Where Logic Meets Love

Incompetent Service: Update

Monday, May 24, 2010

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Incompetent Service: Update | Faith Permeating Life
I arrived to the building where the event was taking place that we needed the boards for this morning. One of the people in charge of the event pointed out the supplies to me, and the boards looked the wrong size.

I asked, "That's what they delivered?"

He said, "No, they didn't deliver anything. I pulled this from our supply closet."

I stood there with my mouth hanging open for a few seconds, then pulled out my phone and called the store.

"How may I direct your call?"

I gave the name of my contact in Customer Service.

A few minutes of bad hold music passed.

"How may I direct your call?"

Seriously? I told them who I was holding for, and they said she wasn't in. "Then, anyone in Customer Service," I said.


"How may I direct your call?"

I nearly lost it at this point. "I'm holding for Customer Service."

"This is Customer Service."

Then why the &#%$ didn't you say that? "I'm calling about a delivery that was supposed to be made Friday and was apparently never made."

She took down my name and phone number (the one on record -- my office phone -- and my cell phone number). She said she'd call the delivery manager and get back to me.

At this point, we had no choice but to pull out some used boards (the boards were being used as dry erase boards for artwork) and erase them. Not what we wanted to do, but we had no choice at that point.

The event started. About half an hour after my initial call, I got a call back. There was no record of my order.

"Was this an Internet order or...?"

"No, it was a phone order. I spoke to three different people on the phone on Wednesday and Thursday and gave all of my order information."

We went through an exchange about Edwin, the second person I'd spoken to. She asked for a last name, and I thought she meant my last name, but she meant Edwin's last name. She couldn't figure out who I'd spoken to. Did I know Edwin's last name? No -- why would I know that?

She looked up my phone number again. No order on record. My phone was cutting out.

"I'm losing you. I'll call you right back--" was the last thing I heard her say.

Finally, 20 minutes later, she called me back. She had an answer. The delivery men, rather than calling the person they were supposed to call to come down and get the boards, had left the boards with the security guard downstairs.

I raced to the elevators. Sure enough, down in the lobby, there were our boards, tucked behind the security desk. The guard was glad I'd come to claim them -- "We didn't know who these belonged to."

So an hour after I initially called the store, after we'd already erased our old boards, we had 12 blank boards. Useless.

And yeah, when I checked back in the office? My receipt has tax on it.

Incompetent Service

Friday, May 21, 2010

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Incompetent Service | Faith Permeating Life
Yesterday was a huge headache.

It began the day before, when I was working at home and had pretty much nothing to do the entire day except order some boards from a hardware store and have them cut it half and delivered to one of the buildings on our campus Friday morning. Even though this is nothing against my work, it involves my work, so I'll refrain from telling you exactly which hardware store decide to try to make my head explode. In any case, that was my task for the day.

I didn't call the store until around 3:30 because I was waiting for an e-mail with my boss's purchasing card information, which I finally got around that time. I called and explained what I needed to buy, and was transferred to the Millwork department. This began my conversation with Marco.

The first thing Marco asked for was my phone number. This was more complicated than he probably anticipated, because I was calling on my cell phone from home, which I didn't really want in their records, but when the guys came to deliver the boards on Friday they were going to have to call a different person's office number to have him come down and get the boards.

I attempted to explain this to him, and apparently it confused him, so first I gave him my cell phone number. This appeared to be the right decision, because he said he wasn't at his desk and needed to call me back, and hung up.

He called back and took down my name, which I spelled very carefully for him, what I was ordering, and my office phone number. Again I tried to explain that they were going to be delivered to a different person in a different building, but he was bound and determined to fill out the form on his computer screen in the right order, with no extra information.


I started to tell him where I wanted the boards delivered, and he interrupted and said no, he needed my address, to put in his system. I gave him my work address.

Eventually I got him to put somewhere on the order the name and phone number of the person the boards were being delivered to. Then he told me how much the delivery charge was going to be.

"Did I tell you where they were going to be delivered?" I asked, knowing I hadn't.

He repeated my work address back to me.

I explained for the third -- at least -- time that the boards were not being delivered to me, and gave him the delivery address.

Finally, I gave him the purchasing card information. Then I asked him to repeat back to me the details of the order, which he did. I hung up, relieved, and e-mailed my coworkers to say that the boards would be delivered Friday morning.

