Bitter Rivalry of the Week: Customers vs. Customer Service

No Alexander, you put the thing up to your ear.

No Alexander, it’s not a trumpet. You put the thing up to your ear.

This epic struggle between customer and customer service started when Alexander Graham Bell grew tired of his wife nagging him all the time to get off the couch so they could go visit her mother who lived like across town.  He was like, “Why hasn’t someone invented a device where you can just talk to her from here? Why do we have to trudge all the way across town just so you can ask her what she does to condition her hair?”

He grew tired of having to get pants on for just to go and listen to his wife and mother-in-law jabber endlessly.  So he went outside to his tool shop to find a solution and came up with the idea for the phone.  Now he could rest in peace on his couch while his wife and mother-in-law chatted endlessly.  Until he got the bill for $300 in the mail.  He wasn’t having any of that because clearly money didn’t grow on trees back then.  So he called AT&T to ask what the membership fee, the on air fee and the taxes were all about.  He had signed up for the straight talk $50 a month plan.  And the first customer service call was born.

The bitter customer service vs. customer rivalry has evolved over the years technology wise, but the players are the same.

Yeah, customers are always right. And fantastic tippers.

Yeah, customers are always right. And fantastic tippers. Thanks for that tip NFL running back LeSean McCoy.

The customer is a conniving, weaselly, no good, very bad complainer and whiner and will do anything to get a free upgrade, no charge on their shipping, a reduction in their payments, or a new phone.  By claiming their dog ate their phone, they didn’t really order the Panda Pillow Pet, they don’t get paid until next Friday, their luggage was only 58 pounds (over the limit), the card they tried to use only expired two years ago, and so forth they hope to get over on everyone.

The customer is an Unstoppable Force.  Nothing will get in their way. They will use excuses.  They will lie to their mother, they will steal from their brother.  They will maim their uncle’s cousins sister, they will raise their voices and scream in order to get what they want.  If pushed they will fight, scratch and claw, and use their most powerful technique, “I want to speak to your Manager.”  Because they know that someone once said, “The customer is always right.” and they will not stop until someone on the other line admits it.  But I’m telling you this: I have a Bridge from Alaska to Russia to sell you if you believe in that snake oil salesman’s pitch.

Yeah right they are always right.

Yeah right they are always right.

The customer service rep is a cubicle dwelling, headset wearing, upgrade selling, boring story telling, buzzkill inducing, double talking, son of a hairdresser and Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball operator.  The customer service rep is a companies gatekeeper.  They are the Immovable Object. The guard at the gates, the moat in front of the castle, the Dome around the city, the password that is 50 characters long, needs a Capital letter, a number, a strange character like !@# and only allow one shot without shutting you down.  They have all kinds of barriers to entry at their disposal.

Just try to get to a customer service rep.

Just try to get to a customer service rep.

The first barrier is the phone tree.  This is the endless maze in Harry Potter that moves and has magical creatures that are there to stop you.  They will stop at nothing to get you to hang up.  For those brave enough, smart enough and patient enough to get through the maze, they then are faced with the enemy of a thousand faces.  They could get any number of 500 people on the other end of the phone and they could be having a bad day just like you.  Don’t let this rep hang up, because if you do, you will never be able to find them again.  The only power the customer has in this situation is to hang on for their very life to the life preserver that the rep can’t hang up until they ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”, but they will use all kinds of trickery to get you to hang up yourself.  Confusion. The Hold Button. A different offer that can save you money. Distracting you by asking about your day.  You may be trying to keep them on the line, but if you do, you will be tortured with all kind of things they will make you want to hang up in frustration.

The phone tree.

The phone tree.


So, who wins? Or more accurately, who loses? Who is the most bitterly frustrating? As one who has been on both sides, I can tell you that I think both are equally bitter frustrating people.  And honestly, I’m not sure if I was worse as a customer or as a customer service agent. 


Bitter Customer vs Customer Service Ben


61 thoughts on “Bitter Rivalry of the Week: Customers vs. Customer Service

  1. Pingback: My Motto? One Call can ruin it all | Ben's Bitter Blog

  2. I was told that if you curse a lot when you’re put on hold they treat you better. I haven’t really done that… But I think I might try it just to see if I get some sort of reaction.


    • If I was on the customer service guy, I would use that as an excuse to hang up on them. I normally couldn’t do that, but if I claimed their swearing was making me feel uncomfortable then I would have a defense of a supervisor accused me of hanging up on a customer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s awesome! I was told to not curse at them but curse while being on hold or something. I don’t do it but a friend of mine was like “I always do it and get the fastest service”. Not the best person.


  3. As a bitter customer, I don’t waste time with the guards at the gate. When I had a website, I would look up the corporate address on the web, write a letter to the CEO, and post it on my website. Have not done it on blog, yet, but plan to write the CEO of Silk Soy Milk soon and ask them to remove that obnoxious vanilla flavoring from their plain version. I used to use the plain (green carton) for soups, stews, and as a substitute for milk, but it ruined my “spaghetti alla sor priore di avena sempre fretta.”

