I was at the customer-service desk, returning a pair of jeans that was too tight.
“Was anything wrong with them?” the clerk asked.
“Yes,” I said. “They hurt my feelings.”
A. P., via e-mail
I was at the customer-service desk, returning a pair of jeans that was too tight.
“Was anything wrong with them?” the clerk asked.
“Yes,” I said. “They hurt my feelings.”
A. P., via e-mail
My collection of vintage kitchen utensils includes one whose intended purpose was always a mystery. It looks like a cross between a metal slotted spoon and a spatula, so I use it as both. When not in use, it is prominently displayed in a decorative ceramic utensil caddy in my kitchen.
The mystery of the spoon/spatula was recently solved when I found one in its original packaging at a rummage sale.
It’s a pooper-scooper.
Patty Brozo, Green Valley, Arizona
Girl: Ick! Why does this sandwich have bacon on it?
Friend: You ordered a BLT.
Girl: Whaaaat? I thought the B stood for bread.
Alyssa Hoover, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania
While I was out to lunch, my coworker answered my phone and told the caller that I would be back in 20 minutes. The woman asked, “Is that 20 minutes Central Standard Time?”
Jamie Hindman, Lewisville, Texas
At an art gallery, a woman and her ten-year-old son were having a tough time choosing between one of my paintings and another artist’s work. They finally went with mine.
“I guess you decided you prefer an autumn scene to a floral,” I said.
“No,” said the boy. “Your painting’s wider, so it’ll cover three holes in our wall.”
Betty Tenney, Sterling Heights, Michigan
Client: Please remove the unnecessary circle at the end of the sentence.
Me: You mean … the period?
Client: I don’t care what you designers call it; it is unsightly. Delete it.
When asked for his name by the coffee shop clerk, my brother-in-law answered, “Marc, with a C.” Minutes later, he was handed his coffee with his name written on the side: Cark.
Paul Neelon, Pembroke, Massachusetts
As the hostess at the casino buffet showed me to my table, I asked her to keep an eye out for my husband, who would be joining me momentarily. I started to describe him: “He has gray hair, wears glasses, has a potbelly …”
She stopped me there. “Honey,” she said, “today is senior day. They all look like that.”
Rosalie Daria, Cincinnati, Ohio
I guess this is what happens after you’ve worked at the same place for a while. I was eating at a fast-food restaurant when an employee began his shift by walking into the kitchen area and calling out, “Honey, I’m home!”
G. M., via e-mail
Before google, there were librarians. Here are some queries posed to the poor, suffering staff of public libraries:
• A woman wanted “inspirational material on grass and lawns.”
• “Who built the English Channel?”
• “Is there a full moon every night in Acapulco?”
• “Music suitable for a doll wedding to take place between a Shirley Temple doll and a teddy bear.”
• “Can the New York Public Library recommend a good forger?”
Hallmark: “When you care enough to give a card mass-produced by a corporation.”
Ritz crackers: “Tiny, edible plates.”
CliffsNotes: “They’re still going to know you didn’t read the book.”
Gillette: “We’re just going to keep adding blades.”
ChapStick: “You’ll misplace it before the tube’s empty.”
Hot Pockets: “Every bite is a different temperature.”
Client to designer: “It doesn’t really look purple. It looks more like a mixture of red and blue.”
Don’t get upset if I ask you where something is in Target when you choose to wear a red shirt and khakis to shop.
Humorist Reid Kerr
A woman called our airline customer-service desk asking if she could take her dog on board.
“Sure,” I said, “as long as you provide your own kennel.” I further explained that the kennel needed to be large enough for the dog to stand up, sit down, turn around, and roll over.
The customer was flummoxed: “I’ll never be able to teach him all of that by tomorrow!”
Librarians may be shy, but their patrons aren’t. Look at their oddball requests:
A patron offered me $100 to steal a cactus from somebody’s yard.
A patron wanted me to find a book to teach her dog German.
A patron on his way to the casino asked to rub my red hair for luck.
A patron once asked me for my home phone number so she could call me with reference questions when I wasn’t at work.
Roz Warren, from womensvoicesforchange.org
Scene: A radio newsroom.
Caller: I just wanted to let you know you’re off the air.
Host: Yes, we know. The engineers are working on it.
Caller: It would be nice if you put something on the air that says that.
Source: Overheard in the RADIO Newsroom
Most of our music store customers have a story about their old vinyl collection. Once, a man asked how much a record cost. My coworker quoted him the price, then added, “But there’s a surcharge if we have to listen to how your mother made you throw out all your old vinyl records.”
Linda Neukrug, Walnut Creek, California
Gilding the lily is a job seeker’s birthright. Here are a few doozies, where the applicant claimed …
… to be a former CEO of the company to which he was applying.
… to be fluent in two languages—one of which was pig Latin.
… to be a Nobel Prize winner.
… to have worked in a jail when he was really in there serving time.
… he was fired “on accident.”
While I was working as a store Santa, a boy asked me for an electric train set. “If you get your train,” I told him, “your dad is going to want to play with it too. Is that all right?”
The boy became very quiet. So, moving the conversation along, I asked, “What else would you like Santa to bring you?”
He promptly replied, “Another train.”
A Twitter exchange between an angry customer and an apologetic Domino’s Pizza:
Customer: Yoooo I ordered a Pizza & Came with no Toppings on it or anything, Its Just Bread
Domino’s: We’re sorry to hear about this!
Customer (minutes later): Never mind, I opened the pizza upside down :/
Mary goes to the post office to buy 50 stamps for her Hanukkah cards. “What denomination?” asks the postal clerk.
Mary thinks a second before replying, “Give me six Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform.”
