Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tipping the Balance

I am a coper. I am the person you want in a crisis, because I can calmly deal with things. I go into efficiency mode, and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Now granted, I usually fall apart about 2 weeks later, but in the moment, I'm the person you want by your side. I have sung at the funerals of 2 of my aunts, some of my friends' parents and managed to get through things professionally. I am a coper.

Sometimes, though, it's the little things that can throw you. Mornings in my house can be a challenge. ADHD/OCD and Anxiety in a 6 year old fashionista do not make for calm and easy mornings. If I had a dollar for every "just a second" in my day, I could pay off our mortgage. Getting her up, dressed, fed and out the door to school on time takes more military precision than D-Day, plus alot of cajoling, reminding and the occasional threat. I have walked out of the room, gone upstairs, closed the bathroom door and let loose a primal scream on more than one occasion. It's better to scream at the shower curtain than my daughter, especially about something she can't help, but I am a trained soprano, so the scream is kinda loud, ya know?

My mom has had several recurrences of squamous cell carcinoma-aka skin cancer. It's ugly, it's invasive and it's fast growing. And if nothing else convinces you of the need for sun block, watching one of these things get cut out of your mom's head will do it. Watching 4 of them being cut out, and telling her to catch the blood drip after will do it for sure. After the last stint of surgery, the surgeon recommended radiation to fry the remaining cancer cells and convince them to go away. Since last week, every weekday mom and I trek to the cancer centre near our home so she can get zapped. It takes us longer to walk from the parking lot than it takes for her to have the actual treatment, but for 6 weeks, we'll make the daily round trip.

My mom is 85, and I know my time with her is finite. I've known it since we buried my dad 22 years ago. There's something about seeing the name of the other parent on the tombstone, with a blank space for the date that makes that clear. She's had a rough few months with health. While we've talked about her funeral and her wishes, I try not to think about that eventuality. Sometimes, though, I hit a tipping point.

Last week was school picture day. My kid is a blue eyed brunette who looks fabulous against a blue background, so I chose the blue background for her picture. The problem is, my child is currently fixated on all things black. She only wants to wear black clothing, she wants to paint her room black, I made her a winter hat that was black with sequins because the likelihood is much better that she will actually wear the thing. The flip side to this current favorite colour, of course, is that the previous favorite colour is so last season...and that happened to be blue. When she found out that I had chosen blue, she pitched a fit that may have triggered the earthquake in Turkey (no disrespect or mockery intended, may God protect them). According to her, "none of her clothes will look good against blue" (although she was planning on wearing a red and black top) and she didn't like blue and she wasn't going to smile and that was it, and then I couldn't understand what she said because she was caterwauling and screaming at the top of her lungs.

And I burst into tears. It suddenly occurred to me that this might be the last school picture my mom gets to see, and I wanted it to look nice. I don't know that my mom won't be here next year. But when you hang out in the cancer centre daily, reality stares you in the face. Some of these people won't make it through. My mother in law didn't. My friend Andrea didn't. My cousin-by-marriage Joe didn't. My aunt Betty didn't. My friend Ellen didn't. My friend's mom Edelgarde didn't. Cancer sucks.

And so, while I've been coping and managing, a meltdown over a blue background sent me over the edge. Because sometimes, it's the little things that tip the balance. I cried the tears I had been pretending didn't need to be cried and I let the scared kid come out for a minute before the competent adult took over again. And it was okay.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Business Rule 101-Thou shalt not piss off a Social Media Savvy Writer

This post is inspired (or maybe provoked is a better word) by an experience I had with Staples Canada customer service earlier today.

I have been in the market for a new computer desk. The desk I have is a lovely hardwood desk, but it's the wrong height to be a computer desk and it's not wide enough. I've had it since I was in high school, but I don't think I ever used it as a desk.

There are space limitations in the room it's destined for, and I finally found the perfect desk at Staples and ordered it online. It stated next day delivery, so I've been sitting twiddling my thumbs all morning. Staples will only tell you that the item will be delivered "sometime between 9am and 5pm". Okay, that's not helpful in today's day and age but anyway...

I finally pulled up the confirmation email and  I called the customer service number to see approximately when in the 9-5 window I could expect to see my new computer desk, which I would still have to assemble.

That's when the problems began. Now let me preface this by saying that I have been both a customer service representative, and a manager of a customer call centre. I know from customer service call centres and shoddy customer service is not acceptable to me. I won't accept crappy customer service.

I got the customer service person on the line,  gave my order number and asked for a status update.

I was mistaken on the delivery date-mainly because I never know what the date is unless it's a date I have to remember-like deadlines and birthdays. The shipment was due to be delivered tomorrow, not today. Okay, my bad. I can own that. However, I won't be around tomorrow and there isn't anyone I can ask to be here-especially all day. I asked the customer service rep if we could reschedule.

I was told in no uncertain terms that it was not possible to reschedule. It would be delivered tomorrow, and if I wasn't there, too bad. They would try again another day. I asked if the shipment had left the warehouse yet. Nope, still in the warehouse. Well then why can't it be rescheduled to Wednesday? Nope, can't do that. Why not? Not our policy...Why not? We just can't reschedule...The CSR couldn't explain WHY it couldn't be rescheduled, only that they would make 3 delivery attempts and send it back to the warehouse. If I didn't like it, I could cancel the order. Take it or leave it.

I went around the mulberry bush for a few minutes, and then told the customer service rep that the policy was not acceptable, it made no sense, and I wanted to talk to her manager. She put me on hold for a minute, and then came back on the line with the same old lines. I interrupted her, because to be honest I was pretty annoyed at this point, and told her that I wanted to talk to her manager. She told me the manager didn't want to escalate the call, I could take the delivery schedule or cancel the order. I cancelled the order.

I then took to Twitter to tweet about the poor experience, AND I called Staples Head Office for good measure and complained to someone there. Hell hath no fury like a writer with a sense of efficacy, CSR experience and a social media presence.

The person on the end of the Staples twitter account reacted immediately and asked for details. The person at head office was not pleased with how things had been handled and was going to advise someone somewhere about it. I'm still not happy, so here I am in the blogsphere as well.

So here's what I do know. Having a delivery window of "sometime between 9am and 5pm" is ludicrous in today's day and age of text and electronic communications. People are busy, and the days of the housewife being home all day to wait for a delivery are long gone. If you tell me that it will delivered between 9-11am, I can plan accordingly. 9-5pm is a bit ridiculous...

In today's day and age of email communications and computer d-bases, it should be a simple matter to change the delivery date, especially since the boxes are still sitting in the warehouse. One keystroke could have saved a great deal of grief, aggravation and ill-will.

Social media means that good and bad experiences are instantly communicated. The first thing I did when I got off the phone was find out if Staples had a Twitter account, and tweeted my bad experience. I had a response in minutes.  I then googled their head office and spoke to someone there. I'd always had good dealings with Staples, and our local store staff are great. However, this experience has tainted my impression of the store, although the quick response to the tweet was impressive.

It's common lore that people tell 5 people about a positive experience, and 10 people about a negative one. The advent of social media can multiply that reach 10 fold. Companies need to be aware of that.

In the mean time, I'm out one computer desk and the room upstairs is a mess. Guess I'll be staying at the kitchen table a bit longer than I planned.