tl;dr limo driver has an all-consuming need to be right, plays the professional victim, decides he’s an all-in-one CEO/HR rep/constitutional law expert.
A few years ago, I’d been working tech support for a navigation company for less than a year and hadn’t yet learned to hang up on customers who aren’t worth the time and verbal / emotional abuse. I’d struggled a bit to learn everything and the last thing I wanted was to look like I didn’t know what I was doing.
It was close to the end of the day. The customer, LDCL, had a unit was supposed to alert him to upcoming traffic. For some reason it wasn’t, and that particular issue was a bit of an Achilles’ heel for me to troubleshoot.
LDCL wasn’t actually a limo-driving constitutional lawyer, but he was a limo driver who used that unit for work, and my attempts to figure out and fix whatever was going on with it only seemed to piss him off. I can’t remember what set him off exactly, but the situation deteriorated pretty quickly.
In the end, I decided we should start by replacing the receiver cable, but like a true n00b I made the mistake of telling him that I couldn’t guarantee it’d work, since we weren’t able to test ; if you find that to be the case, let us know and we’ll just subtract the cost of the cable from the repair price of the out-of-warranty unit.
That’s when the screaming started.
Usually I could handle these calls by ignoring the insults, acknowledging their frustrations, taking their side as far as was allowed, and generally being nice to them. This helps turn down the heat about 95% of the time. LDCL, it turned out, was the other 5%.
No matter how sweetly I offered him sympathy and free shipping, then a free cable, it only seemed to rile him up further. Said I wasn’t offering that to be nice to him, but only because I was required to by the Constitution. Somehow. Not having a JD, I couldn’t say for certain how much of his half-screamed three-minute lecture on US constitutional and commerce law was full of BS, but that was probably the majority of it.
As much as I tried to be nice, I also had a pretty low tolerance for customers trying to bully me into giving them free stuff. Yet here I was, offering free stuff and he still wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. Eventually, after about 45 minutes of being cut off and yelled at every time I tried to explain something, I started to lose patience.
Me: “I’m sorry this has put you in such a tight spot and caused so much stress, LDCL. Given everything you’ve described, I think it’ll be fair to send you a cable free of charge. [It really wasn’t and we’d already been over this twice, but I was running out of options.] Like I said, it might not work because it could be caused by something else on the unit, but trying a different cable is the only way to really check. If it doesn’t work, again, we’ll be happy to replace the unit.”
LDCL: “So you can’t guarantee 100% that it’s going to work?!”
Me: “It should work and I’m hopeful that it will, but you’re right, I can’t guarantee it.”
LDCL: “So you can’t give me ANYTHING that’s 100% guaranteed to work?!”
Me: “I’m afraid I can’t, sir. Given that we don’t live in a world of absolutes, there’s no such thing as 100% probability. So as much as I’d like to give you an absolute guarantee, I won’t be able to do so.”
LDCL: “You won’t guarantee me that the sun will set tonight?!”
Me: “I can’t guarantee that, sir.”
LDCL: “You won’t guarantee that the sun won’t rise tomorrow?!”
Me: “No, sir.”
The yelling continued. I wouldn’t comp him a new unit and he claimed to have ‘friends in upper management’ and told me I’d better prepare for a tap on my shoulder because he was going to have me fired, among other things. Even after he screamed for a supervisor, he still felt the need to cut me off and yell at me with some more BS as I tried to tell him I’d find him one, then hollered that I was ‘threatening’ to hang up on him when I told him I’d need to put him on hold to do so, told me again he’d get me fired, several other nasty personal insults I blessedly no longer remember, and on and on and on.
Finally, I lost it.
Me: “I truly want to help you, LDCL, but so far we haven’t made a lot of progress. I’ll find an available supervisor for you to speak with as you requested, but I’ll need to place you on ho—”
LDCL, interrupting me for the 300th time: “So you’re threatening to hang up on me?!”
Me: “I’m not going to ha—”
LDCL: “That’s exactly what you’re doing, you’re threatening me!”
Me: “LDCL, I’m sorry, we’re not getting anywhere. If you keep interrupting me, I will need to end this call.”
LDCL: “So you are threatening me! You’re gonna hang up this call?!”
Me: “Yes, I will hang up this call.”
LDCL: “So you’re a liar and you’ve been a liar this whole time! You’d better look out for that tap on your shoulder, because you’re going to have a pink slip on your chair on Monday morning!”
Me: “LDCL, do you truly think that threatening me will solve your problem?”
LDCL: “I’m the one threatening you?! Get me a supervisor! You’re the one who’s not doing your job and mistreated me by—”
Me: “LDCL, this isn’t going anywhere. You have repeatedly interrupted me and refused my help, you have threatened my job, you have made personal attacks on me, and now you continue to interrupt me while I’m trying to contact a supervisor to transfer you as you asked. I can find you a supervisor, or we can end this conversation. Your choice.”
I’d never shouted back at a customer before and I’ve never had to since.
After a bit more bluster from him, I was finally able to hand him off to a supe, took off my headphones, and had a good cry for a few minutes.
Eventually I went over to Supe’s desk to see how it was going and found him still on the phone with a thousand-yard stare saying “Uh-huh… yes sir… yes sir.” Took a walk, came back, and Supe was off the phone now with the same thousand-yard stare.
Me: “Um, how’d it go?”
Supe: “He yelled a lot and wanted a bunch of free stuff.”
Me: “Did he get that free stuff?”
Me: “How’d he react?”
Supe: “He yelled some more and asked if I was on drugs and asked if I’d just come back from my real job wiping the floors as a janitor.”
Me: “…wow. So what’d you say?”
Supe: “I hung up on ‘im.”
I’d never heard of a supe in this company hanging up on a customer and haven’t since. Not even the outright sexist one who made a young girl cry on her first day because he wouldn’t talk to a woman.
To this day, I haven’t hung up on a customer. This one dude, I should have.
edit: markdown failure