Customer Care?? Yeah, right!

[A rant rated OFME–Okay For Mom’s Eyes (sort of)

I wonder if bank officers ever phone into their Customer Care lines to see the torture they are inflicting on their loyal customers. Here’s what happened to me today.

I received my home equity line statement and wanted to pay off the loan in full. Usually, I do all my banking online because it’s quick and easy and I don’t have to deal with automated voices or incompetent, couldn’t-give-a-care Customer Care representatives. However, it states clearly on the statement that the amount listed is not the pay-off amount and that I need to phone the bank for this information. Seems simple enough, right? Get comfortable.

As an anal technical writer, I couldn’t stop myself from recording the steps of this seemingly simple procedure:

  1. Find Customer Care (snort) phone number on statement.
  2. Dial Customer Care number.
  3. Wait while the recorded voice tells me to “oprima el uno” if I want to proceed in Spanish.
  4. Enter last four digits of my Social Security Number and press the pound key.
  5. Enter the 14-digit Account Number and press the pound key.
  6. Listen while I am told, though I do not wish to know, my current balance, available line of credit, last payment received-on date and amount, and the news that no payment is due at this time.
  7. Listen to the menu choices.
  8. Press 2 to pay off loan.
  9. Listen to the message that states for privacy reasons, I must be the borrower or have the borrower’s permission to continue.
  10. When asked if I am in fact the borrower or have the borrower’s permission, press 1 to confirm. (I wonder for a moment how that pressing of the 1 proves that I have the borrower’s permission, but since I am the borrower, it doesn’t really concern me at the moment.)
  11. Listen to message that states, “Sorry, your request can’t be processed by our automated system. Please hold for a representative.” (Great, I prefer talking to someone who breathes.)
  12. After a short wait, the customer service rep comes online.
  13. Engage in the time-wasting, annoying exchange of greetings. Good morning, ma’am. How are you doing today? [waits for my answer and coos in response]. This is so and so. I’ll be so happy to help you today. Blah blah blah. (Now I’m wishing there was an option to press 3 for “Cut-the crap-and-cut-to-the-chase Loan Payoff.” Not everyone wants metaphoric honey oozed all over them every time they call with a problem. Save it for the Feelers. I’m an ENTP. Let’s get on with it.)
  14. She informs me she must ask me some security questions. Okay, but didn’t I just enter the last four digits of my Social Security Number in step #4 above? They must require even more classified information from me. I try to remember how many stitches it took to sew me up after I pushed my son into the world, just in case. Oh wait, this is the bank, not the airport.
  15. In response to her first question, I give her my account number, which I’ve already entered into the phone.
  16. I tell her my name.
  17. I tell her my zip code
  18. I tell her the original amount of my line of credit.
  19. She informs me that I have passed the security questions. (I get a tear in my eye, feeling a bit proud of this accomplishment, even though ANYONE WHO HAD STOLEN THE STATEMENT FROM MY MAILBOX COULD’VE ANSWERED THOSE QUESTIONS. Moreover, do thieves regularly call banks to pay off their victim’s loans??? Just asking.
  20.  Now we get down to business. I state I want a pay-off amount for my line of credit.
  21. Do you want to close the line of credit?
  22. No, just pay it off.
  23. Okay, let me help you out with that and give you a confirmation number. (Much typing ensues here, like those damned airline employees at the check-in counters.)
  24. Your payoff amount is $160.40 and here is your confirmation number.
  25. Thank her but then wait patiently while she informs me that if I want to close the line, there’s an extra charge and I have to do it in writing.
  26. Remind her that I’ve already said I’m leaving the line open.
  27. Listen as she tells me she’s just telling me in case I wanted to, which I don’t. Got that?
  28. Tell her I am going to pay this off online and ask whether it matters which field I enter the amount into? Principal or interest?
  29. No, it will go through in either case.
  30. Thank her, tell her to have a good day, and hope that’s the end of it. But nooooooooooo. She thanks me, and tells me to have a good day, and then gives her closing pitch for their telephone and online services, which I already know exist because I’M ON THE FREAKING PHONE WITH HER. Blah blah blah. Then, tells me to have a good day again and thanks me and I repeat it back to her, and she repeats it back to me. I’m exhausted, but the finish line is in view.
