Tag Archives: library life

Xcellent Service

So we have a contract here with a major north american photocopying/printer company who provides us with all our all-in-one printer/photocopiers. I won’t buzz market the name, but let’s just say I know you’ve heard of them.

These machines (excuse me, units) are really fancy. They scan to email, they photocopy, they print from public and staff computers, colour or black and white, you name it. They even have a little sensor in them when a tray is getting low on paper or if a toner cartridge is about to run out. Huge improvements over our old units, and we couldn’t be happier.

The only thing is that the whole “returning the cartridge” thing is kind of messy.

Let me explain.

The copier notices it’s getting a little “low” on the toner, and so it sends an email to the mother ship to let it know. Now, we’ve gotten smart here and ordered an extra cartridge in the mean time, so that when our machine dries up, we can slip in the new one right away, and then wait for the replacement one to come in the mail automatically, and the circle of life continues. Magic!

All we need to do is print a shipping label and call a courier to have them come and take the old cartridge away to a recycling facility. “Couldn’t be easier!” I can hear you exclaim, and you would be almost right.

The thing is, this shipping label can be a bit of problem sometime. You have to go to this special “portal” a.k.a. “website” set up just for our organization. You need to login. I tried this. I tried this twice, then three times. Each time it said that it was an invalid username or password. Now reader, you must believe me when I say that I KNOW that the password was correct. Without giving too much away, I sort of have a method to my madness when it comes to work related passwords, and it is fail-safe (or pretty darn close to fail-safe, since it sure as heck was failing on this occasion.) So I clicked a “forgot your password” link, the one reserved for old ladies and the deranged, (two of my favourite demographics here). And sure enough, they emailed me a new temporary password. You know the kind: “zu8^b9i3” for example. Well I typed this in once, and I got the “invalid username or password” warning. So I double-checked to see if the caps lock was on, or if I was hitting shift at the right time or what have you, and it didn’t work a second time. So I said, “Screw this” and I hit the “forgot your password?” button again. I didn’t forget my password. YOU did. YOU forgot it! I found myself thinking to myself as I typed in the second temporary password. Guess what, friends? You’re fucking right. “Invalid User Name and Password”, my old nemesis popped up again. Will you believe that I clicked that “forgot your password?” link again? Remember this all this was to do was to get into the “employee self-service” portal and print out a stupid shipping label. No luck again. I had two thoughts at this point. I was going to take a huge fucking magic marker and write in big block letters right on the box “TO THE RECYCLING FACILITY IN CALGARY, ASSHOLES!”. My second plan was even less useful, but way more satisfying. I was going to just take the box and go outside in the rain and through the whole thing, cartridge and all into our dumpster. Problem solved!

But I didn’t. I refused to be beaten by a fucking “customer service portal”. Portal my ass. More like a glory-hole of frustrated keystrokes, am I right?

Well, you’ll be happy to know that I clicked the “forgot your password?” button one last time like I was Guy Pearce or something and guess what? Yep. Fourth time’s the charm. It took it. I was in. But then the next step was that I had to immediately change my password to something more familiar. “With PLEASURE!” I thought to myself, and I changed it to EXACTLY the password that I tried in the first place; the one that the portal told me was no good. It took the password, so I’m good for another six months when another cartridge needs replacing.

I’ve been at this for about 20 minutes now, you understand. 20 minutes which I could be doing something actually useful, like helping a customer or weeding the art books or reviewing the schedule or something. The thing is, they like to keep this portal pretty tight, so only one person in the branch can have a username and password for it, and that’s me. Just one of the many perks of being the boss, I guess.

You’d think I’d be done, but this was just to get into the portal. Once in, I still had to figure out which shipping label was the most appropriate, and find the serial number of the machine, etc etc. What ever happened to just sticking a stamp on something? Oh, and I should mention that once I actually got to the shipping label section of the portal, I had to login in again. Secondary security or something. I mean, come on. You’d think they had Rob Ford’s crack tape hidden in there with all this security.

So to make a long story short, (too late! I hear the fan base shouting), I got the right label up on the screen and was about to hit print, and then I had a brainwave: why don’t I just print like 20 of these and then I’ll never have to “enter the portal” again, as it very much were? Brilliant! So I did.

I was gloating over my recent “man vs. machine” accomplishment to a co-worker and then she said, “Um, could I see those labels for a sec?” and I took one off the top of my stack and handed it to her.

“Um, these are customized, Trevor. Look: there’s the date, and the cartridge type and the time it is going to be picked up. You can’t reuse them, I’m afraid.”

So just like my password, I whispered “zu8^b9i3” under my breath (or something similar) and proceeded to make a whole bunch of scrap paper for the information desk.

Well-played, portal, well-played.

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“Such a good experience ahead of you.”

Last time I wrote about a customer of mine who is always filled with the joy of living; someone to whom I could only hope to aspire. I don’t know exactly why I am in such a sentimentally delicate mood these days (I have my hunches), but I’d like to talk a little bit about another customer of mine, who I will call Mr. Burgess.

