Thursday, July 16, 2015
The Ruminations of a Grumpy Old Man
It’s not my job.
But we’ve always done it like that. Three lame excuses given by sorry employees working for subpar organizations; how I hate to hear any of those words when I am in need of help or direction. Unfortunately, I heard them all too often during my career as a Government employee. While attempting to unravel financial and legal issues during our recent family emergency, I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Government bureaucrats do not hold a monopoly on sloth or intransigence. Bad behavior can be found in banks, insurance companies, transfer account management, and the billing offices of hospitals. Thank heavens I had access to a good attorney and good accountants. The words, “I don’t know,” are fine if they are followed with the words, “But I will try to get you answer by (fill in the date).” In fact, I wish ministers of the gospel would use those words on a more frequent basis. The world would be a better place. It may really not be your job, but that is not an excuse. It is a reason to find out who in your organization is empowered to take care of this problem. If you know the answer the correct response might be, “You need to talk with our patent attorney, Joe Smith. Hang on a second and I will give you his contact information.” Or if you really don’t know, tell the customer, “I’m not sure, but I think I know who handles this sort of question. I will make a few calls. When I find the right person, I will give them your contact information. Then I will get back to you.” “But we’ve always done it that way,” Is a death sentence. There is nowhere to go once those words are spoken by a low level, disempowered slug. It is time to hang up the phone and try another approach. I have found the more impersonal the contact the more likely you are to hear these words spoken over your problem. 800 number service centers are often worthless, especially if there is no way to get back to the same employee with follow up phone calls. My experience with the IRS back when we first bought a house sent me running to our neighborhood CPA. I asked the same question to two different IRS agents and received totally different answers that didn’t match up with my understanding of the pertinent publication. But really? What can you expect from people stuffed into a cubicle farm (often in a country where English is a second language) earning low wages? Even if you have a business card in hand while sitting across the desk from a particular individual, there is no guarantee you won’t hear those hated words. During our family emergency I had to deal with numerous different banks. In some instances I had to interact with employees at multiple branches in different states as well as their central offices. I think I only lost it once. I was rude. I apologized. The person at the other end of my bad behavior told me that she was a wonderful employee who had gone far beyond the extra mile on my behalf. In fact on that particular day, she had managed to hit the trifecta. She used all three forbidden phrases during a single interaction. I don’t know.
It’s not my job.
But we’ve always done it like that. I note (not without some malicious satisfaction) that particular branch of that particular organization has since ceased operations. I wonder why? If you find yourself using any of these sentences, repent. If you are dealing with an organization that frequently resorts to any of these ploys, take your money and your business elsewhere. If you can’t avoid dealing with the organization in question, keep trying until you find someone who knows what they are doing, then praise her and thank her at every opportunity. Who knows, maybe she will give you the number to her direct extension.