Appointment etiquette is dead

The phone rings at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, and the caller ID identifies the incoming salvo as “Keyspan Energy.” The good news is at least you now have some idea what this call will be about, unlike the pre-election political phone bank calls that come in daily from “800 Service.”

A very pleasant, heavily accented and pre-recorded voice invites me to please hold, because Keyspan Energy wants to set an appointment with me to change my gas meter.

My mood immediately sours. Didn’t you call me? You called me to put me on hold? In fact, you didn’t even ask if you could put me on hold. You started me on hold.

Worse is the message repeats three times. You call me, start me on hold, and keep me on hold for an extended period? Why not call me later?

Finally, there is a pause in the recording. A person! A real live person is speaking to me! Except that this person’s voice, while not heavily accented, is slightly muffled, as if the operator is cupping a hand over her mouth and blocking the headset mic from picking up her voice directly. Or maybe she was eating a sandwich, and hadn’t quite finished before taking me off hold. Hard to tell.

After I verify my name and address (again, you called me… didn’t you know who you were calling?), the operator informs me for now the fourth time that they are calling to set an appointment to change my gas meter. I ask what the impact will be.

“You’ll get a new gas meter.”

So this is how it’s going to go?  You call me, start me on hold, keep me on hold for an extended period, the end result of which is THIS battle of wits with a muffled voice on the other end of the line? Color me steamed and flummoxed.

“Right, I get that, but will they be shutting off the gas? I want to know how long….?”

She interrupts me, thinking she has intercepted my entire question. “Oh, yes, they will have to shut off the gas.”

“For how long?” I ask.

“For as long as the appointment lasts,” she says.

I can’t believe I am having this conversation.

“OK. How long is the appointment?”

“Oh, 30 to 45 minutes,” she says.

“OK, I guess that will work.”

She pauses a moment. “How’s Nov. 15? We’ll need a 6-hour window.”

I dare not retort at this point. The woman is doing her job. I can’t get angry with her for that. But I am fuming at her employer. A 6-hour window for a maximum 45-minute appointment? I’m certain this very same rant has been written elsewhere, so let me add to the echo: Can you imagine if the rest of the world set appointments like the utility companies?

OK, let’s set the Webex up for between 8 and 12. It’ll just be a half hour presentation, but we could show up online and on the teleconferencing bridge anytime in that four hour window. Will that be OK?

As if…. I continue to play this silly game, because, really, what choice do I have?

“What day is Nov. 15?”

“A Monday.”

“That won’t work. Make it a Friday. We’re more likely to have somebody home on a Friday.”

“OK,” she says, before adding another pause to our scintillating conversation.

“How’s Nov. 19, between either 8 and 1 or…”

“Yes, I’ll take take. First thing would be great.”

As if….

So anyone needing to reach me between 8 and 1 on Nov. 19 should find me to be a pretty captive audience. I’ll be waiting for Keyspan to arrive, praying they meant 8 when really it will be closer to 2 p.m., because that in fact is the end of the 6-hour window the operator first indicated. To think it will instead be a 5-hour window is just false hope.

Maybe I’ll kill time that day with a conference call sometime between 10 and 2.

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One thought on “Appointment etiquette is dead

  1. The water company just pulled something similar with me last month. "Set up an appointment with us to install a leak detection device, or we'll shut your water off." I ignored the notices. We were both too busy at work to take time out for some silly 6-hour window wait like this, and I somewhat wanted to challenge the legality of their claim to shut us off. They sent us a final letter saying "Your water will be shut off." Then I pulled up to the house after work with a truck outside my house. Amy was home with Josh at the time. I storm downstairs ready to rumble, and there's a nice guy explaining "Yeah, we thought we could just stop by and take care of this leak detector install for you. Hope you don't mind." Now, why couldn't they just try that approach from the start?

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