Around 5:30pm, I got a call on my cell phone from Marco. The card was a debit card, he said, and the computer was telling him he had to swipe the physical card. Knowing that a coworker had ordered the same boards from the same store over the phone with a purchasing card from the same school, I said that couldn't be right, and that I would have to call him back the next morning when I was in the office. I thought maybe there was some step I was missing. He said OK.

The next morning, it was around 9:15am, and my coworker hadn't come in yet. I had a 10am meeting, so I decided to go ahead and see if I could get it straightened out myself. I called the store and asked for Marco.

"Marco's not in today." Of course he's not.

I got transferred to Millwork, where I spoke with another person, named Edwin. Edwin agreed that that didn't make sense about the card. He tried to look up my order by my name. No order on record. Fabulous. He asked for my phone number. I took a lucky guess which of the three to give him and gave him my office number. Found it -- my name had been spelled wrong.

For some reason, Edwin decided that the only way to make this work was to take my entire order over again. He kept saying he needed to do it "as a phone order," as if my order the day before hadn't been a phone order. So I dutifully gave him the item information, the instructions, the multiple phone numbers and addresses, the credit card information, the billing address -- everything I'd given Marco the day before. He said he'd call me right back to make sure the card worked.

This effectively chained me to my desk for the next 15 minutes, afraid to go do the other work I needed to do in case I missed his call before my 10am meeting. Finally, he called me back to say the card worked fine. He would call me back when the purchase went through. Um--?? Is that different somehow? I said OK and hung up again.

At this point, I saw that my coworker had come in, and since her desk is within earshot of my phone, I figured it would be safe to go talk to her.

She confirmed that she'd ordered from that same store using a purchasing card with no problems. Then she informed me that Accounting had sent back all her paperwork from her purchase because she hadn't gotten the tax taken off, so she had to fax them our tax exempt letter plus her receipts to get a refund. She hadn't been able to get the fax machine to work, which is why she hadn't told me about it before now. She had been planning to come in that morning and use a different fax machine in our buildling.

So she said I needed to call them back, tell them about our tax exempt status, tell them I was faxing over a letter, then ask to be transferred to Customer Service and speak to the person she was talking to yesterday to follow up on her order and get the refunds.

As I was attempting to process this, my phone rang. Edwin said the payment had gone through. I told him that I'd just found out I needed to have the tax taken off the purchases. He put me on hold. Then he said I needed to fax over the letter and then call and speak to someone in Customer Service (not the same person my coworker had spoken to). I asked if the fax number I had -- the one my coworker had tried -- was correct, and read it to him: XXX3. He said no, that fax machine was broken, he would call me back and tell me which number to fax it to.

I told my coworker that no wonder the fax hadn't gone through -- their machine was broken. Then Edwin called me back. No, he said, that was their only fax machine and it was working. Use that number. He hung up.

I tried four times to fax the letter and receipts. No luck. The fax machine helpfully printed out a sheet of paper every time, telling me that my fax had Failed. I got back to my desk just as Edwin called to ask if I'd faxed the information yet.

I told him the fax wouldn't go through. He said oh, they'd already canceled my order, because they had to put it in again from the beginning with the tax exempt status. I told him I had to go to a meeting, but would be back around 1pm and would try a different fax machine. So I left for my meeting knowing that we were supposed to have six boards delivered the next morning and I had no order in their system.

I got back around 1:30pm and went down to use the other fax machine. Tried twice. Nothing. I came back upstairs to tell my coworker, who pointed out that on the fax she'd received from that store had come from XXX9, not XXX3. I tried faxing to that number, and it went through.

I called the store back and got connected to my contact in Customer Service. She asked if I'd faxed to XXX3. I said I tried six times on two different fax machines and it hadn't worked, but that the fax we'd received from them had come from XXX9 and so I'd tried faxing it there.

"Hold on, let me call down there," she said. I was put on hold.

After a good five minutes, someone else picked up the phone and asked if they could help me. (Don't you hate that, when you're put on hold forever and then someone else picks up and treats you like a new call?)

I explained who I was waiting for, and she said, "Oh, she said to tell you to fax it to XXX1."

So much for only having one fax machine.

I picked up the papers and went to fax them for the eighth time. They went through. I prayed to God and called the store back. Yes, they had received the letter and would fax me a receipt.

