No Flowers for Algernon

It seems as if customer service has been done a dis-service yet again.

Last week, a good friend of mine lost his mother. He lives in Texas; I live in Maryland.

I called 1-800-FLOWERS to let him know that I was thinking about him.

It’s a shame that 1-800-FLOWERS wasn’t thinking about me.

I ordered the flowers on a Wednesday. The site said that they would be delivered by the end of the day. You know where this is going, right?

I talked to my friend on Thursday, and I thought it was odd that he didn’t mention the flowers (I didn’t want to ask…after all, he just lost his mother. I didn’t really expect him to remember all of society’s social conventions during a time of grief).

But then I talked to his partner on Friday, who also didn’t mention them. And this was a guy who followed all the polite norms (which seem less norm all the time, in my mind) of society. He sends thank you notes after I invite him over for dinner. Even though my cooking sucks.

So I started getting suspicious. Finally, Friday night, I sent the guys a text (it felt less intrusive somehow) and asked if they had received them. They responded “No. Thnx for the thought, tho.”

It was a $67 thought. For about $14 worth of flowers. And I thought it made me seem thoughtless to have sent nothing at all.

So I called 1-800-FLOWERS. I didn’t have computer access where I was (I was traveling that weekend), but the nice lady who answered the phone looked up my order through my phone number and said she would call the local florist and see what had happened.

I waited on hold while she called them, and then MY PHONE CUT OFF. Just as I was ready to have my problem solved, another customer service giant (Verizon) ruined my chances.

So I called back. I was put on hold and the robot operator said there was high volume because of the holidays…and the expected wait time was 15 minutes.

I’m not sure what holiday falls on February 20.

Finally, a young man answered the phone. I told him that he could look up my order using my phone number, and the order he found was placed on September 19. (That one, incidentally, had been delivered). He told me he could not find any other order.

When I explained (pleasantly enough) that I had just spoken to a woman who had found my order and was calling the Texas florist, he informed me that he didn’t know who that was, and he had been with the company for two years (it’s always a bad sign when the customer disservice person starts rattling off their resume, or their IQ, or their GPA). My order was not in the system.

So I hung up on that genius (my husband yelling “Thanks for nothing!” in the background) and called AGAIN. The third call’s a charm, right?

Well, I did get through to someone. They were smart enough to find my order (apparently, they had been with the company for at least three years–there’s a lot of training done in that third year), and they said they’d call the florist.  My phone didn’t die on me this time, and they came back and said the flowers would be delivered on Monday.

That’s okay, I said. I only ordered them last Wednesday. And I was fairly certain that my friend’s mother would still be dead on Monday.

They gave me a discount on the order.

You know what happened next. The flowers didn’t come on Monday. Another call, another hassle, another promise that they would come on Tuesday.

No flowers on Tuesday.

I turned the project over to my mother-in-law. Who engaged the customer disservice rep in some interesting conversation, wherein she learned that the customer disservice center was in Guatemala.

“Do you send flowers when people die in Gautemala? Do you know how bad it looks when you don’t send flowers when a WOMAN HAS DIED.”

The girl said she did.

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