Mr. Burgess is one of our “regulars”, term which here means “about once a week, if not more”. He likes to read your typical “guy” novels. Your W.E.B. Griffins, your Stephen Coontses, your Vince Flynns, and of course your David Baldaccis. He particularly likes stories that take place in WWII and involve the navy. (Like Mr. F, he served in the war, but in the navy, not the air-force). We will actually “set aside” books that come in for Mr. Burgess if they look like ones that he might enjoy. We only do this for our very preferred customers, and it’s not an advertised service. Just one of those intangible perks that comes with being a genuinely kind and lovely man. A gentle man.

Unlike Mr. F who carries himself with a bit of swagger and bombast (does this come with air force training?), Mr. Burgess is always quiet, soft-spoken, almost reverential when he approaches the desk. He is the type of man who I feel I need to address as “Mister”, and he is the type of man who says “Mr. Burgess was my father, call me Doug”, and I can’t. I really can’t. It seems so flippant for me to talk to this man as an equal, as a bud.

So I don’t.

I don’t call him anything. I just smile when he comes in and say something like, “Hey! Great to see you! How was that last Robert Harris? I think I have something for you here in the office…” He never expects anything, which is why we go to such lengths to make sure there is something always there for him.

At regular intervals, he brings in a HUGE bag of candy for the staff. He always casually hands it over to us at the information desk, as if he’s up to no good. With a conspiratorial grin, he says, “make sure the redheaded girl gets some of the gold ones. She tells me they are her favourite.” Actually the gold ones are everyone’s favourite. They are little peanut butter cups, individually wrapped in foil. He always gets half gold and half red. The red ones are filled with caramel, but the caramel is so sweet, they often are eaten last. One of the staff has joked with me on more than one occasion that we should tell him to bring in “double gold”, but I never would do that. The red foil ones do get eaten eventually, and I wouldn’t want to take for granted Mr Burgess’s (sorry: Doug’s, no, can’t do it: Mr. Burgess’s) treats. One time a staff person was in the bulk barn and saw the red and gold candies in a bin. She did a quick estimate, and reckoned that each time he spends between $20-$30 on us. Unreal.

Shortly after our daughter was born, we got a lot of comments and a ton of advice. Most of it was well-meaning, but some of the comments were of the “Well, you can kiss your social life goodbye” or “You won’t have any money to do anything fun!” variety. Typical asshole kind of stuff, but it was that stuff that I tended to internalize, my personality being of the type that it is.

But I’ll never forget what Mr. Burgess said to me.

When I told him the news, his eyes lit up and his voice, (you have to imagine his voice, it’s low and smooth, like honey, even after a lifetime of smoking, or maybe because of it), his voice came out and he just said. “Oh, you’re going to have a such a good experience ahead of you.” I really needed to hear that, at that very moment.

As it turned out, he and his wife, Beatrice, had one daughter, and when she grew up and had a daughter of her own, Mr. and Mrs. Burgess looked after that grand-daughter while their daughter returned to work full-time, so the memories of it were still quite fresh for him.

Ever since that day, in addition to talking about his reading needs, he always asks, “How’s the little one?” and I always have a new picture on my iPod ready for him. He’s always so complimentary, “She’s so beautiful. You’re doing such a great job.” I mean, how does he know? The beautiful thing, sure. She is beautiful, obviously, but I think the “good job” thing is a little bit of conjecture, but I’ll take it. I’ll take all the positive reinforcement I can get, actually, if you want the truth.

One day, my wife and daughter were visiting the branch when Mr. Burgess was in, and I was so delighted to be able to have him meet her in person.

“Audrey, this is Mr. Burg..um I mean Doug. He’s one of my favourite customers and he is always asking about you!”

“Hi! Me Audrey.”

“Hi Audrey, do you have a middle name?”


Reader, our daughter’s middle name is NOT Sally, but what can you do? She was 2 at the time.

Mr. Burgess turned to me and said, “You have a very smart little girl!”

I hadn’t seen Mr. Burgess for a few weeks, but a couple of days ago his wife, Beatrice was in. She came to the desk, “which one of you is Trevor. You all have BEARDS!” I recognized her right away and asked if Mr. Burgess would like a book. “Oh, I’m afraid you won’t be seeing Doug for a while. They’re cleaning out his carotid arteries and um some other stuff and he’s in the hospital.”

“Oh! Well, tell him I say “Hi” and I hope to see him soon!” I tried to put a good face on it, and I could tell Beatrice was too, but she was looking upset and a little bit lost. They were of the generation where the husband did all the driving, and Mrs. Burgess was having a hard time going it alone.

“Oh, before I forget, he wanted me to pick up some of these for you.”

A bag of candy.

After she left, I looked up “cleaning out carotid arteries” online and I guess it’s sort of routine? But there are a lot of possible complications like strokes and bleeding and he is not young and I got a pit in my stomach and I felt like I had to write this down so you could hear about this wonderfully kind and softspoken gentleman who gave me a bit of advice when I was fragile and continues to coach me like a favourite uncle all under the auspicious of reader’s advisory.

I opened the bag of candy, and like my eyes suddenly, they were all red.

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