My coworker then called to try to straighten out her order, and after a while, the store faxed over all of our receipts. The paper my coworker handed me had two receipts on it, one of which had tax added, but at that point my brain was too mush to try to figure out whose was whose and which were old or new or whatever. I will have to look at it again on Monday and call them back if they did, indeed, add tax to my order. That will be thrilling. [Update: They did.]

All of this probably doesn't even rival the next two hours my coworker spent on the phone with the other area store she'd ordered from. (She'd ordered from two because one told her they had more of the product in stock and then it turned out they didn't have enough.) They didn't want to let her fax the tax exempt letter, but insisted she had to physically come into the store with it, that that was "policy," even though the first store apparently didn't have this policy. After speaking with multiple people, she ended up faxing them some combination of work ID/letterhead/etc to prove that she did indeed work there and didn't just steal their tax exempt letter.

The boards were supposed to be delivered this morning, according to everything that any of the people I'd talked to had told me, but I called into my work voicemail and had a message that they would be delivered between 2pm and 6pm. Because I'm sure that the guy they're delivering them to has nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon than sit around and wait for six freaking boards to be delivered.


Let's hope I don't get into work on Monday and find out the boards were delivered uncut...

My Work -- An Update

Monday, May 17, 2010

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 My Work -- An Update | Faith Permeating Life
I want to revisit this post about my job because so much has changed since I wrote it.

The first big change, which I've mentioned previously, is that I now have a steady freelance copyediting job (which is what I should be working on right now...). I am connected into a network of authors who love my work, and I will probably be working with books for a long time to come. That is exciting to me. It also makes me feel like I haven't deserted my dream of working in publishing, even though my full-time job is in higher ed.

Another huge change in my work is that back in October, after being very vocal about my desire for more projects to work on, I started doing work for our learning assessment department -- first very basic, menial tasks, but increasingly more complex and important projects. The director made a big effort to get me access to a computer with SPSS so I could do more meaningful analyses, and he's been able to take on a lot more projects with my help. My boss has finally become aware of all the work I've been doing, and at my recent performance review said she wanted to review the responsibilities shared across the department to allow me to do more of this kind of work.

This is a help with two of the points in my previous post -- I have a lot less downtime now, and I feel like I'm putting my graduate education to work. Actually, a third point as well -- I'm able to help a lot of different people, and a lot of my work has a clear benefit for the quality of education for our students.

I've become really involved with student course evaluations and getting trained on our new evaluation software, and I'm trying to be a vocal advocate for the importance of course evaluations and allowing students to be part of the process of crafting good evaluation questions. I've done a lot of work recently looking at the research on course evaluations, so I feel educated enough to talk intelligently with anyone who wants to dismiss them as "an outlet for disgruntled students" or something like that.

Probably the most amazing transformation, and one that has only come in the past month or so, is the change in how people in my office view my capabilities -- not everyone, but not just one or two people anymore. My job, officially, is designed to be low-man-on-the-totem-pole -- I'm the one who gets the tasks that are too menial, monotonous, or time-consuming for people "higher up" to waste their time with. Everyone else in the office has the power to dump on delegate to me. Now, suddenly, people are saying to me, "Let's find someone else to do that -- we don't want to waste your time. Your time could be better spent on other projects." That's amazing to me! Especially because I'm perfectly happy doing time-consuming tasks if they support other people.

The most recent change in my job is that my boss -- who, ever since I got mono, constantly looks at me like I'm going to die -- suggested I start working at home two days a week, starting this week. I worked at home last Thursday and it made a huge difference. No commute meant I didn't have to walk anywhere, I didn't have to get up so early, I didn't even shower or change out of my PJs, just ate breakfast and brushed my teeth. And Mike is done with his internship, so he's here to make me lunch and refill my water. I've gotten better about asking him to do things for me, and he's gotten better about offering. He was a little put out about not being able to play his video game while I was working, but once I finished the report that required a lot of concentration, I was able to put in my headphones and let him play his game.

I believe it's true what people told me when I was job-searching: You can get a job that's not your ideal job, prove your abilities to the people you work with, and end up doing something you love. Granted, I'm not doing evaluation and assessment work full time yet, but as soon as that's a possibility organizationally and financially for my department, it sounds like everyone wants me to. And that is awesome.

An Open World

Sunday, May 16, 2010

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An Open World | Faith Permeating Life
What would the world look like if everybody knew everything -- or at least, a lot more -- about one another?

Two things have gotten me to start thinking about this.

