One morning there was a message on the answering machine from an irate customer, complaining about her lack of service—service that had been suspended because her check had bounced. Her abusive message included a curse word.
As it is my job to handle payments received, it was my duty to collect the check. Everyone responsible for the “missed” service was happy to pass the situation off to me. They were glad there was a bad check involved, making dealing with this woman my job. They told me how difficult the task would be and offered to prepare me by playing the message. I refused saying, “No, I’m afraid it would prejudice me.”
As is often the case when a check bounces, I soon found that this woman’s phone number was no longer in service. A check of the caller I.D. told us the call had come from the manager’s office of the apartment building where our customer lived. We left a message with the manager and within the hour our call was returned.
I told our customer gently, sympathetically that a check she had written had been returned because of non-sufficient funds. I told her I always want to let people know about returned checks quickly because the huge fees the banks charge can cause more checks to be returned and more fees to be charged. (It is not unusual for one error to lead to a chain of returned checks and fees that can cost the consumer several hundred dollars.)
I told her I hoped she could contact the bank and get things straightened out before her problems got worse. I also told her, gently once more, that I hated to add to her problems but she would owe us a fee for the returned check because the bank charges us a fee when a check is returned.
She told me she had difficulties because of being on a fixed income and being in poor health. I commiserated with her. She told me she had no one, that she had no children but had raised several that belonged to her husband and after living with him thirty years he had left her for another woman. She told me she was facing open heart surgery. I commiserated every step of the way and I was sincere in my sympathy.
Finally, after she had promised to pay, I told her that I was going to tell her something that was just from me, not speaking for the business I worked for, just for myself. I told her I would pray for her.
This was several weeks ago and I have prayed for her several times since. Not only do I care about her situation—and more particularly about the lonely state she lives in as a result—but she taught me something about cranky people, something that I will try not to forget.
When a person is cranky, there may be reasons you don’t know about. If you don’t react with anger, you may learn what the real problem is and may in some way be able to help, if only with a little sympathy.
Read more articles, stories and poems by B. Killebrew and other popular authors at: www.trovemagazine.com