Sunday, July 30, 2006


"Thank you for calling Nokia Customer Service. How can I help you?"
"I need to order a new part for my phone, please."
"You can do that on our website at www dot nokia dot com."
"I looked, but I can't find the phone I have."
"What's the model number?"
"I don't show that model has been released in the US yet, ma'am."
"Well, I bought it overseas. All I need to do is order a part."
"You'll have to go back to the website, and go to the page for the country you bought it in."
--momentary pause--
"Okay, I'm there... Where do I go?"
"I don't know, ma'am."
"Isn't there some one who can just contact your Middle Eastern service center and order a part for me?"
"No ma'am."
"So you can't do anything for me at all, is that correct?"
"I can sell you a new phone."
"I don't want a new phone. I like the one I have, I just need a new display."
"I'm sorry, ma'am."
"So you have no correspondence with any of your other offices whatsoever? There's no one I can speak to?"
"No, ma'am."
"Right, then. Thanks for um... answering..."
"Thanks for calling Nokia Customer Service."

Dear Nokia:

I have damaged the screen on my phone (model 3230) that I got while in
Qatar. The US support can't help me; they have no information that the
model even exists. I need to purchase a new display screen for the
phone, but I don't know how to do that. I am now back in the United
States. I would like very much to simply purchase the part and continue
using my Nokia phone. Please let me know how to proceed in purchasing the
Thank you
Thank you for contacting Nokia.

You will be receiving a reply from one of our Customer Care
Representatives within the next 48 hours.

Have a good day.

[This is an automatically generated acknowledgement. Please do not
reply to this e-mail.]

72 Hours Later....

Dear Mouth,

Thank you for emailing Nokia Careline.

With regards to your enquiry, kindly be informed that this is the link
of our Authorized Service Centre there in USA:,2854,,00.html?no_zip=1
contact them they will definitely help you about the it.

Should you have any further enquiries, or if we can be of any
assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the Nokia Careline via 'ASK Nokia'
located at

Register withections and you will receive a monthly fun newsletter
about the latest products and events. Click below to register.

Kind regards,

Berthe Alassane
Nokia Careline

As I stated in my original email, the American service Center told me
they couldn't help me, since that model wasn't released in the US "yet"
(so the customer service gal said). Apparently, if they don't sell the
phone stateside, they can't order parts, either. She had no record
that the model even exists.

It's alright, though... I just got another phone, from a different
company, and signed up for wireless service with them. It was a little
more expensive, and I don't like it quite as well, but at least when I
call and ask them a question, they don't ignore me or make me wait over a
week to give me an answer. I donated my old Nokia phone when I bought
the new one. It'll wind up in the trash, which is where it belongs,
since it cannot be repaired.

I'm glad Nokia is so big that they don't have to attend to each
individual customer. It made my decision to switch brands very easy.

Have a nice day!

Thank you for contacting Nokia.

You will be receiving a reply from one of our Customer Care
Representatives within the next 48 hours.

Have a good day.

[This is an automatically generated acknowledgement. Please do not
reply to this e-mail.]
96 Hours Later...

Dear Mouth,

Thank you for emailing Nokia Careline.

We sincerely regret to hear that

With regard to your enquiry, kindly be informed that we are a technical
support center, providing our services to all Nokia customers from the
Middle East and North Africa, who are facing difficulties with their
Nokia mobile products.

Should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to
contact the Nokia Careline and speak to any of our Customer Service
Executives on +44-207-365-5309, between the hours of 9am and 8pm (local
time), Saturdays to Thursdays. For online assistance, please visit ASK
Nokia at our website

Register with Nokia Connections and you will receive a monthly fun
newsletter about the latest products and events. Click below to register.

Kind regards,

Liyth Nissirat
Nokia Careline

I know I'm only one client, and I know my situation was unique. I've also worked in service positions since I was 14 years old. There's always going to be one customer with a unique situation. There will always be problems you don't have the answer to, and always situations that are difficult and uncomfortable. You take care of that person as best you can, regardless of how many hoops you have to jump through.


Because when you work in service, the only reason you have a job is because that one person with the unique, pain-in-the-ass situation decided you were the person who could help them.

I'd like to thank Nokia for reminding me of that. Now, when Agents are screaming at me, and customers are sobbing into the phone, and I just want to throw my hands up and walk away, I have a glaring reminder of what it feels like to be the person on the other end who just wants to hand over their cash in exchange for a little bit of attention, courtesy, and a genuine desire to make it right.


Pauper said...

That's odd, in an interesting way, because I was just thinking along these same lines just last night. To understand why I was thinking about this, it'll take a bit of explanation...

Burger King had a commercial promoting a product called the Texas Double Whopper. Though you may not have seen it, since you don't watch much TV, you may have heard of it or perhaps even seen it on youtube. The commercial opens with a young, trendy-looking fellow pushing away from a table in a trendy-looking restaurant, leaving his girlfriend and minimal dinner behind in order to leave and head for a Burger King. As he departs he begins singing a song parodying Helen Reddy's classic "I Am Woman":

I am man
Here me roar
And I'm headed
Out the door
For a Texas Double Whopper

(second guy)
Man, that's good!

