Second story I posted here, thanks for all the comments and upvotes to my previous tale and sorry for the delay. Previous story here.
A little background: I worked at a third tier level: someone would call, the first line couldn’t help and would forward to a second tier. They couldn’t figure it out either and would lodge a request to me to call back within a couple of business days. This meant that I had a lot of time to prepare before making the call and almost always had the upper hand as I started the conversation.
I worked for a government agency that provided subsidies to households, most of these were for low income households except for one related to child day care that everyone could apply for. Monthly amount depended on: amount of hours in child day care, income of parent(s) and hours worked. Most requests were granted automatically, but after a few months a different team would check to make sure everything was in order. They checked the request against information they had on file and if something did not match up they would send a letter to demand additional information of the requester. These letters generated a lot of calls for my team: either didn’t understand why they had to do anything (they already received a different automated message telling them that they’d be receiving a monthly subsidy). But then there are “other” reasons people called, this is one of them.
Me=me, GM=Grandmama=caller, with special guest appearance from colleague=Co
I had to call because someone’s mother had been calling every few days about the same letter and no one wanted to deal with her. At this point her file was ten times larger than of people in similar situations. So I picked it up, because I am nothing if not over-confident. After digging through her file for a few hours and finding out that a team I hadn’t heard about before had asked her to send copies of all receipts and copies of multiple years of pay slips. It was so elaborate I felt bad for this lady. So I call the number and introduce myself.
Me: I understand you are not Ms.Mama?
GM: No, I am her mother; my daughter is in a coma in Belgium.
Me: Ooh, oh… Oh dear I’m sorry to hear that.
GM: She has been in coma for a long while now, I take care of her children and her finances and it is all so much.
Me: Oh no, that sounds terrible. Uhhh Uhmm
GM: So when we started to get letters from your agency it was all so much. I have been trying to find the files that were requested, but it is so difficult to find everything.
Me: Oh Oh no
GM: I was wondering if you can help me.
Me: [[At a complete loss]]
Me: [[sweating profusely]]
Me: I need to discuss this with my supervisor, is it OK if I call you back in 15 minutes?
GM: All right, I will have to pick up the kids soon after, but fine.
I hang up and swivel over to my experienced colleagues and try to explain the situation: we didn’t demand those files, and it is a weird team located in a different building. No one could explain what their deal was. I suggest that I just send them an e-mail and attach her phone number. I get the thumbs up.
I call back GM and tell her there is little I can do, repeat that I am very sorry that we are making their lives more difficult and promise that I will inform the team that sent out the letter. I told her that if she wouldn’t hear back from them within 2 business days to just call in again and I would keep pestering them until she got someone on the phone who could help her. She thanked me profusely. When she hung up I wrote my e-mail:
I have just gotten off the phone with Ms GM, the mother of Ms. Mama, she informed me that her daughter was in a coma and can’t find the files you have requested in time. Could you please look into this situation and call her back within 2 business days.
At this point I was quite upset and took a few minutes to myself. I continued working but kept imagining the kind of troubles this family must be in. I kept worrying the other team wouldn’t care about this. When I got home I told my girlfriend about it and it was nice to share.
The Next Day:
I go about my business when my phone rings, it is Co from the other team and he sounds very serious.
Co: We got your e-mail and I have some questions for you.
Co: What exactly did you promise this lady?
Me: It’s all in my report, I promised that I would inform you and expressed my sympathies for their troubles.
Co: Nothing more?
Co: Did you tell her why they need to send in all this stuff?
Me: I couldn’t figure out why, did you explain it to her?
Co seems to relax a little.
Co: OK, good. If she calls again, only tell her to send in those receipts.
Me: Sure, OK, but the lady you’re asking it from is in a coma, though?
Co: Yeah, about that…
Co: We suspect she is not in a coma and you did not talk to her mother.
Co: We have some suspicions and have called her multiple times. We’ve heard her answer with different names, one time she changed her voice when she realized it was us and one time she just hung up. To cover legal aspects we had to give her a chance to prove that her children did attend day care and that she did work that may hours per week for a very low wage.
Co: We will have to try to get tens of thousands of Euros back from her, she is stalling for time and trying to pressure others into dropping the issue.
Me: That sounds difficult. Tell you what, should I leave a note in her file for my colleagues, I can’t guarantee I will be the one handling her calls every time.
Co: It should be obvious
Me: No, no it is not.
Co: Oh, ok uh fine. Thanks for your time.
Me: No problem, have a nice day.
I sit back, pull up the GM’s file and write a new note:
“[Fraud], Ms.Mama has to deliver the receipts requested by [other department], do not engage in discussion. “
I text my girlfriend to let her know I am no longer upset about this comatose lady, but now upset by the fact that I fell for her story.