This girl is funny...not skinny.

This girl is funny...not skinny.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some say misogyny. Some say chivarly. I say "You were wrong and I was right!"

Hey there, ho there kids.

It's cold up here in the Upper Midwest. 

When I say that, I don't mean it's the usual January type of cold where we get a chill when we cross the street to chat with our neighbors without our coats on.  I mean the actual high temp tomorrow of my home town is not going to cross the 0 degree line.  (And that's Fahrenheit, for those of you who deal in Celsius.  Fahrenheit means freezing is 32 degrees.  So....zero...that's pretty fartin' cold!)  And then, we have this delightful thing up here called WIND CHILL FACTOR which is going to bring the "feels like" temp down to a rousting -40.  And for funsies, we've had nothing but wind and
Do not adjust your set.  These are actual negative numbers.
constant, daily snow, so we are buried under drifts that move every day.  It's an adventure.

I'm telling you about the cold only as a preface to yet another one of my super sensible customer care phone calls I took the other day.  At Stuff, Installed, our customers tend to skew a bit elderly because much of the stuff we install involves elderly safety.  So a few weeks ago when we got the first bout of DEATH COLD an older gentleman called.  This is how that went.

Man:  May I speak to someone who knows about the showers you install?

ME:  Sir, I'm the customer service person, what can I do for you today?

Man:  I'd like to speak to someone who knows about the showers you install.

ME:  Sir, I can help you with that.

MAN:  I'm not sure you can.

Okay, I refuse to get all bunched up about sexism.  He's old, I tend to sound younger than I am on the phone, so let's just say he didn't think someone the age of his grand daughter could help me and not assume that he doesn't think a woman can help him with his stupid shower problem.

As it turned out, I could.  See, his shower was frozen.  That's what he told me.  Not uncommon up here when things get frigid.  Pipes freeze all the time.  I sent a tech and all was well.

Mostly because I never miss
a chance to quote this movie.
However, no one told me the whole story of that repair.  Sometimes I think the repair guys don't tell me how things turn out because they don't like having to go on repair calls.  To quote "The Breakfast Club"  'It's an imperfect world.  Screws fall out all the time.'

Well late last week Skippy bon Old Fart called me back, and this is how it went this time:

Man:  I'd like to speak to someone who knows about the repair I had two weeks ago.

ME:  Well, if you give me your phone number I can look that up and I'll be happy to help you.

MAN:  I had a fella out here two weeks ago.  I can't remember his name, but he fixed the problem.  And then the problem came back and I fixed it, but now I have the same problem. You go find that fella and ask him to talk to me.

ME:  Sir, I would need your phone number to look up your account and find out what it is we fixed and who it is we sent.

Man:  May I please speak to someone who knows about the repair I had two weeks ago?

At this point, I realize this could go on for awhile, and I am running out of patience about as fast as frost crystals are running up the INSIDE of my OFFICE door. 

ME:  Sir, I'm the only one here, so I'm hoping you'll give me your phone number, or your name, so I can look up the account and help you with your problem.

Man: (gives me the phone number.)  I had that fella here, he knows what to do.  But I have an idea how to keep this from happening."

ME: I see we fixed a frozen pipe?

Man:  Yes.  The part of the shower pipe that attaches to the shower head is right up by my roof and when it gets cold like this it freezes.

ME:  Let me understand this:  The goose neck shaped pipe that is attached to your shower head freezes because it's close to your roof?

MAN:  Yes.

ME:  Sir, I think you may want to look at your insulation.  Pipes freeze in this weather, but an interior goose neck shouldn't freeze.  I think this is an insulation issue.

Man:  Well the fella that came over, he knocked in the pipe and that fixed it, so I did the same thing when it happened again.

ME: Well, sir, I honestly believe you may need a bit more insulation in your roof.  (At this point I'm trying to imagine how cold it is in his shower if that short bent pipe that leads to the shower head freezes.)

Man:  May I speak to the fella that was here and fixed it?

ME: He's on the road at the moment.