  31. Log onto my online banking account.
  32. Go to the transfer money screen and enter the pay-off amount into the field.
  33. Read message that indicates I can’t perform this transaction because the amount on the statement is $160.27 and the amount I’m entering, which includes today’s interest, is $160.40. You can’t enter more than you owe. (Why don’t the Customer Care reps know this??? Can I possibly be the first person who has tried to do this????) I am directed to call them on the phone.
  34. AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Actually, I didn’t say it quite like that, but my mom will call and complain if I put too many expletives into one sentence.)
  35. Dig out the statement again.
  36. Find Customer Care frickin’ frackin’ phone number on statement.
  37. Dial Customer Crap number.
  38. Wait while the recorded voice tells me to “oprima el freakin’ uno” if I want to proceed in Spanish. (I consider it briefly.)
  39. Enter last four digits of my Social Security Number and press the pound key.
  40. Enter the 14-digit Account Number and press the pound key.
  41. Listen while I am told, though I do not wish to know, my current balance, available line of credit, last payment received-on date and amount, and the news that no payment is due at this time.
  42. Listen to the menu choices.
  43. Press 2 to pay off my loan.
  44. Listen to the message that for privacy reasons, I must be the borrower or have the borrower’s permission to continue.
  45. When asked if I am in fact the borrower or have the borrower’s permission, press 1 to confirm. I consider spelling out FUCK on the keypad but thoughts of mom return.
  46. Listen to message that says, “Sorry, your request can’t be processed by our automated system. Please hold for a representative.” (Did I really say, “Great, I prefer talking to someone who breathes” earlier?)
  47. After a short wait, the customer service rep comes online.
  48. Engage in the time-wasting, annoying exchange of greetings. Good morning, ma’am. How are you today? [coo, coo, and more cooing] This is so and so. I’ll be so happy to help you today. Blah blah blah.
  49. State the dilemma.
  50. Though she is the same person I spoke to just minutes ago, she informs me she must ask me some security questions.
  51. Tell her my account number, which I’ve already entered into the phone twice and told her once before.
  52. Tell her my name again.
  53. Tell her my zip code again.
  54. Tell her the original amount of my line of credit.
  55. She informs me that I have passed the security questions. (My bowl of breakfast fruit is sitting on my desk and I wonder how much it would hurt if I stuck the fork in my eye.)
  56. She tells me she can issue a waiver for the 13 cents since it is less than a dollar, but only after I have paid off the $160.27. She asks if I will be doing that today?
  57. I tell her I’m doing it as we speak. I enter in the amount and press Submit and my Internet Explorer enters the bathroom with the Encyclopedia Brittanica under its arm. (Mom wouldn’t have liked the way I originally worded that part.)
  58. While I wait for IE to do its thing, I feel an evil gleam beginning to glisten in my unforked eyes: Now I’m keeping her waiting. Heh heh heh.
  59. Realizing IE is not going anywhere, I close out and re-enter my online banking account and enter the transaction again. Deep sigh when it goes through in seconds.
  60. Ask her if she needs the transaction number, but she informs me she doesn’t because she has all my information on her screen. (She then tells me I only needed one stitch.)
  61. She generates another confirmation number for me, indicating that the 13 cents are being waived.
  62. She reminds me at least three times that it is being waived because it is less than a dollar. (Lest I mistakenly think I can call them whenever I want to waive my regular loan payments.)
  63. Thank her. Tell her to have a good day. Hope that’s the end of it. But nooooooooooo. She thanks me, and tells me to have a good day, and then gives her closing pitch yet again for their telephone and online services. Then, tells me to have a good day again and thanks me and I repeat it back to her, and she repeats it back to me.
  64. Hang up the phone and write a blog.
  65. Forward the blog link to the head of the bank.

Did your Schoolhouse Rock…or was it the House of Blues?

Have you ever considered…Which school subjects were valuable in your adult life and career? Which subjects were nice to know but not critical to future achievement? Were any a waste of time? Which subjects do you wish had been stressed more because as an adult you realize how useful they are in your life?

