No Service

No Service


Leonard Zwelling

I understand that there is a real shortage of help in the service industries across the country. We see it here in Hawaii where coffee shops have limited hours presumably because of lack of available help and restaurants are offering $20 an hour for all positions. What I do not understand is why this is the case when so many are still out of work. How can there be so many job openings and yet we still have unacceptably high unemployment? Is it because pay in the service sector is not competitive? Not competitive with what? Unemployment benefits? If the latter, that can be fixed easily.

I don’t understand any of this, but I do agree that there is a distinct absence of anything resembling service anywhere.

Let’s start with the obvious.

If you call for assistance on a (God forbid) telephone as opposed to using the web site or chat function of some merchant or service provider you are as likely to get a machine as a human and then only after going through a menu of ten choice buttons does a sentient voice talk back. If you are fortunate and get to a live person within ten minutes, that person is as likely to be in Mumbai as he or she is to be in the United States. That person usually has only a passing familiarity with English and usually tries to convey their thoughts in a heavy accent. Oh, am I being politically incorrect? Tough! I am trying to get some service.

I recently tried to order dinner at a local upscale restaurant in the Galleria area. Everyone there speaks English, but the phone was busy for half an hour. I could talk with no one. So I tried to order dinner on-line. It seemed to work and the website told me to be there at 5:50 PM. I arrived on time and drove up to the pick-up area where the car parking crew told me I should leave my car and go inside and get my order. Usually they bring it out, but since I could not get the people in the restaurant to pick up the phone because of the perpetual busy signal, I could not tell them I was even there. I was left with little choice.

I parked and went in and sat at the bar in a mask for fifteen minutes because the dinner was not ready for pick-up at the time they had said I should be there. It finally came out with a service charge of $14.40 tacked on for this awful service. At least they didn’t charge me to park.

Recently I spent an hour trying to get our exterminator on the line because we had a termite invasion in a downstairs bathroom. The dispatcher refused to talk to me after the hour because I had become too hostile for them. I cancelled the service and got a new exterminator. There is no shortage of these services in Houston. A month later the original exterminator company sends me a card telling me they are going to come out for our usual service. I called and after a while was able to remind them I had cancelled the service. Three weeks later that exterminator shows up any way. I sent him away. I got a bill for the services he did not render two weeks after I had sent him away. I think I may have finally gotten through to them (after ten choice button pushes). We shall see.

But my favorite service provider providing horrible service is the United States Postal Service. There was a time that I used to get my mail and no one else’s. That time has long since passed. There is rarely a week that goes by that I don’t receive someone’s mail and the addressee is not often on my street. Is anybody home at the USPS? Don’t go to a post office to find out unless you really want poor service.

When I was a vice president, our office mission statement was “service with a sense of urgency.” I don’t know if we always met our goals, but it was the most important thing to me and I thought that every member of my team understood that. Where has that attitude gone? Oh, I know. It moved off-shore and has taken up residence in India. You think I’m joking? Call for some service some time and see who answers. If anyone. Oh yes, press 2 for English.

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