Termagant Tuesday: “Hora Decubitus,” Charles Mingus



You know what’s really fun, Tune-Up fans?  Really curl-your-socks, better-than-pancakes fun?

Spending four hours on the phone with Sears customer service.  YOLO. 

Actually, I need to back up.  This was an actual saga.  This whole thing was cursed from the start.  First of all, I made the mistake, ten years ago, of moving to Washington, D.C.  For those of you who have never visited, let alone lived here, it is habitable for, collectively, fifteen days out of the year.  Beginning in late May and petering out in mid-October, it is brain-bendingly hot and humid.  It’s like the rain forest with more food options but fewer parrots.

But no point dwelling on the past.  I moved here.  I stayed here.  I will doggedly continue to stay here, idiot that I am.  But to do that, I need an apartment that is cool.  For that to happen, I need window unit air conditioners.  “Easy peasy,” said I!  I ordered one from online from Sears.  (Let me say that again.  I ordered it online.  This will come up again later.)  A few days later, it was delivered.  Excellent!

Except not excellent.  Not even remotely excellent.  It was delivered, alright – to my old address.  My old address is a quick ten minute walk away, if unencumbered by a 78-pound metal box filled with toxic coolant.  So I had to figure out a way to get it out from inside the apartment of the woman to whom it had been delivered (and who had taken possession of it without notifying the super, which was a little weird, but that’s neither here nor there).  Thanks to the ministrations and car and forbearance and arm strength and all round good-person-ness of Mr. Yankette, I got it out of the old apartment, into the elevator, down the stairs, into the car, down the street, around the corner, up the stairs, into the elevator, and into my new apartment.

Just in time for the installation guys (who charge about a hundred dollars) to arrive.  Phew!  

Except not phew.  Installation Man did his groovy installation thing, popped it in, screwed it to the window, caulked the gaps, turned it on, and *beep!* went the air conditioner.  It might as well have been programmed to say, “Hello!  I am an expensive piece of equipment and am programmed to disappoint!  I have a hidden camera to record the number of times and different ways you will fiddle with my wires and read my instruction manual and after you’ve collapsed in tears I will send the tape electronically to my manufacturer for the company’s blooper reel!  It’s a real hit at our holiday party!”

The air conditioner blew hot air.  That’s all it did.  It looked very pretty blowing hot air – like so many humans – but hot air was not what was required.  “$%&!,” said I.  So I did what anyone with an as-yet-unmaxed credit card and a grudge does: called an independent third party to verify the results.  So two hours and two phone calls later, Verifier Man shows up.  “Yep,” said he, “you got a dud.”  He urged me to call Sears and get them to fix the problem.  “But it’s not going to be easy – they’re going to fight you on this one.”

Tell me, O muse, of the ingenious air conditioner repair man who warned the unsuspecting client of the vagaries of Sears customer service, before the death of charity and reason.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to identify the correct number, amongst the fourteen options provided, to dial in order to tell a company their product is defective?  It turns out they really don’t make it easy for you to do that.  Amazing.  Anyway, I found the general customer service hotline and three minutes later, I got a human.  I explained to the human my situation.  The human sympathized in a pre-programmed way and transferred me to their online purchases department.  After four minutes on hold, I spoke to Online Purchases Department Human.  Online Purchases Department Human said that she can’t find my records online but since it got installed today she would transfer me to the installation department.  “What?  Why?”  “Hold please.”  “What – …okay.”

The installation department now had the con.  After a five minute wait on hold, I got another human.  I explain to the Installation Department Human my situation.  The human sympathized in the most believable way out of everyone I spoke with over the course of these four hours – but, because life loves irony more than the French, was absolutely unmoved in helping me solve the problem.  Here was the problem.  You ready for this?  This was awesome.

Even though I bought my air conditioner online, I had to bring it into the store to get it repaired.  Why?  Because it crossed the “weight threshold” below which electronic items are considered too puny and unimportant to send someone out to deal with.  Never mind my air conditioner weighed 78 pounds, that I had no car, and that, even if it were four pounds and I had a jet pack, that rationale made absolutely no sense at all.  This human: unmoved.  She urged me to call a Sears store and tell them about the problem.

So, I did.  I called a Sears store.  The line was busy.  I redialed.  The line was busy.  I redialed eight times.  The line rang.  I told Sears Store Man the problem and what Installation Department Human had said.  Sears Store Man’s reaction?  “That’s insane.  Call this number.”  The number I got?

The “customer solutions” number.

I went back to the Sears website and could not find this number anywhere which only makes sense if you are actively against providing solutions for your customers.  The plot thickened.

I called customer solutions, and after a seven minute wait (you see how this works? the closer to Olympus, the steeper the climb), I got Customer Solutions Human.  I explained the situation.  Customer Solutions Human said that because I ordered it online (yes!) I would have to be transferred to the Online Purchasing Department (what?!  no!  crap!  not them again!  I have so many plans for the rest of my life!) but in case that didn’t work, here was the number for…wait for it…

Online Customer Solutions.


So I was transferred back to the Online Purchasing Department.  Which is when I met Cody.  Cody is a real, honest to god, human.  Cody is not Online Purchasing Department Human.  Cody is like me – he has hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, and a healthy respect for the uses of freon and time.  Cody got me.  I spent 53 minutes and 17 seconds on the phone with Cody.  Here is roughly a transcript of what happened after I described the problem.

Me: “So, how can I solve this problem?”

Cody: “Well, let me pull up your records and take a look.  Would you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead.”

— doooo dooddoe n doot dee dooo…—

Cody: “I can’t find any record of your online purchase, which is weird.”

Me: “That is weird.”

Cody: “Can I have your order number?”

Me: “Yep.  It’s **********.”

Cody: “Thanks.  Would you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead.”

— doooo dooddoe n doot dee dooo…—

Cody: “Thanks for waiting.  Here is it.  So here’s the problem: because the AC was picked up at a warehouse and delivered by UPS, that’s why they told you you’d have to bring it back to a Sears store.”

Me: “Wait…isn’t that what always happens?  With literally everything you sell online?  UPS picks it up from a warehouse and brings it to the person who ordered it?”

Cody: “Yep.”

Me: “So…if this is standard operating procedure, how is this a problem?  Because I wouldn’t have to pull my fridge from the wall, rent a truck, put it in a truck, and drive it to a store to get it fixed.”

Cody: “Yeah…that’s true…  Would you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead.”

— doooo dooddoe n doot dee dooo…—

Cody: “Thanks for waiting.  So I spoke to the installation department and the online services department, and I’m sending someone to uninstall the unit for you, for free, and once that’s done, give me a call, and I’ll have UPS come pick it up for you.  How’s that?”

Me: “That’s great, Cody, thanks a lot.”

Cody: “You bet.”

God bless you, Cody, wherever and whoever you are.

And now, since that all took up half of my work day, I will now go about doing the work I had to do during the daylight hours before I go to sleep tonight.  Which, in fact, is what “hora decubitus” means in Latin.  (See?  I always tie it together.)


6 thoughts on “Termagant Tuesday: “Hora Decubitus,” Charles Mingus

  1. K-Smash

    You should have called the K-Smash customer solutions hotline. Here’s your solution: Move West.

    Oregon has a pleasant, temperate climate (no AC required on the west side of the state), and the customer service is surprisingly helpful and friendly! Westward, Ho!

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