Customer [Dis]Service: Crossing Over


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

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31 Responses to Customer [Dis]Service: Crossing Over

  1. Victo Dolore says:

    Ha! In Cambodia a guy asked me how many kids I had. “None,” I said. He heard nine. The look on his face was priceless! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    I have a confession to make…when telemarketers call I try and make it a game and totally talk nonsense until I get them to hang up on me. *shrug* so I have fits of immaturity at time…can’t help it, I get amused easily! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. joey says:

    I was laughing so hard there for a minute, my family made me tell them what was so funny! My father frequently asks people in call centers and whatnot, “Is there anyone named Bob, from Iowa, there?” It’s a running joke now, so when we’re passing along these tidbits, we say, “Ahmed, who was not from Iowa,” or “Ganesh, who was not from Iowa.” It’s like a whole thing with our family. I don’t understand why they put such people on phone jobs. In person, it’s not as hard, but on the phone and in the drive thru, the English needs to be GOOD, or I’m afraid the labor costs aren’t quite as cheap as they think, cause more time and frustration on both ends.
    Great story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad I gave you a chuckle tonight. I’ve actually asked customer service reps where their office was located, and I was shocked once to find out a bank call center was only a mile or so from my own house! That was one of the few times I could understand what the rep was saying.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The word is DEAD. Because when people don’t speak English as a first language, one-syllable words are the only worthwhile choice. And you’re lucky if they understand even THAT.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LOL! The Customer service is the same here, CM. English is not my first language but I know what deceased means. Gosh, no wonder my hubby often lost it when he calls customer service. (*’∀’人)♥

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LOL. Funny story. I can understand losing it on that agent.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Karen J says:

    Yes – love/hate dealing with “Barbara” in Calcutta – unh-huhn!


  8. Diseased/Deceased…I can hear the connection. ☺ It’s always frustrating ! But, maybe if you had asked for “Estates”, they might have heard (United) States ???


  9. Tippy Gnu says:

    Even if they’re from India, it sure beats those “Voice Recognition” robots that answer, that never recognize anything your voice says.


  10. Al says:

    That made me laugh. “Please ask Mr Jones to call” … “Do you have a UIja board handy?”


  11. Dan Antion says:

    That is a funny story. I’m glad it got resolved. Make sure Mr Jones votes on Tuesday for the candidate of your choice 🙂


  12. willowdot21 says:

    Hi C M this is so common these days and it drives me crazy. I had to negotiate my phone package for the year the other week and spoke to three customer service operators! It took over an hour, not one of them had English as their mother tongue! Not one of them had ever set foot in England. I had to take a pill. !!!!!


  13. Vicky V says:

    That was so funny! I hate unsolicited calls – especially the one that when I answer a computer says “Goodbye” and then hangs up. Goodbye? You rang me you horrid computer!!


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