“Please continue to hold, your call is extremely important to us,” the automated beotch said for the millionth time in a row. I glared at the clock. I had officially been passed around eight times from one department to another, with no one able to help me, but assuring me that someone else could. “Your call will be answered just as soon as one of our service representatives is available to help you. Please continue to hold.”
“Oh, I’m holding, baby.” I said back to her. Her voice was so calm and soothing in its mechanized tranquility, and was no doubt recorded this way for the sake of keeping anxious, angry, customers calm. But as the instrumental version of “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel looped around again, I contemplated throwing my phone out the window. I love that song, but must admit that when I hear it now, I am filled with the overwhelming urge to give someone a noogie. I sighed and resumed the quick, tight, circles I had been walking around my bedroom for the last hour and a half, repeatedly stepping over my sleeping dog. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes…..I watched the clock in disbelief, growing angrier by the second. Yet with every minute that passed, a sick part of me was glad, challenging them to give me more reason to scream. Finally! “Thank you for calling Greatest Purchase, your best source for electronics, appliances and entertainment. Thank you for holding. This is Michael. How may I be of service to you?” Michael was very pleasant and I hated to ruin his day. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! I licked my chops and proceeded to lunge.
“Hello Mmmmmich-ael.” I said, in my very best Jerry Seinfeld voice. “I am having a problem with my computer. But before I tell you about my current problem, I really need you to understand why I need you to not pawn me off on someone else or tell me that you can’t help me. I need you to understand what I’ve been through. So, may I, Michael? May I tell you my story?”
“Yes ma’am.” He said innocently, having no clue what he was in for. Sweet, dumb, Michael.
“Well, Michael, it all started last January. I was on leave from college due to some severe back problems that rendered me unable to walk around for long periods of time. After begging my professors to allow me to remain in my classes and correspond with them via email, they reluctantly agreed. I begged, like a dog! Are ya with me so far, Michael?”
“Yes.” He said, clearing his throat uncomfortably.
“Well about a week into my leave of absence, my livelihood stopped working. Oh, jeeze,” (I chuckled), “I’m sorry, did I say livelihood? I meant computer! How silly of me! I guess I just call it that, because…. you know…..my future depended on it--but, whatever.” I tried to sound nonchalant after realizing that I started to sound a tad bit maniacal. I took a cleansing breath and continued.
“Anyway, my computer was not working. She would turn on, but could not open any programs or connect to the internet. (Note to the readers: My laptop’s name is Sasha. That’s right, I’ve named her. That’s how much she means to me.) “I don’t know anything about computers, but something in my gut told me that the problem was with the modem. I don’t even know what a modem is, Michael, I’ll be honest! But I just had a feeling. I called your store several times in hopes of getting a member of the Gyg-Squad to come and try to help me since my mobility, as I said before, was compromised at this time. I called several times a day, for two days straight. No one ever answered. So on the third day, I wrapped Sasha in a blanket, and cradled her lifeless body in my arms. After limping to my car and ignoring the immense pain caused by my herniated discs, I proceeded to embark on a quite medicated pilgrimage to Greatest Purchase. Never mind that I had been instructed by physicians not to move. Or to drive. Especially to drive. Apparently being hopped up on three different types of pain medication and getting behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser is a lethal combination. But I sacrificed my own safety, (as well as everyone else’s on the road that day,) and became a death trap on wheels to come to your store. Why does the Gyg-Ssquad even have that stupid little car if they won’t come to people’s houses ?” I was asking a legitimate question, but Michael apparently didn’t want to touch it, and said nothing.
“I hobbled in to your store, and was directly confronted by one of your security persons who obviously suffers from delusions of grandeur. He demanded to see my computer. He then proceeded to pull some sort of gun out of his holster, and took aim at my dear, Sasha--despite the fact that she was too sick to defend herself from his advances.” He took aim, and fired.
“Noooooooo!” I screamed in slow motion. It was too late. Sasha had been stickered. “Why’d ya do it?!” I asked, rubbing my finger over the hot pink coded sticker that now blemished her previously flawless lid.
“Just a security precaution, ma’am. So that we know it’s your computer and that you are not stealing merchandise.” He smiled and chomped his gum, proudly, muscles bulging and hair gel gleaming.
