In my last two articles, I wrote about experiences I had with people who some would argue deserve to be treated with contempt. While there were occasions in the past when I treated such people with contempt, I wrote that I now do my best to be as kind and charitable as possible to people who are less fortunate than I am or who are limited by their employers in what they can do for their customers, clients, or patients.
On the Monday after I published my second show-kindness-to-others article, I found myself in a situation where I felt as though I had no other choice but to use my bullying and intimidation skills to get something accomplished. Unfortunately, in the business world, to be successful and get certain things done, you have to be willing to verbally beat some people into submission.
Before I tell you what I did, I need to give you a detailed chronology of what led up to the final beatdown.
About 10 years ago, I leased some expensive equipment from Pitney Bowes Corporation. The equipment is more than six feet long, 30 inches high, and weighs about 225 pounds. It sits on top of a heavy-duty industrial grade table.
When I originally leased the equipment, I signed a five-year lease. After the five years was up, I signed another five-year lease, which ended in June 2021. In March of this year, I sent a certified letter to Pitney Bowes notifying them that I would not be renewing the lease. In the letter, I asked them to contact me, so arrangements could be made for them to pick up the equipment after the lease expired.
A month after I sent the letter, I contacted Pitney Bowes. After talking to a handful of people, I talked to someone who acted as though he knew what he was doing. He told me that someone from the company would reach out to me before June to make arrangements to pick up the equipment. I waited until Monday, June 28, and no one had called or emailed. I was concerned that since no one had called, I would be billed for each additional month that the equipment remained at my office.
I called Pitney Bowes on June 28, I knew I was going to be on the phone for a while, but I did not anticipate that I would have to spend more than an hour and a half attempting to get my questions answered. I ended up talking to five different people, all of whom insisted that they would send a message through their computer system to the department that was in charge of picking up the equipment and that someone would call me to make arrangements to pick up the equipment.
The first person I talked to — I’ll call him Human Robot #1 — was a foreigner who had been trained to respond to my questions by assuring me that a message would be sent to someone in the company who would follow up with me at a later time. When I asked for the name and phone number of the person or department that would be contacting me, Human Robot #1 told me that there was nothing in his system that provided that information.
At that point, I told him that I appreciated his help, but since he did not have the information I needed, I wanted him to transfer me to someone who was located in North America. This particular request is not unusual for me. I’ve been doing it for several years now, ever since the global corporations transferred all of their so-called customer service to other countries, so the corporations could save money on labor costs.
Human Robot #1 gave me several scripted responses to my request, all of which boiled down to his assurance that someone would call me. After telling him that I understood that it was his job to ask me questions and then tell me that someone would contact me, I was not willing to hang up the phone until I talked to someone who could give me specific answers to my questions. He tried again to assure me that someone would call me. At that point, I had to raise my voice and demand that he immediately transfer me to his supervisor or to someone in North America. He put me on hold, got approval from his supervisor, and then transferred me to someone in the United States.
The person I was transferred to was working from his home in Colorado. After I explained my situation to him, he sent me an email that explained what I needed to do to arrange for the return of the equipment. He got irritated with me when I told him that he needed to stay on the phone with me until I received the email and had a chance to read it. When I read the email, the instructions explained how to box up and return a postage meter. He was confused when I told him that I did not have a Pitney Bowes postage meter. He then defaulted to the same line that Human Robot #1 gave me and told me that he would send a message through their system and someone would call me. The man from Colorado turned out to be Human Robot #2.
I hung up the phone and immediately called the Pitney Bowes phone number again. Human Robot #3, another foreigner, answered the phone and began going through the same process as Human Robot #1. For some unknown reason, our phone call was disconnected. When I called again, Human Robot #4, another foreigner, answered the phone. I gave Human Robot #4 my account number and asked him to look up my account and tell me if there was anything that indicated that someone was going to call me to schedule a pickup of my equipment. He told me that there wasn’t anything like that noted in my account. He then assured me that he would send a message to the correct department and that I would receive a call within a couple of weeks.
I’m telling you the truth here. I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t make this up. Like any good employee, Human Robot #4 did exactly what he was trained to do. I had to keep reminding myself that the robot I was talking to was a real human being and that he was trying his best to do his job, but he had no authority to do anything other than follow strict company guidelines and the script that he was trained to follow.
I did my best to be kind to him by telling him that I was not upset with him, but that I was upset with the company he worked for because the company did not give him the information he needed to adequately take care of his customers. I then demanded that he immediately put his supervisor on the phone or transfer me to someone in the United States who had the authority to help me. He complied with my request and when an American got on the phone and asked what he could do for me, I calmly said, “I’ve been on the phone for more than an hour and I’ve talked to four different people who were not able to help me. I’m going to explain this one more time.”
After I explained everything to him, He gave me the same runaround that I received from the other four people. Can you guess what he told me? Of course you can — “I’m going to send a message to the correct department and someone will be in touch with you.”
That was the final straw. Even though I wrote about the importance of kindness and charity in my last two articles, I reverted back to my primitive instincts, and said, “You’re probably overwhelmed and doing twice the work that you should be doing. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of business today, so I’m not blaming you for any of this.” Then I raised my voice and said, “I’m not angry at you, but unfortunately you’re the one who is going to have to listen to what I have to say about the company you work for.” He interrupted me and said, “Sir, you’re shouting at me and I’m just trying to help you. I want to help you, but I can’t help you if you’re going to yell at me.” His attempt to disarm me didn’t work. I continued to shout at him,
You’re giving me the same answers that the four other robots I talked to today gave me. Does anyone in your company have the authority to make a decision? Does anyone in your company have a phone number they can give me so I can call them when I don’t receive the promised follow-up call in two weeks? I don’t need to talk to robots who are only allowed to read from a script. I need to talk to someone in your company who will take personal responsibility for my account and who will make sure that everything that is supposed to happen actually does happen. I need someone who will follow up with me in two weeks and check to make sure that what was promised to me has happened. I need someone who I can contact either by phone or email and who will respond to my phone message or email message within one business day. Are you willing to be that person?
When I stopped talking, there was silence. He then said, “I’m in the billing department and it’s not my job to be an account manager and to do what you’ve asked me to do.” I interrupted him again and shouted,
Of course it’s not your job! It’s not the job of the four other robots I talked to either. You sound like an intelligent man to me and I actually believe that you want to help me, but if you’re not willing to take control of my account and be the person who is responsible for seeing to it that everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen, then I need for you to find the person within your organization who will commit to me that they will do what I’m asking them to do.
Again, there was silence, and then he said,
You know what? I’m going to do what you’re asking me to do. Hold on a moment while I assign myself to your account. I’m still working from home like most of the other employees, so I cannot give you a phone number to call. I’m going to send you the email address for our customer service department. Any time you send an email, our computer system will identify your email address and route the email directly to me. If you want to talk to me, email me and I will call you.
He then told me that because of the date of my billing cycle on the equipment, he could not begin the process of getting the people who are responsible for picking up the equipment involved until the middle of July. That was the first time anyone from Pitney Bowes told me that. I told him that I would send him an email in mid-July to get the ball rolling. He then said, “Did I meet your expectations and take care of you the way you wanted me to?” I told him yes and thanked him for making the commitment to assign himself to my account.
There is a psychological technique that I used with him which acts as a subconscious trigger. The use of the technique usually creates a desire in the person to want to help me. Next week, I’ll explain what that technique is and how to use it.