...or "How NOT To Do Customer Service".
UPDATED! See below.
Last week was an insane week on any number of fronts, but the most persistent and infuriating experience continues unabated: dealing with the Sugar Land, Texas Parks and Recreation department. I haven't ever encountered people ostensibly in the business of serving their community who are so completely unwilling to admit a mistake and deal with it (not to mention the obvious incompetence of one of their staff, which resulted in said mistake).
So here's the story... our air conditioning was out last week, so we could not have our 4-year-old's birthday party at the house on Sat as we had planned to. So we decided to rent the room at the Lost Creek Center... it's at a nice park and close to our house. We called the Parks and Rec office and they put a courtesy hold on the room for us. We had intended to get to the office before leaving town on Thursday to pick up the key, but we forgot in the rush to get on the road.
My wife's mom is also a local resident (and lives very close to Lost Creek Park), so we asked her to go sign the contract and get the key and all in her name, since we wouldn't be back in town until Friday evening after the office would be closed. No problem.
On Friday, my mother-in-law goes to the Parks and Rec office to sign the contract and pick up the key. After waiting for them to find someone to help her, Pat (executive secretary? We can't quite tell from her signature) arrives on the scene. She tells mom (FYI "mom" hereafter refers to my mother-in-law) that you can't put a hold on a room, so she's wrong. Mom insists that no, in fact, they did put a hold on it on the phone. Pat says no, you can't do that, we don't do that. Pat says/implies that Mom is both stupid and speaking the wrong words.
Mom is upset, but asks if Pat can check to see if the room is reserved. Pat checks, says no, it isn't. Mom asks to reserve it then. Pat seems to know how to do this, so things move forward. Pat produces contract to sign. Mom notices time is wrong, asks Pat to correct it. Pat says (quote) "but it'll cost you more money". Mom says that's ok, we want the room from 1:30 to 4:30 as we reserved. Pat says "but it'll cost you more money". Lather, rinse, repeat.
Pat never does fix the contract, Mom finally gives up trying. Pat never goes over the contract in detail with Mom. Mom cuts her losses, signs the contract, and leaves.
But wait, there's more! A LOT more.
We get key from Mom, we show up at 1:30 on Saturday. The key doesn't work. It's the wrong key. We call Parks and Rec, they send a gentleman out to open the room for us (thankfully), so finally at 2 we're in the room (the party starts at... yes, 2). Oh, but wait, the closet is locked and all the tables that come with the room are inside. We call Parks and Rec, they send the same guy back, who unlocks closet. It's now 2:15 at least, we finally have the tables necessary to set up for the party that guests are now at that was to start 15 minutes prior, that we needed to set up for 45 minutes prior.
We have the party, disjointed though it was (instead of spending time with guests, we're still setting up). The party is good. Fast forward to my wife's trip to the Parks and Rec dept to return the wrong key...
My wife explains what happened. The staff are shocked and apologetic. But then they look it up and say that no, in fact, your mom requested the wrong place. My wife calls her mom, who details the whole incident at length. My wife tells Parks staff that no, in fact, she did request Lost Creek Center, and that the mistake is obviously the fault of the Parks dept because they had someone so incompetent in the office that they didn't even know about the whole courtesy hold process, and couldn't find it even when she looked. Not to mention that Mom has a detailed account of requesting Lost Creek Center.
Someone else (not Pat) at Parks looks up the hold/reservation... sure enough, there it is. Where was Pat looking when she looked it up? Who knows, but clearly in the WRONG place.
Parks staff member is mystified as to how it could still be on the computer, but declares that clearly Mom requested the wrong place when she reserved it, and it isn't their fault.
Narrator's interlude: this is where they COULD have diffused the entire thing and assumed THEY were at fault, out of simple common CUSTOMER SERVICE interest. But no, they don't.
So here it stands:
- We put a courtesy hold on the room, which they do in fact do, unbeknownst to their own staff (or at least to Pat)
- We sent Mom to finish the reservation, with full knowledge of which location it was and what its name is, in part because she lives across the *&$*%# street(!!)
- Mom arrived and was helped by someone who had absolutely no clue what she was doing (Pat)
- Pat said "you can't put a hold on a room" (clearly demonstrating incompetence)
- Pat belittles Mom (clearly demonstrating unsuitability to her position of serving a community, incompetence, and foolish pride)
- Pat can't find the hold even when asked to look against Pat's wishes (wait, she does work for Sugar Land, right? CLEARLY demonstrating incompetence)
- Pat wrote up the contract for the wrong place AND the wrong time (clearly demonstrating incompetence)
- Pat refuses to change the contract despite repeated protests from Mom (clearly demonstrating incompetence and aforementioned unsuitability to serve a community)
- Pat implies that we should be dishonest in our dealings because it will save us money (or maybe just because she's lazy)
- Pat fails to explain the contract in detail to Mom
- Mom didn't notice the wrong place because of the lengthy and absurd discussion over the wrong time (which Pat REFUSED to fix, recall)
- We nearly didn't have a birthday party for our 4-year-old, which has gotten completely lost in this whole discussion... imagine explaining that one to him
- Upon returning the wrong key and attempting to resolve the issue, Parks has refused to acknowledge any errors on their part and blame Mom
Now let me see if I can figure out who is at fault here. I dunno, it's pretty difficult... gross incompetence, rudeness, and dishonesty on one side vs. failing to notice one of Pat's many errors during a ridiculous discussion of one of her other many errors on the other side. Hrmmm... I bet even Pat could figure this one out. Oh wait, I guess not.
OR MAYBE IT DOESN'T F-ING MATTER BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF SERVING A COMMUNITY AND YOU SHOULD BE HORROR-STRICKEN THAT YOU ALMOST RUINED A 4-YEAR-OLD'S BIRTHDAY!!!!!! HELLO?!
(to be continued, Mom is going to talk to them in person today, and if necessary I will be calling more senior city officials... I don't even care about the money, though we'd like one of our rental hours back, now it's a matter of principle)
UPDATE: Mom went to speak to them, and ended up speaking to Pat (Patty?) again. She made up a completely new story that she told Mom that Lost Creek was unavailable (!!). Obviously this is a flat-out lie, since she a) couldn't find any hold on Lost Creek Center and b) said no such thing could be done in the first place (!!!!). So Mom and Patty go round and round and finally Mom says "I don't like being called a liar", to which Patty says "oh, no, I'm not saying that..." to which Mom says "well you say that everything I'm saying is totally wrong, that would make me a liar".
So Patty goes to speak with her manager, and I would LOVE to know what that conversation entailed, because she comes back very conciliatory and sweet, and offers to refund us for one hour plus the extra cost because she booked the wrong room. Mom says thank you and leaves.
I'm dying to know what was said between Patty and the manager (who never appeared). But oh well, at least the issue is resolved, though now I'm tempted to want an apology in writing... but I guess I'll leave it be.