Adventures in customer service

3QR8OQZ.jpgI seriously don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this around here– I probably have– and you may have heard about it already, but: some Southeast Asian shipping company recently went bankrupt.  At this moment, or at least at a reasonably recent moment and the last moment where I have current news about it, at least one of their barges is stranded somewhere between Vietnam and the West Coast, its contents in legal limbo due to the bankruptcy.

On that barge is several tons of furniture.  Among that several tons of furniture is furniture that I, personally, have already sold to several different people.  And over the course of the last week or so I’ve had to make contact with all those people and have a conversation where I tell them that I have, literally, no idea when we might receive the furniture they purchased, if ever, and that I’m very very sorry and please be willing to be patient while the lawyers work all this out.

I said at work the other day that it was difficult to conceive of a situation that was more clearly not my fault.  My boss, who sort of specializes in this sort of one-up, looked me in the eye and immediately replied that four or five years ago we lost a cargo ship to fucking pirates.  I shit thee not.

I have three different customers who were affected by this issue.  One of them shrugged and said they’d get back to me in a few weeks and see if we had better information.  One of them cancelled their order more or less immediately, but without any real rancor.  One of them hit the roof, ranting and raving that they were going to come in and cancel immediately and by God I had better be willing to sell them the floor model.  Yes, both of those things, in more or less the same sentence.

I can’t sell them the floor model.  Chief among these reasons were they were not the first people to be affected by this; we have a customer who purchased these pieces in June and has been awaiting them for a while, and they’d get first dibs– if we sold floor models at all, which typically we don’t.

Anyway.  These people– I’ll call them the Nelsons– came in Saturday.  I spent forty-five minutes not selling furniture to other people while I talked them down off the ledge and made sure they understood what was going on and presented several other “let’s not cancel this right now” options, including the popular “let’s just be patient for a bit and see what happens” gambit.

Along with the specific pieces that they can’t have, the Nelsons ordered an end table.  The end table has arrived and was in our warehouse.  They initially regarded this with suspicion; if the end table was there, how come the other things weren’t?  This was initially regarded as evidence of some sort of lie on my part.  But eventually I managed to convince them to take their end table, go home, and give me a couple of weeks to see what else might happen.

Pull around back; the end table is in the warehouse somewhere; I’ll find it and bring it to you since our warehouse guy has gone home for the day.  Note that the warehouse is way more stuffed than usual because the immense amount of Hot Furn ™ that we sold over the Labor Day sale has started to come in.

Twenty-five minutes later, having enlisted the help of three other employees and our truck driver, I had to tell these poor bastards that I couldn’t find their fucking end table anygoddamnwhere.  This, after 45 minutes of patient please-come-down-from-the-ledge talk.

“I will bring the motherfucker to you tomorrow myself,” I said, except not quite.  Because at this point the bullshit was my bullshit, and as far as I could tell it was my fault that I couldn’t find the fucking end table, and I was fairly convinced that had our warehouse guy been there he’d have had it in under five minutes.   He’s one of those guys.  He knows where every loose bolt and piece of mouse shit is in that warehouse, and if you move something, he’ll know.

Mr. Nelson actually appeared fairly touched by this gesture, insisting that they’d come back and I didn’t have to.  I stayed firm.  Fuck it.

“Where do you guys live?”


Well.  Shit.  Niles is in Michigan, for those of you who don’t know, and it’s a bit of a hike.  Not a hugely unreasonable one, but a bit of a hike.  Well, I was the dumbass who made a promise before looking at their address.  I’m still bringing them the damn thing tomorrow once Warehouse Guy finds it.

And then it was the next day, and Warehouse Guy couldn’t find the end table, and the manager couldn’t find the end table, and it was eventually determined that no one had any idea how or when the damn thing got received in the first place, and I howled like a monkey and threw shit at the walls until the manager agreed that I could– wait for it– sell them one of the floor models.  Because we had three, and we really didn’t need three of these round end tables on the floor, so fuck it, but call them and tell them that’s what they’re getting so they don’t throw a shit fit when it arrives and it’s not in a box.

I was not looking forward to that conversation, but at least it went well; I spoke to Mr. Nelson again, and he appeared to gloss over the “floor model” part.  Of the two, he was the less adamant that they should be sold the floor model anyway.

So.  Flash forward several hours later, and I am in a fucking trailer park behind a Wal-Mart in rural fucking Michigan trying to find a street address that is not there.  Wal-Marts are terribly depressing places; most of you have been in one and can probably attest to this.  I am here to tell you that if Wal-Mart is depressing, the trailer park behind that Wal-Mart, a trailer park that is surrounded by a wooden palisade like a fucking eighteenth-century fort, is ever so much more depressing than that Wal-Mart could ever possibly be.

Especially when you’re looking for 1234 Strawberry Street, and your GPS in your phone is insisting that yeah,  you’re there, only you can’t find Strawberry Street on a sign anywhere– there’s Cherry Street and Mango Street and I don’t know, fucking Alpaca Street or some shit, only none of them are streets so much as gravel paths, and the local feral children have all immediately grokked that you don’t belong there and they’re literally following your car, and also you’re looking for 1234 and none of the trailers have addresses with more than two digits and holy shit this is not worth it for a $600 sale.  

So.  Yeah.  When I get to work tomorrow, I’m gonna figure out whose ass I need to whup, and then I’m gonna find that person– which may involve leaving work, because they may not work for us anymore– and I’m gonna whup somebody’s ass.  Because somebody got told that these folks live at 1234 Strobberie Street, and put 1234 Strawberry Street into the fucking computer, which doesn’t exist, and while I figured it out eventually I’m pretty sure at least one of those kids I had to run over to get out of the trailer park is dead now and that’s just inconvenient for everyone involved.

The moral of the story: homophones suck.

The end.

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