Minimizing Efficiency

At the cab company, we need a minimum of 3 pieces of information in order to send a taxi: origin, destination, number of passengers. The greeting message that you hear on hold even says as much—not that i expect anybody to actually listen to it.

Now, in fairness, I don’t expect the average taxi customer to be as familiar with how we work as we [the employees] are. But I would think that it would occur to anybody with sufficient mental skills to decide they want a cab, and successfully call the cab company, that we might need to know where they are, in order to send them a taxi.

Nonetheless, we regularly get calls from people who, in response to “where are you?” have to ask someone else. And at least some of the time, it’s reasonably clear that they haven’t merely forgotten—it’s not a case of asking, then calling, then the address slips your mind.

But all of that pales in comparison to putting the wrong person on the phone. It goes like this: someone calls up to order a taxi.

Me: Where are you?
Customer: [to someone else in room] What’s this address?
Voice in Background: 1372 Maximillian St
Customer: 3072 Maximum St
ViB: 1372 Maximillian St
Customer: I mean 1372 Maximum St
ViB: Maximillian St
Customer: Maxim St
Me: 1372 Maximillian St. Got it.
ViB: Maximillian St!
Customer: [not listening to me] 1372 Axemen St
Me: [giving up on communicating with the customer, since I have the answer, even if they can’t say it right] OK. Where are you going?
Customer: [to ViB] Where are you going?
ViB: 4302 Chatman Dr
Customer: 14302 Japan Dr
Me: [Not quite hearing ViB] There’s no such address.
Customer: [to ViB] He says there’s no such address!
ViB: 4302 Chatman Dr
Customer: I’m sorry, it’s 4302 Chatman Dr
Me: That address doesn’t exist, either.
Customer: What do you mean, there’s no such address?
Me: There’s no such address. There is no 43-hundred block on Chatman Dr.
Customer: [to ViB] He says there’s no such address! What’s Mikey’s address?
ViB: I don’t know!
ViB: Hold on.
Customer: I’m sorry.
ViB: OK. It’s 4302 Francis Dr
Customer: [to ViB] You talk to him!
ViB: It’s 4302 Francis Dr!
Customer: 4302 Ransis Dr
Me: Do you mean Francis Dr?
Customer: [to ViB] Is it Francis Dr?
ViB: Yeah, Francis Dr
Customer: Yeah.
Me: OK. How many people?
Customer: [to ViB] How many people?
ViB: Hey, John, you comin’ with?
ViB: Just one.
Customer: One
Me: Ok, we’ll—
ViB: Ask him how much it’s gonna be.
Customer: How much is that gonna be?
Me: Just a second…. About $12.
Customer: [to ViB] $12
ViB: $12!?
Me: So, do you want the cab?
Customer: [to ViB] You want it?
ViB: Yeah, send it.
Customer: Yeah.

Half the time, this whole exchange is occurring in a very noisy environment, so the person on the phone is shouting everything at me, and having trouble hearing the person who actually knows what’s going on. Despite the fact that I can hear that person just fine.

I understand when the person on the phone only has half the information—they know where they are, but not where their friend is going. Or, they know where they’re going, but not the address of the friend’s house they’re at. Or they’ve forgotten the name of the bar they’re in, because it’s the 5th bar that night, or someone else dragged them there. It’s annoying, but explainable. But why, when one person clearly knows all the information—or is the one making all the decisions—is someone who doesn’t have any of the information, and/or not making the decisions, on the phone?

A closely-related phenomenon is having the drunkest member of the group call the cab. You can hear the others in the background getting a huge kick out of watching their friend struggle with what should be a basic task. So I know what’s going on. But it’s just as annoying and frustrating.

[Actually, I do have a theory for what’s going on in the first case. It’s almost always a woman on the phone and a man in the background. So I think it’s a sort of controlling behavior: he is asserting his power by making her actually do the work, at his behest. Even though it would probably be less effort for him to make the call himself, than to do it through her, since he’s the one who has all the info and is making the decision. So, illustrative of both a dysfunctional power dynamic in the relationship, and of cutting of his nose to spite his face.]

One comment on “Minimizing Efficiency

  1. woodelf says:

    Somebody asked, so, no, none of those examples are actual. The details are made up to protect the guilty. But the magnitude of the inanity is authentic—in fact, people confuse far-less-similar-sounding street names, in ways that continue to baffle me after years of doing this. I never ran into this level of ignorance about a person’s location when i worked at the pizza joint.

    p.s.: “Nobel” and “Noble” or two different words. That’s a real-world example that just happened.

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