You don’t want to believe in first impressions but the evidence is frequently compelling.
“Hi. Our washer is broken. We need a replacement for the hose that feeds into the basin.”
“So, you need a drain hose.”
“Um. No. I don’t think so. It’s the hose…it…it dumps the water into the basin.”
“A drain hose.”
“I don’t think it’s a drain hose. It…doesn’t drain. It – ”
“It sounds like you need a drain hose.”
I’m going to admit that I generally trust people who purport to know more about something than I do. If you’re calling an appliance repair place like, say AMERICAN APPLIANCE IN WALTHAM (sorry, I got carried away), and you have no background in washer repair, what recourse do you have? Maybe, like Gertrude Stein said, a hose is a hose is a hose. Still, draining and feeding imply opposite actions unless, of course, you work for the bush white house where you cut back on troops by putting more boots on the ground.
Therefore, when the repair guy showed up a couple of days later, I wasn’t actually stunned when he told me that he didn’t have the correct part. I went over the initial conversation I had.
“Yeah,” I told him, “he didn’t seem to understand what I was saying to him.”
“Yeah,” he told me somewhat resignedly, “he’s like that.”
That should have been tip off number two. But the way he said it gave me a slight confidence that at least the repair guy knew what he was doing. The part needed to be ordered. Three to five days, probably.
Whatever. It’s an old washer. And the rodent (we’re still not sure what kind) ate through the entire hose. I won’t bother going into the hell of the rat guy who, I felt sure, would collapse from a heart attack simply walking up the stairs and who kept banging his flashlight to get the most out of the next-to-dead battery.
After four days, I called to find out what the story was. Magically, the part had just come in! Am I lucky or WHAT?!
Two days later, we trudged down into the basement to fix the washer.
“Huh,” the repair guy grunted with blunt surprise, “I…uh…guess I need an extra part. This rat,” and here he held up the plastic part the hose fit into, “ate through the plastic, too. I’ll…uh…I’ll need to order this part, too.”
Now, I’m not saying I don’t make mistakes. I’m not saying that I haven’t assumed and made and ASS out of U and ME(d). So, knowing that, I could be annoyed but, you know, shit happens. Sadly, in the world of AMERICAN APPLIANCE OF WALTHAM (sorry, again!), it happened frequently and took 3-5 days for the part to come in.
This time, though, they called first and thank God for small mercies. Monday morning the phone rang and they told me the part had arrived and would Thursday be ok. No, I informed them, it certainly fucking would NOT be ok. I’d waited two weeks already. I wanted this visit expedited. This “customer service” drone sounded like the stereotypically “fuck you, Mr. Customer, I’m doing this job because I got hired to do it and you’re not making it very easy”.
“Sir,” she told me curtly, “Thursday is the earliest that we can get there.”
“First off,” I told her, “I’m unable to switch my schedule around for you people to come and tell me that you have the wrong part again. Secondly, I’ve been waiting two weeks to get this fixed. Are you telling me that you’re not even going to try to bump me up in the queue?”
When will people stop using “sir” and “ma’am”? Once it was a sign of respect. Now it’s used in place of “fuck you”.
“Sir,” she fuck-you’d, “Our repair people are completely book until Thursday. That is the soonest that we can have some one come out to you.”
“Would you accept this level of service,” I asked her. “Would you really be happy with this? To get jerked around like this and then be told to wait some more?”
“Sir,” …, “I’m sorry that you been experiencing problems, but it is the earliest that someone can come out. Will Friday work instead?”
I pretty much shut down. I truly try to hold my tongue on the phone but I teetered on the verge of completely unloading on her. But I needed it fixed. I was, for lack of a better word, fucked. I could have bailed any number of times during this process but I’d gone too far. I re-wrote the major appliance version of Proust in my head until…
“Sir? Are you there? Sir? Hello? Is Friday ok? Hello?”
“What?” I’d lost contact with reality.
“Friday? Will that work for you?”
“I can’t take a ‘whatever’, sir,” she said snidely, “Will Friday work for you?”
“He’ll be there between 10am and noon.”
“Sir, I cannot take a ‘whatever'”
Much to my credit, I did not ask if “fuck you” would suffice.
“That will be peachy! I would be happy to be at my home between the hours of 10am and noon this Friday!”
“Thank you, sir”, she spat and hung up.
Now, I wouldn’t be writing this if it really ended there, would I? Of course not.
Friday rolls around. Much to my pleasure, my youngest had to be at school early which means my wife would take her in and I got to sleep in, somewhat. Feeling it’s not very adult to sleep until 10am on a week day, I get up around 8:30am. So, it took a minute or so to register that the doorbell woke me up and not my alarm clock. Fumbling for it, I saw it was…7:45am.
Who the FUCK is ringing my door bell at 7:45am?
Who do you think it is?