Man:  Well, I have an idea that will fix this and I need help with it.

ME:  (because I have zero self esteem)  What's your idea?

MAN:  I want a bath tub thing, the part where the water comes out...what's that called?

ME:  Faucet?

Man:  No, the thing in the tub where the water comes out.

ME:  Faucet?

Man: No, wait...the pipe thing where the hot and cold water pour out of the wall.  The spigot.  No, that's not right.  Wait, faucet!  The faucet!  I want a bath tub faucet put in the pipe that goes to my shower head.so that when I turn the water off I can open the faucet and let the water run out.  That way the water will drain out of the shower head and it won't freeze.

Well, that's a good idea, with one small issue:  THAT'S NOT HOW FAUCETS WORK.  Opening a faucet is called TURNING ON THE WATER.  Now, you all know that button thingy on your faucet, the one you push down when you're done taking a shower?  That's call a diverter, and I'm thinking that's what he figured he'd do, just push that button and water would drip out of the faucet.  But that's not how things work.

Me:  Sir, I don't think we can do something like that.  (I look at his complete order.  It's a walk in shower.)  First of all, we'd have to rip everything out. (I look at his order more.)  Sir, do you have a hand held shower head?

MAN:  Yes.

ME:  With a hose?

MAN:  Yes,

ME:  And the shower head is attached to a hose and not to the wall?

Man:  Yes.

Me:  (Banging my head on the desk.)  Sir, the no pipes are freezing in your house.  If your shower head is too close to the ceiling on days like this where it might be freezing, I suggest you let the shower head dangle to drain all the water out of it. I also recommend you get your insulation looked at.

Man: No.  I want a bath tub faucet put in so I can drain the shower head.

Me:  Sir, in all honesty, I don't believe we can do that.

Man:  Well, then I want to talk to someone who does think we can do that.

Now, at this point what I wanted to say was, "No one in this building thinks we can do that because it's crazy, it's going to unbelievably expensive, and if you'd let your hand held shower head dangle upside down on these cold days it'll be fine.  You'll make it through this winter and let's face it, you aren't going to be around for next winter you old fart.  So stop saying insane things, and treating me like I'm a nine year old girl."

But I didn't.

Instead, I spied PM who just walked in, unaware that I was going to dump Mr. Nut Case on him. 

Me:  Sir, you know what?  My manager just walked in.  I'm going to have him talk to you for a moment.

Man:  Good. Now I get to talk to someone who knows something.

I'm sure he didn't mean that the way it sounded.  I'm sure he's from that era where men were men and women made pot roasts and dusted. I'm sure he meant to protect me from the evils of his frozen shower head and his obviously inferior insulation.  I'm not a women's libber, but I'd like to think that after being on this planet as long as I have I can command a certain amount of respect when I tell someone I know what I'm talking about. 

But I had a very good laugh.  After a very long conversation, PM came to my desk. 

Me: So, what did you tell him?

PM:  I told him we couldn't do something like that.  I suggested he have his insulation looked at.

The sad thing is...the guy probably did it because PM told him to.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five for Friday: Actual customer calls I had to deal with this week.

I think the title says it all, so let's just get to it

5) "So what you're saying is, it's my son's fault."


Monday is my long day.  I open the Stuff, Installed phones and I close them.  It's 13 hours.  Most of the time I don't mind but this past Monday I should have known the week was going to be weird and ultimately the customers were going to break me. This was the last in a series of calls from the same woman, starting at 3:30 Monday and ending at 6:30.  It started innocently enough.  She'd scheduled some service work for 3:30 that day and she was calling to make sure she was still on the schedule.  She was, I said, and off she went.

That's when PM informed me that the repair guy had already been there, that her older son had let him in.  Hey, sometimes our guys run ahead of schedule.  I've never seen anyone get upset about us being early.  Except for this woman.

