Finding the Hat

The hat can never be finished, Steven. Then what would we all write about?

I salivate. It sits in shipping.

I just completed my order of Finishing the Hat and I eagerly await its arrival at my door, though it may be stolen by bandits in between. It’s pretty much required reading now, I think.

I used to work in shipping. I troubleshot for Best Buy Dot Com. They insisted you called it Best Buy Dot Com, not Best Buy or Best Buy online as any normal company would now. No, this was 1997, and the only thing anyone knew about the web was that you could make a bajillion dollars with it.

So I worked for Best Buy Dot Com. I troubleshot shipping. People ordered stuff online. Sometimes it went to the wrong place. If it did, I got it back to where it was supposed to go.

Best Buy had subcontracted with hundreds of individual shipping companies in those days. Orders could be fulfilled by anyone from UPS to Bob’s Rural Trucking.

Sometimes I just had to call FedEx and get them to reimburse insurance on a lost package. Those were the easy ones.

But sometimes.


Let’s watch customer service in action.

Peggi is forwarded to me from the call queue. She is a sweet little lady from Palo Alto, CA who has lost her treadmill. Can I please find it for her? Of course I can.

Call me back any time. Here is my phone number and my extenstion.


I have a phone.

It’s a human right to have a phone these days, but if you worked in customer service in 1997, you did not own a phone, even though you spent all day talking on one and no one else ever used it.

That is the company’s phone. And the company says that no one can call you on it. You cannot give out your extension to anyone. If someone calls you directly, transfer them to the main customer service line.

Under no circumstances are you to use that phone for personal business.

You have been denied a human right. Welcome to fourteen dollars an hour.

But me. I have a number. If you are a customer with a problem: “Hey, here’s my extension, you can call me any time, and hey, I’ll tell you my hours, any time you call me within those hours, I will answer the phone and answer you. And I promise you I will fix this. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to fix this, because this is kind of a weird case with your treadmill up in Albany, and Jim Jefferson, oh yeah, this guy Jim Jefferson in Albany, by the way, he got your treadmill, can you believe it?”

Tell them some gossip. It makes them feel like an insider. They like it. This is customer service.

So once Peggi Treadmill of Palo Alto is satisfied that I’m solving her little problem like a big man, I have to look up what damn company is responsible for delivering her treadmill to Albany even though the order form which I am looking at a fax of from the shipping manager says damn well that she lives in Palo Alto, CA.

This is all because Best Buy Dot Com decided to shave a few dollars off of their cost by hiring tiny delivery companies to deliver their products, instead of more sensibly sending everything Fed Express or even via the U.S. Postal Service.

The U.S. Postal Service, by the way, is a very under-rated delivery vector, in my opinion. Use it. It will save you money and it’s usually more reliable. At least it used to be, when I did this, ten years ago.

So. I guess: compare rates before you ship, because you might find something that suprises you.

That’s my little tip for the day.

Back to the story about me working for Best Buy Dot Com.

There’s a big list of companies that might be responsible for this mess, and they pretty much assign orders at random, so I have to call each of those companies and ask for the boss until I found the one that did it.

I really only speak to the bosses. This is Best Buy Dot Com’s money, not mine. Don’t waste Best Buy Dot Com’s money.

So I find out who messed up the delivery. I don’t chastise them, I don’t care, I just want them to fix it. They fix it. It’s fixed. Right? I don’t have to call back? I don’t want to call back but I will and I will waste your time until you fix it, so fix it, ok?

That’s how you do business in Minnesota. Be as passively aggressive as you can be. That’s the language out there. It kind of drove me crazy.

I call Peggi back to flirt with her again.

Me: “Peggi? Peggi, is that you? It’s me, Jason, from Best Buy Dot Com. I just wanted to let you know that we found your package and that we are shipping it to you right now. And Peggi, let me tell you about this. Your package flew like up and down and all around the country and it went in like thirty crazy places, but I found it. I found it, Peggi! It was way up in Albany, NY, can you believe it? Oh-my-god it was sitting in Jim Jefferson’s driveway, and do you know what, his TV was in someone else’s house all the way in Georgia. Do you believe that? Well it’s coming back to you super-speedy now because we’re sorry we messed up and we’re getting it to you absolutely as quickly as possible, and we are super-sorry for the mess up and hey, can I give you a $25 gift card for the trouble?”

That’s how you make people happy. That’s customer service.

People say “Super” a lot in Minnesota. It’s kind of weird.

I’m looking forward to the book arriving.

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One Response to Finding the Hat

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