“Hi,” said the pleasantly elderly man, “AMERICAN APPLIANCE OF WALTHAM” (I truly am sorry for the all-caps thing)
“Uh…hi,” I muttered, standing there in my robe, “you…uh…were…supposed to come…at…uh…10am.”
“Well,” he offered like I’d won a prize, “I’m here early!”
And he fixed it. He gave me the bill and asked for a check. I’m not good in the morning. I hunted around but I couldn’t find the checkbook.
“We take cards, too,” he said helpfully.
Absolutely not. They’re not getting off that easily, I muttered to myself. No. I told him, I couldn’t find the checkbook and, given the shit I’d gone through with them, they could bill me and I’d pay it promptly. He called the office and, as I glowered at him, said I could go down and pay it when I got the checkbook. “Personally,” he told me, “don’t kill yourself. Monday’s fine.”
And so…oh…wait. There’s more, isn’t there. Oh, yes, there is.
This morning AMERICAN APPLIANCE OF WALTHAM (even I wish I would stop this) called my house not once but three times in succession. Did they leave a message? Well, not really. They left the sound of office chatter. I’m serious. It was as if they didn’t really understand how an answering machine works. It was just…chatter. Not even worth transcribing even if I hadn’t deleted it. I needed to run errands today anyway, so I grabbed the checkbook and went to yell at them with the secondary goal of paying my tab.
They found my bill quickly enough. However, they didn’t seem terribly interested in my complaint. So much so that when I told them about the “drain hose” portion of the story he shrugged and said that “well, they would have needed to get a new part anyway.”
“They would have gotten the right part to begin with”, I countered. He wasn’t buying it. I guess the point was that it didn’t matter if they’d been properly prepared, they would have fucked the job up anyway, so why was I getting bent out of shape. Obviously, this was going nowhere. I scribbled the check, threw it on the counter and stalked out.
“Sir,” he fuck-you’d, “do you want your receipt?”
“NO,” I growled and jumped in the car, cursing and reminding myself not to get into an accident.
Oh, sweet Jesus. It’s not over? How could there be more, you’re asking yourself? How in the name of a God that destroyed the world and everything on it could this story continue? The washer is fixed. You paid for it. What’s left?
Like all good drama, I left out the InSinkerator. Our garbage disposal fritzed out couple of months earlier. We could still use it, but it was, for all intents and purposes, broken. The repair guy fixed it on visit number 2.
An hour after leaving AMERICAN APPLIANCE OF WALTHAM (I should stop apologizing for this…sorry!), I got a call on my cell –
“Mr. Day? I’m sorry to bother you, but the balance we quoted that we owed you?…we undercharged you.”
“YOU GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but we messed up on the paper work and gave you the wrong balance.”
“WHEN IS THIS SHIT GOING TO END? YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT I’VE GOT TO TAKE MORE TIME OUT FROM MY SCHEDULE TO DEAL WITH YOUR SHIT? I’VE ALREADY TAKEN ENOUGH TIME OUT TO GET JERKED AROUDN BY YOU. YOU’RE TELLING ME I’VE GOT TO DO MORE? HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO GO ON?”
“Sir, I understand…”
“NO, YOU DON’T. YOU DON’T AT ALL. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING. THIS HAS BEEN THE WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVENT OF MY LIFE. PERIOD. AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT AFTER YOU’VE SCREWED THINGS UP FOR TWO WEEKS YOU’RE GOING TO CHARGE ME MORE MONEY?”
“Sir, the InSinkerator…”
“Listen,” I said, somewhat regaining my composure, “this is a nightmare. I hope you realize this. The worst experience I’ve ever had getting something fixed.”
“Sir, I – ”
“Stop. You know what – I felt a little bad trashing you to everyone I knew. I don’t anymore. I’m going to make sure that anyone that will listen to me understands that this is a horrible company.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” and if I could have bitch slapped him through the miracle of wireless technology, I would have, “but we made a mistake and didn’t charge for the InSinkerator part. I can send you the invoices…”
“Great. Send ’em. I’ll take a look at them and then we’ll talk.”
I didn’t even bother responding and hung up.
There’s a 10% chance I’ll pay the bill. When I got home, I called the company that referred them. They showed more interest in the problem then AMERICAN APPLIANCE OF WALTHAM (yes, I know) did. So much so, that I wound up constantly assuring them I felt no rancor toward their company at all. I simply wanted them to know that they should refer…um…THE COMPANY…to anyone else.
“You know, what, I’m gonna call them and let them know. Might as well give to them from both ends. And as far as the rest of the bill goes, let it sit for a while. If they press, ask ’em if they wanna go to court or not.”
I felt, at last, validated since after their last call (and with at least three people looking at me like I was a madman) I stalked around the street muttering loudly, “I have never wanted to go to small claims court so badly in all my life.”
I’m sure I don’t need to tack on a moral to this story, but here’s one anyway
Early to bed, early to rise
Makes a man already awake when AMERICAN APPLIANCE OF WALTHAM arrives
(Two and a half hours earlier than their scheduled appointment)