She called back half an hour later(after PM had left for the day) to inform me that our guy had been there and hadn't fixed anything to her liking, mostly because what she told us she wanted fixed and what she really wanted fixed were two completely different things. And then she, PM, and I spent the next three hours calling each other back and forth, with the final phone call, the one above.  After all her issues, we thought, had been eased, she found one more thing to fire at us.  Apparently, her adult son let our guy in and then left the house.  This is not unusual.  Our customers leave all the time,and we complete the work and lock up.  In her final, tearful rage, she wailed about "what kind of business would do that?  Stay in the house when everyone is gone?"  This piggybacked on one of her original complaints, that we'd entered her home without her permission.  (Her son was 21 and had let us in the home on numerous other times.  I don't know what she's doing in that bathtub, but she needs to stop doing it because she's clearly in need of too many repair calls.)  I explained again, that our repair guy had been let in by her adult son and it was completely within her son's rights to ask the guy to leave and come back later, but he didn't.

Which is when, deflated, exhausted, but still very, very cranky, she fired this at me, "So what you're saying is, it's my son's fault?"

The battle had been epic and no way, NO WAY was I going to throw gasoline on the waning flames.  I said, "What I'm saying is that should this ever come up again, your son needs to know he has the right to tell us to come back later."

It was only Monday night.

4)  "Maybe we should just take up a collection."

One of my many duties at Stuff, Installed is I process the payments for all new and completed installations. That means if a check bounces, if a credit card is denied, or if a payment is short, I'm the one who gets to discuss this with the customer.

We have a customer named Willie.  Willie is a sweet man, but he is one of those exhausting people who 1) mumbles 2) is really too old to be driving or operating a telephone and 3) has the attention span of a flea.  Willie had his stuff installed late last week and gave us a cashier's check to pay the balance once the job was done.  Little problem, the check was $8 short.

Everyone in the office groaned at the idea of the string of phone calls this would involve to get the $8 from him, and NBM came up with the idea for Willie's sales guy, my buddy Tank, to call him and get the money.  Well, Tank called him, but didn't get hold of him.  Tank had to leave a message.  And here's the thing about phone messages:  I'm 99% sure that of the over 100 phone messages I leave a day, only about nine people listen to them.  I'd like to test this theory by singing Rick Springfield songs or growling instead of leaving a proper message, but I haven't had the courage.

So a day later, I get this phone call:  "mmmmmmmmmm sum un call me?"
I say:  "Is this Willie?"
Reckon I'll git that $8 to ya mmm hmmm.

What followed, and I'm not kidding, was a twenty minute conversation about how he was going to get the $8 to us, a conversation that took several detours around subject such as his wife (who was either dead and "going home to Jesus" or was getting out of the hospital.  I'm not sure) to how he pays his bills.    I suggested he drop it at the showroom, which he'd done with the other payment.  NGTJ was not amused since she'd met Willie in the showroom, and she hadn't quite recovered.  So I then suggested he mail the money.  And then he had to write down the address...of the place he'd been.

What I didn't realize, until about the fourth time I said the street number to him, is that Willie was not only on his cell (which he's been known to simply drop or hang up in the middle of a conversation...phone skills are not his strength) but he was also DRIVING.  This didn't click with me until he said, "Mmmm, I drop fawn n paer. I gone hit sum fin mmmmmmmmm."

20 minutes on the phone with Slingblade later, he got himself to the bank where a teller and NGTJ had a quick conversation that cleared everything up.  I can't shake the picture of Willie's car crashing through the bank doors and him shuffling out to the teller with his phone in his hand...

We were close to giving up and just taking up a collection but the check showed up in the mail yesterday.  And no reports of death by old man's car crashing a bank.

3) "What kind of business are you running?"

One of my duties every day is to call the people whose stuff we are installing the next day and ask them if they have any questions about the installation.  Normally these calls take 45 seconds.  Not on Wednesday. No, on Wednesday I called a woman who said, "No, no questions.  Except..."

Oh boy.