“Why? Do all of your computers have screensavers of me and my husband vacationing in the Bahamas on them?”
He frowned, perplexed. “The Gyg-Squad is over there, ma’am.”
“Yes, thank you, Cronk.” I mumbled, shuffling over to the end of the line. I took my place behind twenty people, all holding awkwardly bulky and cumbersome non-functioning equipment. (At least they were not temporarily crippled.) It was my turn finally, and I approached the desk filled with anticipation and hope. The four eyed jackal behind the counter sized me up, already annoyed by my very existence.
“May I help you?”
I held my poor, broken, little friend out in front me. “I think it’s the modem.” I said meekly, in a voice that resembled Oliver Twist pleading for more porridge.
“We’ll just have to see about that.” He said dismissively, snatching her from me with the gentleness of a serial killer.
“He ran some tests,” I told Michael, “and after selling me one hundred dollars worth of spyware, Gyg -a-Jerk handed me a receipt and alerted me to the fact that whatever was wrong with her was not covered under the two hundred and fifty dollar warranty that I had paid extra when I initially purchased Sasha. Sad, but still hopeful, I agreed to pay Gyg-a-Smirk for his services. He would have to send her away, and I could expect her to arrive home from rehab through the mail in about 2-6 weeks. (At least they’re precise.) I attempted to tell Gyg-a-Smurf that I had assignments due at school and if he could try to expedite the process, that I would be so grateful. But he callously shooed me away. I left your store computer-less, paper-work heavy and with a considerably lighter wallet.
“You still with me, Michael?” I asked.
“Yes ma’am!!” He said, sounding as if he couldn’t wait to hear what this devil employee had done to torture me next.
“Well make some popcorn because there is much more to tell! I received Sasha in the mail two weeks later. And guess what Michael? She still didn’t work! I called Greatest Purchase again, and was connected to the Gyg-Fraud hotline, yet no one ever answered. Finally, I asked to speak with a manager.
“Oh!” Manager Chet said, after listening to my predicament. “You’ll want to speak with the Gyg Squad about that! Hold on I’ll connect you…”
“Wait!” I screamed. “I have been calling the Gyg-Squd for days! They don’t answer--they don’t ever answer! So if it wouldn’t be too much trouble--Chet, is it?-- could you please walk the ten paces over to their counter and tell them to pick up that banana shaped piece of plastic that has been squawking at them for days on end? Some of us call it a TEL--E--PHONE! It’s what businesses use to communicate with their customers. Could you do that for me? Thanks. That’d be swell.”
“Yes ma’am.” He said, hating me. He handed the phone to the lead Gyg, and I could all but hear them exchanging looks of annoyance with one another. Finally, I was connected to the man that had helped me out the first time, he instructed me to bring Sasha back in, as he could not remember her or me.
“And make sure you bring your receipt, proof of purchase, warranty information, computer case, and any other paperwork you might have.”
“Geeze, do you want a broom stick, too?” I laughed to myself.
“What?!” He snapped.
“You know, The Wizard of Oz……proof that I killed her…..or…..you know…..like you’re Oz and I’m Dorothy……and…….yeah.”
“We’ll see you.” He abruptly hung the phone up, apparently under whelmed by sense of humor. I wiped the egg off my face and forwent my pain medication so that I could drive.
“Hello again Greatest Purchase.” I thought to myself. “Oh--hello very long parking lot with no close spaces! Why Sasha, your twenty pound frame has never felt lighter! Have you lost weight?? Oh, geeze--a patch of ice--Whoops! Almost slipped there! God forbid I leave chunks of my filty vertebrae all over your clean parking lot! (Was that a syringe by that wad of gum!?) Well, hello, Cronk! Long time no see! There you are with your pink sticky-sticker gun. Remind me again how that proves that I have not stolen? Are you sure I need ANOTHER sticker? Oh, okay. Thank you. Now at least the first sticker has a friend! You guys must sell a lot of Goo-be-gone! Yes, I know where the Gyg Squad line is.”
“Do you know how many stickers I have on my computer now, Micahel?”
“No ma’am….” I could tell he was bracing himself.
“Seven! Seven stickers, Michael. Sasha looks like she’s got some sort of fuchsia colored computer pocks! And after I brought her there seven times, and after she was sent back to me weeks later, seven times, she still didn’t work! And are you ready for the kicker, Michael my man? The absolute dinger to end all hum’s?