    This happened shortly after The Atlantic magazine featured an article about how corporations are using various tricks to get people to buy their products. It mentioned vanilla flavoring as an appetite stimulant. This was the July/August 2013 edition, cover story “The Cure for Obesity,” in case anyone else is bitter about this.


  4. I worked as a waitress for three years.The worst thing that happened among many many bitter things was that once a man got up out of his chair and shook me because his food was taking too long. ( And he didn’t even leave a 20-cent tip.) if he did that today he would be arrested for a hate crime against waitresses. In those days, people just shrugged and said “yeah well he had to wait a long time for his food.” Of course he shook the waitress!


  5. I read the title and had to rant on my own, thanks for that. As for poor customer service, it is what has become the norm and we (the honest few that ask very little) will continue getting screwed because of all the jerks that abuse the system. As for A.Bell, this phone this $300 phone bill thing is all his fault!


  6. I never knew the true story behind the invention of the telephone. Thanks for that history lesson.

    Working in customer service is the worst. Everyone should have to do it for at least one month in their lifetime so they can realize how truly awful working with people can be.


  7. I just want to tell you how bitterly disappointed I was after getting you on the phone to return the nail polishes that my sister absolutely did not want even though she used half of them and has had them for a year and a half before she decided that the color was ugly and the nail polish chipped. I really was a bit put off by the way that you answered the phone by saying “This is Bitter Ben. The customer is never right. Now let me blog while I pay attention to none of your problems.” And then after complaining to you for 2 hours you told me that you don’t work in the cosmetics department and forwarded me to another line.


  8. Exceptionally bitter post, Bitter Ben. Having spent a bitter amount of time negotiating with AT&T yesterday, I can confirm that the endless maze of the phone tree has been deviously replaced by an equally torturous barrier: the customer rep chat window. This window is foggy and cracked, and the jagged edges will slice you open if you try to climb through. I believe Gandalf was speaking prophetically about the customer rep chat window when he spoke those fated words: “You shall not pass!”


    • AT&T and Comcast have exceptionally strong fortresses. They have a moat, passwords, and now they have impenetrable windows. Anything they can do to keep you out! And they have success! But if you can bring yourself to being obnoxious and use your tools like, “The customer is always right”, and “I want to speak to your manager”, you can break the windows!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ben There, Done That!

    GET IT >> Ben -not- been! Okay… (any whoo, moving on)… forgot you’re bitter and don’t laugh or 😃 smile anymore. SO… back on topic here… I’ve been on both sides of the playing field and I’m here to tell yeah my bitter friend… the blame is about 50/50.  Customers with unreal expectations about what they think they deserve and expect for their dollars 💵 and reps 👨 who simply don’t give a damn and LIVE to not try to help you AT ALL… but even take pleasure -N- pissing you off simply because its (probably) their only form of control in their lives and they hate their jobs so why not make everyone else bitter too. LOL

    BUT Mr. Bitter Ben, I found a gift 4 U (or Mrs. Bitter) that’s just PERFECT while I was strolling the Internet assembling my massive arsenal of imaginary for my blog…

    Hahaha… and here it is!

    OKAY, I’ll admit, I had a BAD Customer Care experience this morning with AT&T… so I’m on point with is (subject matter) and my bitterness! LOL

    My rant is now over!

    …and I’m moving on.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve also been on both sides of the coin and as a CSR, I don’t care. I don’t to hear your problems, I am going to work hard to make sure you don’t get what you want and it’s not that I’m protecting the company, it’s that I’m protecting myself. You made me pick up the phone, so now I’m going to make you pay. On the other hand, when I call customer service, I’m going to keep a complete tool because you made me run through the maze to get to you and even more because you made me talk to you. Either way, I’m going to be bitter at you. And thanks for the bitter dress. Bitter is the new everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Whoever came up with the slogan, “The customer is always right,” was clearly an arrogant and misguided fool. You don’t always get what you want in life. Deal with it. Now let the poor clueless manager get back to eatting his Ding Dongs and Ho-Hos in peace, for goodness sake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do quite enjoy being a customer service guy that stands guard and frustrates customers. On the other hand, I know I can make a CSR’s life heck by messing with them in all kinds of ways, but in the end, all calls and pure bitter because no one ever gets what they want. Bitterness for everyone! Hi Catherine!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Your amazingly evocative description of these bitter rivals really point out how customer service reps really have a huge advantage over mere customers. Customer service reps know what to use to get what they want and know when they are creating such horror for the rep they are speaking with that they know when to stop. So customer service customers generally get what they want. I think this bitter rivalry blog will push many to join the ranks of customer service – after which they will be consumed by bitterness. Subtle and effective move on your part…


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