Customer Service … Another OXYMORON

“Customer Service” is a catch-all phrase coined by salespeople and middle management in Corporate America to make customers think that their patronage is actually valued. It really isn’t. Now the salespeople will schmooze you and suck up to you long enough to get access to your money and then they never want to hear from you again. I used to think that Customer Service meant something….maybe it actually did. It did when I worked at the customer service desk at Sears Surplus in Laurel, MD. I was such a good customer service rep that I even ran around from behind my counter to hold the door open for a customer carrying out an air conditioner. It took a few seconds before I realized I’d helped him out the “in door” and called security who promptly tackled the shoplifter rendering him unconscious and the air conditioner destroyed. But being the good customer service rep, I promptly slapped a RECONDITIONED/REFURBISHED sticker down the side of it after super-gluing the knobs back on it and discounted it by $10.

Today I’ve been running nuts with “customer service” issues. At least in the US there’s someone with a Stepford Wife-like honey sweet voice to calmly blow smoke up your ass when it comes to “challenges or issues” you have with whatever product that you’re dissatisfied with. I mean, eventually you’re going to get a refund or an exchange or an apology or a coupon or even just a “customer service survey” where you can say “Your company sucks ass!” and feel better about the whole situation.

Here in Egypt, the customer is always WRONG. No matter what. The school administration secretary misplaced my child’s permanent records? It’s my fault and I have to replace all SEVEN YEARS of paperwork….myself…..at my expense. A taxi driver plows into my son while we’re walking on the side of the street….it’s HIS fault for not walking on top of the parked cars on the sidewalk. The ultra-pasteurized milk with a shelf life of 3 months that I purchased 2 months before the expiration date is spoiled and comes out like cheese on the DAY I purchased it……I must have stored it wrong….in the bag that the store owner put it in while I carried it up to my apartment ONE BLOCK AWAY and immediately opened. ???? Those three letters W.T.F. keep popping up in my head today. But these are things that I’ve come to expect in Egypt. With the exception of ONE place:  the American Embassy in Cairo.

I’ve had NOTHING but good experiences with the American Embassy in Cairo over the last ten years. (With the exception of the FBI agent in charge there calling me and asking me to drive to Cairo so that he could grill me about my possible involvement in the September 11, 2001 incidents. Asshole. My family and I were inconvenienced as hell that day. Granted, we didn’t die or anything but we were supposed to fly out to Greece that day (a permanent move) and we became homeless immediately with all the airports closing and hotels filling up, etc…..and with 5 kids under the age of 7 at that time….the odds of me being involved were slim and none and I know for a fact that it was racial/religious profiling that got them to call me in the first place because you know Arab/Muslim last name MUST mean terrorist. Needless to say, I told him I’d be more than happy to meet with them in my mother-in-law’s living room and he could feel free to drive up at anytime but I will NOT repeat NOT go to Cairo. Ahem…..I digress.)

Anyway, so I’ve been trying for weeks to get an appointment with the Consul when he comes to Alexandria because driving to Cairo (3 hours away) with 5 kids is a bloody nightmare. And of course, their appointment making website (acuity.com) is jacked up for the last 2 weeks and all the appointments are now full for December. So I try for the end of January. And it works fine until you reach the “confirm your appointment by clicking FINISH” step….and then you get the HTTP 500 error…..that means INTERNAL server error for those of you are not in the know. I contacted the embassy via email. They said, as though my clicking abilities are faulty or something, “Sorry for the inconvenience, many other US citizens managed to schedule their appointments.  Please try again.”   My response of course is, “WTF?”


I emailed them again and explained what HTTP 500 is. They said the same thing….try again later. So I called the American Cultural Center here in Alexandria and asked if there was something I could do here. She said no that it was via the embassy. I called the embassy, wasting 2.50 pounds hearing that I should call back between 1pm and 3pm. I explained that I really only want to make an appointment but the link is down. She transferred me to a guy who transferred me to another guy’s voice mail…..who, as it turns out, doesn’t subscribe to voice mail and I was disconnected. “WTF? …… G.D.S.O.B. M.F. piss ant!
So I fired off another email, taking care to correct the MR. to MRS. which only told me that it’s a foreign national worker that I am dealing with and not an American employee. Americans know that the name NIKKI spelled like that is a GIRLS name.  After several email exchanges, I think it got passed to an American employee because the acuity.com link went off line completely and I got actual timely responses asking me what I wanted and they’ve tentatively scheduled me for the appointment on the day and time that I want but I have to follow up with them later for confirmation. Yay.


But still— acuity.com is on my shit-list, the gas tank salesman who overcharged me by 15 pounds for a desperately needed gas tank has been handed over to God for revenge, and the guy who sold me rotten milk has permanently lost a customer. No. I’m NOT happy with my long distance company and Customer Service is an oxymoron.

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