Thursday, January 17, 2008

Customer Hall of Fame

This is the story of Jane.*

Jane and her husband, John,* an elderly couple, bought a unit in one of the first communities built by the company I work for. Jane was one of those buyers who assumed that every time something went wrong in or with her new house, it was the responsibility of the builder to fix, regardless of whether it was a valid warranty issue or not. When a light bulb she purchased from Home Depot burned out in her kitchen, Jane called us. When her toilet overflowed because she tried to flush something non-flushable, Jane called us. When someone littered on her lawn, Jane called us.

Jane had the habit of demanding rather than requesting our assistance, and when we had the audacity to meet her demands with anything less than a full scale emergency response of federal proportions, she resorted to insults, threats, and phone stalking. After about the 4,389 call from Jane wherein she complained that her sleep was interrupted by the sound of cars driving by on her street and what were we going to do about it, our vice president decided he'd had enough, and put his foot down. He agreed to meet once with Jane to go over any concerns she had with her house, that we would fix only the legitimate warranty issues raised at this meeting, and that she would be on her own for everything else.

The meeting occurred. Jane was her usual winning self. At one point, our vice president told her that we would not be addressing one of her concerns, and to make sure he understood just how unacceptable this was to her, she laid down on her couch and wailed a chorus of "That's not fair!" for the whole world to hear, all while kicking her feet and flailing her fists, for added emphasis. (Think of a two-year-old having a temper tantrum, and you get the idea.) Meanwhile, John, who Jane said had suffered a stroke and therefore had difficulty speaking and had limited mobility, sat there meekly while our VP got a full dose of her ranting.

When our VP finally did make it out of their house, he thought to himself that it was probably a good thing that John had permanent damage from the stroke he'd suffered. After all, our VP thought, how would his wife treat him if John was completely healthy and therefore able to be available for her every beck and call?

Just as he was thinking this, poor John feebly opened the door to his house, gingerly stepped down onto the patio outside his door, and began a slow shuffle-walk with the help of a cane toward his mail box, his body bent under the strain of its own weight.

"Poor guy," our VP thought, and was getting ready to go help him, when he saw John cautiously glance back toward his house to see if Jane could see him. When it became obvious that he had made it safely out of her line of vision, John promptly straightened up, tucked his cane under his arm, and confidently walked away from his house as fast as he could.

Apparently John had already encountered how his wife would treat him if he was completely healthy, and had no desire to relive the experience any time soon.

*Names changed to avoid being sued.

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