The service economy is one part of an economy that most people can experience and understand. Today, I got another chance to see how it works from up-close.
I had noticed that we had stopped receiving mail from about 10 days ago. A few days ago, I checked that my neighbors had mail in their mailbox. I asked my wife if she had made any changes; she had not. Her daughter had headed back to New York a few weeks ago after moving back home for the summer and was having her mail delivered there again. However, she mentioned yesterday, while visiting for Thanksgiving, that one of her friends had sent us a letter that had been returned indicating that our address did not exist! I thought I would use Black Friday to shed some light on the mystery.
I called our local US postal service delivery office, and was answered by someone speaking gutturally who did not give a name. I gave my name and explained the problem; I gave the address and was put on hold. I held and held and got frustrated that after 20 minutes of listening to music I was still holding. I called the number again, and got a different voice, but similarly guttural; again, no name. I gave my details again and was put on hold, again. Now, I had 2 calls on hold. I hung up the first call after five more minutes. The second call was on hold for another 15 minutes. I was getting more than a little frustrated, so I called yet again. This time, I spoke to someone who seemed to be able to speak clearly and was a bit more interested; she gave her name and told me she would find a supervisor. She came back on the line to tell me the supervisor was out, but moments later, said that he was back. I waited a few minutes. Then, a man spoke to me about my request for a ‘family move’. I corrected his misunderstanding and confirmed that only one of the household needed to have an address change. He promised that regular deliveries would resume later today.
I thought that over hour spent on the phone to get back onto the US Postal Service map was maybe not a waste. But, I wondered if anyone monitored how they deal with customers calling on the phone. I suspected not.
I was trying to organize dealing with my new mobile phone online. Setting up my account seemed straight forward enough, but no amount of trying to add my details seemed to work. I called Verizon Wireless. The problem was the zip code for my account. I shuddered. Had the mail delivery problem affected something else? No. Somehow, my former work address had become associated with my account; I don’t know how, but corrected it and we were good to go.
With my account set up online, I decided to check my first bill: the total seemed high. I called Verizon Wireless again, armed with the till receipts I had from the store; the one with my contract was about 2 feet long. The customer service representative and I exchanged pleasantries about Thanksgiving. We got down to business. She had details of a calling and data plan that were different to what I could see on my receipts. She checked my name again, then asked me to look at my receipts. “What is the name at the bottom, before the ‘Thank you’?” When I checked, and told her, she gasped. “That’s supposed to be the customer’s name,” she said. The name was not mine. So, I had someone else’s contract receipt. The credit card payment receipt was mine, and I confirmed that the charge had shown up correctly on my credit card account. She told me that it was her first time coming across such a mix up. Not good, we agreed. We slowly went over the details of the plan I was supposed to have and reconciled the details I could see online. We agreed on the numbers. All the time, the lady was very apologetic and sounding full of empathy: “I will definitely have to give feedback about this store,” she said. I asked for a copy of my contract could be sent, and within moments I had a copy in my e-mail in box. After being on the phone with her for nearly 40 minutes, I thought that the inconveniences were worth some credit. The day I had bought the new phone and signed up for service the staff at Verizon Wireless had been having a lot of problems with their computers, but still. She agreed, and offered $25 for that, which went instantly against my bill. Though more relieved than aggrieved, I appreciated the gesture.
I went to check my mail box in the middle of the afternoon. I saw junk mail in it. Success!