There are certain things for which a woman must be in an appropriate mood: visiting with in-laws, attending an elementary school band concert, lunch-time sex – and calling a company to resolve any dispute involving billing or payment.

After experiencing a week overflowing with examples of customer service at its worst, I’m once again left wondering, “what happened to the customer part of customer service?”

Before recent technological “progress,” things were a bit simpler – you called the customer service number and spoke with a person. You were assumed to be “in the right” because you, my friend, were the customer.

Currently, clearing up an otherwise relatively simple issue via telephone means you’re talking with someone halfway around the globe, and often requires a sedative.

Let us ponder the many ways in which we, the American customer, are pushed to the point of unkind thoughts toward our fellow man:

• Computers have largely replaced humans who have brains, hearts and souls.

• We are directed to push buttons that frequently take us to places we don’t want to go. Places that make us shout into a phone connected to no one.

• When given the option to say, “I want to speak to a person,” we’re often told, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you.” We then state our wish repeatedly until we go comatose, hang up, experience chest pains and/or start drinking.

• When we are lucky enough to get a human being on the phone, it’s often not someone fluent in our country’s language – which, the last time I checked, was English.

I don’t care about the particular accent; if it’s heavy enough to make communication so painful for both parties that unkind thoughts ensue, perhaps customer service isn’t the best occupation for that person.

I’m all for learning new languages, but not while I’m attempting to find out where my payment went. If it takes you 1 1/2 minutes to understand a customer’s phone number, you’ve probably made an incorrect career choice.

I had this experience recently, and it made me wish I were back at my dental appointment, having my teeth drilled. (Thankfully, my local bank manager is a master at the fine art of customer service, and saved me from certain depression. Thank you, Mr. Neff.)

If the angst-laden energy present in customers forced to deal with confusing computer-generated directives, left “on hold” listening to acoustic renditions of Barry Manilow songs or, worse yet, forced to repeat the same tale of woe to a never-ending string of frustratingly inefficient customer service people were harnessed, I believe the United States could have a viable, renewable “green” fuel source.

And imagine the countless productive hours released back into society if we weren’t wasting time on this ridiculousness.

And here’s some breaking news – you don’t even need to pick up your phone to be tormented by customer service flunkies: you can be abused right in your own community. A recent dinner at a lovely local restaurant proved this; although the food was delicious, our server was apparently unaware that we were the customers, not her.

At one point I thought perhaps we were on “Candid Camera.”

In exchange for our cheerfulness, my dinner companion and I enjoyed cold stares and snide comebacks. When we curiously asked why the papaya salad on the menu didn’t include any “papaya” in its long list of printed ingredients, we were put in our place with a blank stare and the following condescending statement, “The name of the salad clearly speaks to the ingredients.” Oh yeah? Then why does your apple salad list “apples”’ as its first ingredient, sweetheart?

As she walked off, I said to my friend, “I wouldn’t want to be dating her.” To which he replied: “I’m sure no one is.”

She did get eerily nicer as the evening progressed, which either indicated a split personality or the fact that it was getting closer to tipping time.

Perhaps she could marry the customer service guy who spent 90 seconds attempting to get my phone number straight. They could procreate and spawn a new generation of humans perfectly suited to isolated laboratory research and space exploration.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at [email protected].