Honestly, Officer, I wouldn’t have pulled over had I known you were just going to criticize me.
@bridger_w (Bridger Winegar)
The food at the sandwich shop I frequent is good, but any deviation from the norm throws the staff. I once told a clerk that I wanted only half a sandwich. His reply: “What am I going to do with the other half?” A week later, when I told another clerk the same thing, she responded, “Do you want the top or the bottom?”
Carole Holder, Norman, Oklahoma
An ad for a hedge clipper that I had to read twice: “A built-in safety switch prevents accidental starting, and blades will stop when you take one hand off.”
Michael Goldstone, Manchester, England
I sent a reminder to a client that it was time to visit the eye doctor. He called back to inform me that he would not be coming in because, as he put it, “I have a new obstetrician.”
Sarah Parchert, Hoschton, Georgia
A man called, furious about an Orlando, Florida, vacation package we had booked for him: He was expecting an ocean-view hotel room. I explained that was not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state. “Don’t lie to me,” he said. “I looked on the map, and Florida is a very thin state.”
I spotted several pairs of men’s Levi’s at a garage sale. They were sizes 30, 31, and 32, but I was looking for size 33. So I asked the owner if he had a pair. He shook his head.
“I’m still wearing the 33s,” he said. “Come back next year.”
Sally Thorinson, Ferndale, Washington
Scene: Horseback-riding stable.
Mom: Those horses are awfully big for my daughter.
Me: Our horses are very sweet …
Mom: Don’t you have something smaller? What about that one over there? It’s the perfect size for her!
Me: Um … that’s a goat.
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.
A scientist tells a pharmacist, “Give me some prepared tablets of acetylsalicylic acid.”
“Do you mean aspirin?” asks the pharmacist.
The scientist slaps his forehead. “That’s it!” he says. “I can never remember the name.”
Submitted by R. s., via mail
Client: The blue looks OK, but it would be great if it was a little more orange. Like “blorange.”
I phoned a local restaurant to ask if it was on the north or south side of Main Street. The person on the other end answered, “That depends on which direction you’re coming from.”
Patricia Thompson, Shawnee, Kansas
• “I have to make payments on my BMW and iPhones.”
• “You are too wrapped up in the whole concept of ‘money. ’ ”
• “So … you’re talking to me only because the rent’s not paid? Is that all I am to you? A tenant?”
Source: the Landlord Protection Agency (thelpa.com)
If you were an auto insurer, would you have paid these actual claims?
“In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
“I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight.”
“The car in front hit the pedestrian, but he got up so I hit him again.”
I was working in Army security when a VIP from another base called to ask to whom he should address an important letter. Knowing my tough-to-spell last name would give him fits, I said, “Just put down Sergeant Gary, as my last name is too hard.”
The next day, I received a letter addressed to Sgt. Gary Toohard.
G. C., via mail
Scene: My cousin Matt and his daughter at Chick-fil-A.
Matt: Can I please get a four-piece kids’ meal with white milk. [Pause] Oh, and gimme an extra white milk.
Clerk: Um … We only have one kind of milk, and it’s pretty white.
Paul Silverman, Mohegan Lake, New York
Scene: Inside a Best Buy store.
Customer: Can you help me? I’m looking for a shredder.
Coworker: We have all types of shredders. What will you be shredding primarily?
Customer: Collard greens.
Jessica Smith, Peachtree City, Georgia
A military base commander called to complain that the weather-forecasting software our company created for them kept reporting unexplainable wind shifts.
“Do you know where the sensor is located?” my coworker asked.
“Of course,” he responded. “It’s where we park the helicopters.”
Angelo Giordano, Bellevue, Nebraska
When I bought beer at the grocery store, the clerk asked for my birthdate.
I said, “10-3-60.”
Her next question: “Is that ‘19’ 60?”
David Phenix, Columbia, South Carolina
Scene: Me using the Siri app on my iPhone.
Me: Siri, call my wife.
Siri: Samantha McLaughlin is not in your contacts.
Me: Samantha Gibbs is my wife.
Siri: I’ve added Samantha Gibbs as your wife.
Me: Call my wife.
Siri: Which wife?
Taylor Gibbs, Visalia, California
The head of the TSA resigned after about four years on the job. Here’s how much of America heard the news.
“[John Pistole retired today.] His employees toasted him with less than three ounces of champagne. Then they gave him a gold watch, and he had to take it off and put it in a bin.” —Conan O’Brien, on Conan
“He actually stepped down a while ago, but he’s been going through security for three and a half years.” —Jimmy Fallon, on The Tonight Show
Recently, I woke up to find that two of my car’s tires had been stolen. When the police officer arrived, he asked, “When were you last driving the car?”
“Last night at 11:00,” I said.
“And the tires were on it then?”
Jeremy Rice, Englewood, Florida
Scene: A secondhand movie exchange …
Me: Do you have the DVD of Sharknado?
Clerk: Is that a documentary?
Lynette Combs, Norfolk, Virginia
From a passenger of the Vacaville, California, public bus company:
I would like to commend driver Lea Schroeder for the following reasons:
1. She frequently doesn’t stop for me when I’m waiting at the bus stop, but she always waves as she goes by.
2. If she’s running behind, she tells me, “Sit your butt down,” in a courteous way.
3. She nearly comes to a complete stop now when I disembark, so I haven’t fallen in almost a week.
4. Although she usually gives me wrong instructions on which bus to take, I enjoy riding all around Vacaville on the different routes.
5. The way she suddenly starts and stops, rides the rear bumper of the car ahead, and pulls several Gs of force when she turns corners unfailingly elevates my heart rate. This has obvious health benefits.