Lately, my thoughts have turned to my early school experience, no doubt the result of observing my 11-year-old son in his studies. School is a lot different these days. Kids are exposed to topics in elementary school that didn’t come my way until junior high school. I can’t help but feel we’re rushing in, bombarding our kids with tons of material, before the 3 Rs—Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic—have taken hold in their adorable little brains.

A few years ago, a teacher confided that new material is presented too frequently for the students to become proficient. After a day or two they move on to the next topic, resulting in lots of breadth and not much depth. Each topic is like a toothpicked morsel on a butler-carried tray, quickly consumed and followed by the next. Shouldn’t subjects that are the basis for all other learning be more like a sit down meal that you linger over? The following year, many of the same topics are repeated for the same short periods of time. Because no foundation has been laid, it’s like learning it anew.

All of this had me pondering what in my schooling I felt was valuable. The first thing that popped into my head was exposure to books and storytelling, which led to a passion for reading. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Heller, held a regular story time. She was an entertaining reader, using different voices for each character. For a moment each day, I was in that crowded bed with Charlie’s quirky grandparents, or standing in a barn gazing up at a lovely arachnid marketer who spun messages in support of “some pig.” I tasted the sweet pulp of a giant peach while visiting James and his insect friends. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for story time, and when we were told to read on our own, I ran to select a book.

Mrs. Heller didn’t make it to the end of the school year. Maternity leave beckoned and our substitute for the rest of third grade was Mrs. Zuckerman, an Argentinian, who decided to teach us Spanish at a time when foreign language study did not begin until seventh grade. She must have known that language is more easily acquired before the age of 12. When Spanish was finally officially taught in junior high, there was already a comfort level and an enjoyment. I took it every year thereafter, eventually majoring in Spanish Language and Literature in college, along with studying Italian and Russian. We become more and more global every day, and the internet allows us to talk to people all over the world, provided we speak each other’s language. Moreover, vacations are so much more enjoyable when you can immerse yourself in the culture and speak the language of the natives. But learning a foreign language was important for another reason. It helped me “back into” English grammar since in the 1970s in my part of town knowing the parts of speech had been deemed an unnecessary skill. (And “old math” was frowned upon. 😉 )

Another source of pleasure in elementary school was music. In addition to a music class and participation in the glee club, I had a fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Nannarone, who brought in her daughter’s John Denver album to share with us. She clearly loved this album as much as her daughter did and her enthusiasm showed. My favorite song back then was Grandma’s Feather Bed. Come on, it was nine feet high and six feet wide. You gotta love that. 😀 But there was more than music at play here; we were listening, evaluating lyrics, and discussing Denver’s stories. It was a lesson in comprehension and so many other things.

Sigh. All these great memories and then…SOCIAL STUDIES. It’s not that the study of history isn’t valuable. It was the way it was taught that rendered it dull, quickly forgotten, and avoided at all costs. Do you remember memorizing timelines? Did you enjoy it? Has your life ever depended on knowing the exact day that Columbus discovered America or that the Constitution was adopted? Would knowledge of the general time period have served you just as well? I think so. I also think that social studies textbooks should be banned from elementary school. There, I said it. They are the absolute worst way to get a child interested in history. In this day of multimedia, why are we not using more of it to engage our children. I grew to love history as an adult when I began to experience it in the form of biographies, vacations to historic sites with engaging tour guides, and TV programs and movies, such as the recent John Adams on HBO, which had me running to other sources to research more. A textbook never had that effect on me. I do not know as much as I should about history, politics, geography, or other topics taught with that cursed social studies textbook, and yet I was a straight A student. That’s because your brain can memorize facts for a test and forget them immediately afterward. What good did that do me? Huh? Huh? [Note to Self: Breathe deeply and wipe froth from mouth.]

So, what do you think? Which subjects or events from your early school years made an impact, either positive or negative? Which do you think served you well into your adulthood and career? Which do you think were a grand waste of time? Which subjects would you have school children learn to make them most effective in their futures? I’d really like to know your opinion.