Apparently she was having some plumbing installed.  And the plumber was there to prep things and while he was there, he is a plumber after all, she asked him to snake her drain.  Well, yes, he's a plumber, but he doesn't snake drains as a regular rule because he works on the mixer valve and then gets out.  So it wasn't unusual that he didn't have a snake in his truck.  This woman, however, was shocked.

"What kind of business are you running that you only have one snake in the whole company and your plumber doesn't have it?"

I could have given her ten reasons, but I didn't have the strength to argue.  I sensed we had a bigger battle ahead.

I hate it when I'm right.

I have to ask, when it's winter, if they have some indoor space in their home where the installer can set up.  Apparently, this woman had an issue with this question.

"I was never told I had to have space in my house.  My salesman told me I needed a garage.  I have a garage.  I have big rooms in my house, but there's furniture in there."

"Well, Ma'am, it's going to be -0 degrees out there tomorrow and snowing, so it makes the install easier..."

"I have no doubt it makes it easier for you!"

(I was going to say it makes it easier to control the materials if we can work at room temperature rather than below freezing because they don't have to wait for it warm up...which means the install takes less time.)

"And what kind of company are you running there that you need space inside someone's home to install something in their home?  I've never heard of such a thing."

Really?

Then she hits me with this:  "I told the sales guy I thought getting this work done in the winter was going to be a problem but he said oh no, it'll be fine."

"And it will be fine, ma'am.  We do installations in the winter all the time.  But your job needs a little work space and since it's going to be cold and snowing all I ask is that maybe you please move some of your furniture aside so he can work inside and your installation takes less time.

She argued this point for a very long five minutes.

Finally, I gave up.  I said, "Ma'am, it's fine.  He'll work in the garage."

"Well then I'll have to move my cars out of the garage and it's going to be cold and snowing."

I write fiction...and I can't possibly make this stuff up.

2) "Just clean it for me."

I'm not a sales person.  If I were, I'd probably do what all our sales guys do at Stuff, Installed.  I'd tell the customer whatever I had to to get them to buy the stuff we install.  And I might gloss over some things, and use vague terms for other things.  The end result of this practice is the following phone call I had on Thursday.

"I want someone to come and clean my bath tub."

"Ma'am, I can't have a tech come out and clean your bath tub."

"Your sales man told me in April that this was going to be a trouble free tub and I wasn't going to have to DO ANYTHING with it.  Now it's got a soap scum on the bottom that's disgusting."

"Ma'am, I have some really good cleaning tips for you to try."

"I've tried everything you told me to do and I can't get it clean and my cleaning lady can't get it clean and I need someone to come out here and clean my tub."

Let's review what she just told me:  She hasn't cleaned her tub in 9 months and now it's gross.  She called before, we told her how to clean it and neither she nor her cleaning lady were able to clean the tub.  (I'd fire the cleaning lady, but that's just me.)

"Ma'am, we really don't send our repair techs out to clean your bath tub."

"Well then your sales person lied to me.  I just wish I'd never heard of Stuff, Installed.  I spent all that money and you aren't going to come out and clean this tub?"

Had this not been the phone call that immediately followed both calls #3 and #1, I would have fought harder.  But I was as broken as I've ever been by customers.  I'd won one battle, (call #1) and I think of call #3 as a draw, since I lost one point, but won the overall war of opinion about the company.  So yes, I lost this one.  I sent a repair tech out to clean her tub.

As a sort of honorable mention, I have to bring up a phone I got on Thursday.  It didn't make this list, but it made the repair tech's list.  He's cleaning a tub and then he's going to another house to pull hair out of the drain. No, that's not part of our warranty either.  But I hadn't recovered by Thursday morning and the minute she started yelling at me about how we didn't care about widows and she was going to THE INTERNET to tell everyone she hated us, I had no fight in me.  So,  sorry Roger the Repair guy...you're on janitorial duty today.

And now:

1)  "Well this is just too much for me to handle."

This was one of my first phone calls on Wednesday.  A young woman called to tell me she had a leak in her home in the bath space she installed.  I was ready to schedule a service call but I had a few more questions to ask, and I'll just write this out the way it went down.  We'll call the lady Tammy.

