Archive for March 15, 2012


Posted: March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro

At one point during my eye-rolling seventeen years at the Job From Hell, I was appointed the manager  of the Customer Service Department, an assignment that I was to learn reflected the company’s belief that the sales jobs were for people who could produce and customer service was where you put any asshole who couldn’t.

This makes me one of the assholes. I freely admit it. I was burned out on sales and extraordinarily bad at dealing with abusive morons. But as manager, my job was often dealing with psychopaths or losers even in the office, among them the guy whose idea of a fun afternoon was to take his car out after a big rain and drive fast over puddles, to splatter the old ladies waiting at bus stops; and the guy who I had to stop from singing jolly songs about, excuse me, old broken down  niggers in the office. There was also a guy so clearly crazy that, while he was working there, was mistaken by a TV news crew as homeless and filmed for a news report on mentally ill people roaming the streets.

Then there’s Morty.

Morty was a greasy little man of about fifty, and if you think I abuse him by calling him greasy, I assure you that I am being 100% accurate, as you could tell what papers he had been handling from all the see-through fingerprints.

He could not ad-lib a fart after a heavy meal.

This is a drawback in customer service. Yes, we had a script for handling problems, but people will say things that are off-script; you need to be able to deal with them as a human being. Morty kept putting his hand over the mouthpiece and asking me questions like, “This woman just said that she has to rush out the door and pick up her daughter — what do I say?” I had to give him an answer, each time. He did this even when the customer’s problem was identical to one our guidebook accounted for, only phrased differently. We were set up for customers who wanted us to take their payments on pay day, for instance…but Morty would ask me what to say if the customer said “Friday” instead. He was that helpless. And each time I gave him guidance he had to scrawl my instruction on a yellow post-it note and pop it up onto the wall, so many of them that soon he had the whole wall feathered with them, in a system opaque to me.
Morty was so worthless that when, at one point, he had to call a customer whose check had bounced, and was told by a sobbing woman that her husband had just died in a flaming car wreck and that she was out the door and on her way to the hospital, he said, “So will you be able to replace that payment when you get back?”


He took out a yellow post-it-note and wrote on it that when a customer referenced a sudden death in their family, he should say that he was sorry for the loss.

Which wasn’t so bad until the next time something like that happened, a few weeks later, and the son of a bitch actually said to the customer, “Excuse me, ma’am, I’ve written down what I have to say in a case like that,” then stood up and rifled through his forest of yellow post-its and, reading robotically, said, “I…am…sorry…for…your…loss…”

This ACTUALLY happened. I know you cannot countenance any human being that stupid. But it actually happened.

But even this was not Morty’s most horrific point of incompetency.

That was this: he could not say ”Visa, Mastercard, or Discover Card” to save his life.

Every time he offered payment options he said, “Vista, Mastercharge, or the Discovery Card.”

This, people, burned in my breast.

I’d say, “Morty. It’s the Visa, Mastercard, and Discover Card.”
He said, “Vista. Mastercharge. Discovery Card.”
“Morty. Say Visa.”

“Say Mastercard.”


“Say Discover Card.”

“Discover Card.”

“Now say the whole thing.”

“Vista. Mastercharge. Discovery Card.”

Go Back to line one.

This became an issue.

He’d be on the phone with a customer, while I monitored him.

“You can pay by Vista –”

“Sorry, Visa…or Mastercharge…”


“Sorry, Mastercard…or the Discovery Card…”


“Sorry. Discover Card. You can pay by Vista, Mastercharge, or the Discovery Card.”


“Morty. Here’s the card from my wallet. What does it say?”


“Look again, Morty.”

(Defensively) “It’s a Vista.”



“Okay. So what kind of card is it?”

“A Vista.”

We are talking dozens of corrections a work shift, going on for a period of several months.

“Morty. Visa.”

“No. Not Vista. Visa.”


“Fine. Say it again.”


“And this is a Mastercard.”


“And this is a Discover.”

“Now say them all.”

“Vista. Mastercharge. Discovery Card.”

He couldn’t do it. He honestly couldn’t do it.

Came the point where 90% of my energy was dedicated to making sure Morty could have a conversation with a customer without screwing up on this or any other major point, and I decided to go for broke and attempt a thought experiment. I went out to an art supply shop and bought a giant piece of posterboard, upon which I painted, in letters six inches high, VISA. MASTERCARD. DISCOVER. Before he came to work I cleared the wall above his desk of every single yellow post-it-note and put this poster up, in a place where he would be staring at it from two feet away during any phone call he made.

He came in, sat down, and did not notice that all his yellow post-its were gone.

He spoke to a customer. “Vista…Mastercharge…and the Discovery Card.”

He spoke with another customer. “Vista…Mastercharge…and the Discovery Card.”

He spoke with a third customer. “Vista…Mastercharge…and the Discovery Card.”

Five more times in rapid succession.

I told him, “Morty. Look up.”

He stared at the wall. “What?”

“Morty, read the words actually in front of you.”

“Vista. Mastercharge. Discovery Card.”


Slow blinking. “Oh, yeah.”

“What does it say?”

“Visa. Mastercard. The Discover Card.”

“Do you think you can say it right, with a customer, just once?”


Next call, staring fixedly at the poster, he got it wrong AGAIN. He could not get it right even with a billboard instructing him on the right way to say it.

Morty was not fired for cause, but not long afterward for budget cuts; when we started hiring again, he called me up to get his old job back, telling me that he knew he had excelled at it. I was gentle. I didn’t actually hate the guy. He was not a bad guy. He was supporting a young son and would clearly never, ever excel at anything enough to make a good living. I just didn’t want him working for me.

He was an average human being.

And the saddest part of that statement is that it means, half the people out there are *beneath* him in basic competency….