“I Vanna Talk to Boinie!”
By Wendell Abern
My credit card company – I’ll call them MoneyGrubbers to protect my editors – inspired this month’s column. I was a day late with my monthly payment, and they charged me $35! I pay my credit card on time, in full, every month. A few months ago, I had a visitor for a few weeks and was a bit late in paying bills. One day late! Big deal.
Fuming, I started to call MoneyGrubbers when something occurred to me: the few times I’ve called this company, I talked to someone who doesn’t understand English very well.
This happens every time I call some major corporation. I talk to someone from India, or the Philippines, or some country where English is not the native language.
Too frequently, I have difficulty making my needs clear; Or understanding instructions given to me. It’s very frustrating.
I decided to give MoneyGrubbers a taste of its own medicine … and talk like my long-deceased Uncle Herman.
Uncle Herman had a strong Jewish accent.
But first, I thought, I’ll give his patois a test drive on Chase, responding to one of their debt consolidation loan mailings.
I call with a plan to get past the pre-recorded, disembodied voice: “Either say or press a number to respond.” I answer, “I vanna talk to Boinie.”
The recording says, “I didn’t quite understand that. Please select one of the following.” She repeats the options and once again, I say, “I vanna talk to Boinie!”
And the recording says, “I will connect you to a representative.” It worked!
“Chase Bank, this is Manuel. How can I help you?” (Strong Spanish accent).
“Hello, boychick,” I say, “I vanna ask about your toims.”
“Your toims. I vanna make sure I understand your toims.”
“Oh, you mean ‘terms.’”
“Dot’s vot I said, toims! Vodda you gotta problem vidda hearing? I’ll call my daughter-in-law’s cousin. He could fix you up in no time.”
“Sir, may I ask why you’re calling?”
“I t’ought ve already vent over dat.”
After finally telling Manuel I would think about making a loan, I ended the call. But I had learned two things: first, it was clear that Uncle Herman’s accent was costing me even more time than a standard phone call.
But secondly, I was having fun! I couldn’t wait to call MoneyGrubbers!
I listen to another disembodied voice. After she goes through her menu once, I say, “I vanna talk to Boinie.”
Right on cue, she says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Please say or select one of the following,” and continues through her litany again.
“I vanna talk to Boinie!” I shout. “BOINIE! B-E-R-N-I-E! Boinie!”
And she says, “Please hold, I’ll connect you to a representative.” It worked again!
“MoneyGrubbers, this is Manuel, how can I help you?” (Spanish accent, fairly strong).
“You vant in a notshell, I vill tell you, Put back in my account thoity-five dollars, vouldn’t show up on my next bill.”
“Excuse me? How much? I’m having trouble understanding you.”
“Good! Here’s vot you do, bubbelah. Go sit by your computer and bring up my account.”
I give Manuel my name, address, Social Security number, phone number, and just to keep him hopping, my recipe for chicken piccata and the names of two bridge partners.
“Okay, Manny, I vant you should look at my whole history. You see vun time I didn’t pay? Vun time I vas late? Vun time! Anyt’ing?”
“No sir. I’m very sorry, sir. I’ll have the $35 removed from your next bill. And I’m really very sorry, sir.”
Well, that worked out so well that all of my self-righteous speeches went unheard. Time to unleash some of my pent-up anger on Spirit Airlines.
I have piled up 66,000 free miles on Spirit and want to go to Chicago in September. I loathe calling them because each call takes more than an hour, most of it while I’m on hold. This time I came prepared as Uncle Herman! Boinie took me directly to Shireen.
“Spirit Airlines, Shireen speaking, may I have your Spirit Free Mileage number, please?” (India. Definitely India).
“Vait a tsecond, just like dat, you vant my number? No dinner, no flowers, nothing? Just a number and bang, dat’s it?”
“Okay, okay.” I give her the number. “But before ve go any further, don’t you t’ink maybe I should meet your parents foist?”
“Sir, please, may we continue?”
She was getting impatient! Good. What I really wanted now was to put her on hold for 20 minutes, but that could backfire.
“I vant you should help me choose,” I said. “I vanna go from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago and back in September,” I said, “vidout using up fifty t’ousand miles each vay.”
“Certainly, sir,” she said. “Please hold. I’ll connect you with someone who can help you with that. However, to use an agent rather than doing it yourself on line will cost $25.”
“Vot? I can barely type my name on a computer!”
“I’m sorry, sir, those are our rules. Would you like to speak to an agent who can help you with your reservation?”
Back on hold. After six minutes, another soft feminine voice said, “Good morning, this is Kaylin. How may I help you?”
It took another twenty minutes (and $25) before my flights were booked. Then Kaylin said, “Will you be bringing any luggage?”
“No just a carry-on. Goes up top, could give me a hoinia, lifting.”
“There will be a forty-five dollar charge for the carry-on,” she said.
“Yes sir. Now, would you like to reserve seats?”
“Yes, I vould like an aisle seat each vay, I could get up and valk around, vould be good for the arthritis.”
“Certainly, sir. There will be a ten-dollar charge for each reservation.”
I just love Spirit Airlines. My “free” round-trip flight to Chicago cost me $207.
But just wait until DirecTV sends me their next bill. They’re going to get an earful from Uncle Herman.