More men join the song as the commercial enters into what has to be considered a male re-empowerment fantasy: a crowd of men, marching down a freeway overpass, stops a man driving an SUV. They press a Texas Double Whopper into his hands, he raises the burger over his head in triumph, and thus liberated from 'chick food' (that's a lyric - "wave chick food bye-bye/now it's for Whopper beef I reach"), he helps his new brothers push the SUV off the overpass, into the dumper of a dump truck, which is itself being pulled by a leather-clad carnival-funhouse-looking guy attempting to reach yet another Texas Double Whopper sitting in the pail of a snow shovel and dangled before him by a buxom blonde.

And they say the Japanese do weird ads...

Anyway, given that I'm a novelty junkie, and that someone went to a lot of trouble to put that ad campaign together to get guys like me to notice, I figured I ought to try this Texas Double Whopper thing out. So, on a trip to the Mall of America to recharge the minutes on my pre-paid cel phone, I swing by the Burger King kiosk in one of the mall's food courts. I don't see any signs for the Texas Double Whopper, so when I get to the front of the line I ask, "Do you guys still sell the Texas Double Whopper?"

The girl behind the counter looks, doesn't find the button she's expecting to find, then continues to search for about two minutes until she finds a button that brings up the Texas Double Whopper on her register, and thus sends the order into the back where the microwave burger gnomes can put the monstrosity together.

I sit back to wait for my burger.

There are three people working the 'customer side' of the grill window. The register girl (who is black), the manager (a middle-aged looking white woman), and a youngish white guy whose main job seems to be announcing the order number of whatever food just came out of the back and was passed up to the front counter by the manager.

I start to get interested when the order announcer guy skips over my order number and continues to call out number after number. I say nothing, though, wondering just how long it'll take until someone notices that they have an order they haven't filled yet.

It's at this point that the manager begins talking with someone behind the burger wall - I can't see who it is, but if this BK is like most of the other fast food places in town, pretty much everybody behind the burger wall will be Hispanic; especially at the Mall of America, employees who interact with the public need to speak English as a first language to avoid conflict. I do manage to catch the gist of the conversation, however - the person in back can't make whatever is on that order and wants to know what to do with the request.

I realize they're talking about my order.

The manager steps up to the register and starts berating the register girl. This is, of course, entirely unfair: the register girl simply gave me what I'd asked for, and if she didn't know that the restaurant had discontinued the Texas Double Whopper, I can't say that's the register girl's fault (especially given the amount of time that passed in the back, which suggests that even the folks in back weren't entirely certain they'd discontinued the burger, either).

Without bothering to turn to face the customers, the manager returns to her self-imposed duty of shuffling food from the microwavery to the front counter. The register girl, after a moment's confusion, goes back to taking orders. I continue to stand in front of the counter, utterly uninformed as to the status of my meal (which, it goes without saying, I've already paid for).

Finally, the guy passing out the food puts two and two together, realizes I'm the guy with the messed-up order, and explains what's going on. I ask if I can get a regular double Whopper instead, which he helps the cashier girl set up. Four minutes later, I'm heading to sit down and eat.

Thinking about the whole situation while I was eating, I came to a conclusion: if you're the sort of person who complains about the service you get at a Burger King, I probably wouldn't care to know you. Yes, there is a minimal level of service that any business that wants money from the public should aspire to, and yes, this BK largely failed to rise to that level of service, but consider everyone involved:

- The register girl simply did as I asked when typing up the original order. I'm not blaming her for that.
- The order announcing guy, once he realized what was happening, stepped in and helped fix the situation; prior to that, he had no idea what was going on, and probably wouldn't have had any idea if I'd stepped in as soon as my order number was skipped and tried to explain.
- The manager was certainly to blame eight ways from Sunday if you need someone to blame: she should be sure that her employees know what products they're selling, at minimum, and should also be the point-person when something goes wrong.

But you're missing one key piece of information. The main reason I was quiet for as long as I was, was that another customer, while I was first waiting for my order but before my order number had been skipped, had gone up to the counter and very loudly and obviously started making a stink about her order, not so much to get the problem fixed, but simply to have someone to dump on. She kept harping on how 'lousy' the service was, and how she wasn't going to be spending her money there anymore if she wasn't 'treated with the respect I deserve'.

Which is, of course, a crock.

When you go to Burger King to eat, you're not paying for white-glove service. Sure, if you order a burger without mayonnaise and you get one with mayonnaise, you have a valid reason to complain, but at the same time, it's not as if someone behind the counter decided to deliberately give you a burger with mayo on it to piss you off. It's a mistake. Those things happen. Get it fixed and move on. They have a job to do, you have food to eat. What's the point of getting offended over mayo?

But some people do. And at that moment I realized I didn't want to be that person. It's not that I'm a martyr, or that I'm somehow better than those people who bitch and complain over how someone messed up their six dollar value meal. It's that it's a frickin' six dollar value meal - it's not that huge a thing.