Once again, I would like to commend Lea Schroeder for her outstanding work.
From Lea Schroeder, Vacaville, California, a bus driver with a great sense of humor
Scene: My client telling me what was required for the project.
Client: “We want a total of eight languages—English, French, Spanish, Canadian …”
A woman called the Colorado State Division of Wildlife regarding a snake in her backyard. “Can you tell me what kind it is?” she asked.
“Can you describe it?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s long and thin.”
Charles Loeffler, Monument, Colorado
Just because the items in these classified ads are free doesn’t mean they’re worth it:
• Free: Piano with matching bench seat, very good condition, all keys work probably
Source: Gettysburg Area Merchandiser
• Free: 5 kitchen drawers, all matching naughty pine fronts
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal
• Free Vain Screening
Source: Boston Globe
• Free rent in exchange for elderly woman
Submitted by James Hutchinson, Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania; Faith Adams, Topeka, Kansas; Annetta Boisselle, Melrose, Massachusetts
We were stocking up on green beans at the farmers’ market when we asked the young girl helping us for 15 pounds’ worth.
“I can only sell you ten pounds of beans,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because my scale only goes up to ten pounds.”
Kerri Ingle, Shelby, Ohio
The DMV was as crowded and noisy as ever. When I finally got to the
window, I asked the clerk, “Does the never-ending line of loud people ever drive you crazy?”
She shook her head. “We call it job security.”
Alan Cliburn, Van Nuys, California
Scene: Me driving by a Taco Bell.
Sign: Now Hiring Managers.
[Two weeks later …]
Sign: Now Hiring Managers. Background Checks Required.
An irate patient called our pathology group, demanding that I explain every lab test on her statement. “Of course,” I said. I brought up her bill: “Number one, urinalysis …”
She interrupted me: “I’m a what?!”
When my customer ordered iced tea, I asked, “Sweetened or unsweetened?”
Her answer: “What’s the difference?”
Ruth Anne Pluckhorn, Moorestown, New Jersey
The bean soup I’d ordered was mostly water. I decided to tell the waitress.
“This soup is awful,” I said.
“I know,” she said. “I don’t like bean soup either.”
submitted by reader J. M.
The barbershop was crowded,
so the woman at the cash register
offered to put my name on the
waiting list. “What is it?” she asked.
“Stephen, with a P-H,” I said.
Minutes later, a chair opened up, and my name was called: “Pheven?”
Stephen Hudson, Falmouth, Maine
Q: How many telemarketers does it take to change a light-bulb?
A: Only one, but she has to do it while you’re eating dinner.
Today, my 808 area code phone number has yet again been mistaken for a 1-800 number. I’ve been getting phone calls at three in the morning from people on the East Coast trying to return their shoes. Even worse, they end up wanting to speak to my supervisor because I “don’t sound professional enough.”
I discovered that I’d spent an hour walking around a mall with a shoe store’s “Feel the Comfort” sticker stuck to my body. More humiliating? It was attached to my left breast.
Debbie Skolnik, Scarsdale, New York
The only qualification for working at an airline is making a confused face at a monitor.
Comedian Julius Sharpe
At the supermarket checkout, the cashier was having trouble finding the price for my cucumber.
“Maybe the list is alphabetical,” I offered.
So he started searching from the bottom of the list: “Q … Q … Q …”
Charity McTarsney, Deltona, Florida
A customer walked up to my bank window and asked me to cash a check.
“Of course,” I said. “But I’ll need to see ID.”
She dug though her purse and handed me a snapshot.
“That’s me in the middle,” she said.
Deborah Berkley, Yakima, Washington
One of my insurance customers faxed over the police report from an auto accident. Several weeks later, she called asking for information from that report.
“Didn’t you keep the original copy?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I faxed it to you.”
Sherri Smith, Carrollton, Texas
Not the people who posted this sign at a bookstore that was going out of business: “Sorry, no public restroom. Try amazon.com.”
Source: Consumer Reports
I think I’ve finally decoded the language of sale-a-day websites:
Statement jewelry = large and ugly
Lots of personality = odd and ugly
Cutting-edge = disturbing and ugly
Debbie Skolnik, Scarsdale, New York
Spotted on a restaurant’s website: “Glutton-free menu available.”
Emily Payne, Greenville, South Carolina
Seen on a New York City subway poster: “Se habla Español/Russian.”
Aaron Fernando, Richmond Hill, New York
Read off a pharmacy marquee: “We sell beer & wine! We can flavor your child’s liquid Rx!”
Source: Consumer Reports
• I work in IT. A customer asked me if a string of numbers I’d read off was upper- or lowercase.
• Someone once asked, “Is this the museum?” I work at a pool.
• A few of the things customers have asked for at our art-supply store include disco balls, trees, and crucifixion wood.
• I’m a butcher. A woman asked if she could sleep in our freezer to test out a heavy-duty sleeping bag before a trip to the Himalayas.
The China National Tourism Administration has created tips for its citizens when traveling abroad, including:
• Don’t steal life vests from airplanes to give as gifts.
• Don’t leave footprints on the toilet.
• Don’t dry your underwear on lampshades.
Every time I say that I’m ready to order in a restaurant, what I really mean is that I’m not ready but the panic will help me make a decision.
Me: I have a Roundup Multi Purpose Sprayer that is defective.
Customer Rep: Ma’am, we’ll need the exact name of the item. Do you have the box?
Me: No, but it’s the Roundup Multi Purpose Sprayer.
Customer Rep: Ma’am, we’ll need the box so we can have the exact name of the product.
Me: Hold on. I’ll run out to my garage and get the box. [Long pause … ] OK … [huff … puff] I have it. It says … Roundup Multi Purpose Sprayer.
