Laugh long and prosper

“Oh, and you earned a gas discount, too!” exclaimed the cashier, handing me my receipt.

I told her I had no idea how it works, and she said that because I’d spent one million dollars at AngelShopper, if I brought my AngelShopper Card over to Angelborough Gas, I could get a thirty cent discount. “It’s full-serve, too, so you don’t even have to get out of your car.”

So I popped over to Angel Gas, and an attendant came out to the car: they were out of regular, was it okay to go up one grade? Sure, to save thirty cents a gallon, I’d do that, since the differential was only ten cents. She then pumped precisely three tenths of a gallon, and the pump shut off.

Ah. They’d also run out of mid-grade. I said that was fine because I still had four gallons in the tank, and I’d return later.

But on the way to Mom Prayer Group, I passed another gas station in the chain, and I pulled in there to use my discount. Except that for fifteen gallons, I only got discounted ninety cents.

My math is rusty, but six cents a gallon is less than thirty cents a gallon. I asked what had happened, and the attendant earned her Apathy Coalition membership by handing me a business card with a phone number. “They handle all that.”

Once home, I called, gave my AngelShopper Buys Too Much Stuff number, and the customer service rep started laughing. Because apparently the computer had no idea what to make of my first sixty-five cent purchase, and had applied twenty-four cents of my thirty cent per gallon credit toward the botched attempt at filling up my car.

I just started laughing, because suddenly it made perfect sense, and you should know that once I start laughing on the phone (partially because of my telephone anxiety) I take off like a stand-up comedian. I had her in stitches, I was in stitches, and we figured out how to operate my card correctly in the future. I was armed with a Better Reward Card from these folks (well, it’ll arrive in two weeks, but which I can run directly at the pumps) and she gave me information about other Fine Purveyors Of Stuff who will also participate in this gas rebate goodness. The CSR also gave me my own personal PIN for using their website. Ready for this? It’s A-B-C-D-E-F-G. No, really.

By the end, I had to go get my kids from the school bus, so I thanked her for explaining a ridiculously simple gas rebate program to the terminally stupid. She exclaimed, “Wait! There’s one more thing.”

“What?” I said, figuring there was some other trick I needed to know.

She said, “Since you made me laugh, I’m going to re-credit your thirty cents.”

Isn’t that neat? I thought I was getting four dollars worth of entertainment just from laughing at the computer SNAFU, but it turns out, now I get my four bucks in gas as well.

Laugh long, and prosper. It’s better than getting frustrated.


  1. Ivy

    You see, the attendant has dealt with Crazy Client and fears encountering another such. The lady on the phone had no choice but take the risk, and was relieved to find a witty, intelligent human being to talk to. Once you’ve spoken to Crazy Client, you will never be the same again.

    From yesterday. I should preface this by saying CC is a technician and that this happened over the phone.

    Me: When you create a new account, you have to use the wizard to have the default settings applied automatically. If you use the form, you need to set the options.
    CC: So we use the wizard?
    Me: Right.
    CC: So we should not the form?
    Me: Exactly.
    CC: So let me make sure, if we use the wizard, we can get the options set automatically, but if we use the form we have to set them ourselves?
    Me: Right.
    CC: For every account?
    Me: Right.
    CC: So I should use the wizard?
    Me: Unless you want to override the defaults, yes.
    CC: I don’t understand. So you’re saying if we use the form we won’t get the default settings applied automatically.
    Me: Right. It lets you set things up the way you want. The wizard sets them automatically. You can choose which you prefer.
    CC: Oh, so we can do it either way?
    Me: (gathering some straws) Right.
    CC: And if we do it with the form, we need to set it for every client?
    Me: (making the straws nice and even) Exactly.
    CC: But we don’t have to if we use the wizard?
    Me: That’s correct.
    CC: Well that’s confusing. I guess they might accept it, but it’s hard to use. Okay, so I’m looking at the form wizard in IE, how do I see the bottom of the page?
    Ivy: Use the scroll bar to scroll down.
    CC: What’s a scroll bar?
    Ivy (mimes seppuku with the straws)

    1. philangelus

      But that’s not a customer getting angry at you because computers can’t tell him the upcoming lottery numbers or because he needs to type his name rather than say it. You were just dealing with an especially dense customer.

      I fail to see, for the most part, why it helps anyone to come into one of these conversations with guns blazing. Once we figured out the problem, it was clearly a computer mistake because no one ever thought “Hey, an attendant might get a quarter gallon of gas and lose the client her discount.” 🙂 Then it was funny. It might not have been funny had there been more than four dollars at stake, but even then, it seems as if venting anger at the CSR wouldn’t help matters.

      I tend to think I am a Crazy Client, only I’m crazy in a fun way.

      1. Ivy

        It wouldn’t help, but some people don’t know how to modulate. Either they go in ready for a fight or they let the csr hand them nonsense. I start cheerful and build if I must, but I prepare my case in advance.

        I remember calling Cablevision for something where I really thought I’d be in for a fight. I spent half an hour getting my points written down and in order, but as soon as I explained the problem to the rep, she said, “Can I put you on hold for a minute?” Then she came back, “Okay, it’s taken care of.”

        Sadly, I have fielded client calls like:
        “I’m trying to configure a new workstation. What’s my database server name?”
        “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask your DBA.”
        “I am the DBA.”

        We used to run our search over a modem, back before the Internet went mainstream. The Attorney General’s office got rid of their modems, so they couldn’t search. They’d call to ask why the search wasn’t working. I’d say they needed a modem. They’d tell me they were the AG’s office, because clearly I wasn’t impressed enough at how important they were to really help them. I told them they still needed a modem.

        The manager of the department called. I explained the modem. He explained how important he was.

        His manager called to tell me how truly important he was and how we needed to get this working. I told him he needed a modem and it would work.

        The IT director called to tell me how supremely important he was and how urgent it was that I do what was needed to get things working. I told him he needed a modem. He called my boss, and my boss’s boss, and they both told him he needed a modem.

        The A.G. (this was Eliot Spitzer) called and he expressed concern that this critical service wasn’t working. I explained the whole modem thing to him. He said, “Oh, all right. Thanks.” and had a modem set up for them. I think they still believe it only started working, not because the correct hardware was pup in place, but because he called personally.

        1. cricketB

          Reminds me of this one. (Yes, urban myth, but there’s a reason we keep hearing it.)

          ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.

          Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”

          Canadians: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”

          Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”

          Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”


          Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”