Anyway, in the words of Ron 'Tater Salad' White, I told you that story so I could tell you this story:

Last night, after getting done playing a Little Plastic Man tournament, I headed out to catch a bus home. Noticing by the schedule that I had over a half-hour to wait, I cast my eyes around looking for a place to eat, as I was starting to feel a bit peckish.

I noticed a Burger King nearby, and realized I still had never tried that Texas Double Whopper. So I went in. They had a sign advertising the Texas Double Whopper, so I ordered it. Got it in a few minutes, no fuss. Sat down and ate it.

It really wasn't all that great. All it turned out to be, really, was a regular double Whopper with jalapeno peppers on it. Joy.

But in walking back to the bus stop, I thought about that day in the Mall of America, and about the Texas Double Whopper mishap that I didn't make a huge stink about, and I realized that in the end, it really hadn't been worth making a huge stink about.

And I smiled.

I don't want to give you the impression that what you do in service, even in an otherwise dead-end or meaningless job, is itself meaningless. I'm absolutely certain that there are folks who have been (or at least should have been) tremendously grateful that someone took the time to attend to their own personal, unique problem and come up with a solution. That's a wonderful thing, and there should be some nifty bennie set up for you in the afterlife of your choice for doing that.

But the moment someone walks through the door of a Burger King *expecting* that kind of service? Well, that person is way too important to bother hanging around with the likes of me.

Mouth said...

I'll agree with you on a few points:
It's a six dollar value menu... get over it.

2. People who work in service are still people... they're human, and they err. Chuck a stone and whatnot.

3. Going apeshit on some sixteen year old, pimple-faced kid for putting a pickle on your sandwich is stupid. He makes five bucks an hour... how much crap would you listen to for five bucks an hour?

Now... here's where you and I differ:

1. If I'm standing in front of you, cash in hand, looking for a way to spend my money, please don't tell me I have to take it somewhere else.

2. Typically (although not so much in this particular interaction with Nokia), I'm a silent customer. I walk in and I smile, I say "Please" and "Thank you" and "Have a nice day." I tip liberally. If the service is lousy and the product's crap, and nobody seems genuinely interested in fixing it for me, I don't make a fuss - I go somewhere else.

Somewhere they appreciate the fact that I chose them out of all the other hundreds of thousands of service providers who could have done the exact same work, and probably for less.

People like me make and break a business, my friend, and there are lots and lots of us out there.


Pauper said...

I don't really have any argument with either of your latter two points. And your U-Haul example makes for a nice counterpoint with your Nokia experience. I only wonder if the entire concept of 'voting with your wallet' isn't misguided in a sense.

For instance, take my trip to BK this past weekend. I could have decided weeks ago, when I had my first bad experience, not to patronize BK again. But on that particular night, my first choice for dinner wasn't an option - the neat hole-in-the-wall bar-and-grill near the game shop had a big sign in the window: "AC broken. Closed until Monday." My other options were BK, or a buffet place that, because it was a Sunday night and the temp was hot enough that the last thing on most folks' minds was turning on an oven, was already packed. If I took the buffet option, I might get in one pass at nearly twice the price of BK before having to rush out and grab my bus. Or I could go into BK, which also had a line, but because BK is designed to still function reasonably efficiently even if they've got a line, I'd still get something to eat and get back out to the bus stop in plenty of time. And, because not every BK is as bad as the one at the Mall, the service was certainly adequate for my needs that night.

I guess that's really my big criticism: it seems like there's something of a double-standard among consumers when it comes to service issues. When a business makes a mistake when dealing with a customer, the customer leaves, either angrily or silently according to her temprament. But when a customer makes a mistake when dealing with a business, the business is expected to take the whole thing in stride, deal with the issue, then invite the customer back again.

I understand why this double-standard exists; businesses need customers a lot more than customers need individual businesses. But just as one bad apple is said not to spoil the whole barrel, one bad experience with a company (or a person, for that matter) isn't enough to spoil my relationship with them.

Mouth said...

Actually, P, the saying is "One bad apple will spoil a whole barrel." And it will.

Thing is, we live in a consumer-driven society. Ever hear the Golden Rule? And I'm not talkin bout some "do unto others" hokey pokey bullshit.

"He who has the gold makes the rules."

Because I'm the one with the money, and because they're the one asking for it, I'm entitled to demand a certain quality of goods and services for my hard-earned dollar.

In your particular situation, though, BK is (often) a franchise. One BK is NOT the same "business" as another. Sure, they're all under the BK logo, but they also have different managers training their people in different ways and providing different levels of service.

In my examples, I was dealing with Nokia's North American only customer support office. It was the end of the road for me. I even tried to take my busiess to another "store" by contacting the MidEast/Africa branch, and was still prevented from throwing money down the Nokia shoot.

It was obvious they just weren't that interested in keeping my business, so I took it to some one who was.



LV said...

Hey Pauper, i enjoyed your story. Thanks

jenita raj said...

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