Customer Rep: Thank you for that information, ma’am.
—Linda Mowry, Midlothian, Virginia
While going through his deceased father’s things, a man finds a 25-year-old claim check for a shoe repair. Curious, he goes to the store and hands the owner the ticket. The owner goes to the back and then reappears. “Good news,” he says. “They’ll be ready next Friday.”
Submitted by Ronald Moore, Charlevoix, Michigan
Ad from a printer I will not be doing business with: “We offer a full line of pricing options that will meet or exceed your printing budget.”
—Rachel Wagner, Bixby, Oklahoma
I ordered a foot-long sandwich from a take-out restaurant and asked the clerk to cut it into fourths. “I’m sorry, I can’t,” she said. “I already cut it in half.”
—Christine Smart, Dayton, Ohio
Customer: Pardon me, I’m lost.
Me: What are you looking for?
Customer: I’m looking for Milkjer Boulevard.
Me: I’ve never heard of it. Can I see your directions?
Customer: Sure. See, it’s spelled M-L-K-J-R Boulevard.
As I shopped, the following announcement came over the department store’s PA system: “If someone here has a convertible with the top down, it just started raining. Towels are located in aisle five.”
I bought a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream at the supermarket. As the cashier rang it up, I asked, “How do you pronounce that?”
Speaking slowly and distinctly, he said, “Four dollars and seventy-nine cents.”
My friend sat down with a new client at her gym to review her application. For the question “To what do you attribute your fitness issues?” the woman wrote “Horrendous eating habits.”
“What makes you say that?” my friend asked.
The woman replied, “I can’t spell atrocious.”
I decided to grab a burger at a drive-thru. There were no cars in sight, so I rolled up to the pay window. “We’re still serving breakfast. And you have to order at the speaker,” the clerk scolded.
I drove all the way around the building to the squawk box and ordered a breakfast sandwich. “I’m sorry,” she said, “we are now serving lunch.”
“I’ll never find the right guy,” I heard the young guest at the wedding shower sigh.
“Don’t give up,” urged an older woman. “Every pot has a lid.”
“Or,” a cynical voice behind her offered, “you could just be a skillet.”
Instead of saying, "And here’s your receipt," cashiers should say, "Will you throw this away for me?"
In some quarters, bookstores may be considered dinosaurs, but odd customers are evergreen, as these requests to bookstore clerks prove.
"Can you tell me who the author of Shakespeare is?"
"I’m looking for a book, but I only know the title, not the author. It’s called Dante’s Inferno."
"I definitely don’t want nonfiction. I like autobiographies and history."
"Do you have Shakespeare in English?"
If the customer is always right, then why isn’t everything free?
I was looking at the pies offered by a nearby café. They had cherry, apple, berry, peach, and Herman’s.
"What type of pie is Herman’s?" I asked the waiter.
"Apple," he said.
"Then why is it called Herman’s pie?"
"Because Herman called in to reserve it."
Scene: A phone conversation between a client and me—an art director.
Me: Hi. I was wondering if you received the invoice I sent?
Client: Yes, I received it, but I am not going to pay you yet.
Me: Why not? Was something wrong?
Client: No, I don’t need to use your design yet, so I will pay you when I use it.
Me: Well, I still need to get paid now. If a plumber fixes your toilet, you don’t tell him you will pay him as soon as you need to go to the bathroom, do you?
Client: That’s disgusting! My bathroom habits are none of your business, and as soon as I use what you sent me, you will get paid!
A customer pulled up to my drive-through window at the fast-food restaurant where I work and requested something from the lunch menu.
"I’m sorry, but it’s 10:15," I told her. "We’re only serving breakfast now."
After thinking it over, she asked, "Do you have anything on your breakfast menu that tastes like lunch?"
A customer walked into our store looking for Christmas lights. I showed her our top brand, but—wanting to make sure each bulb worked—she asked me to take them out of the box and plug them in. I did, and each one lit up.
"Great," she said.
I carefully placed the string of lights back in the box. But as I handed them to her, she looked alarmed.
"I don’t want this box," she said abruptly. "It’s been opened."
Days after we invaded Marja, Afghanistan, one of my Marines found out his wife hadn’t paid the cell phone bill. He called the company and asked how he could settle up.
"You can go to Western Union and place a money order," the billing agent told him.
"Ma’am, I’m in Marja, Afghanistan," he explained. "We don’t have Western Unions."
"No problem. You can also go to Walmart."
One woman raved about the rides at our water park, but she did have a valid complaint: "The water in the wave pool tastes horrible!"
Scene: A gas station in Canada
Customer: Excuse me. Why won’t my debit card work on the pump?
Owner: Are you using an American card?
Owner: American cards don’t work at the pump.
Customer: You should put up a sign.
Owner: We did, above the card slot.
Customer: Oh. Well, I don’t read Canadian.
It’s so quiet in the Hollywood Starbucks this morning, you can hear a name drop.
I was delivering pizzas when I fell hard onto the sidewalk. Seeing me sprawled on the ground, my concerned customer yelled, "Oh, no! The pizzas!"
As a salesperson, I do a lot of business over the phone. One man who called to place an order had a nice voice, so when he asked if I wanted his number, I took the opportunity to offer mine as well.
"Um," he stammered, "I was talking about my purchase-order number."
The waitress was refilling cups of coffee when she stopped at the table next to ours. "Regular?" she asked her customer.
"Yes, thank you," said the man. "Due to a steady diet of fruit."
A woman stopped by our customer-service desk and asked me for a copy of the book that has Jesus in it. After much back-and-forth, I determined that she wanted the Bible.
