Once upon a time there was a culturally insensitive joke about why Mexicans ate refried beans – because they couldn’t do anything right the first time. Lift that culturally offensive analogy and place it squarely on the current large corporation business and customer service cultures where it belongs.
I sat with a customer service manager at NTTA (North Texas Tollway Authority) this morning because his underlings failed on three previous attempts to correct my account. Read that as this is the third waste of an hour I’ve spent on what has to be the most ridiculous business model I have ever experienced. And I worked in the music business, which I believe, at least on the supply side, is largely made up of overgrown side hustles. Think third grade science teacher and her kids’ salsa or “Ontie” Flavia’s flavored pasta sold directly by the manufacturers or sympathetic (possibly conscripted) relatives at flea markets. Those business models punish the NTTA.
I made points right off the bat by telling Jabba the Service Agent Behind Plexiglas that it wasn’t her fault, but I was an unhappy camper and go find the boss. He magically appeared, I’m sure, from Jabba pushing the hidden “angry customer” button and he proceeded to ask what my problem was.
“I’m not the one with the problem,” I said, flashing him my most winning smile and pink “Pay Your Bill” letter. “You are. This is rev three on this issue and right now you’re topping the list for the North Texas Refried Bean Business Model award.”
“You haven’t gotten it right on three tries?”
“Oh, yes. Um… Step over here?”
Which I did. Since this is in order of today’s episode I give you the backstory dump I gave Mr. Leadership.
I traded my Tiguan before I had to do brakes, the 60,000 mile “service”, a couple of tires and body work on a rear quarter panel where a doddering old blue hair, with a functional back-up camera in her Lexus SUV, backed into me. Put that event in a Whole Foods parking lot where I usually wouldn’t be caught dead, but I’d gone to return something from Amazon for my wife, and it all seems even more senseless.
On topic. I traded the Tiguan, proceeded directly to the NTTA Service Center, which is not far from my house. I went in, sat with a jovial geezer who had a grand assortment of patriotic, NTTA service years and other cloisonné pins on his vest and (thought I’d) removed the Tiguan, its license and toll tag from my account, added the new car and its temp plate. I received a new toll tag which I promptly affixed to the new used car’s windshield before leaving NTTA’s parking lot.
A month later, I get a bill from NTTA for $53.47, complete with a hazy picture of my paper plate passing through a toll point. WTF?
I take the invoice, along with my paperwork from the original change over and I am told by S’hanikwa of the Festive Foot Long Fingernails there is no record in the system of me having been there, the Tiguan is still active. I tell her my story, she sends me back out to the car to bring her a picture of the license and toll tag. Lo, she says the number of my toll tag isn’t anywhere in their system, asks where I got it suggesting it had come from a forger in a Fiesta parking lot, so I described the cloisonné adorned geezer for her. Upon discovering I have had a toll tag account since 2003, before half the roads were finished, she knocked the bill down to $20 and change, gave me a new toll tag to replace the one from the Twilight Zone and assured me all was well with my account. I even topped up the account twice just to be safe, even if it’s on auto draft.
Yesterday, another month gone by, what do I get in the mail? Another fucking $53 invoice, no list of toll points I might have passed. Another fuzzy picture of my temp tag and a list of all the dire things that will befall me if I don’t hustle up their money.
Now, I’m face to face with Mr. Leadership for round three and he has been apprised of the situation just as all you patient readers. He has the balls to say, straight faced, “We only know what you tell us.”
“Dude,” I said, “I’ve given you this information twice in person and verified it online. Verified at NTTA’s request! And here I am again. Tell me exactly how you run this place without cross-referencing tag numbers you have in your system with an existing account? How do you arbitrarily decide to send out a fuzzy picture of my license plate and demand money for activity you can’t produce documentation of it ever happening?”
“Since you have an account, we can discount this amount down to $21.”
“What!? That’s not an answer… We had computers cross referencing serial numbers to ownership in 1982. How old is this fuuu…” I bite my tongue. “Fine. What’s the added discount for my time and aggravation because you people can’t do your jobs?”
“We aren’t able to address those issues in this office. But if you’d like—”
“What I’d like is to call Channel Four Investigates and have them find out for me how in the hell I got a non-existent toll tag from this office. There has to be a skimming scam going on here.”
His eyes got jumpy, like caffeine or electric shock, so I let him take the $20 from my card on file, got his name, employee number, title and took his picture. He asked me why, and by now sweat was glistening on the top of his forehead. “Because the next time it’s not on any of these people in the booths who have been poorly trained and supervised, it’s on you (motherfucker).”
Of course the doors don’t slam and God knows I don’t want to go down in a hail of gunfire for being belligerent. That’s another thing. When did it become permissible to fuck up, repeatedly, not own it and the person who calls you out for it is the bad guy?
The recently retired executive chief of accounting for NTTA happens to take ballet class with my wife. I’m curious to hear what she has to say about how fucked up is it, really?
In 2011 the FBI played ethics proctology with the NTTA Board. Rumors were rampant, present and former board members were investigated for possible conflict of interest on the eve of a $674 million bond offering. Imagine that. I don’t know who owns the FBI in Dallas, but we have a lifetime City Councilman who should be in jail for zoning bribes along with half a dozen of his ‘grease our palms’ cronies he must have sold out.
My father always told me, “Don’t steal. It’s not right and you’ll go to jail and that’s a bad place to be. Unless you can steal a railroad, or an airline or a forty story office building.” Or run an energy company or a toll tag authority.