One is the increasingly open settings on Facebook that are causing panic in the blogosphere and -- of course -- on Facebook. It's becoming more difficult to choose to put something on the Internet and then control who sees it.

Two is the fact that I'm going to be on the news on Tuesday, talking about my sweepstakes hobby, something my friends and family know about (thanks to Facebook) but which I've only told a few coworkers in anticipation of the news broadcast (to mixed reactions).

The whole Facebook thing fascinates me. People are frantic about keeping other people from reading things that they personally chose to post about themselves online. In my own case, I don't have a lot to hide, so I guess that's part of my confusion -- and I've always tried to view my Facebook profile through the eyes of potential employers, with the knowledge that anything put on the Internet could be viewable to anyone.

Yet at the same time I carefully select privacy settings (Friends Only) and have a separate Facebook account for work. That's not because I put anything damning out there -- no angry rants against coworkers or obscene pictures of myself -- but just out of the uncomfortableness of the idea that someone would judge me for my beliefs or my hobbies, the things I'm comfortable sharing with friends, family, and even old classmates, but not the people I work with every day.

My guess is that this -- the fear of judgment -- is much more the reason people are freaking out about Facebook privacy than fear of stalkers or identity thieves or anything like that. We compartmentalize our lives so much, sharing different parts with different people depending on what we believe they will find acceptable. Maybe you bond with your best friend over trashy reality shows but would never tell your in-laws you watch them, while your best friend spends her nights on anime fan sites and would be mortified if you knew.

So this brings me back to my question of what would happen if everything was thrown out into the open. If PostSecret was no longer necessary because everything was already known. What kind of a world would we live in?

Would you get mocked for your Harry Potter obsession by your coworker, if you knew that she is a compulsive autograph seeker? Would you tease your brother for secretly spending hours editing Wikipedia articles, if he knew you spent as much time writing soap opera fanfic?

It's hard to know if we'd be a more or less accepting society if everything was out there. I'd like to believe we'd be more accepting. We'd find more things in common. We'd ask more questions about each other's passions and learn more about each other and the world. Secret collections of Barbie dolls, NBA cards, Warhammer figurines, and arrowheads would see the light of day to be marveled at by seemingly unlikely admirers. We'd learn which friend to go to when buying new cabinets (the one who is obsessed with home remodeling shows), which friend to ask for fashion advice (the one who likes to cut out clothes from magazines and rank their features), and which friend to recommend the best ukulele to buy (the friend who has three).

And what about the more serious things? Would there be fewer affairs, if they were impossible to be secrets? Would more people get help for self-harming, addictions, eating disorders, psychological problems, if their habits were well-known? Or would they be more resistant to help, being able to throw back in the face of their parents, friends, counselors their own bad habits? Would we become overwhelmed by how many problems so many people have?

What about our judgments? What if everything we ever said or wrote about another person was all but guaranteed to make it back to them? Would we be kinder, less willing to voice our negative opinions, or would it breed a middle-school-ish passive-aggressiveness of saying things in hopes that they make their way to the target, without having to say them to their face?

I don't know the answers. I just know that we're moving toward a more open Internet, in a patchwork sort of way. The possibility has always existed that anything you put on the Internet could eventually be seen by anyone else, but this will become more salient to people as they choose what to post, how carefully to craft their online image. And I know that on Tuesday, my "secret" hobby is going to be out there for everyone to react to in one way or another. I'm OK with that because it's who I am. The more I think about it, the more I'd like people to judge me as a person in my entirety, not based on some image I craft.

What about you?

Fancy Hotel Room = Sex?

Monday, May 10, 2010

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Fancy Hotel Room = Sex? | Faith Permeating Life
This is a follow-up to my last post on the Family Foundations magazine.

We received our last issue in the mail recently (I don't feel the need to renew just to have something to shake my head at). Remember how I said they had a couple that was basically like, "C'mon, it's our wedding night, of course we're going to have sex"? The latest issue contained something very similar. Again, there was an article about an NFP-practicing couple who were apparently being held up as a model because the guy had "shocked my bride-to-be by stating we will use NFP or nothing." (Uncompromising decrees -- what a great foundation for a marriage.)

It alternated between his and her points of view, and his side of the story, about a month into their marriage, contained this gem:

My uncle's firm rented the Presidential Suite in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and after the event the room was paid for the night. I knew we were a couple of days into the fertile time of our cycle. But come on, a romantic evening in a loaded hotel room? Some things are just too good to pass up!

