We’ve all been there, done that. Called that 800 number, only to discover that the person on the other end of the line does not normally speak our language, but is trying really hard.
Many years ago, my job involved estates and trusts work and often required me to call various banks and financial companies to get account information or date-of-death values. I really hated that part of my job – my own checkbook hasn’t balanced in 40 years, and I barely understand the difference between a stock and a bond, nor do I know anything about annuities or life insurance. (And I do not care to learn, so all you investment bankers and money managers can stop bothering me!)
Knowing what to ask during such calls is half the battle – having to deal with a customer service rep who is not fluent in English doesn’t help
On one memorable occasion, I needed to call for account information on our newest estate, let’s call the decedent John Jones. I dutifully called the 800 number listed on the financial statement provided by Mr. Jones’ executor. And the conversation went like this:
ME: Hi, I’m CookieCakes, and I’m calling from Alpha Beta Esquires. We’re the attorneys for the Estate of John Jones. We need to close out the account.
CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE (hereinafter referred to as CSR): Are you Mrs. Jones?
ME: No, we’re representing Mr. Jones’ estate.
CSR: I can’t give you any information. I need to speak with Mr. Jones.
ME: Mr. Jones is deceased.
CSR: Could you have Mr. Jones come to the phone so I can speak with him?
ME: No, I can’t. Mr. Jones is deceased.
CSR: Oh, I see. When will Mr. Jones be available to come to the phone?
ME: He can’t come to the phone. He’s deceased.
CSR: I’m sorry. I can’t give you account information. I need to speak to Mr. Jones. Please have him call.
At which point I totally lost it.
ME: Mr. Jones. Can’t. Call. Mr. Jones is – DEAD !!!
There was a brief pause while the CSR considered whether or not to hang up on the loony American lady (or whether to simply link her to one of the other incoming callers), but finally –
CSR: Oh, I see. Let me connect you with our Estates Department.
Lordy, isn’t that what I was trying to do all along?
In hindsight, maybe the CSR simply couldn’t understand my East Coast American accent. When I recently relayed this story to one of my new co-workers, he said, “Maybe the guy thought you said ‘diseased‘ and just thought Mr. Jones would be available once he recovered.”
There’s always a different way to look at something, isn’t there?
Either way, it’s a funny story. And yes, once transferred to the Estates Department, I found myself talking to someone in my own country who understood that dead people don’t make phone calls.
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Images by Cordelia’s Mom