When a long overdue and fairly large payment I was expecting from an account still hadn’t arrived late last week, I called its customer service center, which is not in the United States. Following is my conversation with a representative in accounts payable.

How I felt

Service Center : “What ‘s your purchase order number?”

Geri: “5268542B”

SC: “The invoice number?”

Geri: “100909”

SC: “Is your company name ISSE?”

Geri: “No, it’s Brinsights.”

SC: “You gave me the wrong purchase order number.”

Geri: “I gave you the correct purchase order number. That was the exact number I got from my account.”

SC: “I have a different company name for that purchase order. Your invoice has been rejected.”

Geri: Huh? What are you talking about? Why was my invoice rejected? How do you know my invoice was rejected when you don’t even know my company name?”

SC: “The purchase order number you gave me is for ISSE.”

Geri: “You already told me that. Please help me understand what’s going on?”

SC: “The purchase order is wrong.”

Geri: “You’ve said that three times already. I need help.”

SC: “Stop gellin at me.” (I don’t mean to be disrespectful of people whose first language isn’t English.  I disrespected this young man for his complete incompetency.)

Geri: I had enough.  I hung up.I was borderline hysterical. Not only was the person on the other end unfamiliar with the English language, he had absolutely no interest in helping me. I wouldn’t call this a “customer service center.”  I’d call it a travesty.

Customer service in the new millennium

This scenario is being played out over and over in every area of our lives. Customer service is dead. 

My parents taught me the importance of taking responsibility for everything I do. Solving problems falls under this umbrella, I’d say.  Solving problems we ourselves create and helping others solve problems.

Turns out, someone at the “customer service center” provided the wrong vendor number for my company in the first place, so my invoice was booted out of the system. Hopefully, someone will wake up and also boot out the rep I had on the line.  We’ve got to make room for people who care.

FOF women grew up caring, and we don’t intend to stop, even if everyone else does.

0 Responses to “AARGH!!!!!!”

  1. Leigh Chandler says:

    Geri, I’d say you showed a lot of restraint! This is one of my biggest pet peeves! I really don’t like the fact that almost all banks have gone off shore and taken American jobs with them, for their customer service. It is hard enough to understand what they are saying, but the nerve it takes to tell me their “English” name as if it were their given name and expect me to entrust them with all of my most personal details? I have nothing against foreigners, heck I married one! The point is that I prefer someone that is relatively near to me (at least in the same country) to take care of my problems, and hopefully with manners and consideration that I am a paying customer!

    • Geri says:

      Hi Leigh,

      I did show constraint. I have a payroll to meet and vendors to pay and it’s been almost four months since I sent the invoice.

      The guy in the service center was an ignorant creep. But I take issue with the executives of the company in the US who created the debacle in the first place–and don’t have to deal with the creeps they hire. If top management is arrogant, so are the people they hire.


  2. Geri says:

    Hi Toby,

    Bravo! Bravo! Slit their throats, indeed. I covered the retail industry for year as an editor at WWD and other trade magazines and I witnessed first hand the rising arrogance of retailers, the steady decline of customer service and the burial rites for hundreds of department stores, discounters and specialty stores. Macy’s (Federated) gobbled up all the other department stores and now it’s in the process of digging itself into the ground. Once it does, I will be first in line to shovel dirt in the hole.


  3. Toby Wollin says:

    “DUDE, that really sucks, but I can’t give you an extra day”.
    This leaves me speechless. There was a time when, shall we say, there were behavioral and presentation standards which had to be met in order to have any job where contact with the public was involved. “Good phone manner” actually meant something, but what has happened over the years is that companies really don’t actually care about customers. They claim that training customer service people costs money, money that customers will not pay. I used to go to Casual Corner and their people at our little local store (we are not a big market so we did not get a big store) in the 1980s were fantastic. I had someone there who knew me, knew my size, knew every piece of clothing I had ever bought from them and would call me and let me know when coordinating pieces came into the store. I’d call her back, make an appointment and she’d pull out the items for me to try on, along with jewelry, etc. I spent a whole lot of money with that store. When they changed policies and got rid of those knowledgeable people, I took my wallet elsewhere. I paid for that service and was very happy to have it and I know other people did also. That chain does not exist any longer and no one can tell me that it is because good customer service cost too much; they threw good customer service out the window and the revenues went with it. It doesn’t matter where you go in retail, no one is trained. I went to a local outlet of a regional department store and saw a pair of shoes that I liked but which were not the color I wanted. I asked the department clerk if they had any in the back. “What is out is what we’ve got,” I was told. They have stores all over New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Would it have taken so much trouble to say to me, “Well, I know we don’t, but that shoe is being sold all over the chain; I’ll try a couple of the larger stores and can call you back. Would that work for you?”
    If he had done that, I would have bought all the shoes he could find (because I have a difficult foot to fit and this shoe fit me well). Instead, I’m never going to buy shoes there ever. When I read about people in retail whining about how consumers won’t buy and how they are in trouble, I have no sympathy whatsoever. They slit their own throats.

  4. Geri says:

    Thank you Duchesse.

    explain what you mean by asked to escalate?


  5. Duchesse says:

    I’m so sorry you endured that torture. Bizarre, and all too common. Wonder what would have happened if you asked to escalate? Nooo- scary thought!

  6. Kari says:

    Some stores I have refused to shop, unless a last resort, because customer service is so bad. Macy’s – do you hear me? I recently was dealing with a major bank for a work transaction and after 40+ years of our company doing business with them they put unusual and unrealistic time deadline on a matter. I asked if we could have one extra day and the “kid” that was our banker – who could be the age of my son, said to me “DUDE, that really sucks, but I can’t give you an extra day”. DUDE, that SUCKS? And you’re a banker? Needless to say, I wrote a scathing letter to his boss, we closed all our accounts – personal and business with them. He’s not in that department any longer – maybe not with the company. Customer service is more important now than ever before! When will people get it!

    • Geri says:

      Hi Kari,

      My God, what a story. So glad he’s not with the company anymore.


  7. Cam says:

    I too was taught to be polite and helpful. I spend a great deal of time on the telephone as part of my work day and for the most part people really are very courteous. It’s when I go to the grocery store or the drug store that I seem to run into rude unhappy clerks!

    • Geri says:

      hi cam,

      grocery and drug store clerks in Manhattan are good, perhaps because there’s so much competition. drug store on every corner.



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