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Sing With Me If It's Just For Today...
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
Hands free
It was supposed to spontaneous and very simple but it’s turned into an odd showdown played out in the shadows of email. Yesterday, I ordered Bob Woodward’s new book for my father. He has already received Richard Clarke’s tell-all and Paul O’Neill’s book from me for his birthday, and I jump at any chance to send him something enlightening on his hero, George. He dismissed both as books written by disgruntled employees or some other fun fact he picked up from Rush but he had to respect Woodward, though, right? Whatever. It’s beside the point.

I clicked too soon. Premature ejacuclick. I went to a vendor on the Amazon page and before I thought to change the address to which it should be sent, my father’s apartment, I clicked Place Order. The default is my home in Venice. I would over-estimate if I said I waited more than thirty seconds to rectify the mistake. I immediately emailed the online store and told them the situation. And just as immediate was the auto-response touting we ship instantly so we can’t modify or cancel any order, and there was no human intervention.

Really?, I thought, curious about the pride with which human intervention was avoided, and determined they would make an exception for me. I fired off my first email:

To Whom It May Concern:
While your auto-reply is very efficient, and the no-human-hands thing is fun and Orwellian, I still need to change the shipping address to my order. If I cannot do this, please let me know immediately.

Either I want to be able to change my address or get a full refund at which point I will re-order to the right address. If neither of these things can be accomplished because of your super efficiency, I'll take other avenues to get satisfaction.

Thank you from a new but irritated customer.


I made some calls and a few moments later, I received this reply:

First I would like to say what a well written email you just sent and that I was tickled to read it… It makes me sorry that I don’t have a good solution for you. I am not trying to make light of the situation, but just to complement you on your writing style. The problem is that our fully automated, instant shipping, system makes it nearly impossible to make modifications to your order once you have finalized your purchase.

Oooo-kay. I mean, a compliment will get you everywhere, and while his email droned on for two pages explaining this bold step into automation, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I had to return the email:

Dear Customer Service,
While I'm thrilled you enjoyed my email but it does not, however, solve my problem.

I wanted to rush this book to my father, a diehard Republican, in hopes more information would halt his lockstep toward another vote for Bush.

It's now being sent to my home in Venice, California where I have tenants renting my house who absolutely hate me. I'll never see the book nor will my dad.

I'm afraid I can't subscribe to an efficiency that does not involve a human touch, especially when it comes to "customer service." What exactly do you do if not help out customers, and if that option has been taken away, then what's left?

I won't blame you for another vote for Bush but come November and he takes office again, I'll certainly remember you.


This morning when I came in and logged on, I received this:

Thanks for more fun banter… My days are filled with a lot of boring emails… but I continue to enjoy your writing style and wish even more that I could do something to get back a book that has already shipped.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

So, To Whom It May Concern is named Dave, is he? Poor poor bored but increasingly sweet Dave. I wrote back and told Dave I would use the opportunity improve my relationship with my tenants and then I thanked him for his time. He thanked me back for a fun day and suggested that, in the future, I deal directly with them as a vendor and skip that whole pesky Amazon process.

You see? If you dig deep enough, there is human intervention left in the world, after all.
11 comments or Leave a comment
quuf From: quuf Date: April 20th, 2004 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mike Daisey wrote a very funny book, 21 Dog Years, about the time he spent at Amazon in customer service.

I'd send you the Amazon link, but I daresay I'm a little conflicted. ;)
snidegrrl From: snidegrrl Date: April 20th, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Who is Dave's boss?
ruralrob From: ruralrob Date: April 20th, 2004 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dave sounds like a fun guy. Either that or he has absoluutely no life whatsoever. Anyway, he's working for the wrong firm. He would be better in a real job.

I suspect the story is not that the book couldn't be retrieved before being mailed out, but retrieving it would take a bit of time and effort. (Which is virtually the same thing at their firm.)
wonderboynj From: wonderboynj Date: April 20th, 2004 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
How could "anybody" hate you??
ubermunkey From: ubermunkey Date: April 20th, 2004 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
corporate whores in the land of the automaton.

so this is the scene that I get in my head upon reading your entry. A lonely little fellow with bad teeth and horrible glasses, sitting at a desk in poor lighting with no windows. A rank little room that isn't even a real part of the other building, instead it is more of the stepsister box out back. Here poor Dave lives a life of mind numbing boredom where he often fantasizes of himself as the hero in leather jock and plaid tartan kilt, running full tilt to the rescue of every woofy man in distress. Alas the reality is the bean counters up top have calculated the profit loss margin for the corporate report down to the millionth point, and if Dave were to intervene at all, even once, he'd create an imbalance in the system, causing nearly immediate self destruction.

wow no more coffee for me after 3:00pm.

sorry bub, thems the breaks.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: April 21st, 2004 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Um, Connor? Can I borrow your imagination for a few hours? I especially appreciate the detail of the leather jock because, you know, most customer service people wear those under the customer service kilts.
(Deleted comment)
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: April 21st, 2004 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: How my we not help you?

You're right, of course. When shopping for body parts, it's advisable to avoid those online services.
fabulist From: fabulist Date: April 21st, 2004 12:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey, if the writing workshop doesn't pan out, you could just harangue customer service drones for critical feedback. Sounds like a plan to me.
shawnsyms From: shawnsyms Date: April 24th, 2004 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Speaking of birthdays, I hope that you have a very nice one.

guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: April 25th, 2004 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you very much, S., and I did have a terrific birthday.
shawnsyms From: shawnsyms Date: April 25th, 2004 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
11 comments or Leave a comment