After searching for a particular book on dinosaurs in the science section without luck, a customer looked to me for help. She showed me a piece of paper with the title written on it: Thesaurus.
While we were working at a men’s clothing store, a customer asked my coworker to help her pick out a tie that would make her husband’s blue eyes stand out.
"Ma’am," he explained, "any tie will make blue eyes stand out if you tie it tight enough.
Thank you for calling the Weight Loss Hotline. If you’d like to lose a half pound right now, press "1" 18,000 times.
A woman at my friend’s pet shop pointed to a Labrador puppy. "I want that one," she said. "But I don’t want the floor model."
A shoe store customer liked a pair of Reeboks but wasn’t completely satisfied. So she stopped an associate and asked, "Does this come in a Nike?"
A patient at the dental office where I work stopped by my desk to pay her bill. She began rummaging through her purse, as so many patients do when they have a check to write. "Do you need a pen?" I asked, offering her mine.
"Yes, thank you," she replied. She took it, put it in her handbag, and proceeded to pay in cash.
Tour guides get bored spewing the same facts everyday. So these Philadelphia guides rewrote history.
"Trees were planted along streets so illiterate people would know the names of the streets. So Pine Street was lined with pines, etc."
"The reason the kitchens were in the basement is because the long, flowing dresses of women would catch fire and they could run directly into the streets, instead of through the house, spreading fire."
"The Lincoln statue in Fairmont Park shows him signing the Declaration of Independence."
After giving birth, I quit my job. The exit questionnaire asked, “What steps would have prevented you from leaving?” My answer: “Birth control.”
I answer a lot of questions at the information desk at Olympic National Park, in Washington State. But one visitor stumped me: "Do you have any trails that just go downhill?"
A customer called our rental store to ask about rectangular tables. I told him we had six-foot and eight-foot tables. His response: "What’s the difference?"
Our coworker Patrick shared his worst workday ever. He was at an appliance store and the delivery truck had broken down, which meant he was flooded with angry phone calls from customers. One irate caller canceled the delivery and told Patrick what he could do with it.
"I’m sorry," said Patrick. "That’s impossible. I already have a stove, a vacuum cleaner, and a microwave up there."
After browsing the restaurant menu, I had a question for the waitress. "About the salmon entrée, is that a steak or a fillet?"
"Neither," she said. "It’s a fish."
Two friends run into each other while walking their dogs. One suggests lunch. The other says, "They won’t let us in a restaurant with pets."
Undeterred, the first guy and his German shepherd head into the restaurant. The maître d’ stops them, saying, "Sir, you can’t bring your dog in here."
"But I’m blind," the man replies, "and this is my guide dog."
The maître d’, apologizing profusely, shows both man and dog to a table.
His friend waits five minutes, then tries the same routine. "You have a Chihuahua for a guide dog?" the skeptical maître d’ says.
"A Chihuahua?" the man says. "Is that what they gave me?"
Safe Haven Small Animal Hospital
24 Hour Veterinary Service
Bill Mosley, DVM
200 E. Norway
After a number of attempts to get the customer service agent on the phone to understand his name, my Asian American friend Appappa decided to spell it out.
"A for apple," he began. "P for pineapple, p for pineapple, a for apple, p for pineapple, p for—"
The flustered agent interrupted. "I have a better idea," she said. "Just tell me how many apples and how many pineapples."
Standing in line at a restaurant, I noticed that the few available tables left had not been cleaned off. I mentioned this to the cashier, who told the manager. A minute later, an annoyed-looking teen emerged from the back with spray bottle and paper towels in hand.
"All right," she bellowed clear across the crowded dining room, "which one of you people wanted a clean table?"
My husband, who uses a wheelchair, showed up at his eye doctor’s for an appointment. The receptionist checked the schedule, then said, "The nurse will call you in a moment. Have a seat."
He smiled. "Done."
A teller at our credit union was assisting a member with a loan application. "Do you have references?" she asked. The member replied, "Do they have to be living?"
Think it’s easy being a tour guide? VisitBritain, a travel bureau, has compiled these tourist questions.
"Is Wales closed during the winter?"
"Why did they build Windsor Castle on the flight path of Heathrow?"
"Who feeds the Loch Ness monster?"
"Are there any Sheena Easton museums in Glasgow?"
At the clothing store where I work, I make it a point of pride to give customers my unvarnished opinion. One day, when a man emerged from the fitting room, I took one look at him and shook my head. "No, no," I said. "Those jeans look terrible on you. I’ll go get you another pair."
As I walked away, I heard him mumble, "I was trying on the shirt."
It was a busy lunch hour, made longer by one of my customers who couldn’t make up his mind about what to order. After loudly polling everyone at his table, he asked me, "What do you think I should have?"
Before I could answer, an irritated man at the next table offered a suggestion: "How about a picnic?"
I took a real estate client to a handyman special. The place was great, and we couldn’t understand why it was so cheap, until we turned on the water main and water gushed from the ceiling. Dripping wet, my client put a positive spin on the showing: “Nice house,” he said. “It’s even self-cleaning.”
Halfway between New York City and Washington, D.C., the train’s engine fell silent.
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” the conductor announced. “The bad news is we lost power.” My fellow passengers groaned.
“The good news,” he added, “is we weren’t cruising at 30,000 feet.”
Fresh from a visit to the dentist, I decided to stop at my bank. Barely able to enunciate, I told the teller, “I’m sorry about not speaking more clearly. I’ve had Novocaine.”
“You should have used the drive-through,” she said.
“Everyone who goes through sounds like that,” she explained.