“Yes.” He said softly.
“When I finally got her back this last time, no sooner had I turned her on and discovered that she was still not working, she conked out completely. I looked in the box for her power cord, but it was nowhere to be found. You all forgot to send my cord back with her!”
“Cripes.” I heard Michael whisper to himself.
“Yeah! I couldn’t believe it either, Michael! Could not BELIEVE it! So after engaging in some rage reducing breathing techniques, I grabbed Sasha, and drove back to Greatest Purchase, for what had to be the eighth and final time.” My back was really hurting on this particular day. That coupled with the Rage Against the Machine that was blaring from my I-POD (which I had also purchased from your store, F.Y.I.) prepared myself for battle. If Gyg-a-frick didn’t help me this time, my hand to God, there would be bloodshed. Hello, my name is Audrey , you didn’t fix my computer. Prepare to die!!
(Cue the Western showdown music.) I observed the leader of the pig-squad standing behind the counter. He saw me as well, and immediately looked away and tried to busy himself, so he would not have to deal with me. I knew he would once again pretend to not know who I was, or what I was doing there, in keeping with the routine that we had now established. I walked towards him--angrily. He called a blond woman over, and she came over to greet me. I understand why he didn’t come to the counter himself. Because after all, he is just so busy, and just has so many important things jammed into that huge geek brain of his! Thank God the customers have nothing else going on in their lives, and have all the time in the world to go and stand in Greatest Purchase lines all day!
“I digress,” I said to poor Michael, who must have surely thought I was insane by now. Who was I kidding? At this point, I was!
I approached the perky blonde woman who had helped me out three times ago. She was pleasant enough, and had truly tried to help rectify my problem, despite not knowing her hard drive from her USB port! She had also sold me about one hundred dollars worth of software--firewall protection--which of course fixed nothing. I explained to her that my computer was not now, nor had ever been on fire! She laughed and said, “No, honey! Firewall isn’t for actual fires!”
“I know. I was making a joke.” Attempting to keep my sense of humor about me during this ordeal was only making me sound sarcastic and bitter. And even though I find myself hilarious, my wit was lost on these people.
“As I was saying, Michael, the perky blond approached the counter.”
“Hi! Welcome to Greatest Purchase!” she smiled cheerily. “May I help you?”
“Well, yes. I hope so….” I braced myself to delve into my saga for the thousandth time, but just then the phone rang. I paused and stepped back, allowing her a moment to answer it. She stared back at me with a blank smile. She looked like a Stepford Wife. Blank eyed and ready to serve. Only she is probably even more attractive to men, because besides being pretty and perky, she possesses some knowledge about electronic repair! A geek’s dream! She at least had to be as knowledgeable about electronics as the rest of her co-workers, right? So basically, she was equally as useless as the rest of them.
“You can get that.” I said, gesturing to the ringing telephone. I was happy to wait. I now had a new-found sympathy for whoever was on the other end of the line in the midst of their own technological crisis.
“That’s okay.” She said, leaning in as if to tell me a secret. “We never answer it!” she whispered.
I stared for a moment in disbelief. Blood boiling, I probably blinked about fifteen times in five seconds, trying to process what I had just heard. I snapped.
“I KNOW!! I’ve been trying to call you people since 1985! Sasha wasn’t even a twinkle in Toshiba’s eye when I started trying to get a hold of you!” At this point, Gyg-a-Broad checked out on me. Her eyes got even blanker, if that’s possible. She didn’t know who Sasha was or why I was so upset.
“Now, go get GYG-A-LING over there, who I can see is A-VOID-INGME…” I was now cupping my hands over my mouth so my voice would be confined in a tunnel of sound leading directly to his ear canal, and continued to scream, “…..and tell him to put down his Dungeons and Dragons travel game, or his cure for cancer, or whatever the hell he’s working on that has left him unable to help ME the last SEVEN times I have been here!” She looked hurt by my rant. As if the whole “we don’t answer the phone thing” was some secret she was letting me in on because she liked me. She looked like she had been betrayed.
“Yes ma’am.” She turned briskly, and shot Lake Gyggie-Caacaa a look, but said nothing. He approached the counter. “May I help you?”
