Daily Archives: July 16th, 2010

When customers foam

Yet another Friday bonus post.

Let’s play this post like a round of Jeopardy, shall we? Remember, all answers must be phrased in the form of a question.

Category: Potent Foamables

$500 Clue: “Five”


Alex: Tom?

Tom: The number of minutes customers are willing to wait for a response after sending an email before they foam at the mouth?

Alex: Correct! You are today’s winner!

This is how it works. You arrive at work and go through your emails. You have some from bosses, some from co-workers and some from customers. I have a routine for handling them which mainly involves getting the low-hanging fruit (quickies) out of my inbox as fast as possible. If a customer has a quick question, I might just pound my keyboard like a monkey and get them a response at that instant and be done with it. If it is more involved, however, I jot them down on a list so I can research, do the legwork, and so forth before calling them back.

Organization is good.

Of course, this all goes out the window as soon as the phones roll over because ALL of them simply pick up the phone, dial our number, then pound the redial button repeatedly until they get a human. Don’t forget to wear your handy yellow containment suit to avoid the foam spittle.

Today at 9:05am we had been open for a grand total of five minutes. The customer service primary was already on the phone. I was already neck deep in the shit on the floor with an obliviot customer (who was actually a pretty decent guy). Meanwhile all of the phone lines were ringing off the hook like it was the invasion of motherfucking Normandy beach. Apparently there were a lot of people who needed apologies. (We’re pretty much in the professional apologizing business. They’re all calling to complain about things we screwed up because we suck.)

“Eek. Hello?”

“This is so-and-so! I’m calling about order XYZ! I ordered two widgets and only received one.”

“Yes, I am aware of that. I did receive and read your email. Unfortunately you’re not the only customer in the universe and amazingly I haven’t had a chance to work on your problem yet. Sadly no miraculous knowledge has yet spontaneously jumped via telepathy into my brain. It’s beginning to look more and more like I’ll actually have to be given some time to work the problem before I’ll learn anything new. And phone calls like yours only delay that process, which, in turn, creates a snowball effect and consumes 110% of the time I have in my day. Take the square root of -1 and multiply that by 42. I’ll probably be able to call you back in that many minutes. But please know that I am very, very sorry about this problem.

Hmm. Looks like another customer problem just got pushed back to Monday. Gee, I hope you weren’t in a hurry. Too bad, so sad! Loser, loser, whatever!!!

The Office Temp

This is just a quick little serendipitous post because I’m in the mood. I’d like to relate a conversation with the boss that happened yesterday.

Just a bit of background info before I share it, though. As I’ve written several times now, the place I work doesn’t care much about employees. They don’t like expending actual pennies on wasteful things like comfort. So they don’t like to run the heater in winter nor the A/C in summer.

The official policy in winter is that yes,  you can run the heat, but if you run it enough to take off your coat, then it is too warm. I’m not shitting you. This is the official policy. Management wants employees to wear their coats all day – every day – during the cold months. (Not a fun or comfy way to work, by the way.)

It’s no big surprise that the hot months are the exact opposite. The boss charges top dollar for everything he makes, but in every other thing he pinches pennies so hard I’m surprised they still retain shape. I call this golden nugget economics.

Unofficially we’re allowed to turn on the A/C just enough to the point where sweat stops dripping in our eyes. A sticky note on the thermostat states: “No lower than 78!”

We knew the boss would be stopping by yesterday, so we had the A/C up at the authorized level. In other words, it was hotter than hell.

The boss stopped by, said hello, and remarked: “It sure feels nice and cool in here.”

That comment was, of course, completely and utterly ignored by us chickens.

Then, again, since it didn’t get the desired response the first time it was trotted out: “It sure feels nice and cool in here!”

Again, no response. It was almost pathetic to watch. Ha ha ha!

The boss was left with no recourse. He had to up his game to the next level. It was time for a direct query. “Is the A/C on?” he asked impatiently.

Oh sweet Jesus I wish I was making this shit up! But I swear to you, this is the exact conversation with absolutely no embellishment. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

This is where I finally got a chance to step in and speak up. “Yes, the A/C is on. Yesterday, for example, when I got to work, it was literally 81 degrees in my office at 8am. We have no choice. Besides, we need to stop the computers from melting. There’s going to be liquid metal leaking out of these boxes if we don’t run the A/C.”

This confused my boss’ little brain. So I explained further.

“See, the innards in the computers will melt and leak out onto the floor where they will make little shiny pools of metal. Then shiny Terminators will rise up out of those pools. And trust me, you don’t want them running around messing with productivity. They can be quite annoying.”

