Sunday, June 17, 2012

On the Contrary

Considering the very cantankerous nature of the blog lately, I figured I'd make a little confession: I'm contrary. I mean that in what I think of as a very Southern sense. As in "he's such a contrary child." It's kind of funny, though, because I was a good child. Always a favorite of my teachers. Did what I was told at home. Didn't get in trouble. In all my years of school, I was only sent to the office once, and that's because I was framed (which is the truth, but that's a story for some other time). I made good (great) grades, and I was responsible.

But, then, my school experience was a bit non-normal, and it rather more supported me becoming who I am than trying to force me into a box of conformity, or things might have been different. At any rate, high school was a time where I learned to stand up for what I believe in. To not compromise. To do what was right. And I carried all of that through college with me.

There are some good stories that go along with this. One of them involves the loss of a job because I wouldn't do something that was wrong, even though my friends and parents (especially my mother) were urging me to just keep my mouth shut and go along. But I wouldn't do it.

It also includes the loss of another job because I read too much. Not on the job but when I was on break. For some reason the fact that I would sit and read rather than socialize made everyone uncomfortable, including the management (seriously, I was brought in for a "talk" on two occasions where they tried to tell me how I should spend my breaks (and that did not  include reading)). The breaking point, though, was a big work party which I did not attend because I knew it wasn't going to be the kind of thing I would be into. The only guy that was my friend at work did go, but his dad was a cop, so, when they broke out the drugs, he left. Oh, I should mention that this was a party that mixed alcohol and minors besides the drugs. A week later, he and I were both "let go" because we "were not working out."

So, yeah... I'm contrary.

I will tell a couple of stories, though:

Many years ago, my wife and I took a driving trip to Louisiana so that we could get all my stuff that was still  in storage at my parents' house, because my mom was complaining. We rented a U-haul trailer to bring the stuff back to CA in. The problem was that the guy at U-haul that connected the trailer didn't exactly do it correctly. Not that it wasn't correct, but there was a bare spot in the wiring that he didn't find because he didn't check everything. As we were driving back to CA, every time those bare wires made contact with the trailer arm, it shorted out all of the electrical systems in the truck. Which included the headlights. And, since we were driving non-stop, that was more than a little problematic.

I'm not much of a mechanic, but I knew enough to realize that a particular couple of fuses were being blown out, so we had to keep stopping and buying packages of fuses to replace the ones being burned out. I wasn't enough of a mechanic to know what was causing the fuses to get blown. We spent about $80.00 on fuses on that trip.

I didn't think much of it. I mean, I did think much of it, but I just thought there was something wrong with my father-in-law's truck. That is, that's what I thought until I took the trailer to turn it in. In talking with the guy that was disconnecting the trailer, you know, making small talk, he said something along the lines of "how was your drive," and I told him about the issue with the fuses. He started checking everything over and, almost immediately, found the bare wires and said it was their fault. He also said we were lucky that all it had done was blow out our fuses, because it could have been much worse.

At that point, all I wanted was a refund for the fuses we'd had to buy. I spoke to the manager at the U-haul place, and she told me in no uncertain terms that I was not going to get reimbursed for the $80. I told her that the guy outside had said it was their fault, so she brought it him in and, after confirming what he'd said, proceeded to chew him out in front of me. She affirmed that I was not going to get any kind of reimbursement.

But I got the district managers phone number, and I called him. He was also unhelpful, so I continued to go on up the line. I spent hours and hours on the phone dealing with issue. It wasn't the money; it was the principle. And I continued to get passed up the line. All the way to a vice-president. Yes, seriously. In the end, I got over $300 back plus a bunch  of vouchers for free stuff from U-haul. I used some of that to get boxes, and, when I went to get said boxes, I discovered that the manager that had initially refused the reimbursement had been "let go." That had never been my intent, getting her fired, but there you go.

More recently, I had an issue with AT&T. In relation to moving and setting up the Internet connection in our new house, I was on the phone with a guy walking me through how to connect to the Internet when you don't have a connected service. Yeah, I didn't know you can do that, either, but there are ways (that I don't actually remember, unfortunately). Anyway, when I started out, everything worked fine, and, when we finished, everything did not work fine. To me, this said that something the AT&T guy had me do made my stuff quit working.

He didn't see it that way. He fell back to the AT&T line of "give us money, and we'll troubleshoot it for you." There was no way I was going to pay them to fix a problem they caused. Know what I'm saying? So I talked him to death. I mean that in the way that I kept him on the phone (an hour or so) until he got tired of dealing with me and passed me up the line to his supervisor. I talked that guy to death, too (over an hour), during which he kept repeating the AT&T line, "pay us, and we'll fix it." And I kept saying "no." Eventually, he passed me to some super secret tech people they have that I wasn't supposed to be able to talk to.

I explained the situation to the tech guy (now, actually, the 5th guy I'd been on the phone with (see, I'm giving you the shorter version which also leaves out where I called a friend of mine and tried to figure out what was wrong without dealing with AT&T), and he said, basically, "well, let's check a few things out." It was the very first thing he said to check, and, he said, it was something the very first guy should have asked me about when the problem started and, basically, confided (without confiding, because the call was being recorded, and he wasn't actually allowed to say what he was confiding, so I had to say it and have him (non-verbally) agree with me) that they're told to push the pay service and that support guys fall back on that without actually doing their jobs, because that's what they're told to do. If I'd paid money for the particular problem, though, I'd have been way more pissed than I already had been. Not to mention that they kept trying to sell me new equipment during this whole process, too.

