So I log into my bank account, and I spy, with my little eye, an unexpected $60 bill from Xbox. Jigga-ji-wha?
Have I been identity thieved? This, I wonder. So I fire up my Xbox to check the payment history, and what do I see? I have been billed for a year of Xbox Live Gold.
This surprises me. For although Xbox Live has an auto-renew option, I always make sure to turn it off. Which requires some amount of hassle. And I had checked the account every couple months afterward, making sure I hadn’t forgotten to turn the auto-renew off. And true to form, the Xbox Live subscription had expired several weeks earlier, mid-April.
But lo-and-behold, when I checked my settings, the auto-renew was back on!
And I recalled that I had downloaded an Xbox system update the night before, the very night that the Xbox Live bill had been placed.
And I raised a fist up to the heavens and roared out “MICROSOOOOOOOOOOOFT!”
And I steeled myself for battle. A grisly, bloody war on the battlefield of Customer Service. I logged onto the Xbox website, hand resting on the hilt of my razor-sharp sarcasm. I requested a chat-representative, and waited for the inevitable onslaught.
The screen bleep, and I saw the name of my foe: John Gregory. And his blood-curdling battle-cry:
“Hi, how can I help you today?”
Okay, not that blood-curdling, but oh, I’d heard such innocent words so many times before, they could do nothing but send shivers down my spine.
I explained the situation, asked for the subscription to be cancelled, and my money to be refunded. He said he’d take a look at things.
And I waited. I waited for the battle. I waited for him to accuse me of forgetting to turn off auto-renew. I waited for him to insinuate that I was trying to pull some kind of diabolical scheme. I waited for him to tell me that people like me were the grease that keeps the cogs of the corporate machines running. I waited for…
“So what kind of games do you play?”
Was this a trick? Some medieval ploy to throw me off-balance before stabbing me in the kidneys with “I’m sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do”? Warily, I mentioned a few games I like to play: Bioshock Infinite, Fallout 3, Rayman. I braced myself for the strike.
“Oh, nice. I’ve been playing Shadow of Mordor. It’s not easy, but the gameplay’s very satisfying.”
What was this? My mentors, they’d told me that the customer service reps were monsters, robotic demons intent only on perverting everything good in this world. But this one, this John Gregory seemed almost…human.
“Yeah,” I said, carefully letting my guard down. “I’ve heard good things about that. That what-do-you-call-it…vendetta system’s supposed to be really interesting.”
Not vendetta, I realized after I’d sent it. The nemesis system, that’s what it was called. But John Gregory didn’t even correct me on this. “Yeah, the nemesis system’s pretty sweet.”
And so we chatted for a few minutes about one game or another, until suddenly he said, “All right, I’ve got all that processed. You should see the refund in about 48 hours.”
I blinked. I’d forgotten all about the subscription. The battlefield had faded away, replaced with the good-natured conversation of two people who share a love of video games. I thought of German and British soldiers sharing Christmas celebrations under a moonlit ceasefire, and wondered how it must have felt to return to the trenches and begin reloading the rifles.
I tapped out a thank you, and he asked if there was anything else he could help me with.
The words tingled under the skin of my fingerprints. Teach me, I wanted to write. Show me this world of yours, where customers and companies live together in harmony, as friends, not adversaries. Teach me how to be patient under the daily barrage of hate from angry people. Open my eyes to a world where everyone is a human being, with loves and hates and fears and hopes…
But no…John Gregory had done more than enough for me. And so I did the only thing I could for him. “That’s all, thanks,” I said, and closed the chat. There was a feeling like sand blowing away in the desert wind, and he was gone.
* * *
When you hear stories about customer service, you tend to hear about the companies that walk over their customers (coughComcastcough), or the ones that bend over backward to appease anyone with a complaint. But honestly, sometimes it’s enough just to be spoken to kindly.
So to the companies I must contact, hear us and respect us as human beings. Don’t make us your enemies.
And to my fellow customers, remember, customer reps are people too.
And to John Gregory, if that was really your name, which I really kind of doubt…wherever you are, I salute you.