Monday, October 24, 2011

Stop Being So Rude, Just Shut Up and Put Your Father Back On the Phone!

I am so blessed by being in my 50s and still being able to enjoy the company of both of my parents who have lived long and healthy lives. I have experienced few benefits due to my underemployment, but one is the ability to share a morning cup of coffee with my parents several times a week when I'm in town.

Last Wednesday was just such a morning as I pulled into drive the of their house at about 9:00 am. I entered their sweltering house and greeted my Mom with a quick hello but left my Dad alone as he was listening intently on the telephone. I would occasionally hear him toss out short responses such as "I don't know about that" and "Oh, a few years ago."

The conversation went on for another five minutes or so--my father occasionally interjecting a word here or there which was answered in kind by a muffled voice that I could pick up whenever the angle of my Dad's hand changed to allow the caller's voice to reach my ear.

I asked my Mom who he was talking to. "Some salesman or someone that wants some money." My Mom at that point began suggesting that my Father should just hang up on the caller, but My Dad has never been a man wont to engage in rudeness or the impolitic. So, on he listened with the occasional interjected word to the increased frustration of my Mom and interest in me. I gathered enough from what I could hear that the salesman was hawking a septic treatment designed to infuse the septic system with massive amounts of bacteria that would help the system from becoming overloaded and needing to be repaired or replaced. (Think expensive Rid-X.)

After another few minutes or so, my Dad began to say more forcefully that he was uninterested in what was being sold. While never being rude or raising his voice, it became obviously clear to me that the salesman was not going to take no for an answer--he was the kind of salesman who only understood the word 'no' when it was delivered by the sound of a dial tone. But, since my father has never hung up anyone in his entire life, the conversation continued on and on until my Dad was completely frustrated.

Of course, my Mom was willing to offer her advice. "Hang up on him." "Hang up the phone." "Hang up on him." As for myself, I was confident that I could dispatch the caller with a simple--"Dude, my Dad's not interested. What is it about "no" that you do not understand?"

Finally my Dad threw up his arms with the receiver clutched tightly in one hand and asked "What am I supposed to do?"

I was angry. My elderly Father has lived too long and gracefully to have to put up with the sort of crap being expelled by this anonymous asshole. "Let me have the phone," I told my Dad. He handed it to me without hesitation.

On the other end of the line I could hear a man blathering on (he believed at the time he was still talking to my Father) about the information that he had delivered and about the value of his product. Having delivered the information flawlessly and truthfully, he was demanding that my Father repeat to him what it was about his presentation that my Father either disagreed with or did not understand.

"Sir?, Sir?" I said into the phone. There was a slight pause as I introduced myself to the salesman. "I need to let you know that you are no longer talking to my Father. My name is Kirk and my Dad just handed me the telephone because he was getting frustrated. He is not interested in your product and he has told you several times already."

"Who am I talking to?"

"You are no longer talking to Boyd. You are now talking to Kirk, his son."

I must admit that there was a flurry of words from the salesman at this time that I don't entirely remember, and his flurry was matched with a flurry of my own that, because of my frustration, I have also forgotten. I know that I did not raise my voice.

This went on for several sentences, him talking, me talking, and nothing at all being communicated other than the noise that is created when different words from different mouths are crashed headlong into each other.

Then, perhaps in the short break it might take me to inhale, I heard this..."Mind your own business. Be a good Son, and give the phone back to your Father." Classic.

"What?" I remember asking this with a disbelieving tone in my voice. "Hey, my Father just handed me the phone. At that point I think it became my business. You wouldn't listen to him so he handed the phone to me. He is not interested in your product."

"Shut up and give the phone back to your Father. You are causing him to lose money."

"Maybe I am, but it is his money. He can do with his money what he wants and he is not interested in your product."

"He has used the product in the past and was satisfied. Give the phone back to your Dad. You are being rude."

"You're kidding me! You just told me to shut up and now I'm the one being rude?"

This seemed to snap him back to the fringe of reality as he slowed down and attempted a different tactic. "Let's go back to square one. Who am I talking to?"

I have to admit that at this point I was no longer upset and was having a bit of a good time. I was happy to continue this conversation.