Tammy:  I have a leak.

Sarah:  okay, where's the leak?

Tammy:  I can hear water dripping when the shower's on.

Sarah:  Does it drip outside the tub area?

Tammy:  No.  But I can hear it dripping when the shower's on.  I'm afraid it's dripping into the basement or between the walls or something.

Sarah:  Do you hear dripping when the shower is turned off?

Tammy:  No.

Sarah:  Do you see a puddle outside the shower or in the basement?

Tammy:  No.

Sarah:  But you think you have a leak?

Tammy:  Yes, because I hear water dripping when the shower is on and then it stops when the shower turns off.

Sarah:  Okay, let me just process this:  You have a leak but you can't see any evidence of the leak, you just hear water when the shower is on.

Tammy:  Yes.  And I'm afraid it's leaking into the basement.

Sarah:  What kind of ceiling do you have in the basement?

Tammy:  What do you mean?

Sarah:  Is it a finished, dropped ceiling, or something like that, where the bathroom floor would be hidden?  Can you remove a ceiling panel and look for a wet spot or something?

Tammy:  I don't know.  My husband looked around for water.

Sarah:  Did he find any?

Tammy:  No. He looked all around the shower area and didn't see anything.

Sarah:  Did he see anything in the basement?

Tammy:  I don't know if he actually went into the basement.

Sarah:  Okay, before I disrupt your day by scheduling a service call, we need to figure out if you really have a leak or not.

Tammy:  No, we have a leak.  I can hear the water running when the shower is on.  My husband told me to call you.

At this point Sarah thinks Tammy's husband told her to call us because he realizes he's married to a nut case and he's tired of dealing with her.

Sarah:  Okay, but before I send someone out, we have to figure out if the leak is coming from something we installed or if it's coming from a part of the plumbing that we didn't install.

Tammy:  Well, you installed the shower.

Sarah:  Yes, but I can tell you that in my house I hear all kinds of water noises when the shower is on.  Sometimes it's just water running through the pipes.  And you haven't seen any evidence of a leak.  So here's what I'd like you to do.  Can you go downstairs and look around in the basement and see if there's any puddle or anything?

Tammy:  My husband told me to call you. He looked all over the bathroom and didn't see a leak.

Sarah:  Right, so now we need to look in your basement to see if there's any water down there.  So can you just walk down to your basement and look for a puddle?

Tammy:  This is just too much.  I'm going to have to have my husband call you.  I can't do anything else.

And then she hung up.  I felt great.  I avoided sending a repair guy out to fix a leak that didn't exist.

And then I scheduled him to clean a tub and dig hair out of a drain.  He probably would have liked the phantom leak.

So that was my week.  We can only go up from here...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Okay, it's not "Rocky Horror" but it's close enough for us!

Good evening!

I'm BACK!  My computer stopped playing nicely with my blog and I thought I'd lost my blog there for a few days.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Drop. Your. Inhibitions!
But I'm back and it's a new year.  New Year, same silly stuff happens to me.  Case in point, my friend, Scarlett, sent me a message by Face book Monday night, informing me that The Princess Bride, our most favorite movie ON EARTH, was playing on the big screen at a theater close to my work.

There was no way I was missing this. The last time I saw this movie on the big screen was when it was in theaters the first time.  I was in college.  Now, Scarlett is just a tiny bit younger than I am, so she was in grade school when it came out and somehow missed seeing it.  Over the years she and I have bonded because of this movie, so we knew it was going to be a girl's night.  Since it was close to my work, we decided I would just leave from work and meet her at a local eatery that had a cheap happy hour.  Oh year, happy hour AND Princess Bride?  Sure, it was a Wednesday night, but I was IN!

I was set for a really good night.  I got to the place and got The. Best. Parking.  Spot. EVER.  Right in front of the eatery and next to the theater.  Whoot!  I got a table at the uncrowded bar and headed for the ladies room.

