The ballad of customer service

As mentioned in ‘Wake up babies‘ in the time we thought we had to wait for scheduled induction we were all given jobs.

Part of mine was to make phone calls.   To work, to HR and to large nameless corporations.

As most expectant parents do, we had ordered lots of lovely things to be delivered ahead of the birth so the boys could have a nice warm, cosy cot with fresh bedding and delightful soft companions.

It was of vital importance that none of it came to the house.  Each package would be a thudding, ringing reminder of what should have been.

I had held it together with work,  with HR but there on the phone sat by an empty cot filled only with things that would be returned and donated my voice finally cracked.

When I told them that the ordered items should be cancelled and any dispatch stopped the voice on the end of the phone asked (as she had to) why?  Why was it so important?

“My sons are dead”.

Amidst the furious back pedalling and baffled condolences she told me that it was not general policy to offer a refund for store vouchers.  I explained that we were unlikely to ever use it and could do with the money to help pay for the funeral.  I was directed to ask in store when I returned the other items.  I would need some paperwork to prove that it wasn’t a cunning ruse to try and trick them.

A few days later I made the trip to nameless large retailer of mother and baby goods to return clothes, blankets and other things that would not be used or kept.

There’s no dedicated returns or customer service point in store so I patiently queued with my bag of stuff and a folder containing the stillbirth certificate along with beaming parents, nervous mothers -to-be absent mindedly rubbing their unborn babies and proud grandparents armed with the biggest, most ludicrously sized soft toys they could find.

The queue whittled down as I half listened to excited questions on due dates, is it your first, do you know what you’re having…god, imagine if it were twins…*nervous laughter*

Finally it is my turn.  I patiently explain the situation, what I’ve been told and request a refund.  There are frowns.  Not really store policy and it’s generally only in exceptional circumstances at managers discretion.

I gently push forward the stillbirth certificate with the silent question if dead children aren’t exceptional circumstances then what are?  I explain that the chances of conceiving in the first place were tiny, the chances of twins even smaller and it was unlikely that we would be using a voucher for a baby retailer for a very, very long time.

Managers must be consulted so off they toddle and leave me at the till to wait amongst the baby outfits and bright colours while I just stare at the green of the certificate in front of me reading the words but not really taking in their meaning.

A click-clack of heels and a phone call later (“no, he’s got a bit of paper with him”) and finally I can leave minus baby clothes and blankets but still clutching my folder with the only legal recognition that they were here.

Dealing with difficult customers isn’t just about the angry ones.  Sometimes it’s the sad ones that need help, a little privacy and understanding rather than bafflement and suspicion.

I never got the refund.  It was all a waste of time that I could have spent with my wife.  That’s what angers me.  It was a needlessly distressing experience for nothing.

A Bit Of Everything

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Its awful that corporations have no compassion and cannot see past policies and procedures. I am so sorry for your loss and wish I could offer better words of condolences. #abitofeverything

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thank you.

      The person on the phone was as sympathetic as she could have been but ultimately ineffective. The person in the shop was a different matter. It was a toxic mix of callousness and incompetence that really hurt. A basic lack of thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. diaryofuem says:

    Oh my gosh, this is truly awful. It’s awful that you’ve been through it and awful that you were treated that way. It’s shocking that a retailer specialising in baby goods would not have a policy for such circumstances. Truly dreadful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thank you.

      It was a spectacularly clueless way to handle things!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Customer service is a misnomer these days. There’s nothing about what these people do, even in ordinary circumstances, that even remotely resembles customer service. I suppose since there was nothing in their manuals about the situation, they lacked the wherewithal to draw their own intelligent conclusions. God forbid they should have to explain a bit of independent thinking and a dab of compassion to the main office. There I am, annoyed now! 🙂 I suspect you handled it with a good deal more grace than many might have.


    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Grace is a kind word for mute compliance! It was a battle I had no energy to fight and was too baffled at the time to push harder. We’ve had approaches to get it into the media etc but there’s little point. It was over 4 years ago and it wasn’t about the refund, more the crap treatment by someone who (I would hope for their sake) is long, long gone to another job where they can practice their tact and diplomacy.


  4. This is so heart-wrenching! You would think that organisations would be a bit more compassionate and understanding. It never ceases to amaze me why some people become like robots “just following rules”! Do they lose their sense of humanity? Simply awful! I am so sorry for your loss. #abitofeverything

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thank you for reading. I’m working on another happy one for balance. That Anxious Dragon is a good influence. Loved your bullying blog btw, that one’s inspired another one for me. You make a fine dynamic duo.


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