Back Where I Come From

socs-badge-2015Linda is away this week, but Helen Espinosa, a friend of SoCS has given us a prompt as challenging as Linda might have done on her own:

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “to/too/two.” Use one, use them all, but most of all, just have fun!”

Helen didn’t mention any extra points for using all three forms, but I’m going to assume that a proper accounting will be made. Anyway, let’s see where those struggling voices in my head want to go with this.

Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when, after his mea culpa, the Wizard started handing out brains and hearts and whatnot? I always liked the part where the Wizard says:

Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila… er, phila… er, yes, er, Good Deed Doers.”

I was reminded of that this week, albeit in a curious way.

I was trying to get credit in a rewards program for activity that seemed to have slipped into a dark corner of the accounting department. Maybe my activity happened near month-end, I’m not sure, but I paid the bill and I should be granted the points. Apparently, it can take up to 10 days, so I waited. 11 days later, I visited the company’s website and I filled out the form to get credit for missing activity. That seemed simple enough. I jotted down all the relevant details and I uploaded a copy of my invoice.

Nothing happened.

I was instructed to wait 10 – 14 (more) days.

Waiting. Ooh, that reminds me of another great movie scene, the one in Ocean’s Eleven where twin brothers are staging a drag race between a monster truck and a model of the truck. Waiting for his brother to go first, the brother in the real truck says:

I’m going to get out of the car and drop you like Third Period French.”

Anyway, back to where I was, which was waiting for 12 more (23 in total) days, I went back to the website to see what my other options were. It seems that since I waited the requisite amount of time, I was now entitled to speak to a human being. Actually, I could have spoken to a human earlier, but being one of the geeks who builds web-based things, I trust the system more than I should have. I say that, because the human being I spoke to said:

Oh, when you submit an issue via the website, it just goes into a pile. If you want things to be reviewed quickly, you need to call so you can send the information to the attention of someone specific.”

Well, back where I come from, see, you thought there wasn’t going to be a connection, we treat web-based requests differently. We have people who do nothing all day but answer these questions. OK, that’s not true. We don’t get enough questions to keep anyone busy, but we do treat them all as if they were going to a real person. Because they are. Sure, you can call our office and talk to a human, but if you submit a request for information via our website, your request goes to a real live person, immediately.

Of course, the real live person that it goes to is based on what you say your request is related to. So, if you’re looking for information about an invoice and you select “Engineering” for the subject, things may take a bit longer. Giving an engineer an invoice is like, as one former engineer once said, giving a monkey a hand grenade…the odds of it ending well are not great.

My point, yes, I do have one, is that if you are going to try to add value / save money by having web-based or otherwise automated points of contact, treat the people who take advantage of those points of contact with respect.

By the way, lest you think that my “this / that” option above is curious, the motivation for putting customer contact in the hands of a machine is usually to save money. Money that the company behind the curtain of automation is unlikely to pass back onto you, the customer. Home Depot isn’t going to lower the cost of that two-by-four just because you twisted your back trying to scan the barcode, located at the other end of your cart, at the self-checkout. They might reduce the hours of the person standing lonely at the next counter, but they’re going to keep that savings. It goes in the same jar as the money they save when you picked the two-by-four and when you carry it out to your car. I’m sure their accountants don’t really keep money in jars, except maybe at month-end.

One thing is certain, if there are accountants and jars involved, there will be two jars. One for debits and one for credits, don’t you know. You won’t get anywhere with an accountant just because you give money to Home Depot in exchange for a two-by-four. No, you have to take the money from somewhere and put it somewhere. You can take money from “Cash” and put it toward “Construction Expense,” but you can’t just say “I gave Home Depot money and I’d like to be reimbursed.” Pbbbbft, no, uh uh, that would be too easy.

58 thoughts on “Back Where I Come From

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  1. When I first worked in a bank back in to 1960s I remember being confused on the first day in the branch that an overdraft was a credit and a cash balance was a debit. It’s obvious if you think about it. Your debt to the bank is an asset to them and vice versa. Took me a few days to work that one out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It took me more than a few days, when k was consulting to banks. Then I moved to insurance and had to grasp Unearned Premium. I always preferred ‘money in’ and ‘money out’.

      And, of course the whole set of complications that comes with doing these things in foreign currencies…your bailiwick but always a source of confusion for me.


  2. Ugh, that whole automated phone-answering thing … is there ANYBODY who likes that? No. Everybody hates it, and yet every company does it. Though I actually wouldn’t mind TOO much it if it weren’t for two things.

