This is an essay I wrote for my English class. Check it out if you want a good laugh. :)
There are creatures on this Earth so ridiculous in the extreme that generations of well meaning shop owners have tried and failed to satisfy their extraordinary whims. An entire industry has been formed around the idea that these volatile beasts must be tamed in very specific ways, lest their tempers break down corporations and make grown men weep. They are feared beyond reason and placated until nothing else could possibly be given. They are the dreaded. They are our customers.
Masters of camouflage, customers blend into society, posing as our friends, our neighbors, and even as our family members. However, something happens to these undercover consumers once a purchase is at hand. Common sense and polite courtesy suddenly disappear, leaving only confusion, neurosis, and selfishness in their wake. Customers of the service industry are a rare breed in and of themselves, as they must go against their natural instincts and let the servicemen into their homes. As a customer service employee in the carpet cleaning industry, I have had nearly a decade to observe these unique individuals. By both interacting with them over the telephone and observing them in their natural habitats, I have been able to classify these customers into specific categories, a few of which are quite amusing.
“Can you clean with just water?”
Whether a mother has any outside vocation or not, raising a child is definitely a full time job. For some of these women, affectionately known as “Supermoms,” this stage in their life consumes all other aspects of it. Every breath they take literally revolves around their children.
The Supermom is a self professed expert of common sense, personal hygiene, basic first aid, pediatric nutrition, and individual morality. This plethora of knowledge, while extremely helpful in the day to day task of bringing up Ray, Thomas, Sally, or Jane, is not so helpful when it comes to contracting a carpet cleaner. Her protective instincts instantly override all common sense and many things that used to be good, clean and helpful, are now suddenly the enemy. The well meaning customer service agent on the phone, desperately trying to explain everything to the Supermom’s satisfaction, is purposely trying to trick her into harming her family. Soap, an absolute must when her child is washing his or her hands, can now be classified as a harmful substance and many a Supermom will request it be eliminated from the cleaning process altogether. Not even the technicians who will perform the service can escape her scrutiny. She must be assured we are not sending her a couple of abhorrent murdering rapists who will steal her valuables and leave her carpet exceptionally dirty. Explaining our background check and drug testing policy is not always enough and the Supermom will insist on knowing the servicemen’s names, average performance, and references. Unfortunately, these overprotective instincts backfire more often than not, and many Supermoms cancel their appointments altogether, deciding that having clean carpet is just not worth the many inherent risks
“I can’t give you that information; THEY might be listening.”
Out of all the absurd customers I’ve come across in the carpet cleaning industry, this next one is the most unfortunate. For the Certifiable ones, being difficult is not a choice, it an actual medical condition.
Many conversations with Certifiable customers begin normally enough. Usually they ask the same questions about the carpet cleaning as most everyone else, giving positive or negative responses as needed. There is a point in the conversation however, when one realizes that the person on the other end of the line is absolutely, one hundred percent, insane. Yes, for the Certifiable customer, the lights are on, but no one is home.
It’s a sad moment really, when the simple question of “where do you live?” solicits a reply of “the Edwardian Galaxy,” or “in the Queen’s basement.” Many such deluded customers are also extremely paranoid and refuse to answer any personal questions whatsoever. The ever present, but rarely defined “They” may be listening, and so therefore might come to get them if given half a chance. Explaining to the Certifiable customer that the technicians must actually go to their homes in order to clean the carpets is not effective either, as it not an understandable concept. Unfortunately that’s as far as the conversation tends to go. These poor customers get a black flag on their accounts, and sadly continue to live with dirty carpet.
“My friend is supposed to pay for this, but he’s not here right now.”
For every person who wants to make money, there is someone out there who wants to take it away from them. This next customer is the inspiration for that idiom and is an expert at deception and instigation. The Con-artist will say or do anything necessary to get something without having to pay for it.
Like an amateur magician on stage, many Con-artists use misdirection to confuse their customer service representatives. Usually this is done by repeating certain phrases or expectations back to their rep, while changing certain key points. For example, the representative may tell the Con-artist that “the technicians will be happy to move all manageable pieces of furniture before the cleaning.” The Con-artist would then reply, “So you are going to move all of my furniture?” If the representative is not completely on top of their game and inadvertently gives a positive response, the Con-artist will then be able to claim breach of contract later, and thus demand a free cleaning.
If misdirection doesn’t work, then many Con-artists resort to out and out lies, usually about where the payment is, or where it was supposed to come from. Certain phrases like, “My landlord was supposed to pay for this,” or “I thought you were going to bill me,” are not uncommon. Even more frequently, this special breed of customer will somehow have misplaced their payment, saying it is either, at home, with their spouse, flying to Europe with their mother, or at the Laundromat enjoying the rinse cycle. As a last resort, the Con-artist will proclaim the job unsatisfactory and simply refuse to pay. Ironically their antics actually keep one industry completely in the black, that of credit collections.
“YOU are wasting my valuable time!”
Quite possibly the most aggravating of all absurd carpet cleaning customers are those self-important people who think they are worth more than anyone else. Appealing to their higher sense of decency is as unnecessary as it is ineffective, because they don’t have any. These Special People are about as selfish as humanly possible and they want to be treated like royalty.
Regardless of how little or how much Special People spend on any particular service, they are always convinced that they are more valuable than any other customer. They cannot adhere to regular time frames, because every second of their day is worth some exorbitant amount of money. Many Special People insist that we reschedule someone else in order to go to their home first. Explaining to them that reshuffling the schedule isn’t fair to the customer who got there first, only further infuriates them. Arguments such as, “If you aren’t here in the next five minutes you’re going to be paying ME to clean my carpets,” are not unheard of, even when the technicians are running perfectly on schedule.
As well as being on time, the service performed must be beyond exemplary. Any offers of redoing said service are met with more whining about having to wait around. In fact, most mistakes, whether real or simply perceived, are treated by Special People as if they are a personal affront against them. They accuse the technicians of being purposefully negligent and even go so far as to say we’d prefer them to use someone else. Honestly at that point, we almost do.
These are just a few of the strange and amazing types of customers I’ve seen and spoken to during my tenure as a customer service representative. As unbelievable as it all sounds, these people really do exist and more commonly than most might expect. The selfish ones make life difficult for others, while the exceptionally unselfish make it difficult for themselves. Some manipulate their way into getting something for nothing, while others just struggle to navigate their way through reality. Whatever the case may be, the trick to dealing with these difficult individuals is to be patient and to not take anything too seriously. For strange and frightening beasts they may be, but at least they make for some good stories.