goodbye, nugget.

Today I came home from two weeks away and a plant was dead. Or mostly dead. Either way, it was dry and brittle and shedding its tiny leaves with abandon. But I literally can’t keep a plant alive–am known for my anti-green thumb. So why care about this plant? One month ago, Fang left my life. And this damn bonsai tree was given to me to honor his loss. While I try to soak its roots and encourage it to drink, it still makes me feel like a failure twice over.

Fang was with me for six years. My best friend. Sometimes it felt like, my only friend. He was my reason for getting up and out on the weekends. My go-to for a nap buddy. He got me through mortar attacks, breakups, hangovers, birthdays, depression. Life. He was who I would grip when a loud noise would startle and disorient me into thinking we were back in a conflict zone. Probably, I provided similar comfort. The trainers I hired to work with him and I, both said that dogs experience a type of PTSD. Whatever you want to call it, we are all a product of our environment in some way. He was no different.

Fang was wild and sweet and beautiful and scarily intelligent. I’m not saying I’m all of those things. But I do think there is something to dogs possessing similar traits to their humans. When I was anxious, he was anxious. When I was calm, he was calm. Thus, he made me try to be the best me so that he could be the best him. In the end, either his or my best just wasn’t good enough. I made the hardest decision I have ever made in my life.  I said goodbye.

I don’t regret things. I just don’t. I weigh my decisions and actions and accept the consequences of such. There is no place for regret. That does not mean, however, that there isn’t a place for grief. Sadness. Anger. The depths of loss. The shock of an empty house. And the absolute fucking stupidity of a dead plant. From experience, I know these things will dull with time. I will remember the cute and loving moments. The times when Fang’s seeming capacity for empathy literally saved me from myself. For now, I’m just going to continue misting the bonsai and hoping I can do better.

 

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customer service: love or rage?

Let’s talk about Customer Service. As a consumer, you know good customer service when you experience it, like love, you know when you’re in love even if you may not be able to quite explain why you love someone. You just do. They meet all your needs, are respectful of your wishes, and give you the indescribable warm and fuzzies. The converse is true. If you’re like me, bad customer service, with a capital B-A-D may at first frustrate and annoy you, and then inevitably escalates to the type of rage only born by repeatedly beating one’s head against a particularly insulting wall. Just Google search (Comcast + Grandma + Hammer) to see what I’m talking about. That woman may be my hero.

Over the past week or so, twice I have been violated in ways that have significant financial and security implications. First my Amex was taken on a $6,000 shopping spree at a Sears Roebuck in Jersey. On what does one even spend six thousand dollars at Sears?? Secondly, on Wednesday night, while I was eating tots in Falls Church, someone stole five packages off my front doorstep. Not two weeks after Fang left us and the neighborhood has turned against me.

Both of these incidents warranted many phone calls to more than a handful of companies in order to rectify the wrongs done to me. Each interaction ended in varying degrees of success. Each company handled my concerns with grace and understanding somewhere on the Love-Rage spectrum of customer service. I have decided to grade them all based on my own customer satisfaction.

The joke is that every time I use my credit card enough to remember the sixteen digits, expiration date and security code, that is about the time that it is stolen and I have to get a new one issued. Tis the age of data and credit theft, no matter what the banking institutitions and CISSP experts do to counter the cyber threat, it happens. The loss of my Amex to a laughable Sears-shopper does not really phase me. I got text and email alerts from USAA the moment it happened (of course I didn’t get those alerts until 4 pm when I left work) and I was able to call and cancel the card on the same day. Anyone else who uses USAA knows that they are customer service MASTERS. No matter what the situation, they respond promptly, with compassion and gratitude. It is the nature of a company that serves those who serve their country.

In this case, the same day I called, the Fraud Folk cancelled my old card and issued me a new one. To be delivered today, in fact. The Fraud Folk also assured me that all six fraudulent charges would be credited back to me one day after they hit my account. Thursday night, after the theft ridiculousness, I got the feeling I should check my USAA account and make sure all was well. It was not. They had credited me back only one of six bogus charges. When I tried to call back and ask Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I discovered the Fraud Folk only work Monday through Friday, eight to six. Seriously. So I called back Friday morning. Spoke to someone who told me I needed to sign some affidavits first which had been mailed a few days prior, before they would credit the rest of the charges. I asked for said affidavits to be emailed to me immediately to speed up this process no one had thought to mention since my initial call. Friday evening after work, it is clear they have taken no action. No affidavits. No credits. So I call the Fraud Folk again. The woman on the phone this time seems to be quite surprised that no action has been taken, and taking pity on me, grabs a Fraud Analyst who I think is on his way out the door (in my head, I’m picturing at knife-point) and voila! Credits will be evident in 24 hours. USAA: C+

