Monday, October 8, 2007

Say *&@#! with Hallmark

The story you are about to read is 100% true. I couldn't have made this up had I tried.

I may have mentioned that I have issues with telephone customer service people. Have I mentioned that? When I need customer service, I prefer to access it via the Internet. The less contact I have with humans on telephones, the better. I am deeply offended that so many companies, especially banks, take advantage of my telephone time--which I'm using because I need help--to try and sell me something.

Nothing puts me on edge faster than when my call is routed to Bangalore. I can't articulate why, but if I must speak with someone, I want to speak with someone who has some cultural frame of reference for whatever it is that's troubling me. I also want to speak to someone who can deviate from a script and totally ad lib, if need be.

Last Thursday, I needed to order flowers for a coworker's funeral. I went through all of the steps online and was about to pay when it occurred to me that there was no way to specify what time the flowers should arrive. I took a deeeep breath and dialed the number for customer service.

(voice = American male): Thank you for calling Hallmark. How may I help you today?

(me): I'm online ordering flowers, but there doesn't seem to be any way to make sure they'll be where they need to be on time. It's for a funeral. How can I make sure the flowers arrive before 10:00 tomorrow morning?

(Hallmark Man): Thank you for choosing Hallmark. What is the name of the bouquet you wish to order?

(me): It's the pink gladiola spray for like, ninety dollars.

(HM): I need to put you on hold for a moment. (wait...wait...wait...wait...) Thank you for your patience. Ma'am, that bouquet is eighty-nine dollars.

(me): Um, OK. I knew that. Can it be at the church before ten o'clock tomorrow?

(HM) Let me look. The earliest possible delivery is October 5.

(me): Yes, I know. That's tomorrow. That's not my question. Can the flowers be at the church before 10:00?

(HM, flustered): Ma'am, it doesn't work like gotta...

(me): It's OK. I just need a confirmation. If it won't work, I can go through a local florist, but I need to know now so I have time to place the order locally.

(HM) But, no, it's...I need to put you on hold for a moment.......................Thanks for your patience. Is this for a funeral?

(me): Yeeees.

(HM): OK, that's not going to be called a funeral arrangement. It's called "sympathy."

(me): Um, OK. But can the flowers be delivered before 10:00 tomorrow?

(HM): I need to put you on hold for a moment..........(wait, wait, wait)....Thanks for your patience. Where are the flowers being delivered?

(me): Do you want the address?

(HM): No, ma'am, I need to know where they're going to be delivered.

(me): I'm sorry, I don't understand your question.

(HM): Are they going to a hospital, or a private home, a cemetery?...

(me) They're going to a church.

(HM): I need to put you on hold for a moment..........(wait, wait, wait)....Thanks for your patience. Ma'am, we can take your order. What is the name of the recipient?

(me): St. John Lutheran Church.

(HM): No, ma'am, what is the name of the person who...who's having the funeral?

(me): Darlene Utah, like the state.

(HM): I need you to spell that for me.

(me): D-A-R-L-E-N-E

(HM): And the last name?

(me): Utah, like the state.

(HM): I need you to spell that for me.

(me): Really? U-T-A-H

(HM): What is the name of the delivery location?

(me): Saint John Lutheran Church

(HM): I need you to spell that for me.

(me): Which part?

(HM): The name of the church.

(me): All of it?

(HM): Yes, Ma'am.

At this point, I spelled every word of the name of the church. When I gave the address, I had to spell that, too (Elm St.), as well as the name of the city (for illustration purposes, let's say, Washington City), and the state name.

(HM): I have to put you on hold for a moment..........(wait, wait, wait)....Thanks for your patience. Now, what time is the funeral at?

(me): Ten O'clock. Tomorrow. October fifth.

(HM): Now, do you want a gift card with that?

(me): Yes.

(HM): What kind of card do you want?

(me): What do you mean?

(HM): Do you want one with flowers on it, or generic, or for sympathy...Like that.

(me): Sympathy.

(HM): Do you have a message?

(me): Yes. How long can it be?

(HM): Uh, it can be as long as you like. There's no limit.

(me): Oh, good, because online it can only be four lines.

(HM): We can make it four lines.

(me): No, that's OK. I just wanted to know if I was limited. The card should say, With deepest sympathy from friends and colleagues at Susan Smith Adult School. Darlene's love and laughter will never be forgotten.

(HM): I'm going to need you to spell that for me.

(me): Which part?

(HM): All of it, from the beginning.

At this point, May painstakingly spells every friggin' word on the card. HM responds by asking which letters should be upper case and where the punctuation goes.

(HM): I need to put you on hold for a moment. ..........(wait, wait, wait)....Thanks for your patience. Now, I can get as far as "...friends and."

(me): For the whole card?

(HM): No, ma'am, for the first line. Where would you like the line break to be?

(me): Well, I guess that break is fine.

(HM): What would you like on the second line?

(me): Well, I guess whatever comes next in the message.

(HM) Yes, ma'am, you need to dictate that message, please.

OK, this went on for almost 15 minutes. HM couldn't seem to get past that issue of four lines once I had put it in his head. Finally, I said:

(me): Look, I don't care where the line breaks are. I just want the message on the card, however it's distributed.

(HM)Yes, Ma'am, I understand. I think I can get it on four lines if you can take out a couple of words...

In all, I was put on hold more than a dozen times. It took 40 minutes to place the order. What a fucking Hallmark moron.

Is that upper case, or lower case? Where do you want the punctuation?

For awhile there, I wondered if I was being punk'd--you know--candid camera.


Spilling Ink said...


Perhaps he should be in one of your classes. :-)

May Voirrey said...

Un-bee-lee-va-ble. When I emerged from my office, everyone in the big office looked up and asked if I was OK. I wish I had that conversation on tape. I hope Hallmark has it on tape. Further instruction may be required.