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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