"Sure. Let's start over."

"Okay, my name is Joe. I'm the account manager."

"Hello, Joe. My name is Kirk. I already told you my name earlier when I introduced myself."

"I'm sorry, I must have missed that."

At that point Joe leaped off into another sales pitch having deduced that I was now the one that needed to be sold, not my Father. He talked about the oils included in today's new cleaning products. He talked about their impacts on a septic system. He talked about the buildup they caused on sewage lines, about the reduced flow this buildup could cause, and how this could result in major problems. He yammered on and on for several minutes. Admittedly I had been ignoring most of what he said, so when he asked me a question, I had no idea what his question even involved but I faked it. Satisfied with my response, he went on again, this time launching into the costs associated with failing to use his product. A replaced septic system would cost $7,000. A pumping of the septic would run my Dad $300. Calling a plumber in to do work on the system could cost additional hundreds.

"Are you a plumber?" he asked me.

"No, my brother in law is the plumber."

"Well, you probably know then how expensive all of this could get. This could cost your Father a lot of money."

"Joe, you might have a great product. It might be the best product on the market. But the fact is that all of this is irrelevant. It is not my money. It is not your money. It is my Dad's money, and he does not want to buy your product."

"You need to stop being so stupid and give the phone back to your Father. Why are you even there? Don't you have a job? Are you there because you are living off your parents? Be a good son and give the phone back to your father."

"Joe, where are you calling from? What company do you represent?" Up until this point I knew the type of product he was selling but did not know which company was employing him to prey off my Father's politeness and to occasionally, whenever the need would arise, to accuse his customer's family members of preying on unsuspecting patriarchs. "What number are you calling from."

"The same number that showed up on your caller ID."

"We don't have caller ID here. Where are you calling from?"

He gave me the 800 number of the business and told me he was calling from Florida. He also made certain that I understood that my Dad had purchased the product from him in the past, apparently giving his phone call the necessary wiggle room to avoid do-not-call restrictions.

"Oh. I thought I could detect a Florida accent." Now, I have no idea why I was trying to engage this guy in casual conversation other than the fact that I was having a pretty good time. Perhaps it was stupidity.

"I don't have a Florida accent. I am from New York. You must be too stupid to recognize a New York accent." Yep, it was stupidity.

"Oh, well, I've known people from Florida that had similar accents." I was responding to the guy with a mirth in my voice because the whole situation had become humorous to me. I had never in my life had a conversation like this. I was being entertained!

"You're wasting my time. Why don't you shut up, be a good son, and put your Father back on the phone."

"Because he is not interested in your product."

"I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to call him back later in the day when you are not around."

"You had better not call him back later in the day. He has already told you that he is not interested in your product. I don't want you to call back here and I don't want anyone else from your company ever calling here again."

"Well, your Father has already given me his credit card information."

I knew that this was a lie. My Father is as blind as a bat and couldn't read numbers if they were written in bold red on the side of a barn. "So, what are you telling me, Joe? Are you saying that you plan on charging my Father's credit card for a product that he has told you that he does not want to buy?"

"No, I'm not saying that. I wouldn't do that."

"Then why would you even mention it? Is there some sort of identity theft issue that my Father now has to be concerned with?"

"No, I would not do that."

"I cannot figure out why you would mention having his credit card information unless you were trying to threaten me with an illegality."

Joe clearly did not want to continue to discuss the credit care issue. He moved on. "Well, when your Father's septic tank fails and needs to be replaced and it costs him thousands of dollars to have it done, I'm going to call him up and say 'I told you so."

"How in the world are you ever going to find out if and when my Father's septic tank goes on the fritz? Do you have spies out here that monitor sewage levels?"

"And, when your septic tank fails, I don't want any phone calls down here threatening to sue us."

"Why would we ever call you if the septic tank failed?"

"Because of the costs of replacing a septic tank and because your Dad has been using the product for the past few years. You might claim the product failed. You know what? You are just wasting my time. I'm going to call back later when I can speak with your Father. I'm going to hang up on you."

"You called here and you don't think you are wasting my time?"