I agree -- don't pass up the free hotel room, or the romantic evening. But if you're fertile and not wanting to get pregnant, then yeah, skip the intercourse and celebrate one of the myriad other ways you can be romantic and intimate. I don't understand the mindset of "romantic evening must equal intercourse."

It gets better: Apparently she didn't understand how to interpret her cycle, and since they apparently didn't talk about it at all (??) he never told her she was fertile. She just assumed that she must be infertile if he was initiating sex, and he assumed that she knew she was fertile and didn't care since she "let" him do it. And that's how they got pregnant a month into their marriage.

And it was a "wonderful gift from God," because, of course, that's the lesson of the article -- it doesn't matter how much you suck at practicing NFP or how much you let your hormones or your laziness or your romantic hotel room dictate your sex life instead of prayer and planning -- you can always assume it was for the best because obviously God wouldn't have let you get pregnant if He didn't want you to be pregnant.

Honestly, I haven't figured out what this magazine is trying to preach, exactly. It seems to me that all it's trying to do is twist NFP so that all the couples who ended up having more kids than they wanted to because they were too impatient or horny or whatever to practice NFP mindfully can assuage their guilt by reading about couples just like them.

And honestly, I think it's worth striving for something more than that.

I Really Hate Mono

Saturday, May 1, 2010

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I Really Hate Mono | Faith Permeating Life
It's been over a month now since I was sort-of-but-not-exactly diagnosed with mono, and while I'm well past the swollen glands and fever stage, I'm definitely not back to normal yet. As friends who had had mono helpfully commented when I first learned I had it, "Oh man, it took me months and months to get my energy back!"

My routine has been somewhat like this the past few weeks: Spend the weekend lying around like a useless lump, then feel great (relatively speaking) on Monday, then wear down over the course of the week until by Friday my legs are moving by sheer willpower.

I haven't volunteered at the library for a month now, and I haven't told them why (I looked for an e-mail address for the volunteer coordinator but couldn't find one, and my experience is that the phone number goes to the circulation desk, with people who don't care about the volunteers at all). I have every intention of going over there today, if for no other reason than to pick up a documentary I reserved, but right now I don't feel like moving. The thought of getting up to shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast just makes me feel exhausted. So I lie here with my laptop and feel useless.

Back when I actually looked like I was really sick (I came down with a bad cold about a week and a half after going to the doctor about mono), Mike and I had to have a discussion about taking care of me when I am sick. His idea of taking care of me was to ask, "You need anything?" and then sit down at his computer with his back to me and put his headphones on to watch a movie for two hours. So if I needed, say, more water, my choices were to yell at him and make him pause his movie, take off his headphones, get up and refill my water; get up myself and get more water; or just lie there and not drink any more water. Generally I chose the last option, but occasionally I would get things for myself. After all, when he was gone all day at work, those were my only options anyway. So even though I knew that I was supposed to be drinking lots of water and taking ibuprofen and putting compresses on my lymph node and all this stuff, I did a pretty crap job of taking care of myself because I was too freaking exhausted to do it, and I needed someone to make me drink water and do all this other stuff.

I explained to Mike that I am really bad at asking people to do things for me when I am sick. This is especially true when I have reverse hypochondria about the whole thing and am paranoid that they think I'm faking it and trying to take advantage of them. He got slightly better about bringing me water and asking if I wanted tea and stuff like that. And then I started going back to work and was basically assumed to be normal again.

The problem is that it's not just about asking him to do things directly related to my being sick, like bringing me medicine and tea when I am lying in bed. It's things like -- the dishes pile up in the sink, the paper piles up on the table, and so on, and who am I to lie on the couch and order him to clean up his messes?

So I end up just feeling the oppressing weight of clutter that happens when things start to get out of control, or exhausting myself by doing it myself. He's been cooking dinner practically every night (as well as washing the dishes, when he doesn't leave them for later), and I feel terrible about it, even though the thought of trying to cook something is exhausting. On the weekends, when I'm by myself, I even have trouble (as noted before) getting up to microwave myself some breakfast or heat up a can of soup.

I keep fearing that he's eventually going to snap at me and ask me why I'm being so lazy and making him do everything. There's no outward symptom of my tiredness, no proof of how difficult it is for me. And so I just feel like I'm faking it, even when I know that I'm not.

That is why I hate mono.
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