I provide technical support for the computer software published by my company. One day, over the phone, I was helping a customer install a product on a Macintosh. The procedure required him to delete an old file. On the Mac there is an icon of a trash can that is used to collect items to be permanently deleted.
I told the customer to click on the old file and drag it to the trash. Then I had him perform a few other steps. As a reminder, I said, "Don’t forget to empty the trash.
Obediently he replied, "Yes, dear."
An aching back sent me stumbling to the drugstore for relief. After a search I found what I was looking for: a selection of heating pads specifically for people with back pain—all on the bottom shelf.
My new credit card arrived in the mail with a large sticker on it, giving the phone number to activate the card. I called the number and got one option: ‘Press One’ to activate the credit card. That led me to a live person, who answered with her first name and the title "Credit Card Activator."
As I got ready to give her the necessary information, she interrupted me, asking, "How can I help you?"
Hal’s handyman wasn’t the swiftest guy on earth. But he was cheap, and so was Hal, which is why he hired the guy to paint his porch for $50. “You tightwad,” scolded Hal’s wife. “Our porch covers half of the house! He’ll be there for days.” Hal simply smirked.
An hour later, there was a knock at the door. The handyman had finished. “How did you get done so quickly?” Hal asked.
“It was a piece of cake,” the handyman replied. “Oh, and it’s a Ferrari, not a Porsche.”
It was the standard series of check-in questions that every traveler gets at the airlines counter, including, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?"
"If it was put there without my knowledge," I asked, "how would I know?"
The agent behind the counter smiled smugly. "That’s why we ask."
Calling for information about one of my credit cards, I got the following recorded prompt: "Please enter your account number as it appears on your card or statement."
I did as instructed, and the system said, "Please enter your five-digit ZIP code."
After I put that in, I got a third message: "If you would like your information in English, press one."
Heard on my cable company’s answering machine:
"We realize you are still holding. Please do not hang up, as this will further delay your call." xml
My father is a skilled CPA who is not great at self-promotion. So when an advertising salesman offered to put my father’s business placard in the shopping carts of a supermarket, my dad jumped at the chance. Fully a year went by before we got a call that could be traced to those placards. “Richard Larson, CPA?” the caller asked.
“That’s right,” my father answered. “May I help you?”
“Yes,” the voice said. “One of your shopping carts is in my yard and I want you to come and get it.”
While waiting in line at the Department of Vehicle Services for my new license plate, I heard the clerk shout out, “E I E I O.” “Here,” the woman standing next to me answered.
Curious, I asked if she was married to a farmer, or maybe taught preschool.
“Neither,” she replied. “My name is McDonald.”
A man called the phone company to complain about his listing in the directory. "I told you that my last name is Sweady," he said, "but you have it listed as Cyirwu."
"I’m sorry, sir," the phone company rep said. "I’ll fix it so it’ll be correct the next time we publish the directory. Now how do you spell your name?"
"Just like I told you before," the customer said. "It’s S as in sea, W as in why, E as in eye, A as in are, D as in double-u and Y as in you."
Working as a telemarketer for MCI Communications, I made a call to a Minnesota home one evening. When a boy around eight answered the phone, I identified myself, told him I was calling for MCI and asked to speak to his parents.
As he put the phone down, I heard him yell, “Dad! Dad! The FBI wants to talk to you!”
As soon as the father answered the phone in a quivering voice, I said, “Sir, this is not the FBI; this is MCI Communications.”
After a long pause, the man said, “This is the first time I am actually glad to hear from you guys.”
Sitting in the first row of coach class during a lengthy flight, my wife and I were able to hear a flight attendant as he pushed a wine cart down the aisle in the first-class section. “Would you care for chardonnay or burgundy?” he asked the high-paying passengers.
A few minutes later the attendant opened the curtain between the two sections, offered wine to one final first-class patron, then wheeled the same cart forward to our aisle. “Excuse me,” he said, looking down at us, “would you care for a glass of wine? We have white and red.”
I work at a department store where every night at closing time one of our customer-service representatives reminds shoppers over the public-address system to finish their shopping. One evening, a woman who had recently worked at a Kmart opened the announcement by saying, "Attention Kmart shoppers…"
Quickly realizing her mistake, she tap-danced her way out of trouble by adding, "You are in the wrong store."
When our air conditioner broke down, we called for a serviceman to come and take a look at it. It turned out to be a high school classmate of my husband’s named Love. He said next time we needed any repairs to ask for him. The next year when we needed service again, we requested Mr. Love. I took the day off from work and waited for him to arrive.
After he had worked on our air conditioner, he left his work order behind. It had my name and said: “Wants Love in afternoon.”
There were only two people in line ahead of me at the electronics store, yet the wait was dragging on forever. Finally the customer behind me muttered, “Mr. Hare must be on vacation.”
Only then did I notice the name tag on the man at the register. It read: “Mr. Turtle, sales associate.”
A colleague was planning a trip to my business office and asked if I could find him a hotel with exercise facilities. I called several hotels, with no luck.
Finally I thought I had found one. I asked the receptionist if the hotel had a weight room.
"No," she replied, "but we have a lobby and you can wait there."
My flight was delayed in Houston. Since the gate was needed for another flight, our aircraft was backed away from the terminal, and we were directed to a new gate. We all found the new gate, only to discover a third gate had been designated for our plane.
Finally, everyone got on board the right plane, and the flight attendant announced: “We apologize for the gate change. This flight is going to Washington, D.C. If your destination is not Washington, D.C., you should deplane at this time.”
A moment later a red-faced pilot emerged from the cockpit, carrying his bags. “Sorry,” he said, “wrong plane.”
