Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Man on a Mission

There are days when Grammar feels every one of her 50-odd years. There are days when Grammar feels every one of them and a dozen or two more she’s not even entitled to. But then sometimes she gets reminded that her mere half-century is nothing.

SRH has an uncle who is 95 years old. To look at him or talk to him, you would peg his age at a healthy 20 years younger than that. He has every marble he was born with and a lot more he's picked up along the way. He lives in the same little East Vancouver house he’s lived in for the past 60 years. He will not entertain for a moment the idea of moving into any sort of older folks’ home because he doesn’t want to live with “a bunch of old people”. He has no help and wants none. He cooks his meals, including baking for dessert. He keeps his house clean. He tends his garden. The other day he didn’t answer the phone and we were a bit worried, but it turned out it was because he was out on the porch painting his front door.

Well, the other day he got his phone bill and noticed there was some sort of rebate on it, which pleased him very much. But he also noticed that there were two rental charges on it. Now, Uncle Jimdandy is one of the last people on earth who actually still rents a phone from the telephone company. He has rented this phone for about 40 years and we figure he’s paid about $3,000 for it by now. But he likes it because he is a little hard of hearing and he insists its volume control is better than any of the newfangled phones we’ve made him try. But it’s only the one phone, and he couldn’t figure out why there would be two rental charges on his bill.

So he phoned me, because about 100 years ago I worked for the telephone company for a few years, so clearly I would know what this charge was. I asked him if the charge had appeared only on this bill, or if it had been on previous bills. Jimdandy checked and gosh if it wasn’t on all his previous bills, too. (I’m not sure whether he checked all 40 years’ worth, but I wouldn’t be surprised.) I suggested he phone Telus to explore the matter.

Well, Jimdandy will never phone when he can speak to somebody in person. So he got in his car (yes, he still owns a car and a valid driver’s license which the powers that be, in their wisdom, renew for him every year) and he tootled over to the big corporate office known hereabouts as The Boot, because of its shape. Took him a long while to find a place to park, then the machine didn’t take cash, only credit cards, of which Jimdandy has never seen the need for one, so a kind -- or impatient -- lady also waiting to buy a ticket bought him one on her card.

Then he tootles into the building and marches up to the first desk he sees. He commences telling the young lady seated thereat his tale of rental woe, and she interrupts him to advise that he is in the wrong place; this building is just a corporate office. There is no customer service here, no billing inquiries.

Jimdandy is unsatisfied with this response. He does not believe this can be so. The building says Telus on it. He has a question for Telus, and someone is going to answer it. He begins wandering the building to find such a person. He goes up to the next floor and finds another young woman behind another desk. She gives him the same unsatisfactory response, so he gets in the elevator and goes up another couple of floors. In telling me this story, he notes as an aside that he saw a lot of people in the cafeteria. Was it like that when I worked there?

Finally he runs across “a nice East Indian man in a suit”, who kindly asks if he can be of assistance. This man listens patiently to Jimdandy’s tale, inspects the offending bill he is proffered, then tells Jimdandy that although the people he has spoken to are correct that there is no billing inquiry office here (and in fact they now only exist either at the end of a telephone line, where you are just as likely to be speaking to someone in the Philippines, or online), that he will take Jimdandy’s name and phone number and look into the matter personally. He gives Jimdandy his business card and advises him to call him directly if he doesn’t hear anything within a few days.

In telling me this story, Jimdandy first asks if I know this man, which amazingly I did not, then reads me his title off the card. I laugh: the man is the next thing down from a vice president. When I tell Uncle this, I can practically hear him puffing up with satisfaction. That’s more like it! He’s been a customer for 70 years, never mind renting this particular phone for only 40. He has never missed a payment. This is the sort of person he should be dealing with.

He also assured me that if he doesn’t hear back in the next few days that Telus will rebate every single overpayment he may have made, he’s going to the media. “They’ll eat this story up!” he declared. And he’s probably right, so if you see a dapper gentleman in a shiny suit and even shinier shoes on your television news one day next week waving a rotary dial telephone and ranting about ripping off the slightly elderly -- that’s our Jimdandy!

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