One doesn’t always have to go seeking entertainment, you know. Sometimes, entertainment comes to you or it just happens around you.
This story begins on the day my loyal cell phone of 5 years finally decided to give up on me.
I was quite heart-broken for we had been through a lot, my cell phone and me. I had clung on to it in spite of its many eccentricities, but that day it just stopped working. And I knew that it could not be repaired.
So off I went and got myself a new one, and that too a smartphone. This also meant that I could not use my old SIM card and would have to visit the nearest outlet of my cell phone service provider to get a micro SIM card.
So there I was waiting for my turn to be served and trying to read. But the snatches of conversations that I overheard was too interesting and after about 10 minutes, I switched off my Kindle and listened unabashedly to the exchanges happening around me.
Like this one.
Customer 1: You have barred usage of both incoming and outgoing calls from my phone. Why?
Customer Executive (CE): One moment, Sir. Let me check your account. [After about a minute he continued] There is an outstanding amount of Rs.3456/- against your account sir. Once that is paid, your service will be restored.
Customer 1: Arre ! Nobody told me that I had to pay a bill.
CE : Our records show that we sent you a bill on … And then we have also sent you 22 text messages and tried to call you many times, but our calls were never answered.
Customer 1: Arre ! You expect me to read every SMS and also answer calls from unknown numbers? I am a very busy man.
CE: I understand, Sir. But this was the only way to contact you and let you know of the outstanding amount.
Customer 1: That doesn’t mean you stop providing service. You have caused me business loss worth lakhs of rupees !
CE: We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused, sir. Please clear the outstanding amount now and I will ensure that service is restored within half-an-hour.
Customer 1: I’m not going to pay now. You restore service first, then I will pay. You can collect the amount from my office tomorrow.
CE: Sorry, sir. You have to clear the amount before we can restore service.
Customer 1: Arre bola na, nahin pay karega ! First restore service, then I’ll pay.
The stalemate continued for about 10 minutes till Customer 1 finally got up and walked to the cash counter to pay. I shamelessly watched as he peeled off notes from a fat bundle of 1,000 rupee notes.
Then there was this one.
Customer 2: I bought a new phone but the SIM is not working on it.
CE: Does the SIM work on your old phone?
Customer 2: That’s the thing, na. It works fine there.
CE: Do you have your old handset with you, ma’am? And your new one as well?
Customer 2: Yes, I have both with me.
CE: Can I see them please? [He took both the handsets and looked at them and returned both to the customer] The thing is, ma’am, your old handset is a GSM phone and your new handset is a CDMA phone. Your SIM card will only work on a GSM handset.phone.
Customer 2 stares at him in horror and bursts into tears. The CE gets quite alarmed and calls a woman CE to assist him. Between the two of them, a box of tissues and an interested audience watching, they tried to find out what had upset the customer.
Lady CE: Ma’am, can you tell us why you are so upset? And how we can help you?
Customer 2: This was gifted to me by my boyfriend and he won’t understand why I can’t use this phone. He is one anger man [sic]. What am I going to do?
Poor Customer 2. But I also felt rather sorry for the CEs, who had by now rather bewildered looks on their faces and were trying to soothe the Customer.
Then I got pulled into, er… listening to this exchange.
Customer 3: Here is my driving license for ID proof.
CE: [peering closely at the driving license] This license has expired, sir. This cannot be submitted for ID proof.
Customer 3: Toh kya ho gaya? It expired only 2 years back and not like 10 years back. Besides your website says that you accept a driving license.
CE: Yes, sir, we do. But we cannot accept an expired one for proof. Do you have a Pan Card or a Voter’s Card or an Aadhar Card or a Passport? We accept those as well.
Customer 3: Bola na, I have only the driving license. If you don’t want me as a customer say clearly and I’ll go elsewhere.
CE: Sir, we do want you as a customer. But we cannot make you one till you provide us with some ID proof that is still valid.
Customer 3: I’m walking out right now. You people don’t know how to treat customers.
Saying this, he stomped out. And came right back and went straight to the CE.
Customer 3: I’m asking you for the last time. The last time, ok? Will you take my driving license as ID proof or not?
CE: No, sir, we cannot take your expired driving license as proof.
And Customer 3 walked out of the service centre hurling a torrent of abuse at the people working there and swearing to get even at the company. Phew ! What drama.
Just then my turn came and I got busy with getting a micro SIM issued. Also sneaked a look to see if anybody was listening in on my conversation with the CE. My request was processed quickly, and while I waited for my new micro SIM got activated, I got advice on changing my tariff plan.
That’s when a commotion began.
In marched this person, demanding to see the manager right away. He had an arrogant voice with an attitude to match. The security guard tried to steer him towards the reception counter, but this customer would have none of it. He marched up to the counter next to mine and spoke to the CE there.
Customer 4: I am not going to waste my time waiting. Every time I come here I have to wait for more than 20 minutes. I want to be attended immediately this time.
CE: I’m sorry for the inconvenience, sir. But you will have to take the token and wait for your turn.
Customer 4: I don’t care. You have to clear my problem now.
CE: We will be very happy to help, sir. But you have to wait your turn, as there are other people who came here before you.
Customer 4: [and in a voice that went up a few decibel] If others want to wait, that is their problem, not mine. I want to see the manager now.
CE: That is not possible, sir.
Customer 4: Do you who I am? Do you even know who I am?
CE: No, sir.
Customer 4: [he announced grandly] I am Human Rights Vice-President.
By this time, Customer 4′s rants had attracted the attention of everyone in the room, and all were following the exchange very keenly. His announcement was greeted with almost near silence, till one little voice piped up, loudly and clearly, “Mamma, what is human rights? Why is that uncle shouting? Didn’t you say shouting is bad manners?” Needless to say, that while nobody laughed outright, quite a few snickers were heard. As for the all CEs, not one of them reacted. Customer 4 huffed and puffed and went all blue and purple, and after a while went and got his token and sat down quietly.
I asked the CE, who was attending to me, sotto voce, “Do you get many like this every day?” To which the CE replied, also sotto voce, “About 4-5 in a day. We are used to it.”
I always assumed that service centres only provided service. Silly, ignorant me. An evening spent at a service centre showed me how wrong my assumptions were. Service centres not just provided service with a smile (and sometimes indifference, insolence and what not), but also service with entertainment. But, to be fair to the folks working at the service centres, I’m pretty sure it was not entertainment for them. Having heard of only terrible experiences of customers and having had a couple of not-so-pleasant experiences at service centres myself, that evening gave me a chance to look at service centres from the perspectives of those working there.
I was quite impressed with the way they faced and dealt with customers, particularly the irate and insulting ones. Dealing with non-issues and the simplest of problems with the most obvious of solutions, over and over again, patiently without even hearing a simple ‘thank you’ must make this literally the most thankless job ever. It was disgusting to see tantrums, bad behaviour and attitude in adults. And no, I do not believe that they were doing a service to other customers by demanding for “better service”. In my opinion, they only made fools of themselves.
But I definitely have to thank them for one thing: they helped me look at people working in service centres with a new understanding and patience. And yes, also for some entertainment.
Do you have some “entertaining” experiences to share? Tell, tell.