A Trivial Customer Service Question Awakens My Old Animal Rage

I haven’t done any research on this, but here it is anyway: we rarely get angry in the appropriate way. For example: our planet is slowly burning beneath us, but that often elicits the same emotional reaction as someone being rejected Dancing with the Stars. It’s a shame. I liked their tango.

Instead, we worry about nonsense. I’m afraid the pen will become redundant. Most of my kids don’t seem to use them: they put notes on their phones or send messages; in the process of transforming the word “message” from a noun to a verb.

This is the butterfly effect of globalization. People start getting sick in China, and I’m reduced to using pencils

But I like a good pen. There is a happy medium between the flow of the ink and the weight of the instrument which can make writing extremely pleasant: even if, like my children, I no longer write much. I use pens to scribble notes or underline things or occasionally sign documents that I probably should have read first.

Nevertheless, I will not give up this fetish. I have a few and try to be scrupulous about getting refills when they run out. But for about a year, it has become more difficult.

A few months ago I needed a refill for my Cross pen: which I own partly because it’s a reasonably good pen, but also because they were made in Ballinasloe, where I made a big part of my childhood. The abandoned factory is still there, still bearing the slogan: Cross. Since 1846. Every time I walk past, I make the same father joke that it takes a very long time to be grumpy. Kids love this one.

Anyway, when I went to my regular pen refill store they said they didn’t have any and probably wouldn’t have any until summer. After some googling, I learned that there was, oddly enough, a global shortage of ink.

It has to do with the global supply chain stuff, but it’s mostly because of Covid: massive amounts of ethanol, which is one of the ingredients in ink, has been diverted to produce hand sanitizer. This is the butterfly effect of globalization. People are starting to get sick in China, and I am reduced to using pencils.

Start by messaging them on multiple social media platforms, find all the company email addresses to send a complaint to, and if that doesn’t work, there are always poisonous anonymous letters. Except I don’t have the ink

Perhaps this should have given me pause to reflect on the interconnectedness of our planet and the lasting effect of the pandemic, but I wanted my refills. So, I went to the Cross website and ordered some. They never arrived. I sent a few emails and received the automated response I would hear from a “knowledgeable customer relations agent” within 48 hours. But I never did.

I decided that the silence comes from embarrassment, even despair: because knowledgeable account managers don’t have the knowledge. They have no idea when this precious ink might arrive.

I decided this for my own sanity, too: the delicious tug of becoming obsessive about a relatively trivial customer service issue is something that will never become redundant.

The world has been shaken up economically and medically, but I will go by mail to get my refills. I know how I am. I also know that many other people are like that too. The long queue, the rude person at the bank, the “dial 2” to be told that your call is important to us: it all seems to trigger something deep within us; an ancient and animal rage.

As if this kind of thing had been going on since there were people; as if, in the days when we are not incinerating the planet, there were Stone Age office workers staring blankly at customers and saying: the clay tablet says no. And it’s not to everyone that she says that. Just you. Everyone else got a response. They got their refills.

Law. Start by messaging them on multiple social media platforms, find all the company email addresses to send a complaint to, and if that doesn’t work, there are always poisonous anonymous letters. Except I don’t have the ink.

About Margie Peters

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