I spoke softly, in an attempt at a more composed tone. “Hi. Do you remember me?” He squinted as if trying to place me.
“Because you should!” I screamed again. “I’m the woman who has been in here eight times now because…..”
“Yes, yes. I remember you.” He grabbed Sasha and connected her to the same device that he had hooked her up to every other time I had been in there, just before he would break the news that he would have to send her away again. As he typed away, I stared glumly at my electronic daughter, who was yet again hooked up to life support.
“Also, my computer cord was missing when you guys sent her back to me this time,” I added.
“Are you sure you gave us the cord when you dropped it off?” He asked, not looking up from the screen. I stood there silently and bored holes in his head with my eyes until he realized I was not going to even dignify that with a response.
“Well, it’s really hard to prove that Greatest Purchase is at fault.” He said.
“Get out of town.” I said snidely.
“So your best bet is to call our 1-800 number, and tell them to send you a new one. You are entitled to one new battery a year. It’s part of your plan. That will be a lot easier for you than having to prove that we lost it.”
“I knew then and there that I should not have done that, Michael. But I was just exhausted.” I laid my head on the counter until Smug-a-byte looked up from the screen.
“Oh.” He said. “Here we go.”
“Are you ready, Michael? Are you ready for what the problem was all along?”
Michael gulped in anticipation.
“IT WAS THE MODEM!!!!!”
“No!” Michael said in disbelief.
“Yeah! I literally felt like the wind had been knocked out of me! Three months of this BS, Michael! And to find out the problem was what I had said it was---from the beginning!! And I didn’t even know what the hell I was talking about when I suggested it!!”
“What did he do?” Michael asked, now sounding more like a concerned girlfriend that I was gossiping to then a henchman for the machine that is Greatest Purchase.
“I said, ‘I told you it was the modem! I told you that the first time I came in here---in JANUARY!!” (It was now the end of March.)
“Well, that’s what it is.” Gyg-a-Shmuck said, unapologetically--like a robot. (I hope the irony is not lost, here.)
“Am I on Candid Camera?” I screamed, looking around for anyone else to witness the injustice of my plight. He continued to type, unphased by my outburst. “Is Alan Funt hiding back there?” I screamed. “Come on out, Alan! The Joke’s on me!!!!” Byg-a-fraud ignored me, still typing away, not fearing for his life like he rightfully should have been.”
“He didn’t apologize or anything?” Michael asked, appalled
“Hell no!” I said. “He was worn down, Michael. He looked like he had no more strength to give me, and he was going to scream if he heard my tale of woe one more time. But you know what? I was tired too! I was tired of telling the damn story, of explaining it over and over to people who didn’t care ! It’s not a particularly fun story to tell! Explaining my situation to new people every day, being in pain from carrying Sasha around, buying things I didn’t need to try to make her better, dealing with rude people, paying hundreds of dollars with nothing to show for it. I was tired, too, Michael.”
“I understand, ma’am.” He said soothingly. “No one should have to go through that.”
“Thank you.” I said, sounding like a five year old child after having thrown a tantrum and getting her way. “And that brings me to why I am calling today.”
“Yes, ma’am. What can I do?” He asked sincerely.
“I received my “free cord” in the mail. You know, my free one to replace the one that was lost? And it is a substandard piece of crap! I purchased a $2500 computer from you guys, and it came with a sturdy, substantial cord. You guys lost it, and the one that you sent me, is plugged in to my wall right now, and is beeping from low battery and about to give out. Does that sound right to you, Michael?”
“No ma’am. I apologize, really I do. But that specific cord is the only one we are authorized to send out to customers.”
My heart sank. After all this. Michael was going to be just like the rest of them.
“Michael, come on!” I pleaded. “I’m not asking you to replace anything too difficult to give, here! It’s not like I’m asking for the trillions of dollars I have spent so far over this whole mess…or …wanting the precious hours of my life I wasted dealing in with this catastrophe back…or….for you to donate spinal fluid to me…..nothing that is too outlandish for someone in your line of work? You probably have warehouses full of computer cords, and you can’t help me out? You guys lost my cord--I am owed something here!”
“Ma’am we are specifically instructed to refer you to your computer dealer so that you may purchase a cord from them….”
