Holding the Phone

Paper towels, huh? What would we do without them?

If I had been a pioneer I would have stolen a bunch of land from whoever was there ahead of me, and I would have tamed that land, and planted it, or mined it, or raised cattle. Whatever the hell I was doing outside, the little woman would have to be in the kitchen, cooking for me and the men. And when she spilled something she’d have to clean it up with a rag, which would then have to be washed. Until it was washed, it would sit around and stink, or perhaps get moldy. Jeez, what a mess!

But not if you have paper towels. If you have a lot of big, sturdy paper towels, you can wipe up any mess you make, and then just throw them away! Spill some beans on the wood-fired cookstove? No problem. OK, I think we’re all on the same page now. Let’s move on.

I went to Supercuts this morning, a chain of haircutting shops where English is a second language. You never know when you tell them how to cut your hair if they get it or not. “Take a half-inch off” might mean “leave a half-inch on.” They always act like they know what you’re saying, but I don’t understand anything they say, so why should I expect them to understand me? And let me just tell you right now that I have nothing but the highest regard for those who have immigrated to the U.S. from other places and are making their way in this strange land, getting jobs, buying houses, learning a new culture. Greatest respect. But now I am sporting perhaps the worst haircut of my life. It could be the worst one in Los Angeles, although – and I can’t verify this – I might be very hip in Cambodia. I don’t know how such a small amount of hair can be made to stick out so forcefully in all directions.

But I am not proud. I took my weird haircut like a man and went on to the rest of my errands. The main one was I had to exchange a telephone that I bought at Radio Shack. Since I bought it at Radio Shack, I saved all the packaging and the receipt, because I figured I might have to take it back.

This was not a cell phone, but a regular wireless home phone. It has big buttons, though, and a volume control, stuff that’s hard to find. I took the phone in to the store, where two pleasant-looking young people were standing behind the counter. This is what I told them:

“I bought this phone four days ago, and it seems to have a problem. I charged it for 12 hours, and it went completely dead in less than an hour. I charged it for another 12 hours, and it lasted a bit longer, but I have never gottten even four hours of use out of a charge. So I think it’s defective, and I’d like to exchange it for another one just like it.”

To my surprise, both clerks agreed, and one of them went into the stockroom to get me a new phone, while the other one started to ring up the transaction. Alas, the price of the phone had gone up in the few days since I had made my purchase. This was a serious issue for the Radio Shack Kids. They huddled over the register for a few minutes discussing this impossible customer service conundrum: How can we charge this guy an extra 20 bucks now that we’ve agreed that his phone is defective?

They had to call tech support. I’m not kidding. They had to make three phone calls and wait on hold for five minutes each time. One of the calls was because they had forgotten to ask something on the previous call. But I was patient. I was in the right and God was on my side, it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t going to ruin it by pulling out a weapon and demanding justice.

It turns out the issue was that the phone had gone up twenty dollars, but there was a twenty-dollar mail-in rebate on it. If they changed the price for me, the computer would still have printed out my rebate form, thus I might get away with something. Rule Number One in modern corporate sales: Never let the customer get away with anything. The solution, no doubt provided by the president of the company was this: Change the price for the man, and keep the rebate slip. The clerk who finally did this for me and handed me my new phone actually tried to convince me that he had wanted to do it that way from the start.

Why then, did he have to talk on the phone for twenty minutes while I stood there cooling my heels? Then it hit me: The hidden cameras in the store were taking pictures of my grotesque haircut, and it was being emailed to all the stores so the schmoes who had to work on Sunday could have a laugh.

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8 Replies to “Holding the Phone”

  1. Having someone give you a shitty haircut, even after you’ve explained what you want to them, is quite annoying. After this has been done to me, I want to go Godzilla on a few city blocks, but I contain myself.

    I can only hope that you never go to that haircut place again and never go to Radio Shack again. I think the only way you can fight bad customer service is to deny them your hard earned cash. Fuck ’em.

  2. Yes, I know, you look like hell. They didn’t send me a copy of the email, but it was sent out to every attractive woman in America, including my cousin Alice, with the caption, “Hey, look at the fool!”

    Wait a minute, I thought we had this conversation before and you decided you could probably cut your own hair. That way, if you did have the worst haircut in America, you could at least be proud of it because it was your own worst haircut and not the product of some unfeeling geek stranger. Next time, maybe you could ask the Radio Shack guys to cut your hair, since they apparently WILL seek out consultants when they don’t know what to do.

  3. Chevalier – I am centered and serene. I embrace mediocrity and incompetence. I am nothing if not forgiving.

    tacit1 – A photo of my new condition would be even scarier than the “Screaming Jones” picture currently in use. I can’t be responsible…

    Ron – Radio Shack haircuts. What every dork has been waiting for.

    Brent – My reaction to the clerks at Radio Shack is mostly pity. I want to comfort them, maybe find them a job, or a girlfriend. I try to control my urges, though.

    SJ – I don’t know if you have Costco where you live, but here they sell a big, rugged paper towel in packages of twelve rolls. They are so sturdy you could use them to clean up after an earthquake. I have a pallet of them in the garage.

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