Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I got my comeuppance!

Earlier today I was on the phone with CitiBank, upgrading one of my business credit cards to another program with better rewards. I was speaking with a customer service rep named Angela, who had to go over my financial and account information, and also read to me the usual boilerplate associated with such things. We joked about that and I pretended to snore in the midst of it.

Anyway, when all was neatly tied with a bow, Angela asked me the standard "Is there anything else I can help you with" end-of-call question, and I answered with my usual smartass

"Well, most astronomers now agree that the Universe is about 13.7 billion years old. I was wondering if you could tell me if that was true or not",
to which Angela replied,
"That depends, of course, upon whether the Universe truly began with a Big Bang, or rather has always existed in a Steady State, and if the former, whether or not it's expanded at a uniform rate or if the Inflation model is correct, coupled with the very real possibility that the rate of expansion is accelerating".

I nearly fell off of my chair! The usual response I get is a polite laugh - or perhaps more deservedly -- dead silence. After I stopped laughing with glee, I got her to tell me that reading about astronomy is one of her favorite things to do, and that a good friend of hers is an astrophysicist.

Once again His Nibs was reminded of his title, and the definition that graces the top of this weblog.


  1. Angela3:53 AM

    Hello again, Norman. It's Angela. Obviously, I received your message, though I must admit I was hesitant to make any comment on your post right away, if at all. Permit me to tell you from my own perspective just how things transpired.

    During the call you so adequately described, you might be surprised to know I hadn't placed you into the category of 'smartass'. In truth, your conversation was delightful compared with some of the deliberate insults I must deal with from time to time.

    It's not uncommon when calling to take advantage of mail offers, etc., that one is sometimes forced to deal with a typical marketing representative who knows only the script and little else. Worse still, the inevitable drone of their voice as they READ is often more grating when they make no effort to add even a subtle change in their intonation to soften the necessary but annoying legal dislosures at the end of their call.

    It might interest you to know I am not JUST a rep in that sense. I do more than take calls such as we shared. I am also trained to wear many other hats. My true title is Senior Credit Analyst. In my department, I am trained (much like a super-rep) to perform all sorts of tasks and fill in where needed. I analyze and perform judgemental decisions involving credit approval or decline. I test new software, take calls, make calls, re-assign credit limits, process data, verify information and screen for fraud activity to name a few tasks. I must be familiar with computer systems of all sorts, current credit policies of the bank and government regulations (eg. ECOA, TILA, etc.) I have a signing authority of credit within the bank as an underwriter and I am paid to use my brain. We are encouraged to think 'out of the box' and will often suggest changes or adjustments to the programs we offer - and what we say matters.

    The day you called back, I was in a meeting and am truly sorry I wasn't available to take your call.

    Suzie, the woman you spoke to, came to my desk the moment I returned with a smug look on her face. She leaned in and said "You had a phone call."

    I inquired, "Oh? Who called?" unsure where she was going.

    She said, "A man called asking for you and I told him I could help him. But, he said he wanted to talk to you and that it was personal." (Emphasis on the 'personal', since she was going for shock value. I distinctly noted the twinkle in her eye, so I played her game, less concerned as I was a second before.) She said she assumed it was a complaint call and offered to transfer your call to a supervisor. She then waited for a moment to see if my face registered fear.

    I dissappointed her, I suppose, because I then called her bluff and said, "Alright, Miss Suzie, what's up? You're failing miserably to hide that smile." She laughed and gave me a card with all the information you gave her scribbled on it.

    I can tell you that at my first opportunity, I was online to see what your message was all about. I recall laughing aloud when I realized which customer you were and reliving the conversation in my mind.

    I can honestly tell you I only answered in the way I did because it truly seemed like you were trying to stump me, and I had enough working gray matter to keep that from happening. I didn't say what I did to be snobby, but only to somehow firmly, yet subtley, defend my position in this world as a thinking being, capable of independent cognition - and not just a drone with an ability to read a script without comprehension.

    I printed a copy of your entry and shared it with my peers and management. So far, everyone has smiled and enjoyed it. That includes me.

    I want to thank you for a brief respite from the verbatim I am legally bound to perform. Inwardly, I giggled to myself when you pretended to snore. You were much more charming and witty than you give yourself credit.

    The call was, with all sincerity, my pleasure.

  2. Hi Angela!

    Great to hear from you, and I'm thrilled that my message was passed on to you. You made my day with your response to my question (I immediately called a friend of mine who shares our interest in astrophysics to relate the call).

    Thanks also for your wonderfully written comment. Since you have such a scope of powers within CitiBank, I'm sure that you'll be able to deposit additional funds into my account with no problem :-).

    Don't worry, I think my being a 'smartass' is a positive characteristic (you'll get a different interpretation from my wife)!

    I hope that you check back to read this short response, and would love to elaborate upon it should you choose to email me directly (you can reach me at hisnibs@hisnibs.com should you so choose).

    It would be interesting to see what you're up to in 5 years!



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