Friday, November 04, 2005
Sporting funA couple of weeks ago, I posted a few stories about some of the
Four o'clock one sunny afternoon, a middle-aged gentleman arrived with a dozen 10-12 year old boys in tow.
"I've booked 3 tennis courts under the name of Mr Twat"
I looked at the booking sheet.
"I'm sorry, I have no bookings under that name".
"Yes you do."
I turned the booking sheet around so he could see for himself.
"No, I'm sorry we have nothing under that name. In fact we have no bookings for 3 courts this evening".
He starts to bluster.
"You most certainly do, I rang up to book them. You mustn't have taken them down properly"
I remain polite, despite the insult.
"I'm afraid we don't. I have not taken any 3 court bookings recently" (we only have 6 courts, so booking up half of the courts at a time tends to stick in the memory).
"Well this isn't good enough. I shall be ringing to complain. And I bet you haven't took them down for next week either."
Nope, sure enough there are no bookings then either.
"What about the week after, I certainly booked then".
"When did you ring up?"
"I can't remember" (I'll bet!)
"It was probably some time last week" (Bingo!)
"Well, we only take bookings 7 days in advance, so you can't have booked ahead then".
"Rubbish! I want your name and I shall be ringing your boss personally to complain about this appalling service".
"Certainly, would you like his number?"
"I already have it. This won't be the last you hear of this!"
"Have a nice day, sir"
He stormed out.
I rang the boss and explained the situation.
Quite rightly, he questioned if I was sure.
I explained that not only was he claiming that we booked over a week in advance (the booking sheets are kept locked away and I can't pencil someone in even if I want to that far ahead), he also claimed to have booked half of our courts (extremely rare), and the piece de resistance - at 4 oclock on that day, we always have regular pre-bookings that reduce the number of free courts to a grand total of 1.
What has actually happened, is that this guy (probably one of the local "youth workers") has agreed to take a group of kids to play tennis. He has taken the money off the kids, but halfway there has realised that he hasn't remembered to book them in. Knowing that he will look like a right prat, and the parents will probably be royally pissed at him, he has rehearsed the whole thing on the way over. The giveaway is the speed at which he lost his temper and threatened to phone all and sundry. In my experience, customers faced with a similar situation are usually surprised at first, then try and help you by suggesting alternate names that they may have booked under or describing who they spoke to on the phone. Annoyance usually takes a few minutes to build up, and they typically demand to speak to a manager there and then. This guy was just putting on a show for the kids.
The next story is a salutory tale of why threatening legal action at the drop of the hat and being unreasonable isn't in your best interest.
An incident occured late one evening over a disputed court payment (I won't bore you with the details). Anyway, it was late at night, the customer was being extremely indignant and forceful, so in the end I just gave him a polite fuck off and told him to ring in the next day and speak to a manager.
After he left, I wrote up the incident ready for the manager. Putting together the facts, I realised that in fact the customer was actually right (that is actually pretty rare - in my experience the customer is rarely right, despite what the old wives tale would have you believe). However, because he was generally obnoxious and demanding, I was more interested in getting rid of him than wading through a ream of documents with him shouting at me.
The following morning I explained what happened to the duty manager, and said that I was man enough to offer unreserved apologies for the misunderstanding and recommended that we give him a couple of complimentary tickets. The manager agreed, but said that he would offer the apologies on my behalf.
The customer rang in.
"I want the email address of a senior manager" (Note the lack of "please").
"Is this about last night, sir"
"The duty manager is here and he would be happy to speak to you immediately"
"No, I have been on the phone to Trading Standards, and they insist that everything is in writing"
I passed on the manager's email address.
An hour later the email arrives. Printed out, it takes up a full A4 sheet. The letter is naturally full of impressive sounding legal mumbo jumbo including a threat to take me to the small claims court personally, and stuff about trading standards. The last paragraph was a complete fabricaton, accusing me of taking money off minors under false pretences (that particularly pissed me off considering that I had been extremely charitable to those two kids by allowing them to play for 20 minutes longer than they paid for and waiving the hire fees for rackets because they only had the court fees and their bus fare).
Now here is a little advice for any would be lawyers out there. It is your word against mine. I can conjure up half a dozen witnesses on my behalf (some of whom weren't even working that night), who will simply claim repeatedly that you are lying. And there isn't a fucking thing that you or the Office of Fair trading can do about it. So fuck off with the threats and act in a civilised manner.
We were prepared that morning to solve the problem amicably and generously. However, the last line of the letter stated that unless we dealt with the problem within a reasonable period of time, he would take us to the small claims court.
"I think a week is a reasonable length of time" said my manager,
"Remind me to deal with that letter when I come back off holiday..."
FOR YOUR PERUSAL