“Don’t do that!” I yelled, “ Don’t you do that to me, Michael, don’t you dare!” (My dog ran from the room at this point as he sensed that Mama was about to lose her mind.) “I’ll tell you what, Michael. I want to talk to your boss! I want to talk to “the Michael” at the top of the chain! I want you to get Mr. Frigging Purchase himself on the phone--and I realize he is probably sitting in his mansion in Beverly Hills right now--and as we are speaking is probably wiping his ass with gazillion dollar bills--and you tell him that you have a woman on the phone who has helped him to buy that mansion! Or…..at least the toilet paper! You tell him I have bought my washer, my dryer, my refrigerator, my stove, my microwave, my dishwasher, my I-Pod, my laptop, and every CD and DVD in my whole damn house from his store! And you tell him that I am going to load up all of those things…. into a truck……and……..have a bonfire in the middle of his store with it all! Yes! If I am not reimbursed---and I mean fast----for this measly damn computer cord--I’ll do it!! Cronk be damned!”
My husband, who had been listening at the door entered upon me screaming my last threat, and put his hand on my shoulder. I jerked around suddenly and stared at him, eyes ablaze.
“Honey,” he said, serenely, “You can’t threaten them like that. They are gonna call the cops on your or something.” He put his hand out expecting me to hand him the phone, like I was some criminal he was talking down from a hostage crisis.
“Oh, it’s just Michael!” I snapped. “We go way back!” I said, annoyed by the intrusion, and angry at him for breaking my flow. Didn’t he know I was in the zone? My husband backed out of the room slowly smiling sweetly, but with a look in his eyes that said “you have lost your mind.”
I was mentally exhausted, my ear and cheek were on fire from the cordless phone, and I broke my no smoking in the bedroom rule. The ashtray overflowed. I lit up another, exhaled and then returned my focus to Michael. I used a softer tone:
“I don’t want to be mean to you, Michael. You’ve been kind to listen to me. But you need to connect me with whoever will send me a computer cord that is the exact same, if not equal to, the one that came with my computer when I bought it. I need it. I want it. I deserve it!” (I now heard America the Beautiful playing in my head.) “Someday, you are going to be on the receiving end of a screw-you sandwich from a big company. And despite your loyalty to them, they aren’t going to care! And you are going to think back to this conversation! I know I’m just one customer. But the little guy matters. Greatest Purchase’s success is made up of a million little guys. And it’s not like I’ve only donated mere dockets to the cause! Add up how much my list of purchases costs--that’s not a small amount! I’m a college student for crying out loud! Let’s send the message that the little guy does matter, and that the ‘customer is always right’ isn’t an obsolete way of conducting business!”
Michael was quiet. I chuckled slightly at what my life had become. I sat down on my bed, exhausted. “I’m sure whatever they are paying you to speak with irate customers all day isn’t nearly enough, Michael. I just want what is owed to me. I’m not trying to get anything free here. I will shut up and go away, never darken Greatest Purchase’s doorstep again, if you will just do me this service.” Then I added quickly and under my breath, “Which again, is owed to me anyway….but whatever.” (I feared over kill at this point.)
“Ma’am,” Michael sighed. I lifted my head in hopeful anticipation. “If I were to connect you,” he continued on, “We would be accepting blame for a series of events that are both undocumented and…..”
My heart sank. Michael was rattling off his legal jargon speech that they had taught him in training, which he probably wasn’t even paid for. I had lost him. I prepared to hang up on him.
“Yeah, thanks anyways.” I said, depleted.
“So please hold while I connect you!”
I screamed and laughed! “You mean it, Michael? You’re not going to hang up on me or pawn me off on someone else? You are going to connect me to the Greatest- Purchase-Super-Duper-Secret-Holy-Grail-Department and get me my computer cord?”
“Yes ma’am, I am.” He said. I could tell he was smiling.
“Thank you, Michael! Thank you!” I said, overwhelmed by my victory.
“You’re very welcome.” He said proudly. Clearing his throat, he finished his obligatory speech: “Again, my name is Michael and thank you for your continued patronage to Greatest Purchase. Please hold.”
I sat silently waiting to hear my old friend Billy singing about New York, but the phone was silent. My heart stopped for a moment thinking that he may have accidentally disconnected me. Then I heard him say “Ma’am?”
“Yes?” I said.
“All the best to you.” And with that, he connected me.
A single tear streamed down my cheek.