Would still choose “rich” but “famous” helps

So a few weeks ago I arranged to have a parcel shipped to me, overnight, via UPS. Warp Graphics has an account with them, and I used the most expensive of the next-day options, because I wanted this package in hand no later than the 10:30 am guaranteed delivery time.

I began waiting in the driveway about quarter after ten. Ten-thirty came and went. I began to fume, something I do well. Finally, close to eleven, the driver showed up, handed me the package, did the little trick with her hand-held scanner, and drove off. In the rush of finally getting the package, I neglected to say anything about it being late, but (trusting sort that I am) I figured “Well, it was scanned late, so I won’t get billed.”


A few days later when I went online to check the Warp account, I saw the the parcel had been delivered “on time, scanned in at 10:29 am.” Internal fireworks ensued. (Often, I don’t care if something is delivered a little late. It’s not that big a deal. But as I’d paid a big chunk to have this shipment get to me chop-chop, I was peeved. Big time.)

I called UPS. I like to try calm reason first, whatever my actual mood may be. Often, it helps. I told the agent that the parcel had not, in fact, been delivered when the driver reported it, but was late, so I wanted a reversal of the charge. The agent (reasonably) said that the scan showed it was delivered on time. I replied that I was aware of this, but I had been there, had personally taken possession of the package, and it was late. I hesitated to come right out and say “The driver lied!” because, well, I don’t know for a fact that’s what happened, even though I was willing to entertain the notion that she pre-scanned all her “deliver by 10:30 am” items so her record wouldn’t look bad. After going round and round with the agent at UPS central, I was told that I would receive a call from the local dispatch center within the hour, I could explain things to them, and they would “take care of me.”

If ever you hear those words – “they’ll take care of you” – run away.

Two days later, I hadn’t heard a thing so I called the central number again, went through all the same hoops again (they had no record of my previous call), and was told – again – I’d get a call from local within the hour. This time, I actually did. Explained it all a third time, to an agent who was as unbelieving as the previous ones. “Well, the scan shows…” “I know what the scan shows, I’m telling you I was there, with a co-worker who witnessed the entire thing!” (I made up the co-worker part. When you’re on the phone with drones, you create the weapons you need to help your case.) No joy.

I then went to the UPS web site, logged into the Warp account and found the “contact us” page. And contact them I did. I was not nasty or abusive, but after 30 years in business, I know how to write a “this is what happened, I am not a happy customer” letter that’ll freeze water at thirty paces. I finally got a phone call from an upper-level type at the local station who told me that he was real sorry for the runaround, it was “possible” the driver had pre-scanned the shipment, and he’d put in for a charge reversal right away. Hooah! Victory!

So I thought.

Now it’s three weeks later, I’ve just gotten the most recent account statment and the charge is still there. Ohhh-kay, that’s how this is going to go, eh? Got on the phone again to UPS central. Don’t you just love those automated, voice-activated menus? Here’s a trick: When you’re on the voice menu merry-go-round, don’t bother with listening to all the extraneous stuff that you don’t want. Just say, clearly, “agent” or “operator” at the first prompt. Keep saying it until you hear “I’ll connect you to an agent now.” Most of these systems have that option; they just don’t tell you about it.

Nice lady human voice picked up on the other end. “How may I help you?” So, calmly, I did the song and dance again. She asked for the account number, and I gave it to her. “Is this Warp Graphics?” I said it was. “And am I speaking to Richard Pini?” (As president of the company, my name is on the account.) I said that’s correct.

Pause. “Oh! My! God!” Followed by only slightly hysterical giggles.

You might be able to guess what had happened. In my years of running a business and dealing a lot with various tech support issues, I’ve called up many people and gotten the “oh my god” response when I say who I am. Turns out a lot of techie types are also science fiction or fantasy or video game types, and there’s enough crossover that there’s a chance someone’s heard of Elfquest. It’s always gratifying when a voice completely unknown on the other end of the line says “I’ve been a fan since…” And the process I originally phoned about magically gets smoother. But this was UPS, for crying out loud. Big, anonymous, bureaucratic red-tape-generating corporations don’t get much more faceless than this. And yet, the very nice lady on the phone was going on and on about how she and her husband had been reading since 1984, and how they’d played the role-playing game just recently, and how they’d almost named their daughter “Ember.” I was grinning like a hyena. Way to turn a bad-mood, rainy-morning Friday into a Very Satisfying Experience!

She asked if I’d mind going on hold for just a minute or two, and I said that’d be fine. When she came back she reported she’d taken care of it, the charge was reversed, and did I need anything else? She did confess, after I’d thanked her and said she’d made the accountant’s – who is also me – day, that she’d run to her supervisor and begged please please please to allow her to immediately put the reversal through because she had ***Richard Pini*** on the line and there were these comic books she loves and, and, and. (Folks who know me, know I’m not the sort to toot my own horn a lot. But I swear I did hear her put stars around my name when she said it. I’m still chuckling about that.)

Sometimes people ask, “If you couldn’t have both, which would you rather be, rich or famous?” Shoot, I’m no dope. Deposit the moolah into my account and I’ll live very happily in comfortable obscurity. In the meantime, though, it does help to have a bit of fame in the world. It’s always an uplifting experience to talk to a customer service rep or tech support agent and suddenly be able to have a pleasant conversation instead of a barely-contained confrontation.

Chalk another one up on the “blessings to count” side.