Ready: Leave a message. We’ll call you back. NOT!

Mary Ready, Ready or Not

An online commenter recently opined that I complain a great deal in my columns. He’s right. That’s what old curmudgeons like me do.

My rant this week is about businesses that don’t return customer phone calls.

You know that commercial by attorney David Maloney? In his personal appearance ad, he promises, “I will personally return your call.” I’ve often thought of calling his business number just to see if he REALLY means that. Cynic that I am, I doubt it.

I’m not alone in my frustration with businesses and community agencies who don’t call back. From an Internet blog, I copied the following from a disgruntled parent who just wanted to get her child enrolled in school:

“I was trying to enroll her in preschool in my local school district. When I called, I would get ‘let me take your name and number and call you back.’ And I would never get a call back. I would always have to call and leave several messages, and still never got a call back. I kept calling them to ask about a different preschool program they offered, and the lady said she had a pamphlet somewhere in the office but she could not locate it and said she would call me back. Well, she never called me back. It’s just really annoying. How hard is it to do your (expletive deleted) job? I worked in the service industry for a long time, and I always called people back, even if it was for something irrelevant. I just don’t understand why most businesses and places can’t do their jobs.”

My case involves pool companies, ordering parts, and churches.

I’m on my third pool company. The first one serviced my pool for a few months, and then a problem developed with the water level monitor. I called. Left a message. Called again. Left a message. Then, finally got a real person who said she’d have the boss call me back. Days went by. I called again. Left message. Called again. Real person said boss would call me back. Called again. Left message to discontinue my service and have a nice day. Boss called me back within hours. Too late.

Contracted with another service. This one was fine until the tiles cracked, and they were happy to charge me a zillion dollars to re-tile. All was well for awhile. Until their work came “unglued.” Called them. No answer. Called again next day, no answer. Called third time and real person answered that the boss would call me back. Called again. This time the real person said I should send a text picture of the broken tiles. I did. That was a month ago. No response.

Thus, a third pool company. So far, so good. But is there a saying, “Only fools have pools”?  If there isn’t, there should be.

Now, for ordering parts. My solar hot water expansion tank developed a leak. I found the part on the Internet and called the toll free number. A fast-talking lady with an incomprehensible accent said no one was there to take orders, but allowed as how someone would call me back. Two days went by. Called again. Answering service person said no one was in the office, but someone would call me back. Another day went by. Called again. I was told someone would call me back.

I snapped. I said in my sweetest, most sarcastic tone of voice, “Do you want to sell me this part or not?” His answer was “Have a nice day, Ma’m;” then he hung up on me. I called again the next day. This time a nicer fellow answered and said the staff was busy with a big project, but someone would call me back.

I tried other website numbers for that part until I finally got a receptive person with telephone manners who took my order immediately and charged $35 less than the first company I called. I also got an email confirmation within minutes. The new tank came a few days later.  

I’m still waiting for the other company to return my call.

The un-returned calls from local churches almost broke my heart. It was a few years ago. I was doing a story on outreach ministries of Destin’s churches. I called a half dozen or so and only got one real person who said the pastor would call me back. That call never came. I left detailed messages with my contact information on the answering machines of the other churches, and not a single call back.  I dropped the story.

I’m still puzzled about the lack of church response, but I’m quite irritated and unforgiving with the business apathy.

Is the economy so prosperous that companies are turning customers away? Is it untrained staff answering the phone?

Or is it just me? 

OK, I’m done fussing.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.