A few weeks ago I blogged about negotiating with customer service/challenging late fees/catching more flies with honey. At the end of that post I offered a list of five lessons, of which the following was #4:
4. Make sure the error actually is on their end before going all Erin Brockovich on someone. (Future blog post about this.)
This is that future blog post.
Please, read on.
The nature of his work demands that the husband has had to learn the fine art of explaining the obvious to angry people. When he tells me stories like the one below (really, it tells itself), I get nervous about a nation where we tell kids “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up.”
First let’s teach them how to read. And then we’ll work on manners. And THEN we’ll see what you’re good at being when you grow up. God bless America.
Once upon a time, a family requested a White House tour and a Capitol tour. The husband processed these requests. A Capitol tour is pretty easy to come by but a White House tour takes advance planning and is never guaranteed. A visitor won’t know until two weeks before an approved tour date if that tour is granted, even if the request for one was put in months ahead of time. This is just the way the federal cookie crumbles.
In January the family’s request for a Capitol tour was granted and the information, including a tour confirmation number, tour time, date, and number of passes granted (same as the number requested) was emailed to them.
The email looked like this:
Here are the details of your reservation for your tour of the U.S. Capitol. Attached to this email is a reservation confirmation that includes information on visiting the U.S. Capitol. Please bring the attached reservation confirmation with you.
Then followed the date, time, etc. of said tour. Please note that in the introduction alone, the words U.S. Capitol were used twice.
Then the conclusion of the email:
Please click here for a map of the U.S. Capitol complex. For general information about touring the U.S. Capitol, go to www.visitthecapitol.gov. Please note that the U.S. Capitol is subject to temporary suspension of tours. Thank you for visiting the U.S. Capitol.
In that paragraph the words U.S. Capitol are used four times and the web address also uses “capitol” right in it, so let’s say five. To even the average reader, a confirmed tour of the U.S. Capitol should be evident from the email communication.
But it wouldn’t be a day in the life if there wasn’t some confusion.
Remember how a White House tour may not be granted just because someone has requested one? And how visitors to the White House don’t find out whether their tour requests have been approved until two weeks before a scheduled tour?
If your White House tour request is denied, you get an email like this one, which the family in our story received, two weeks before their requested White House tour:
I regret to inform you that the White Hour Tour Office was unable to schedule your request.
The White House only has so much space available for tours, and it makes its decisions entirely on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that the White House does not process your security information until after the tour is approved, so your information is still private.
Please feel free to contact our office for assistance with White House tours in the future. For best results, contact us as far in advance as possible – up to six months ahead of time.
The email goes on to give contact information for your representative, and also kindly offers alternative forms of White House-centric entertainment:
…In addition, you are free to visit the White House Visitor Center, located at the southeast corner of 15th and E streets in the Department of Commerce building. The Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and features many aspects of the White House. The National Park Service is also able to provide your group with a variety of alternative experiences related to the White House. These include guided walks, talks, films and lectures. For more information, you can contact the Visitor’s Center….
With all that said and done, can you imagine the husband’s surprise when a member of the family in our story sent this polite and measured email in response to the White House rejection?
This is completely unacceptable. You’ve already given us a reservation with a confirmation number for our specific day/time (XXXXXXXXX) to tour the white house. Why are cancelling it now? We were sent an approval by the white house with the confirmation number. Are you kidding? READ BELOW!! Are you honestly going to cancel this now, days before we are about to leave? My family is looking forward to this tour. Please explain again…..
Confused and disappointed,
“Confused and disappointed” then copied and pasted exactly the confirmation letter she was referring to. You know, the one that itself referred to the U.S. Capitol a half-dozen times in as many sentences.
Before calling Confused and disappointed to explain the difference between the Capitol and the White House, the husband called me, laughing. Because that’s just what you have to do sometimes.
That, and then blog about it. People like this make me confident in my ability to do my own taxes.
At least Confused and disappointed kept it to one paragraph. When someone is so obviously right and you are so obviously wrong and stupid, the email tirades tend to ramble. I admire Confused and disappointed’s ability to get to the point, although I would rather admire the ability to read and then display adult manners.
Oh well. It’s a free country, as they say.