The whole thing took about an hour and a half. I could have written a stupid blog post in that hour and a half. Or baked a pie. Or listened to my playlist called “These songs are a yes.”
Instead that hour and a half was spent attempting to close accounts for an out of state client who had already failed at her local branch. I had my ID and notarized letters of instruction and court certified documents and a red purse with business cards in it. Surely my red purse would lend me an air of authority. The customer service representative, I’ll call her Sophia, glanced at the paperwork and looked lost. She had on a pretty ring with purple and green stones. I wanted to compliment her but I didn’t want to seem too enthusiastic because I knew eventually she’d screw me over.
She dialed a number. We waited. Someone answered and she tried to read the court certified letters of administration out loud to a cog in the wheel they call the legal department, probably thousands of miles away. Sophia couldn’t pronounce prerequisite. She stumbled around with it and finally decided on “prereziquit.” The word decedent also took a wrong turn in her mouth and became descendant.
I was getting an uncomfortable feeling. When people who are supposed to be helping me can’t read, it gives me a bad vibe. The discussion went on for some time with more reading and mispronouncing and misstating of the facts. “My manager isn’t here today,” she told the cog. I felt a tear form but brushed it away.
“Let’s see if we can’t get this taken care of,” Sophia said somewhat unconvincingly.
She left the desk to consult with the assistant manager. I stared at the cup full of lollipops on her desk and thought of Copenhagen. I love the sound of it – the way it bounces around on my lips when I say it. I’ve never been there. I’ve never been to Europe actually. I’ve read that it can take weeks or even months to complete simple transactions in Europe. I doodled. I deleted messages from my phone. I rubbed something sticky off the side of my sandal.
Eventually Sophia returned with the assistant manager, I’ll call her Clarice. She said something like “Well here’s the problem. We’re not going to be able to do this for you today.” Something about the absence of the client and the “scope” of their regulations and the Gulf oil spill and the price of grain futures.
This is where I got snippy and told them that I knew they wouldn’t do it, that their bank was the worst to deal with and that before I’d left my office that morning I’d said “Lord have mercy. I’ll be there all morning and nothing will get resolved.” That’s a real quote by the way. I even turned my eyes heavenward when I said it. Clarice said there was no reason to get upset. I said I knew there wasn’t, but I just needed to let them know that we’ve never referred a client to their bank and it makes me sad when I have to deal with them.
Clarice said “Here’s what I can do. I can try to get the rep from the Rhode Island branch on the phone and find out why your client wasn’t able to get the accounts closed out. Because this is the proper paperwork and she should be allowed to do it.”
“That would be wonderful,” I said. “It would be wonderful if you could even reach someone at the branch, because I already tried that and no one picked up the phone. Ever.”
Apparently I made enough of a scene that Clarice thought we should conduct further business in her office. From her office she tried to call the Rhode Island representative’s number and no one picked up. She searched for a better number for the branch. I think she was searching on the bank’s web page. There was no number listed. She called another person in, maybe her name was Ophelia, to look at the site and show her that there was no number listed for the branch. She tried to call the customer service number and bypass the prompts by saying “Speak to a representative.” In response she got, “Incorrect prompt.” I looked on sympathetically. While she continued her quest I complimented her on the roses on her desk. Now we were conversing like old friends. Her birthday was a few days ago… “Speak to a representative!” Her daughter got them for her. Her daughter attends the same college my daughter used to attend. She shares a condo with a roommate…“Speak to a representative!” After 3 or 4 tries she hung up.
She looked in the company directory, found the rep’s number, and it was the same number she’d already called so she called it again. And it just rang again. She found a number for branch manager and dialed her but she didn’t pick up either. She left her a voicemail. She also sent an email, which took her 10 minutes to compose.
I apologized for getting testy. We chatted about foreclosures and kids and crazy customers, like the one I’d seen a few weeks ago walking up and down the sidewalk with a sign that said “I pray for Bank X to fail” and “Honk if you hate Bank X.” I apologized again before leaving and gave a little wave. I’m a lady. I’ve just turned into Audrey Hepburn. All I need are white gloves and a little purse that clicks shut with a snap.
After lunch I check my voice mail. It’s Clarice! “The manager from Rhode Island will call your client and tell her what she needs to do. I just wanted to let you know. If you need anything, I’m here.” she says earnestly. I press star 3 to delete.
Sometimes I dream of Copenhagen.