Friends, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know I have issues with public restrooms.  This time around...there was no hook on the stall door.  I know, I know.  Someone, a few years back, got their purse/sweatshirt/baby in a carrier stolen because it was on a hook in a stall and now places have been removing the hooks to avoid the theft.  Well, let me tell you something:  I'm a fluffy girl.  As a matter of principal, I try hard not to use the plus sized handicapped stalls.  So I'm in the stalls that are getting to be like airplane seats:  More and more narrow.  And it's winter here in Wisconsin.  It's so cold I had to put my inner lining in my coat which means I have more fluffiness and less mobility.  Think Randy from "A Christmas Story."

So I'm in the stall trying to find a place to put my purse, and, since I don't have enough room to remove my coat and if I had the room I wouldn't have any place to put it, I give up and just go with my coat on.  Not ideal...but okay, whatever.

When I get out, the next thing is the sink.  It isn't a sink...it's a trough.  And it's the kind of trough that has three faucets, but the soap is on either end...and there are people on the end faucets, so I'm stuck in the middle, and I have to wait, with dripping hands, to get some soap, and I have no place to put my purse because there's NO COUNTER and I wedge my purse between my knees.  So there I am, hands dripping, sweating because I'm in my double layered coat, and walking funky because my purse is between my knees.
One of the women moves away from the soap and I waddle/stagger to get some, but oh yeah, THAT DISPENSER IS EMPTY.

At this point I'm starting to think the Bleacher Buddy might be a good investment for me.

I finally get out and back to my table and I decide yes, I'm having a grown up martini.  I'm already one in by the time Scarlett arrives, and we order some semi healthy appetizers.  She gets a mai tai and quickly catches up with me.

An hour and another beverage later, we are ready for the movie.  We get to the theater,find our seats and giggle about how awesome it is to relive our childhood...okay, Scarlett's childhood, my young adulthood...now that our kids are grown and don't need us except for laundry and when they need to locate their insurance card.

There were a nice handful of people in the theater.  I was pleased with the showing and it was clear there were several who worshipped this movie almost as much as we did.

Not, however, the people directly in front of us.

Somehow, and that large room with ample seating, the only three people who HADN'T EVER SEEN THE MOVIE showed up and sat directly in front of two women who had polished off two beverages and not quite enough food to sop up the silly.
Stop. Wrecking. Every one's. Good. Time.

How do I know this?  Simple.  The movie opened and all around us, people were whispering the lines of the movie.  I was amazed and really, really jealous of Scarlett, who, when she says she knows every line of Princess Bride, was clearly not kidding. She knows EVERY SINGLE LINE!

We were having a BLAST.  We weren't being loud.  Everyone was being respectful and whispering along and laughing and having a great time.  Except for the three people in front of us.

How do I know this?  Well, about twenty minutes in, two of them moved.  And when I saw they moved, I mean they moved as far away from every other person in the theater as they could, which put them right up in the front row of seats.  Now, folks, honestly, it's a movie that came out in 1987.  It's been on VHS, DVD, Blue Ray and on basic cable for years.  How are there still three people in the world who haven't seen this movie and how on earth did they wind up in front of us on the one night it was on the big screen?

Okay, so two people moved to the front row, which put a nice buffer between them and the rest of us who continued to enjoy the movie...and now perhaps a bit louder since they moved.  What we all didn't realize until later is that there was a third person, someone who didn't want to damage their neck in the front row, but someone who also couldn't seem to get the plot of the movie without being away from PEOPLE.  She got up ten minutes after her friends and moved down by them.

The rest of the night was awesome.  We in the back half of the theater cheered, awwwwwwwed, and laughed through the rest of the movie, and there wasn't one person who didn't say, "WUV , TWUUUUU, WUV."

No, there were three.  But they were in the front row.

The difference between a Meijer employee and a heart attack? Not much.

Good afternoon everyone and Happy Holidays! When I was little I lived in Michigan, home to a wonderful store called Meijer's Thrif...