    One: the unctuous assurances that our call is important, that they value me as a customer, etc., etc. Look, we’ll see how important and valuable I am by how quickly and satisfactorily my issue is resolved, amirite? TELLING me I’m so, so, SO important doesn’t have flattering effect you seem to think it has. Fixing my problem, and doing it fairly quickly? Now, THAT will convince me.

    Two, make it simple. A couple of prompts is all it should take. I can understand using automation to route people to the right department, for example, rather than have to put it on some receptionist to do it manually. And sure, why keep spouting your hours to each individual? Put ’em on the recording. Or having it give your address and location — that’s fine, too. But when we have to make selection after selection? And wait and wait? It doesn’t take long at all before I’m hitting “0” just so I can tell ANY human being, hey, I just need to speak to someone in accounts or whatever.

    One other thing, dear companies: Stop telling us to be sure and listen to the whole thing because “our menu options have changed”. EVERY company puts that ALL time. I know, you want us to give it a chance, but your little ruse is obvious by now. We all know your menu options haven’t changed since Bush 43 was in office, and it’s simply a polite way of saying, “Settle down and keep your pants on, Skippy — we’ll get to you when we get to you.”

    And look at that — my reply used to/two/too. Each one, at least once. Good SoC, Dan!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nicely done Paul. I think before I retire, I might just change our voice mail system to say: Settle down and keep your pants on, Skippy — we’ll get to you when we get to you.” I’d have to wait ‘cuz I’m sure I’d get fired but it might be worth it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Dan – enjoyed this – and my husband recently was talking about not being to understands the folks once u do get a live person – foreign accents and all that.
    Anyhow – interesting response to the prompt and my favorite part was the pages from the book and the cover – it tied into your point and all that – but I also just love to see the pages and I zoomed in and enjoyed them.

    Oh and I was going “to” end the comment but wanted u to know that I Laughed at the “two” by four joke “too”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how people are working the prompt into their comments. Nice job! I’ve kept that book as s badge of honor. I hated that class but I got through it. My professor was one of the authors (Rosell). Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved this Dan. I do have to remind that Managerial accounting and Financial accounting are two different animals. The first is to use accounting methods to measure and optimize the performance of the firm. The second is to ensure GAAP principles are followed in the recognition of credits and debits. I love your take on respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like your leading off with a positive example of things in general and also, in Life. When we are unsure of a word, I see my Mom doing this more and more, we “flounder around” until we come up with a replacement like the great Oz did in the movie. The secondary one doesn’t really sound as good, Dan, but it will “do.”
    The really frustrating part if civilization these days is the “Red Tape” or “rigamarole” we need to go through to get results!! This angers me and I try to stay calm but I usually end up calling companies and asking lower level employees the “what for?”
    I see you as having patience and higher level of grasping new ways than I. I am okay with admitting my elementary level and actually “use it to my advantage” when u call up and this DOES get sympathy and results! :) :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Robin. I understand the new ways (I program our voice mail system) but I am loosing patience for them. People’s, especially your customer’s time is valuable and you should not Abuse it. Kudus to you for however you get results.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My Mom who was a women’s liberation advocate would cringe if she were aware of my using my womanly wiles or elderly matron status. Ha ha ha! But, as you expressed this is due to their wasting our valuable time so “whatever works the fastest” is fair game, in my mind, Dan. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As you can well imagine, Dan, the girl who pays with cash, hates online banking, and wants paper, paper, paper, also gets fed up with the automated stuff. I know there’s human error to account for when you do anything, but people seem to forget that machines go on the fritz too. You can go through the whole automated DIY phone process to get what you want, then it turns out it didn’t actually work at all. Even though it told you it did.

    I always call the pharmacy when my dad’s prescriptions need refilling. There are two sets of menus to listen to. Once you get past the first one, then you can just press “0” and you’ll get an actual person in the pharmacy. But they also have what they claim is quicker, easier and more reliable — an automated refill system where you just put in the Rx number and you’re good to go. Once upon a time, all I had was a rotary phone, so I always just had to wait for the entire menu to play. If you have no buttons to press, then if you wait long enough, it just puts the call through to a person. But one day, the girl at the pharmacy gave me the spiel: “You know, we have an automated refill service. You should use that.” Sorry, hon, rotary phone. But later when I got a portable set, I decided to try this bigger, better option. Yeah.

