Prepare for an outpouring of spite and resentment.
I don’t you what Americans call this breed of person, the cheeky chappie. What I’m describing is the guy who thinks that being an arsehole makes them a bit special, a bit edgy. They can get away with stuff because, as their mothers will have inevitably said at some point ‘He’s been in a bit of trouble but he’s a good lad really’- ‘a bit of trouble’ here meaning anything from pinching sweets from the newsagents to armed robbery. The kind of man that will openly mock someone and then laugh hugely, sincerely believing that because they laughed, that makes it a joke. He’s very proud of ‘telling it like it is’, which is a gossamer-thin excuse for rudeness. And last of all, he will lie, lie his little head off with no shame at getting caught out if they think it’s to his advantage.
They come in a number of varieties- this was a guy from Manchester, 45-55 by his voice. Now I’m not going to type out the dialogue as I don’t think the words alone will convey my point, or why he made me so uncomfortable.
He came on blaring about how he’s a loyal customer and his family had been with us for years. I checked- it was ten months. We don’t do loyalty bonuses anyway so I was spared that awkwardness but still, come on.
What he was saying had too much gloss, it was patter- like he was auditioning for a job at a small county radio station. He was trying way too hard to give off a ‘hey, I’m a good guy’ vibe. He kept asking for my name, but only referred to me as ‘love’ for some reason.
His issue was that his contract was coming to an end, and he was expecting ‘a nice likkle discount’ on a new one. He claimed we’d promised him a certain deal before- we hadn’t- and when I gave him the quote he told me, didn’t ask, told me that I could do better. I said no, but he wanted his ‘likkle discount’, wheedling and threatening at the same time.
I explained that (due to some really shabby and unscrupulous practices, there was a bit of a scandal a few years ago) the energy industry was heavily regulated so we can’t offer special deals. He chuntered on about that a bit, and then said- I will quote this bit-
couldn’t have sounded more devastated if he was being forced to watch his firstborn being stung to death by bees ‘Well, I mean… yeah. I don’t want to leave, I mean I’ve been with you for these many years now no you haven’t, you dick but I can’t really see a way round it, I’ll… I’ll have to find another supplier’
which I allow to continue for a slightly uncomfortable amount of time
Then I explain, with the most sincere amount of giving a shit I can muster, that due to the aforementioned regulations I cannot try to persuade him to stay with my company, financially or otherwise. Fantastic, I thought, he’ll bugger off now.
But no, after more cogitation and thinking noises he decides that he’ll take what I can offer. Funny that, considering all the hundreds of cheaper options that were a mere click away… And this is the part of the call that made me suspicious of him.
I’m sure everyone has felt like a customer is trying to trap them. You don’t know quite what they want, but they keep asking you to confirm again and again seemingly unimportant details, repeating things back to you using slightly different words so you have to go back over it in your head to check that yes, that’s what you meant.
And yes, we’ve all had customers that need all the details of the details to satisfy their internal logic and allow them to have confidence in your service. This guy wasn’t like that.
He was a master. He asked me about the new contract, and I explained the terms. He claimed to have no idea how it was all worked out but was zipping through the bills online very quickly so why he was pretending that I don’t know. I realised early into the call what was going so, although generally I’m not a script person, I stuck to the thing word for word. Every other sentence ended with ‘is that right love?’ or ‘so you’re guaranteeing xyz are you love, is that what you’re telling me?’, ‘so are you absolutely telling me now xyz love, can you promise me that?’ or ‘so you’re saying here and now that xyz, you’re committing to that?’ And I had to tiptoe back through the language he’d used to see where it differed to what I’d actually said, and explain again.
On and on it went, until eventually he was done with me, he’d had his fun. I still don’t know what his aim was. People can be rude to me all day long, but what I really hate is being manipulated. I honestly felt slightly dirty when I came off the phone. And he took me 20 minutes into my break. The worst sin.