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Sunday, May 15, 2016


I try not to categorize days, weeks, or months in sentences that begin, "I knew it was going to be one of those ....", but after the third phone call from an automated voice, letting me know that a 'friend' or neighbour had suggested that I would benefit from a device that makes it safe for seniors or infirm,  to live alone without fear of being trapped or 'left alone for days', after a fall, or illness, I started to wonder.  

Automated phone calls are not indigenous to Austin, nor Texas, but the amount I received in one day exceeded the quota I usually expect for a week!  I was delighted when, at midday on Monday, I finally received a call from another human being!  I could only surmise that it was my area code that was 'it' for the week!  

Although I am assured that the voices are 'real people' and am questioned by a very robotic sounding voice, "Do I sound that bad?", I am not convinced that there is a human on the other end of the line.  Automatic responses appear to be the only response not only on the telephone, but in most areas.

After receiving several more automated calls, letting me know that I had been approved for a small business loan, (for which I do not recall filling out an application,) that I had won a cruise, (for a competition that I did not enter, albeit surprisingly!) and that there was a solution to my college debt, (considering I am eligible for a seniors device, I am surprised they can remember that far back!) the day had progressed through to lunch time.  Samantha and I went for our daily constitutional, were treated to a relatively small taster from the cook at the supermarket, and headed back for lunch proper at the office.  I was somewhat disappointed to find that my pack of tomatoes which I had purchased at one of the large warehouses the previous weekend, were less than edible.  Although the top few pieces of fruit appeared to be fresh, the middle of the pack told a completely different story.

Automated telephone voices are not only irritating when received. Attempting to call the warehouse to report the incident placed me in a queue to talk to another robot.  Their attempt to streamline their own business, and be more efficient in directing you to the 'correct' person, caused me to be less than efficient in my own job, as I was spending too much time deciphering which department I needed. Did I want to discuss my current order?  Did I want to discuss a past order?  Did I want to discuss a future order?  The answer to all three were negative, so I then had to press another number on the keyboard to see if the next set of options were to my liking.  I do not think they had an selection for 'rotten tomatoes'.  I decided that continuing to hold, repeating the word, "No", every so many minutes, as nothing applied, was a waste of time, so I terminated the call and went to the next option.  Email!  

The afternoon was speeding past very quickly.  The storms that had been on the horizon had come and gone, and the next lot were looming.  Work prevented me from completing the task of reporting the incident of the red fruit until another time.

Apparently, Tuesday was the day that I was on the list to be offered a free home security unit.  Someone who worked for the company that were the 'best' was in my neighbourhood, and would be only too pleased to come and chat to me about installing this state of the art equipment, and all I would have to do was place a stick with their name emblazoned upon it, in my front yard!  I did not press '1' to be put through to an operator, no matter how tempting the offer, as I was still rather pre-occupied with finding the so called friend who had decided I was 'infirm', and would benefit from a device for seniors!  

The e-mail pertaining to the rotten tomatoes was finally dispatched on Wednesday.  It was not as simple a task as I had hoped, as my options were limited.  Did I want to email regarding my current order?  Did I want to email regarding a past order?  Did I want to email regarding a future order?  The options were not completely appropriate, but when the alternatives were discussing my membership, insurance coverage or opening hours, I decided my 'current order' was the best choice!

Having a couple of hundred characters, not words, in which to complete my question, was rather restricting.  Anyone who knows me, or indeed whom reads my posts, understands that I never use one word when a sentence, or paragraph will suffice!  How could I explain in two hundred characters or less, how dissatisfied I was with the product currently in my possession.  How could I let them know that whilst merrily preparing my lunch on Monday, imagine my astonishment, that when no sooner I tore off the plastic strip that covered the bright red, succulent looking tomatoes, under the printed cover, did I find that th .  Even a robot would have trouble replying with anything but "Huh?"  However, I managed to whittle the message down to a version that read similar to, "Bought tomatoes at weekend. Top lot looked ok. Underneath all rotting. What are you going to do abo ", and hoped they would understand.

After dealing with Elizabeth from home security, Bob from Cruiseline, and someone whom I do not remember their name, nor their company, I received an email from the warehouse.  In the 'personal' response, from someone who put their name at the bottom of the page, I was told that if I was not happy with the product, I should return it to the warehouse, on my next visit, with my receipt, and they would exchange it for a new one!  My reply was polite, but this time I was not restricted to the amount of letters.  Firstly, I asked whether they had read my message. Whilst I understood it may be difficult to judge the severity of the problem in less than two hundred characters, perhaps the words, 'tomatoes', and 'rotting', indicated that it would not be a viable proposition to keep them until I next visited their establishment, and I was not sure that I kept my receipt as all the items purchased were perishable, and therefore, not really subject to 'exchange'.  

After the flurry of calls from robots the following morning, that were now getting a little upset with me, as I was interrupting their flow, I received another email.  (If you talk over the robots, they stop talking, and have to start their sentence again.  Sometimes I just want to have a little fun!)  The reply indicated that I did not need a receipt, and I should go to customer services to discuss the matter.  

Finally, the weekend arrived, and on Saturday morning after my weekly run-in with the scanner at Walmart (who actually was quite co-operative this weekend) I headed to the warehouse.  I purchased my goodies and enjoyed the edible samples on offer, and then went to the customer service desk.  There wasn't a queue, (thank heavens for small mercies!) and I was greeted with a smile, from a real person (or at least I think he was a real person).  "Hey hon", he said, in such a friendly manner that I thought perhaps his wife was standing behind me.  However, his comment was, it would appear, directed at me, and I started to tell him my predicament.  "Where are you from?" he interrupted, and grinned at me with a smile that would make dentists want to put him in their advertisements.  I started again.  "I love your accent", he said as I was still in mid sentence.  Wondering if he thought that I was perhaps a recording to be interrupted, I smiled, and waited a couple of seconds, before launching into a monologue, in monotone, so that interruptions would be ignored, and the sentence could be completed!  Still smiling, he suggested I might like a refund, and would it be possible to have my card, so that he could see the item that I had purchased, and when I purchased it!  "Rotten tomatoes" was the answer he was not expecting when he asked again, "What was it that was not right, and why couldn't you return it?" 

I did receive my refund, after he filled out the computerised reason for the return, which he decided to catalogue under 'past orders', and was still smiling as I left the area.  

This weekend we have been babysitting the dog.  The storms have caused him to be rather unsettled, and the offer of the device for seniors has had an appeal this morning, as I feel rather old and feeble, due to lack of sleep.  

Hopefully, someone else will be 'it' next week, and my area code will be placed at the back of the line!  I have new, ripe tomatoes to put in my lunch, and a whole new week ahead of me.  I don't suppose that the restriction on the amount of characters with which I was allowed to complain will ever cause me to be less verbose, but who knows.  Somehow, I don't think that the restriction would cause anyone to want to read .......... another story!

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