Recession Mama

{July 24, 2009}   A Couple of Normal, Everyday Heroes

–by Carla


I’m not exactly sure what Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters are talking about in “My Hero”, but I love looking at him and I love me some Foo Fighters, oh and I do love the part of that song that goes: 

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary

A couple of ordinary heroes popped into my life recently and took some extraordinary steps to help me out. Two really unassuming people made my week and probably don’t even know it. I’ll tell you about my run-ins with Vanessa and Chris in a second, but why am I rambling about this and how in the world is it recession-related? I firmly believe that we’ve had a serious customer service issue in this country for a very long time. Gone are the days where the person at the check-out politely said to the customer, “Thank you for shopping with us…please come back to see us”, or something remotely close to that. Sure it still happens, but not at all like it used to when I was a kid and it hacks me off. If I’m spending my hard-earned money in your store, please acknowledge that fact and I’ll come back to see you. It’s not just the check-out, it’s those incredibly frustrating customer service calls with the recorded chick…you know the ones…they make us press 1 for English (um…why?) and 8 for this and 22 for who-knows-what…and by the time that damn recorded lady is done rattling off choices, I want to throw the phone out the window. And once you DO get someone, good luck. I will never forget the time I called to pay my XM bill over the phone and the kind gentleman with the thick Indian accent (he really was so sweet) told me that my total was “78-point-35”. “Point”? Seriously?


Vanessa was working as a receptionist at the rheumatologist’s office this week. I’d just popped in for follow-up blood work (you can apparently never be too young or too cool to possibly have rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve come to learn). But this “Just pop in, it’ll take a second” outing, turned into a 30 minute nightmare…while my Mom was home babysitting the boys. Twice I asked another receptionist how much longer she thought it might be, and after being told “Oh, Hun, any second now”, the other one, Vanessa, popped up out of her chair, tugged firmly on her scrubs and said, “I’ll do it. Come with me”. Not 4 minutes later, I had a Hello Kitty band aid on my arm and I was walking out the door. Vanessa had stepped up and gotten ‘er done when everyone else seemed to have passed the buck. 

Chris was my next hero the very next day. He was at a call center at a government agency (and that right there should give anyone the chills), and he stayed with me even after my mini-tantrum, and was able to help me unlike anyone in his office had in the past. He could have passed the buck and transferred me to other people but he didn’t. He stayed on the line with me, made a human connection with me and even shared a laugh or two with me. At the end of that 35 minute phone call, I felt like I’d been talking to an old friend. (It didn’t hurt that he was an old radio jock.)

My point is this: There are a bunch of us out there who need other people to help us get by right now…be it the customer service rep at the credit card company who is helping someone lower their rate or consolidate their debt, or the person on the other end of the phone at the mortgage company who is helping someone on the brink of foreclosure, or the customer service agent at the health insurance company working with a sick person who needs a little help with that massive pile of bills. I can’t think of any other time in our recent history when we have had to rely so much on customer service folks. It’s time for them to step up and shine. And it looks like actual heroes are being born…just like Vanessa and Chris.

And come on, we’re in a recession, if you’re in a position to interact with the buying public, BE NICE, you need our business. 


Lydia says:

You know how your momma told you “it’s easier to get bees with honey”? I try to use that in my interactions with customer service folks. If I have to get firm, I will, but most of the time if you act human, so will they. Can you imagine having to deal with rude people who call and start yelling before you even know what the problem is? Now, if you are a moron being mean and rude to me… back off Jack! 😉

recessionmama says:

From Heather: Hooray! I totally agree that’s it’s hard to find people who actually want to help you sometimes. But they’re out there. A woman offered to pay for my kid’s donuts the other day because I didn’t have cash in a “cash only” place. So sweet! She said she’d done that before and wanted to help. I managed to scrape enough change together to pay for it myself. But the gesture was really appreciated.

Katy says:

We should have a weekly or maybe monthly hero on this site!!! People we don’t know..who work in customer service…doing…well…actually, wait a minute…their job?!?! I was going to say we should hail them on this site. But it’s their job, isn’t it?

Well, maybe if we reward those who are doing their job…more people will do it.

As for the call centers outside the U.S., I always ask to be transferred to a manager who’s in the U.S. The Fiance and I have talked about starting up a business for customer service call centers in the U.S. He’s a genius at customer service, and I know we would be able to pay people enough to keep it here in the U.S. People who speak American English and doesn’t say 78-point-35.

Carla says:

Point. That sweet old man still cracks me up.

AMEN! It’s amazing how far being nice will get you. I ALWAYS thank people in stores and on the phone when they’ve been helpful. They are usually shocked. I’m sure it goes both ways in that they deal with so many rude people during the day too. I just try to live by: “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” Golden rule, people!

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