Mr. Baitenswitch

© 2017 by Tom Sparough

Mr. Baitenswitch

“Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

“My name is George Baitenswitch.”

“Well, good afternoon Mr. Baitenswitch. How may I assist you?” As Brendan said these words, he wondered if this man was a heavy smoker. How else do you get a gravelly voice like that?

“Call me George.”

“Absolutely, George, how may I help you?

“My life is over, and I am very unhappy.”

Brendan realized this was joke. Lots of callers had an odd sense of humor. He smiled. “George, my friend you called the right guy. I specialize in making people happy. I am going to do everything I can to resolve your issue. Now what seems to be the trouble?

“The problem is I’ve got no life left. I am forever in the dark.”

“Let me put it this way, George, what product are you calling in about today?”
“I am calling in to get a new life. You are my life line.”

“George, I appreciate your call and wish you all the best, but I am afraid you have called the wrong number. This is Amazing Products customer service. I can only help you with product information.”

“Your product is the reason that I am miserable, why I am stuck in the dark.”

“Mr. Baitenswitch, which product are you referring to?”

Do you want the product ID number or its name?”

“Either is fine.”

“Then I’ll give you both, you little weasel.”

Either is fine, and there is no need for name calling. I am here to help you.”

“You have already told me you can’t help me. That you care nothing about me.”

“Please, just give me the product information.”

“One, Seven, three, Alpha, Seven, Bravo, Two. The Ever Light.”

“Thank you. I’m pulling that up. I see the item is discontinued, but maybe I can still help. What seems to be the issue with your Ever Light flashlight?

“It doesn’t work?”

“Say a bit more about that. What exactly is the problem?”

“The problem is I am talking to an idiot who doesn’t care about me or my flashlight.”

“Mr. Baitenswitch I really am trying to help. Did you drop the flashlight?”
“How would I do that?”

“Perhaps you bumped into some furniture and it slipped out of your hand?”
“There is no furniture here so it couldn’t have slipped out of my hand. You have a lifetime guarantee, don’t you?”

“We do have a lifetime guarantee. And the lifetime of this flashlight is five years.”

“No, son, a lifetime is forever.”

“When did you purchase it?”

“It was given to me as a present seven years ago.”

“That is remarkable, isn’t it? Seven years of dependable life. I am sure it is disappointing, but it functioned as designed. We have a new line of flashlights if you would like to purchase a replacement.”

“No, I want this one to work, because I am stuck in here. All I have is a phone and a flashlight, and the flashlight doesn’t work, and it’s your fault, you piece of scum. Did you get that message, Brendan?”

“Loud and clear, sir. And I thank you for your call. I truly hope things improve for you.”

Brendan disconnected the line, pulled off his headset and stood up. He walked to the break room. He opened the refrigerator and stared in. The cool air felt good. He cheeks were flushed. He grabbed an apple.

“How’s it going little guy?”

Brendan looked at Rachel and took a bite of the apple. He shook his head, chewed, swallowed and said, “I just had a certifiable nut job call in.”

“He got to you?

“No, but I have to say I hate this job, at least with calls like that one.”

“My advice is as you’re listening, picture a tranquil beach. Don’t let anything someone says get to you. Anger will take you away if it gets hold of you.”

“Really Rachel? Is that what you do?”

“No, I pretend I am on a trampoline, and everything bounces off me.”

Back at his desk, Brendan put on his headset. A call came in. “Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

Silence.

“Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

Silence.

“Hello, are you there. I can’t seem to hear you. Can you hear me?” Brendan disconnected the call.

Another call came in. “Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

Silence.

“Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

Silence, no wait, soft, raspy breathing. Brendan listened carefully. He could clearly hear breathing. “Hello, are you there? This is customer service.”

No response. Brendan disconnected the call. He hit speed dial one. “Hey Bob, I have had a couple of calls in a row that I couldn’t hear anyone. I wanted to make sure that there isn’t a problem on my end. Can you give me a test call?”

A call came in. “Brendan, can you hear me?”

“Yeah, Bob. Thanks.”

“Thank you, Brendan. I appreciate you following our protocol.”

Another call came in. “Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

Silence.

“Hello?”

Brendan heard a wheezing breath. A voice he recognized said, “Hellll-o.”

It was the gravely voice of Mr. Baitenswitch. Brendan thought about disconnecting immediately, but stayed on the line. With 17 call reps how the hell did he get this guy twice?

“Brendan, I need something from you.”

“What’s that sir?”

“I told you to call me George. I’m your friend.”

“Yes, of course you are. George, how can I help?”

“I want you to step into my shoes for a minute.”

“Go on. How would that help?”

“Because you are a whiny little punk who has no idea what I am going through.”

“I am going to have to end this call.”

“Don’t you dare end this call. I am stuck in this coffin with nothing but a phone and a flashlight, and the flashlight doesn’t work. I need you to fix this.”

Brendan was speechless. He hit disconnect. He pounded his chest with his right hand. He spread his legs apart and stretched out his feet. He looked at the ceiling.

Another call. He hesitated to connect. He laughed to himself, and connected. “Hello, this is Brendan of customer service. May I ask your name?”

“You know my name. Come see things from my side. Come experience eternal darkness while you have the Ever Light in your hand, the hand that has never dropped the light.”

“Sir, I don’t know how you are calling me, but I am going to have to ask you to stop this. It is not funny. I can’t help you. Have a good day.” He disconnected.
Ten seconds later a call coming in…Brendan looked at the light that signaled the call. He didn’t answer.

That low gravely voice came into his earphone anyway. “You’ve got no spine. You don’t help people. You manipulate them. You abuse them. You leave them hopeless and in the dark.”

“Get off this fricking line.” Brendan was in a rage. “I am not listening to you. You’re a pathetic sicko. I hope you end your miserable life. You deserve to be dead. I wish I could see you, see you in all your pain, you cigarette smoking idiot!” Brendan was smashing his fist against his desk.

As he was screaming he lost touch with where he was. It felt as if he was being sucked away from the call center into the phone line. He was somehow in the phone line, darkness, speed, anger, whipping along.

Rachel looked over at Brendan. He looked to be in convulsions. Then he calmed down suddenly. He opened his hand and looked at it. He took off his headphones. He was smiling. He took a long slow breath. He stood up.

Rachel stood up. She looked at him. “I guess someone is getting assertive. I think we will be hearing that call in our weekly meeting! Brendan you really lost it. I thought you were going break your desk the way you were hitting it.”

“You know,” he said in a much lower voice than usual, “call me George.”

In the sudden darkness, Brendan could not see anything. He opened and closed his eyes. There was no difference. He lifted his arms and they hit against some kind of padded roof. He was stuck in place. In one hand was something that felt like a phone. In the other was cylinder, a plastic tube with a switch. He pushed the switch. Nothing happened.

Reflection

Those of us who are front line employees who work directly with customers need special training in how to maintain our cool when things get heated. It is not easy when someone is angry to not become angry yourself. Nothing good comes from loosing your temper on a service call.

What happened in this story? Where did Brendan end up?

What helps you to keep your calm when others are heated up around you?