Here's the weekly Ward's World column, written by John Ward...
I have recently had a run-in with somebody in a company customer services section via telephone that killed nearly half an hour of my life that I won’t get back, possibly much like the item I was calling them about.
I had returned an item as it was faulty but it ‘wasn’t on their system’ now said my faceless wonder-child called Alison and a possible contender for the Brain of Britain competition as I realised it was going to be hard work.
I had a brand new, but faulty item, rang the company concerned who supplied it and who had taken my bag of conkers (the cash bit) in exchange for it, so I was asked to return said item via their own specified, ‘reliable’ courier service.
It was signed for on pick-up, bar coded and zapped as being so and apart from giving my blood and DNA samples to go with it, that’s about it but since then over an amazing period - three weeks in Earth time - nothing has happened.
In this time I could have walked there to ask them to remedy the problem but thinking of the roadworks and potholes along the way (my “Observers Book of UK Potholes” is away at the moment being updated with a few more pages) thought better so had used their ‘specified courier service’ instead.
She surveyed her screen, checked it through each stage of the process as after a few minutes of mumbling, she declared that my parcel - also known by its stage name of ‘the consignment’ donchca jolly know - had been received, and validated and is in the ‘disenfranchisement section’ (? - nope, me neither) so great whoopee and joy then.
Well not quite as Alison had spotted a note on her screen that said she should click on another note, not to be confused with the previous note, and then proceed to the ‘current status’ of the item, nee ‘the consignment’ or formally known as my parcel was now temporarily, er, lost.
I said this could not be so - we are now all digital she herself had told me earlier in this verbal interlude to which she ‘assured’ me this was a minor glitch - I dreaded to think what a major size glitch might take the form of - as she added, reassuringly, it ‘happens all the time’!
One wonderful nugget she did say was ‘this really should not happen as we are all (yes, yes I know) digital and this sort of thing can’t happen’ - I muttered ‘wrong!’ rather low key in response to that piece of rip roaring observation.
I must admit to having been on the receiving end of customer confrontational moments in the past when I worked in the retail tyre business years ago as high comedy came in various forms that never failed to entertain at the best - and worst - of times.
Somebody came in to see us as he announced his arrival with a wonderful bellow that went something like, at the top of his voice: ‘Oy! - I want to have a word with you lot!’ as we turned to see somebody wandering over to us with what looked like a lorry medium size tyre he was ‘rolling’ along with, but something looked odd about it.
As he came near it was obvious he was rolling what looked like the shell (casing) of a tyre but in his other hand was the actual rubber tread (the knobbly bit) which looked in reasonable condition, all things considered, as it would normally live on the said shell or casing then on a wheel.
‘Well - what have you to say to that then?!’ which made me wonder: did he want me to speak to it, but not having been formally introduced to the said object lying on the floor in front of me I opted for asking him what the problem was - being diplomatic is a knack I sometimes use.
Mr Angry stared at me, then at the thingy on the floor then back at me as he then elaborated: ‘Can’t you xxxxxxly well see! - it’s rubbish! - this was on the lorry my son was driving and the tread shot off as he braked at a junction! - he could have been killed, he could! - ended up dead!’ which would seem about the right sort of outcome if he had been killed I thought.
I replied that it was indeed a serious situation as Mr Angry then did his eyeball to eyeball confrontation party piece as he spoke: ‘So! - what are you going to do about it! - we could sue you lot for millions!’
The customer I was dealing with was by now a few yards off, having backed away as I looked down at the tyre: it was a remould, nothing unusual about that as a lot of our commercial customers then ran their vehicles on them, indeed had their own casings that were bought as new tyres then we used to send them to be remoulded when the tread was worn down.
However this was a badly remoulded tyre as Mr Angry then shouted: ‘Well! - what are you going to do about it then?!’ as I looked at him, eyeball to eyeball, as I said ‘Well, nothing to be honest as it didn’t come from here - it‘s a brand sold by our competitor on the other side of town’.
Mr Angry went silent as he asked meekly if I was sure as I said quite certain and I offered to show him our stock as he wouldn’t find that brand there which was followed up with: ‘Well, my son usually gets bits like tyres and stuff but I thought it came from here’ as he picked up his tyre parts as his departure was more subdued - and quieter - than his approach.
Thankfully we weren’t digital then otherwise it could have ended up wherever.
No sooner had I written the above, Alison rang to update me: it was now on its way back to them from Cardiff as it had been sent to a customer there, so it seems to be clocking up more miles than Sir Michael Palin on his television global travels.