Friday, October 22, 2010

It's the Little Things that Consume You

Is it just me or does it make your head explode when you end up spending a good portion of your time correcting mistakes that other people (aka the bank, the grocery store, the IRS) make? Last week we got a letter from the IRS saying that we owed a huge sum for our 2008 taxes. My heart stopped when I saw the letter. I actually turned it over and looked on back side to make sure it was addressed to me. And of course, I'd opened it after I got home at 6pm so I couldn't call about it until the next day. That meant an agonizing night of no sleep where I ran facts and figures through my head trying to figure out how we could made an error on our taxes so large that it would have paid for a nice trip to Hawaii. The following day I called my accountant, a man who is the epitome of calm and cool - which I like - who told me to fax it over for him to review. Guess what? When all was said and done, they were in error and we only owed six bucks (which won't even by 4 people coffee at Starbucks). However, after thanking my accountant profusely, rejoicing (and saying some prayers), I thought about all the worry and TIME that went into discovering that someone else had made a mistake and that their error meant time out of my day (time I didn't have in the first place and will never get back) and stress (which I have too much of already)that I don't need.

Soon after, I got a letter from my credit union saying I was ten days late on the payment for my car loan. Only problem was, I'd actually paid my car loan several days before the due date and the money had long since been out of my account. (I'm actually rather fanatical about sending bills in early, so much so that it makes David crazy because he insists it is okay to send it in right before it is due rather than as soon as I receive the bill). Of course I called and fussed and found out that they'd lost my check. But only after Bank of America kept me on hold for forty minutes...40 MINUTES...waiting to talk to the bill pay customer service rep. But guess what? When the rep finally picked up, Bank of America had transferred me to the wrong department, so I'd waited forty minutes for nothing! Finally connecting with the right person, I pointed out the error of their ways, insisted they send a letter to my credit union explaining their mistake and requesting a reversal of late fees and a reissuing of the check. Did I ever get an apology for the mistake, the error that took 4 hours out of my life that again, I'm not getting back (the older I get, the more I am aware of losing my time...okay, not just aware, obsessing). Again, someone else's error was eating into my time and screwing with my money. Two things that make me cranky...or rather crankier than I already am.

What I think frustrates me and worries me almost more than the loss of time, frustration and civility in discourse these days (did I mention that almost every customer service rep I spoke with was nasty and accusatory until I was able to show them the bill pay print out which proved I'd paid on time. Until then, they treated me like Bernie Madoff, trying to pull a fast one), is that we live in a country which has pretty much stopped making things and on the whole, have an economy which is based on customer service. The problem is - nobody knows how to provide customer service any more!

It feels like they are making less time these days. Like there is a shortage. In the past, it seemed like we had more time or maybe it just felt that way because our time wasn't being eaten away by all the little details, all the errors you have to correct, all the t's that need crossing and i's that would only be straight lines without the dot on top, all the gadgets and gizmos which do help our lives, but also take time to open, view, click and delete. It's time I'd much rather use going on a bike ride with my younger daughter or listening to my older daughter play the piano. But what am I doing instead? I'm waiting on hold for customer (dis) service. I'm only hoping that this time, they transferred me to the right department.

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