Both of these stories are here to show that I'm fairly persistent in my pursuit of what's "right." I don't give up easily, and it's a behavior that can be off putting to a lot of people. Even my wife, who appreciates this about me, often wishes I wasn't like this, because it can be embarrassing upon occasion. For her, not for me. I've somewhat learned to moderate the whole thing when I'm with her, but it's not easy. Her question for me when something like this comes up is "Is it worth the time you're going to have to spend to make it right?" And, see, my internal answer always wants to be "yes."

Anyway... I'm not sure that I have a real point to all of this. This is another of those posts I started a long while ago, but it seems to be in context with my recent posts and, probably, the next few coming up (especially since I have another "Unexpected Applause" review coming up that's not going to be all that positive). I know, sometimes, I may come off as being less than kind, but, really, it's just that I sacrifice my "nice-ness" to what I view as being the right thing. Sure, it's what I believe is the right thing, but that's all that matters, that I do what I think is that right thing. Because, if I think there is something that is the right thing but I don't do that, then, I've failed. If that makes me contrary, then so be it.


  1. Sometimes it is all on principle and we just want people to admit when they are wrong.

  2. I always wonder how AT&T stays in business because I hear nothing but awful things about them and my experiences with their services have been nothing but bad.

    And that one place you were working sounds like the bank in the "Twilight Zone" episode where Burgess Meredith plays a nerdy guy who reads a lot, which annoys everyone from the bank president to his wife and then of course they all die in a nuclear war and he's the only survivor with time enough to read all his books but then his glasses break. Poor guy. In your case at least everyone wasn't vaporized in a nuclear war, so that's something.

  3. I have always loved your honesty and that is why I always take the time to read your blog. I have had my own terrible AT&T experiences so it is nice to know it is not just me that they are aggravating. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  4. All the way up to the VP? You are my hero. I'm much the same, in that I'll keep fighting if I've been wronged.

    You know, I got a woman fired once, and while it wasn't my intent, I didn't feel overly bad about it. I got some new wheels on my car, and on my drive home my wheel fell off and my car slid to a stop on the side of the road, shredding the undercarriage. Seriously.

    I walked back to the shop (since I had literally just left) and the woman actually tried to tell me it was MY fault and I should drive better, that they wouldn't fix my car or even just the wheel, which was destroyed. She wouldn't let me talk to the manager, either, so I physically pushed her out of my way and walked in back to find him, and once I told him everything that happened, he fired her on the spot. You should have seen the look on her face. And again, I wasn't overly bothered by this after my treatment.

  5. I probably don't have quite the patience in being "contrary" as you do, but I identify. Let's call it being "principled" and let's also agree that if more people had been "principled," the Challenger would not have ended up a ball of fire.

    Perhaps there IS something to choosing your battles...but I'd rather have someone principled in too many cases, than in not enough cases. So, I support you.

  6. You are you. People will either accept you for that or reject you.

  7. People will try to wrong you all over the place if you let them. I'm glad you are able to make your case when you know your right. More power to you.

  8. Alex: Well, yeah, it would be great if people could actually admit when they've been wrong, but that just doesn't happen often.

    Grumpy: That place I was working also had a strict policy against providing any customer service, so, yeah, it was pretty bad. Seriously, we were instructed to not help customers locate products. It was seriously screwed up.

    Jennifer: Oh, no, not just you. And don't even get me started on Dell!
    I appreciate you appreciating my honesty :)

    ABftS: Wow! It just fell off your car?! Good for you.

    neal: Well, yeah, it would be nice if more people would do the right thing and stick up for the right thing.

    Michael: Yeah, I'm me. I've been wondering about that ever since middle school, though. heh

    Rusty: Ooh...! I could use more power! :P

  9. I like the contrariness. I tend to be the same way about doing what's right even when it's a fucking pain, and I worked for so long in customer service that I went through contrariness and came out the other side to hideous cheerfulness. You know, it really unnerves people who are used to working in customer service all day if you're incredibly nice to them even while insisting that they do the thing you want them to do. The only time I snapped was once at a job I had when my boss's computer broke & she asked me to call HP. All she wanted was for them to send a box so she could send it in and have it repaired. They refused completely to send a box until I had gone through troubleshooting, which included unscrewing the back of the computer and digging around while on the phone to someone who spoke very little English. I refused to do this (really, guys? so you can be like "well we don't have to repair it under warranty because you screwed around in it!"? Um, no) and spent literally three hours on the phone asking to be handed up to someone else. She said she was it. No supervisor, no manager, nothing. I could talk to her or no one. I was SCREAMING by the end of it.

    (My boss got tired of paying me to sit on the phone, and eventually solved the problem by pretending to do everything she was told and then saying "it won't turn on" in response to every question until they got fed up. She was even screamier than me, though. Whatever they're paying those poor people in Bangladesh, I guarantee it's not enough.)

    But yeah, anyway, your contrariness suits you. I read your blog for your honesty, not your sugarcoating.

  10. Jericha: Ah, yeah... I've worked in customer service before. What I hated most was being instructed to say "no" to particular things so that the manager could say "yes" if the customer pursued it.

    I'm glad you like the honesty, because I'm not good at the sugar coating.