About that replacement Amex that I’m expecting today. USAA sent me an email with a tracking number for the replacement card. Clicking the link takes me to the good ole’ United States Postal Service. I remember that USPS had done me the good favor of “upgrading” my account to something called MyUSPS. This is supposed to be some next-level customer portal with increased utility. I’m guessing. Logging into MyUSPS, I’m hoping to click a button to have the USAA package held at my lost post office (I’ve been having some trouble with mail delivery of late…). Woohoo! There is a button. But then it tells me there is a fee to hold at the post office and that I need to checkout my cart. Weird. But I click that button and am given repeated error messages. So much for this shiny new attempt by USPS to join the modern world. I eventually got it to work after logging in on my laptop vice my phone. USPS: C-

As to the four companies I called to see about getting credit or a replacement. In descending order of love, or ascending order of rage–however you want to look at it.

Amazon: A+

The only reason I knew to call Amazon is because UPS told me that a package had been left at my door from them. I figured it must have been a gift because for once, I was not actually expecting anything from the online market giant. Easy to use online system that let me request an immediate phone call. No kidding, took all of two minutes to get someone on the phone. No searching for customer service numbers. No automated answering system and endless “Say what this call is about” or “Press 3 now” or “I didn’t get that. Please try again.” Nope, just a human being. When she told me that the package was a bonsai tree from someone named Stephanie, I immediately understood that 1) my dog sitter had sent me a lovely, thoughtful gift to help me mourn for Fang, and 2) that some jackass had taken it. All I asked this Amazon angel for was if she could recreate the card. Instead, she issued a replacement bonsai with the original card, and empathized with my loss. It was amazing.

Overstock: B

Main issue with Overstock is that while the dude on the phone was very pleasant and understanding, Overstock has a policy which states that they will wait four business days while “investigating” before they will issue credit or a replacement for a missing order. When I called back after two business days and a weekend to ask if there was anything I could do to get my cool-gel-memory-foam pillow….I woke up with a crooked neck…the nice lady released my replacement. Yippee!

DayDesigner: C+

As part of my campaign to take over my own life, I researched the best day planners and decided on a Whitney English Day Designer planner. This thing is a work of art. Has monthly and weekly planning pages, as you’d expect, as well as a place to list out my daily gratitudes, top three concerns, and dinner planning. For $62, this thing is going to be my 2016 bible. And it was freaking not there when I was all set to spend an evening prepping it! My complaints, their website lists NO PHONE NUMBER. None! They have a email form on the site but we all know the longer you leave these things to fester, the less fantastic they get. So I tweeted at them. Yes, I will unleash a social media storm if you leave me no other choice. Twenty minutes later, I get an email back with a link to the USPS tracking saying it was delivered and wishing me a nice night. Read your emails and try to discern the problem. Four email exchanges later, they shipped out a replacement and offered me printable planning pages while I wait.

J.crew: D-

It is no joke, J.crew autocorrects to “screw” on my laptop. Yep, accurate. J.crew is now the ONLY company that has not replaced my order. They are waiting until eight business days from my order until they will “investigate”. Same issue I have with Overstock: companies operating on the assumption that a customer is trying to screw them over. I’m really not, I just want my new silver flats and puffy vest. Which I was going to wear to work on Friday. And which may not be available to re-ship on Monday since they were on sale.

Final thoughts: working in customer service, I know it can be difficult to take the time to be a compassionate listener, ensuring the needs of your customers are met to the best of your abilities, with expediency and care. Nothing ruins the customer experience more than the condescension, mistrust, laziness or indifference of a bad customer service rep. Beware, companies go wrong with poor user interfaces, bug-y websites, phone systems that just throw up roadblocks and denying access to a human. These top the list of electronic failures. On the other hand, all you need to grab me as a loyal, life-long customer, is to listen and respond with care when I’m crying on the phone about a lost bonsai tree.

 

P.S. I’m writing about customer service because I’m not ready to write about that other thing just yet.