    So you put in the prescription number, some other specifics, and then it gives you the estimated time you can pick it up. Usually, I’d call them on the day I wanted to pick up the pills. So you can imagine my surprise when it gives me a date, 4 days away. That was no good. It asked if the date was acceptable, I said no. We did this little back and forth, the machine and I, 4 times. And I’m sorry, but “in two days, after 4 PM” was still just not going to cut it. So… it put me through to a person in the pharmacy to get a closer filling date.

    I tried that system one other time, and just made sure that I called a week in advance of when I’d make the pickup. Went through, everything was fine, go to the pharmacy a couple days later… no pills. The automated system didn’t put the order through. Had to wait an hour for them to fill the prescription that I called in 5 days prior.

    I haven’t used the automated system since. I always just hit “0” and tell them what I want, even if I’m a week ahead of schedule. Every once in a while, someone will get the bright idea to crab to me that they have an automated refill system, to which I promptly reply, “Sorry, rotary phone. No buttons.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Wendy. You should know that, in addition to every other type of phone, my wife still has a functional rotary phone. The two of you just get closer and closer. Automated options should make things easier for parties on both sides. If they don’t, they were built wrong…period. Thst refill system sounds awful.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This reminds me of my favorite, telephone trees. It is just great to listen to about 15 minutes worth of recorded information that does not apply to you and sometimes they never mention there is a live person available to talk to you. Recently, I made a call to a Health Insurance company for a family member. The number was given in a letter with instructions to call if you have questions. It seems to me that if they tell you to call if you have questions there would be a live person to answer those questions. The robot rattled on and on telling me that my benefits may not cover my claims or some such thing. After it went through an entire list there was no option to speak to a representative. So I repeated a couple of times I wanted to speak with a representative and the robot says ” You seem to be having trouble with our [crumby telephone tree recording] so we are transferring you to a representative. Hallelujah!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, it may be too much. I have a follow-up post planned around my experience with that accounting class. I’ll see if I can find a way to bring Cheryl into the story :) By the way, it’s the stuff of nightmares for me too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Heehee, I don’t think the money ever balances in my house. But I do know that talking to humans is better than machines because I don’t understand code. Besides, when I call people, I can always say, I know this isn’t your fault, but…. seems people bend over backwards when you are nice to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was so interested in the story of accounting departments and websites and invoices and engineers and jars that I forgot to look for two, to, and too. And when I remembered and checked out the last paragraph, there were 2’s aplenty. Clever work, Dan.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Well, better late then never. I finally made it over here. Anyways …. loved this post and yes I really read it. (smile) Your story reminds me of the time (Don’t I myself have a lot of stories to tell? LOL) I worked for a local bank in the customer service department, answering phones (um yes this was prior to computers) with people on the other end having problems with their accounts. I was SO confused and baffled, and by the end of my working day my nerves were completely frayed. I did a terrible job, never seemingly catching on how to help these people fix these problems, and sure enough, yep, I lost that job. I was relieved because I was never so miserable! I just am not good with phones (I’m a bit dyslexic especially with numbers) and when people were calling about NUMBERS my brain freaked. I decided my career in banking was not an option so I turned to people instead and began to get involved in the cocktail business. Those stories for another day! LOL Cool post, Dan. Keep ‘um coming!!! <3

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Although the tech. age has sped up things like getting credit for bills you’ve paid, for me there’s nothing better than the human contact. My opinion: I think both ways should be offered at all times. If you’re in such a hurry, use the tech. way so you can go on with other things in your life. If you want to make doubly sure that things are done correctly, use the human way so you sleep better at night. Yes, you guessed right; I’m not a trusting soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I understand your desire to redeem points online. Talking on the phone involves a long wait, being transferred around, etc. That person should never have admitted the company does things like that and the company shouldn’t do things like that. Oh, bureaucracy…


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Elizabeth. I think the woman was trying to be helpful. I didn’t mention the company or the program because I don’t want to get the only person who tried to help in trouble. Sometimes, the individual people understand the customer better than the company,


  13. Giving an engineer an invoice is like . . . giving a monkey a hand grenade…the odds of it ending well are not great.”
    Aha! Dan! I can see how you view us! Although I can attest that any invoice will not end well in my hands. I never even see those things!
    Thanks, Dan!
    (I get lost much these days, but I still come back.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always good to see you Peter. Sorry about the engineer swipe (but it was an engineer in our company who first told me that). I’ve managed to lose receipts on the way home from the store, so I really don’t have room to talk.


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