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The Buck Stops Where??

President Harry S. Truman kept a sign on his desk in the Oval Office of the White House that read: “The Buck Stops Here”.  This was a symbol of his having the ultimate responsibility for decisions affecting the governing of the United States.  He was in effect the CEO of the nation and the final resolution of the nation’s problems rested with him.  Once the symbolic buck was in his hand, there was no one else to pass it to.  I wonder how many CEOs in America adorn their desk with a similar sign or in absence of an actual sign, their business practices adhere to its intended meaning.  It seems these days that passing the buck is what big businesses are best at.  If it was an Olympic sport American corporations would sweep all the medals in the individual and team competition.  Shareholders not happy with the profit margin, add a surcharge to the product--pass the cost on to the consumer.  Bad business decisions resulting in higher production costs—move the company to a third-world country—past the cost on to displaced worker’s families. On the brink of bankruptcy-get a government “bail-out”—pass the cost on to future generations.  I’m sure there are a lot NFL teams who could use such proficient passers—thousands of passes completed, without an interception.  We’re talking first ballot “Hall of Fame” stats!! 

Joe or Jane Q Public want to do something??  How??  You can’t even get a company to stand by their own products or services.  Recourse??  Where??  Complain??  To Whom??  There’s nothing the public can do about it, because big business has insulated itself, by setting up a protective maze that would be impossible for a Navy Seal to navigate.  It’s called “customer service”--what an oxymoron!  Try calling up just about any large or medium size business or corporation and attempt to get definitive answers, correct information or adequate solutions about anything.  They just start spinning customers like a top and hope that we’ll be too dizzy to remember why we called in the first place.  “May I help you?”  The question is--will you?  “Satisfaction Guaranteed?”  I can’t even be guaranteed that I’ll get to speak to a live person.  They have even programmed computers to give you the run around.  The computer always starts out by saying, “to better serve you, we have changed our options.”  I think we all know what that’s code for--they’ve eliminated the option to speak to a live person!  Furthermore, you’d have to be an “idiot savant” to remember all the numbers to press to allow you to move on to the next level, as though you’re being forced to play some perverted version of “Dungeons & Dragons”. 

However, sometimes having a live person is infinitely more frustrating, especially if you come to the encounter with certain expectations.  Like, “a breathing person, is a thinking person”; or “I’m sure they wouldn’t have been hired, if they couldn’t do the job”; or “I will give them specific details to better help them understand”.  Sometimes I purposefully start talking very slowly and deliberately, just in case this company has a program that hires the mentally challenged.  I want service, but not at the cost of sensitivity towards the handicapped.  Perhaps they are just hiring the initiative challenged.  No one, it seems, ever knows anything about what it is you’re trying to find out.  Sometimes, I recheck the phone number to make sure that I’ve called the right place.  You’re “dumped” from one person to the next and then on again, but they don’t call it “dumping”, they call it “transferring”, as in, “I’ll have to transfer you to the right department”, but I never get there.  Round and round I go.  It doesn’t matter how long the person you’re talking to has been working there, two months, two years, twenty years, they all do it--it’s become part and parcel of the corporate mentality. 

And don’t you dare ask to speak to their supervisor or manager!  You will be treated to one of their homemade super-sized, deluxe, supreme verbal evasion harangues that would test the stamina of a Bulgarian weight lifter, hopped up on “meth”.  If after all that, you are still in control of your faculties and still insist on speaking to their supervisor/manager....that’s when the conversation takes a turn towards fantasy fiction.  “I have worked here over twenty years and no one has ever asked to speak to my supervisor/manager, especially after the verbal wringer I just put you through.  What are you, hopped up on “meth”?!?  You must not be from this country, so let me explain, I get paid not to let you speak to my supervisor/manager--it’s in my job description.  In fact, we get demerits for letting people speak to the supervisor/manager and if we get a certain number of demerits, we get a written reprimand and if there is just one more incident, we are fired.  Do you want me to put my job on the line, so you can speak to my supervisor/manager?  Hey, there’s no need to be making smartass’re serious?  Now let me get this straight, you thought it is my job to assist you?  Now I know you’re not from this are from another planet and in that case, it is also in my job description not to answer questions from space aliens.  That’s right we’ll get demerits for that too, although not as many as for letting you speak to my supervisor/manager.  You have a nice day or whatever you say on your planet”.  Okay, I won’t swear that’s exactly what I heard, but....pretty close.

Rarely, can you find anyone willing to step up and take charge--someone who actually knows what they’re talking about and is willing to take actions towards resolution.  When you happen upon one of these creatures, stop—take pause—note with reverence and cherish the encounter, for it may be the passing of many moons, before such an “albino unicorn” passes your way again.  The miracle of actually witnessing someone, working for a company, who takes some initiative directed towards customer satisfaction, is an attraction on par with seeing one of the seven ancient wonders of the world--right up there with the Colossus and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  It should be made into a documentary.  Next on the Discovery Channel:  “Recently Discovered Wonders of the World”.  “Where we will explore the wonder of Mrs. Carol Hawkins of “Verizon”, actually knowing something about the errors on your long distance phone bill and being happy to immediately assist you in getting it corrected.”  You’d have to watch it to see if wasn’t a well perpetrated hoax. 

In response to customer service’s fortress of incompetence, you might decide to try a different approach--you’re going to write a letter to the president/CEO of the company.  You start off thinking that if you write to the President of the company, that he/she will be far more concerned about keeping you as a reliable customer than some underpaid, under motivated underling and he/she will respond with a satisfactory solution to your problem or some kind of goodwill gesture, as salve to soothe your irritation.  Ha!  They know that you probably won’t take your business elsewhere, because they know, you know, the other companies--their competitors, have or will screw you around just as much, if not more than their company has.  They know most people won’t leave if they’re unhappy, in fact most people won’t even bother to write to voice their dissatisfaction and at the most, someone will send that first letter and once ignored, slip quietly back into their apathy induced, babbling coma. 

To get their attention and let them know you mean business, you can’t just send that “one” letter--that doesn’t even make it out the mail room.  They have “complaint” sniffing dogs that alerts the mail room staff to a first time complaint letter and it is immediately seized and destroyed.  You must demonstrate relentless zeal, by turning into the legendary ogre of annoyance, the monstrosity of tenacity, the three-headed beast--constructed of one part “Amway dealer”, one part “collection agent” and one part “telemarketer”.  You must stalk them, capture them and devour them, by sending LETTERS, upon LETTERS and then MORE LETTERS!  Bombard them into submission, as their customer service agents have tried to do to you!!  In the words of the late, great “Godfather of Soul”—James Brown--IT’S THE BIG PAYBACK!!!  OWWW—GOOD GOD!!!  No more leisure activities--make this your pastime, your hobby, your passion, your life!!!  Then and only then will the president/CEO take notice and reward your persistence with...with...a few discount coupons for their product.  Come on, were you really expecting more?  When it comes to giving back to the consumer--that’s where the buck stops.  Hey, “golden parachutes” don’t come cheap!!

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