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Stan’s Stuff - phones and 'Mutt and Geoff'

By Stan Stewart.

Once we received a three-monthly Water Bill for $8432. It was normally around $40. I rang to query this. A pleasant-sounding young woman answered. She checked my details. “Yes Mr Stewart, it appears that is the amount you owe. “It is not possible” I barked. She could tell I meant business. “We will check your account and call you back” she replied. Three hours later she called me back. “I am dreadfully sorry” she said, “There has been a computer mistake”. She went on to tell me that we were being charged for all the water used by all the customers named Stewart in the Waikato (an area covering many towns and a city). The amount really owing was the normal $40 plus a dollar or two.

I had a somewhat similar experience with the electric company. They sent a high bill for a time when we were away. Once again, the phone person assured me that this must be correct. I asked him to investigate it. When he called back and told me that the meter man (older readers will remember these persons) just guessed the amount. The meter man explained in his notes that he could not get into our property to read the meter because of high fence and a savage dog. I explained to the company rep that our house has no fence and we do not own a savage dog. This time the company’s apology was accompanied by a credit.

It all goes to show it’s a good idea to speak up if you feel some corporation is overcharging. Easier said than done. Listening to the ‘on hold’ music can drive you crazy.

I used to work with a Rottweiler Phone-Warrior. On one occasion when dealing with a phone-bill dispute the call went over and hour. As the intensity rose, I wondered how this call would ever end. Finally, the Phone-Warrior shouted, “I used to be a nice person before I started dealing with your company” and hung up.

Such calls take a lot of energy. They must also use up a huge amount of computer memory. The companies/corporations give the impression that they spend hours training people. Really? Who listens to all those thousands (millions?) of recordings captured for ‘Training Purposes’. Do corporations gather their staff once a week to listen to calls like the one I overheard. Do they play the whole hour or does someone edit it? Editing these conversations (if they do) must be a mind-numbing job.

I met a young woman who worked in a corporation’s call-centre. I asked did she like the work? “It’s a job” she said evasively. I asked her how she handled difficult calls. She told me that after stressful calls phone answerers could leave their post and go to a withdrawal space. She also said some form of counselling was available when the phone answerers became too stressed. I was glad to hear this.

I have always owned a car and I have bought and sold many. My early deals were painful, ‘come in sucker’ kind of deals. My first car was a 1927 Riley Nine. A great care for an auto enthusiast with repair skills. Hopeless for a young buck who just wanted to drive and drive. The second car was a beat-up Hillman Nine with failed from suspension. This meant that when you drove into a rut the front tires would hit the headlight wiring causing the head lights to fail. Madly I made many night-time journeys on bush roads without any lights.

Then I learnt about Mutt and Geoff car salesmen. Used car salesmen worked this sales technique in a partnership. Geoff would be gruff, almost insulting. After he had laid out the shape of the deal, “Your car is worth much less than you think and the one you are interested in is high-class classic” he would exit. Mild mannered Geoff would then take over. He would apologise for Geoff but explain that the Geoff character had a good heart and the deal he suggests is the best you could ever get. I usually fell for it and bought the overpriced car.

My worst experience was with a religious car salesman. When he could see I was wavering he said, “Let’s commit this deal to Jesus in prayer. He thanked Jesus for leading me to this car and that’s how the deal was done. The car was expensive to run and overpriced, I will never again mix religion with business.

Navigating through life is tricky and there’s plenty of traps for young players. Thankfully I’m still going. Actually, I think for every jaundiced moment and tricky Dick there are good sorts who do more than they need to help you survive.

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