you’ve been on hold. You’re not more important just because you had to wait longer, and I won’t work harder to help you just because you’re upset about it. (For the record, we know what our hold times are. If we could do something about them, don’t you think we would, just to improve our own work environment?)

Shrill voices. I hate shrill voices.

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It’s not the inability to sleep that does it. It’s knowing that it just won’t happen tonight. I’m going to yawn, try to doze off, try to at least get some rest, laying there in my bed while my thoughts keep spinning, and spinning… and then just fade because I’m too tired. I’m too tired to sleep.

And when the mind finally goes numb enough, then the body starts to react: muscles grow very restless, and then so very heavy… The stomach wants to be filled, it has been empty for far too long, and turns sour. Joints ache, ears throb, and there’s always something, somewhere, that is itching.

And the pressure to sleep makes everything else pop up, until everything that has to be done is spinning around the room like the proverbial Mara, ruining the night. I have to sleep, I have things I have to do tomorrow, and I need the energy. And once you realize how late it is, and how badly you have to get that rest now, that is when it becomes absolutely impossible. Trying to force oneself to sleep never works.

But I have to sleep, or at least lay still and quiet. There’s a man sleeping next to me who needs his rest just as much, probably more, than I do and it’s not fair to him to keep him up just because I can’t sleep.

I want to sleep. I need my sleep.

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