My wife received a credit-card application in the mail that she had not requested. She didn’t want it, but I did. So I crossed off my wife’s name on the form, entered my own and returned the application. I soon got a phone call from a woman saying my application had been rejected.
I asked her why, and she told me the card could only be issued to the person originally solicited by the offer. However, she invited me to reapply, which I did during the same telephone call.
A few days later I got another call to tell me my second application had been rejected.
Why? The woman told me their files showed that I had previously applied for a card and had been denied.
I sold an item through eBay but it got lost in the mail. So I stopped by my local post office and asked them to track it down.
"It’s not that simple," the clerk scolded. "You have to fill out a mail-loss form before we can initiate a search."
"Okay," I said. "I’ll take one."
He rummaged under his counter, then went to some other clerks who did the same—only to return and confess, "You’ll have to come back later. We can’t find the forms."
While away on business, a colleague and I decided to catch a movie. As we approached the theater, we read the marquee. It bore the name of the feature film followed by the numbers ‘7,’ ‘5,’ and ‘9.’ Assuming these were the show times, we were somewhat perplexed by their order.
I went inside to ask about it. “Our next show is at eight o’clock,” the woman in the box office announced.
“Eight o’clock?” I said, surprised. “But the marquee says seven, five and nine.”
“Right,” she agreed. “That’s 7:59. We lost our number eight.”
My husband, who is an auto mechanic, received a repair order that read: “Check for clunking noise when going around corners.” Taking the car out for a test drive, he made a right turn, and a moment later heard a clunk. He then made a left turn and again heard a clunk. Back at the shop, he opened the trunk and soon discovered the problem.
Promptly he returned the repair order to the service manager with this notation: “Remove bowling ball from trunk.”
I called my local utility for help with a minor malfunction in my outdoor gas grill. Their automated phone system put me on hold for over 20 minutes.
As I waited, I was grateful my problem wasn’t worse—especially when I heard a pre-recorded message repeatedly advise, "If you smell gas, stay on the line."
One afternoon, while touring the Canyonlands of southern Utah, my husband and I pulled into the only hotel in a small town. While signing the register, we asked the young woman behind the desk if our room was air-conditioned.
When she shook her head no, we hesitated, wondering if we should push on to the next town. Sensing our doubt, she brightened as she came up with a solution. "Just turn on the heater," she suggested. "Our customers tell us all that comes out is cold air anyway."
The aquarium shop where I work has been in business for more than 20 years. One Sunday a customer called wanting to buy a larger aquarium. "And by the way, I’ve spent a lot of money at your store over the years," he said. "I think I should get a discount."
"Only our owner can give a discount," I explained, "and he won’t be in until tomorrow."
When the customer said that he’d come in the next day, I asked him if there was anything else I could help him with.
"Sure," he said. "Where is your store located?"
The generation gap proved glaringly obvious at the mail-order music company where my wife works as a customer service representative. Some college students, who were working part-time inputting customer information, wrote the following notes regarding some golden oldies: "Customer is looking for two song titles: ‘Shovel Off Two Buffaloes’ and ‘Honey, Suck a Rose.’ "
During a shopping trip to a department store, I was looking around for a salesperson so I could pay for my purchase. Finally I ran into a woman wearing the store’s ID tag. "Excuse me," I said. "I’m trying to locate a cashier."
"I can’t help you," she briskly replied, barely slowing down. "I work in customer service." And she walked away.
On the back of a septic-service company truck:
“Satisfaction guaranteed, or your merchandise cheerfully refunded.”
After being on the phone forever with a customer who had been having difficulties with a computer program, a support technician at my mother’s company turned in his report: "The problem resides between the keyboard and the chair."
During the mortgage closing on our summer house, my wife and I were asked to sign documents containing small print. When I asked if I should read it, my attorney replied, “Legally, you should. But here’s the bottom line: If you pay your installments on time, there is nothing in there that could harm you. Should you stop paying, however, there is definitely nothing in the small print that can save you.”
Bad weather meant I was stuck overnight at O’Hare airport in Chicago. Along with hotel accommodations, the airline issued each passenger a $10 meal ticket, or “chit.” That evening after dinner I presented my meal ticket to the cashier.
“Is this chit worth $10?” I asked.
Looking up nervously, the cashier responded, “I’m sorry, sir. Was the meal that bad?”
My wife and I run a small restaurant where we often name our specials after our employees—dishes like “Chicken Mickey,” after our dishwasher who gave us the recipe, and “Rod’s Ribs,” after a waiter who had his personal style of barbecue. One evening after rereading the menu, I broke with this tradition and changed the description of the special we had named after our chef.
Despite her skills and excellent reputation, somehow I didn’t think an entrée named “Salmon Ella” would go over big with our customers.
The speaker at my bank’s drive-through window had been broken for weeks, and we tellers had to resort to miming or writing notes to communicate with our frustrated customers. One day a sweet elderly lady whom I would see every week pulled up to the window, leaned out of her car and smacked the glass in front of my face.
“Hope this is bulletproof,” she yelled.
There had just been a robbery at another bank nearby, so I was touched by her concern. “It is,” I yelled back.
“Good,” she continued, “because someone is going to shoot you if you don’t get that speaker fixed.”
I couldn’t decide whether to go to Salt Lake City or Denver for vacation, so I called the airlines to get prices. “Airfare to Denver is $300,” the cheery salesperson replied.
“And what about Salt Lake City?”
“We have a really great rate to Salt Lake—$99,” she said “But there is a stopover.”
“In Denver,” she said.
It was late in the afternoon, and I was putting the final burnishes on a piece of writing that I was feeling pretty good about. Yes, okay, it was an e-mail, but it was a clever one and I hated to lose it. My cursor had frozen. I tried to shut the computer down, and it seized up altogether. Unsure of what else to do, I yanked the battery out.
