Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Pet Peeve

I think I have become an old fogie.  Over the past couple of days, I've become increasingly irritated with much younger individuals, for whom I am a customer, calling me by my first name or by faux endearments like "sweetie" or "honey."  I'm more pissed off than I was when Kurt Stoutenberg decided to call me "Toots" one day in high school.  (Tootsie was an archaic phrase even then.)

My contemporary friends, like Audrey Price or Gloria Benson, and I do call each other things like that.  They are real endearments between old friends.  And I sometimes use the term when talking to much younger people who are part of my life. 

But the stranger behind the cash register who is younger than my son and the girl delivering food to my table at Daphne's today don't know me from a dish towel.  The problem with saying anything to them directly is they've got control over my food.  And I've heard stories...

As for the other problem, it is compounded when the person on the other end of the line is clearly outsourced.  I refuse to believe that it is impossible to find minimum wage workers in the U.S. to take care of customer service lines.  I've got a kid in the spare bedroom who'd be good at it and he speaks English without a thick accent from an unidentified place in the Far East.  Keep those jobs, and the tax revenue here.  At least if you could hire illegal aliens to do it in the U.S., it would improve our tax base.

The other night I took on PayPal who has decided I need to be "verified" after using their services for probably over 10 years and almost $10,000 worth of purchases.  If I don't get "verified" before I spend another $500, I will no longer be able to use my PayPal account.  Getting "verified" means I give them a bank account number and they deposit money into the account to make sure I am real.  Right.

As if I want to give anyone that kind of access to my checking or savings accounts when every week some bank seems to have had their accounts compromised.  Several years ago, someone got access to my checking account information, had checks printed, wrote a check to cash, and then wiped out my account.  The money was returned (although one credit card company refused to reverse the fee for the check that bounced when my account was closed because they did an electronic transfer rather than cash the effin' check I had sent them and told my bank was still outstanding) by the bank almost immediately, but it was not fun for me.  And I couldn't get the police to do anything and the bank refused to give me information about whose account "my" check had been deposited to to go after those people.

So back to the other night.  The first person I talked to took my information and punctuated every sentence with my first name.  We had a lousy connection, which was echoing back to me, and that made it even more difficult to parse the conversation through the young man's accent.  But it was quite clear that he had no explanation as to why someone whose account has never presented a problem should have to give up other account information.  My alternative was to open a PayPal credit account.  I do not need another credit card.

I finally had enough and demanded to speak to his supervisor, but not before telling him that I was not satisfied with his performance and I particularly did not like being called by my first name by a stranger who was half a world away.  He informed me, Christine, that such was the policy of his company, Christine.  In other words, I guess, his script required him to refer to me repeatedly by my first name.  No exceptions.

His supervisor, when he finally got around to picking up the line, was no better except that he did refer to me as "Ms. Valada," when I informed him that I was not happy about him calling me by my first name.  He could not offer a viable work around on the PayPal verification issue.  I finally said that I needed PayPal less than they needed me as a customer, so I would simply stop using PayPal when I hit that $10,000 purchasing limit.  Bye-bye.

I am still not comfortable calling the parents of friends by their first names, even if the parents might be closer to my age.  I'm rather uncomfortable--and always have been--when my contemporaries or older tell my son to call them by their first names.  I think there is still room for a little bit of formality and deference in the world.  And I have earned it.