My point had been made in my own inimitable manner. Woot!

Guess which gerbil is coming to dinner?

Gerbil. Party of three. Your table is ready.


Last night my wife and I were invited by family friends to see a performance of some live bluegrass at a local pizza place. The husband plays mandolin and performs vocals and is a hell of a nice guy. He’s quite a musician, too, and owns more instruments than I do Pokemon plush toys.

The band was excellent and sounded great. The music was really good and it was quite a treat to relax after work with a cold one and enjoy their music.

These friends have been indirectly mentioned on this blog already. By that I mean, they are parents to two gerbils of their own. In fact, they are no slouches and have produced world-class gerbils. They also consider our gerbil to be a close family friend and don’t always see eye-to-eye with us regarding parenting and how we choose to interact with our own gerbil.

The first gerbil of theirs I am hereby issuing the codename “Farley.” He has been featured on this blog in such classic posts as Audience participation and the classic Holmesian tale The Adventure of the Raspberry Bar. Farley is also the one who got a medical marijuana card due to his “sore back” and recently signed up for food stamps from the government even though he still lives at home. Like I said, Farley is a world-class gerbil.

He’s also a glutton. When we arrived he was already at the table. We were a little surprised as we didn’t know he was going to be there. But it wasn’t too surprising, really. What else is a gerbil to do except hang up with the food providers when meal time is near? Farley and our friends had already ordered and Farley was waiting for his food to arrive. To pass the time and whet his appetite Farley was taking little cups of ranch dressing, topping them off with Parmesan cheese, seasoning with salt and pepper, then quaffing them down as his own personal homemade appetizers. Bam! Let’s kick it up a notch! What a sight that was! Utterly rude and utterly disgusting! Sadly this sort of behavior is quite the norm for Farley.

At a nearby table sat Farley’s older brother, already codenamed on this blog as Pooch. He has also been featured in at least two previous posts including Gerbil rampage and Good news with a twist of gerbil WTF. This gerbil also had his own marijuana grow under the family’s garage. He sat at his own table with three of his own friends. His child (I guess we’ll call him Future Gerbil Jr.) was over on grandma’s lap, who functions as his primary caretaker, for the most part completely ignored by his pa.

I don’t like being in such close quarters with gerbils but I managed to relax and listen to the fine music as we placed our order and chatted with our friend while her husband performed.

I can’t say I was much too surprised when I saw our own gerbil approaching. Yes, it was our very own son! Most of the gerbil posts on this blog have been about him. I won’t bother to list them. Just click the logo for GRIPE if you want to learn more.


We don’t see this kid or hear from him except, like earlier this week, he shows up at our door or on the phone when he needs something. He sat down at our table and soon food arrived, including a pizza just for him! I realized then that our gerbil had been invited and they’d already ordered food for him. It was beginning to feel a lot like a setup and an ambush, like our friend was trying to surprise everyone and that would magically fix things and brings us all back together. Sad to say, if we had known he was going to be there, we probably wouldn’t have gone. It was just too damn awkward. We were supposed to be there to see our friends and relax.

Suddenly I realized that I was sitting in the middle of a bona fide gerbil nexus. Unfortunately I didn’t have my field research kit with me. I’d heard of the gerbil nexus before, of course, but I never really expected to see one in my lifetime. There are pretty rare and, after all, I do spend a lot of time actively trying to avoid gerbils at all costs.

The duty, however, fell to me, and I was not about to shirk. I immediately did an empirical scan of the scene. What did I see? What was observable?

I saw:

  • Three gerbils stuffing their faces, none of which, naturally, would be paying for their own meal.
  • Three sets of gauged ear lobes.
  • Three similar sets of odd facial hair.
  • Three marijuana users.
  • Three heavy drinkers.
  • Three smokers.
  • Three men who still live at home. (Ours is quasi-moved out, though. We have the key! More on that later.)
  • Three guys with questionable occupations. Ours works for our aunt, Farley is unemployed, and Pooch has been employed less than a week. All three have shitty work histories.
  • Three people who have deliberately altered their appearance to be as unemployable as much as possible.
  • One high school diploma, one high school dropout with no GED, and one unknown.

Our gerbil and Farley stuffed their faces, didn’t say much, then disappeared. Pooch stayed away at his own table and left all responsibility for watching the kid on his mom.

Sadly I wasn’t more prepared and that’s about all of the data I was able to gather. It was one harrowing experience!