"I'm going to hang up and call back later. You are too stupid to talk to and you are costing your Father money."

"Joe, please don't hang up on me. What about my feelings?" Click.

After twenty plus minutes with my Dad on the phone and another fifteen minutes more with me, Joe had determined that too much of his time had been wasted.

I went and hung up the phone thoroughly impressed that I had outlasted possibly the rudest and most obstinate sewage treatment salesman on Earth. I went back and discussed with my parents some of what had been said.

I then did a Google search of the phone number he had given me to see if I could find any consumer complaints lodged against the company for its sales tactics. I found none but decided I'd call the company to lodge my own complaint.

I dialed the 800 number worried that I was going to get Joe back on the line and that he would have to hang up on me again, after all, a man's self esteem can only withstand so much. My fears were calmed when the phone was answered by a nice young lady not named Joe with an accent decidedly un-NewYorkerish.

I told her that I wanted to speak with a supervisor. She assured me that she could help me. I told her a second time that I wanted to make certain I was speaking with someone that supervised the account managers. Again, she assured me that she could assist me with whatever I was calling about.

"Do you supervise Joe? I'm calling from Michigan and Joe called here this morning and I want to lodge a complaint about him."

"What did he say to you?"

I did my best to recount all of the things that occurred, trying to lay them out similarly to this blog post. Of course, I probably remembered a few things then that I forgot to write here, and I probably wrote some things here that I forgot to mention to the supervisor.

When I mentioned the credit card number and that I was going to be very angry if Dad was charged for product he did not want or became a victim of identity theft, she wanted clarification. I repeated that part of the story to which she assured me that Joe had no credit card information. While I knew that my Dad had not given the information to Joe I was not so certain that Joe did not have access to the credit card information through his access to my Father's sales file--after all, Joe was the account manager.

Finally, after I had completed my account of events, the supervisor told me that when she heard the phone ringing that she wondered if it was me. She told me that she had wandered out into the call area and heard Joe's part of the conversation and told me that Joe had definitely "crossed the line." Joe was going to be reprimanded.

I told the lady that my Dad should not have to suffer through any more of these calls and that I did not want Joe or any other representative of the company calling him back. She quickly and resolutely agreed and assured me again that the credit card information was secure, that Joe would not call him back, and that no other representative from her company would ever contact my Father again.

We ended our call in the traditional manner without anyone being hung up on and, thankfully, with no one's feelings being damaged.

Approximately twenty minutes later the telephone rang again. My Mom answered the phone, paused, and then handed the telephone to my Dad. My Dad listened for a few seconds and then handed the phone to me.

I said into the receiver, "Hello, this is Kirk."

On the other end of the line was the general manager or owner of the company that Joe had called from. Once again I was asked to recount my side of the story. This time, however, while retelling the story I was kindly encouraged to continue. For instance, when I mentioned that Joe had told me to 'mind my own business' the general manager interjected that he thought it was definitely my business. When I told him that I had been repeatedly called stupid, that I had been told to shut up numerous times, and that I had been told to mind my own business and be a good son, my words were greeted with empathy. He too was concerned when I mentioned the credit card part of the conversation and assured me that Joe did not have that information.

"I want you to know that Joe is not just getting a reprimand. He is being fired. What he did is inexcusable and we cannot have that here."

To my insistence that I did not want anyone from his company to call my Father again, he said he didn't blame me one bit and that no one would call.

He apologized again and we hung up.

In retrospect I couldn't help but wonder what Joe's problem was. Meth? Coke? Was he wrestling with the manic side of a bi-polar incident? I am not gloating over the loss of his job and my intent was not to get the man fired. I told the general manager as much when he told me Joe was being terminated. The guy needs some help.

The truly sad thing about this whole story is that I did not have to embellish it in the least. Some of the comments might be slightly out of the order in which they were originally uttered and I'm certain I forgot portions of what was said--for instance, I know I was called stupid at least five times, but I cannot remember what I said to prompt Joe's wrath each individual time. To the best of my ability and recollection, this story is recounted as accurately as possible but if I can think of anything else I'll add it to the bottom in an update.

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