I hear many complaints that it is hard to get decent service anymore.
Service has almost vanished from our service stations.
We dread the day that our telephone goes out.
So I was dismayed a week or so ago when our refrigerator malfunctioned. The freezer compartment seemed to be all right, which was a blessing, since we didn't lose all the exotic packaged dinners my wife had stored up.
But the cooling compartment was too warm to keep foods fresh. I kept hoping it would revive. I hated the thought of trying to get a repairman in. But the milk turned and I knew it had to be done. One morning after my wife went to work I made my first call.
We had bought the refrigerator a few years ago from a large retailing chain--one that customarily gives good service. I looked in the phone book and found two numbers to call for refrigerator service.
I tried the first number. Busy. I tried the second number. Busy. I kept trying, periodically, through the morning. The numbers were always busy. That was frustrating. Usually, you get a recording that asks you to wait on the line until your turn comes and they can help you. Then you get music. It is never Beethoven's Fifth or anything identifiable. But you know you're on line.
I gave up for a while. Then in the middle of the afternoon I tried the first number again. Busy. I tried the second number. Busy. Ten minutes later I tried the first number again. By that time I was thinking of trying to get in touch with the president of the company.
A man answered. He gave the name of the store.
I said, "How come you people are so hard to get through to? I've been getting a busy signal all day long."
He said, "Well, you've got me now."
It wasn't exactly polite, but it was true.
I said, "My refrigerator isn't working."
He said, "I'll give you a number to call." He gave me a number.
I thanked him and pressed the new number. There was no answer. I hadn't expected that. I had expected it to be busy, but I hadn't expected a don't answer.
Five minutes later I tried again. I got a recording asking me to wait. Then music. A minute later a woman's voice cut in, gave the name of the store and said, "Can I help you?"
I had finally got through.
I told her my refrigerator wasn't working right, and she said, 'What seems to be the trouble?" I tried to describe the symptoms. She said, "What's your phone number?"
I gave her our phone number.
In a moment she came back to ask if I still lived at a certain address. I told her I did, wondering how she knew that from my phone number. Obviously, our phone number was the key to our computer file.
She said, "Your service contract expires in August."
'With my luck," I said, "it should have expired three days ago."
She laughed. She was human.
She wanted to know if I'd be home the next day. I told her I would be home after 11 o'clock. I had to go to the gym that morning.
She said she wasn't sure she had time to get me listed for after 11 o'clock, but I could call in the morning and tell them.
I called the next morning at 9 o'clock and got another woman. I told her the problem. She said, "What's your phone number."
I gave her my phone number and she said I was on the list for service that day, but she didn't know whether she could catch the service man in time to tell him to come after 11 o'clock.
I got home at 10:30, hoping the man hadn't come.
At 4 p.m. I called the number again. The woman asked me for my phone number and then said she'd check the service truck. She came back to say that the man had put me at the bottom of his list, and that he was having a busy day. "But he'll be there," she said.
He arrived at 5 o'clock. My wife and I had planned to leave the house at 5:45 to go to a picnic at the Hollywood Bowl.
He said he would hurry, and he did. We talked. I told him he had a good trade, since modern technology made it impossible for most people to fix anything anymore.
He said he hadn't done too well in school, but then had gone to Trade-Tech and to City College and learned how to repair refrigerators and other large appliances.
"It was hard," he said. "A lot of my friends, they dropped out. But I stuck, and one day, all of a sudden, it all came to me."
He had to remove everything from the refrigerator and pull it out from the wall. My wife came home. He was still working at 5:45.
"If you can just be five or 10 minutes late," he said, "I'll have you out of here."
We were able to sign his work sheet and leave the house at 6:03.
Despite the difficulty of making that original contact, I would have to say that the service was good, and the service man was a human being.
They aren't using androids yet.