Unfortunately, Windows had been in the midst of a delicate and crucial undertaking. The next morning, when I turned my computer back on, it informed me that a file had been corrupted and Windows would not load. This was followed by some mysterious lines of code, which I took to be my computer saying “Serves you right, careless pea brain” in its native tongue. More graciously, it offered to repair itself by using the Windows Setup CD.
I opened the special drawer where I keep CDs that I have no intention of ever using. There was an IKEA how-to CD, which featured young Swedes assembling kitchen cabinets with nothing but a sardine can key and untrammeled wholesomeness. Mostly, there were CDs of music that my friends are always burning for me, unbidden, because they think I’ll enjoy them.
But no Windows CD. I was forced to call the computer company’s Global Support Center. My call was answered by a woman in some unnamed, far-off land. I find it vexing to make small talk with someone when I don’t know what continent they’re standing on. Suppose I were to comment on the beautiful weather we’ve been having when there was a monsoon at the other end of the phone? So I got right to the point.
“My computer is telling me a file is corrupted and it wants to fix itself, but I don’t have the Windows Setup CD.”
“So you’re having a problem with your Windows Setup CD.” She had apparently been dozing and, having come to just as the sentence ended, was attempting to cover for her inattention. I recognized the technique from a thousand breakfast conversations.
“We took that rug in weeks ago. Should I call the cleaners?”
“No, thanks. I’m good.”
It quickly became clear that the woman was not a computer technician. Her job was to serve as a gatekeeper, a human shield for the techs, who were off in the back room, or possibly another far-off continent, playing cards and burning CDs for their friends. Her sole duty, as far as I could tell, was to raise global stress levels.
To make me disappear, the woman gave me the phone number for Windows’ creator, Microsoft. This is like giving someone the phone number for, I don’t know, North America. Besides, the CD worked; I just didn’t have it. No matter how many times I repeated my story, we came back to the same place. She was unflappable and resolutely polite.
When my voice hit a certain decibel, I was passed along, like a hot, irritable potato, to a technician.
“You don’t have the Windows Setup CD, ma’am, because you don’t need it,” he explained cheerfully. “Windows came preinstalled on your computer!”
“But I do need it.”
“Yes, but you don’t have it.”
We went on like this for a while. Finally, he offered to walk me through the use of a different CD, one that would erase my entire system. “Of course, you’d lose all your e-mail, your documents, your photos.” It was like offering to drop a safe on my head to cure my headache. “You might be able to recover them, but it would be expensive.” He sounded delighted. “And it’s not covered by the warranty!” The safe began to seem like a good idea, provided it was full.
I hung up the phone and drove my computer to a small, friendly repair place I’d heard about. A smart, helpful man dug out a Windows CD and told me it wouldn’t be a problem. An hour later, he called to let me know it was ready. I thanked him, and we chatted about the weather, which was the same outside my window as it was outside his.
Thank you for calling VeriCom Customer Care. Your call is important to us, though not as important as it is to you. If you are calling from a touch-tone phone, press or say 1. If you are calling from a rotary-dial phone, please stay on the line while a customer-care representative makes mocking, derisive faces. Para assistencia en español, go to South America and try your call again.
Your call may be monitored and/or recorded for staff entertainment purposes. For security reasons, please enter the last four digits of your junior high school locker combination, followed by your mother’s pet name for your father
on evenings when she’s had too much sherry.
To save us money and expedite the dismissal of customer-care representatives, our express automated-speech response system is now available. To use this system, press 1.
To speak to a customer-care representative, call the Peterson County unemployment office. To hear these options again, hang up and call back.
Welcome to the express automated-speech response system. Please say your 67-digit personal account number, located on the upper lower left middle corner of the one page of your bill that has gone missing, followed by the pound sign. If you thought * was the pound sign, say Ding Dong.
I heard: 89437590427964385043275 9478847686350542356889448590824837698072459. If this is correct, say Yes.
If this is not correct, it’s your fault. You are mumbling, or have a funny accent.
For payment information, say Payment. If you have calls and charges you don’t understand, say Pinhead. To hear these options again, say Attention Span of a Gnat. To hear the call of the long-toed stint, say kirrrrr-PIP! wacka wacka wacka!
Welcome to the automated payment information center. Our records show a payment of $149 was posted on January 23, 2002, following a 12-day processing period, during which time Accounts Receivable Clerk June Smetak was unaccountably absent and consequently your payment was recorded six days after the due date. A late fee of as much as we can possibly charge without government intervention has been posted to your account. Accounts Receivable Clerk Smetak has been promoted. Whoever said life was fair?
To exit the express automated- speech response system, press or say 1. To enter your 67-digit personal account number again for no special reason, press or say 2.
Please wait, a customer-care representative will be with you shortly, or be short with you, or something. Currently all of our representatives are busy helping dilute our profits. Calls will be answered in the order in which we feel like. Your expected wait time is 42 minutes. Your expected blood pressure is 210/130. You may hear clicks followed by silence. You may hear “Whole Lotta Love” done entirely in strings. You may hear yourself say regrettable things, which may be monitored and/or recorded.
For example, our records show that you used the phrase “gabbling nitwit” during your last call to customer care. This has been noted in your record and will be reflected in the quality of service you receive and the tone of voice of the customer-care representative, should you somehow manage to reach one.
I’m sorry, 0 is not a valid prompt, even if pushed furiously 11 times in rapid succession.
To use our express automated-speech response system, press 1. To hear our website address, press 2. To speak to someone about your anger-management problem, press 3.
3 is not a valid prompt. Thank you for calling.