I work in a call center processing bill payments over the phone. I’ve had a number of calls like this, but two in the last two days that went more or less along similar lines.
ME: Thank you for calling our company phone bank. This is Kel, how can I help you?
CALLER: Hello, my name is Octo Genarian. I am absolutely as old as dirt and I’m in the hospital for a broken spleen. But I need to pay my utility bill.
ME: All right, we can take that payment. Go ahead with your utility account number.
CALLER: [gives number]
ME: And the number of your payment method? (Either a card number or bank routing/account numbers.)
CALLER: I don’t know that information. Can you take my social security number?
ME: I’m afraid not. I can’t use that to verify anything from here. It’ll have to be the number of the payment method.
CALLER: But I don’t have it with me and I’m in the hospital.
ME: I’m very sorry, but I absolutely have to verify that the payment method we’re using is the one you want to use, and I can only do that by verifying the number of your payment method.
CALLER: Well then I guess I can’t make this payment right now.
ME: All right. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
ME: Okay, well I hope you feel better soon. Thank you for calling.
It’s not that I don’t feel sorry for you. I hope your troubles go away. But if you aren’t absolutely certain what payment method you want to use, you being in the hospital is a stronger argument for me not to start randomly guessing about which one to use than otherwise. I don’t want to make a mistake and put you in an even worse spot than you’re already in.
(Not to mention that people really need to stop pouring out their misery on me. I am not a recepticle for the troubles of the world. Don’t tell me that you’re fleeing an abusive relationship, or that your spouse is in hospice care with cancer, or that your husband was murdered via medical malpractice, or that your daughter embezzled family funds–all actual things I have been told by strangers on the phone. I am not paid to be a therapist. I am paid to do your bill over the phone, or help you sort out what happened if that bill doesn’t go the way it should. I not only cannot fix your life, I will not try because I’m not going to be held liable if it doesn’t work.)