Flash in the Pan

Margot listened to the caller drone on and on. He had not heard a thing she had said through his cellular static. Altogether, it wasn’t not that unusual, but disheartening nonetheless.

She shuffled papers on her desk and took a deep breath to tell him, Thank you for your business, sir. All she heard was disparaging remarks about her heritage and intellect. It made her glad she had pushed the record button for future training and educational purposes. 

When he began hurling threats, she thought of the many places she would rather be than here on the telephone with someone who would never take responsibility for his own mistakes. Everything about his problem was user error.

“You will regret this!” His shout was a hollow echo her earpiece. Just before she pressed the button for another, maybe better customer, she heard it. He burst into the call center, guns blazing.

Welcome to “Flash in the Pan”


Tonight’s word is “call”. It was inspired by the many complaints about the failing customer service industry. This piece of flash fiction weighs in on the nose at 150 words.

If you would like to play along with Flash in the Pan, this month’s word limit is 150. Link your “call” posts back to here for a spot on the Flash in the Pan page.


What is it which incites people to violence with customer service agents? Have you ever threatened a CSR (you do not have to admit violence)? What would end workplace violence of this nature?

(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. Laurie

     /  July 29, 2012

    I’ve rarely found a helpful CSR, they are usually rude and answer everything but the question I asked them. They constantly interrupt…….or maybe it’s just me…………I was a CSR, and on the other end some of the people that call make you wonder what they’re smoking and you know they need to stop. Like the lady that wanted to know why a plastic housing on a set of clippers broke because her horse stepped on them, or the woman that asked me how much her horse weighed over the phone………..It’s amazing more people aren’t assaulted as a result of customer service calls on either end…….

    • Never once in my career did I question what events lead to workplace violence. I think anger management needs to be a required part of the course for a customer being able to use the CSR line…not only for the CSR. I have been asked some of those brilliant questions (like the horse weight) as well. The ones who ask me in person see my trademark deadpan look.

  2. I had some website problems a while back. The first call I made I got someone who really knew his stuff, was courteous, helpful, and efficient. He did an excellent job. A month later, I had a similar problem. This guy did nothing, was no help whatsoever, and basically told me to go away and fix the problem myself because they couldn’t and wouldn’t help.
    Binky recently posted..Sticks And StonesMy Profile

    • There are plenty times when we get the one person who can help…but it normally takes five to ten calls to get that one person.

  3. Seldom are these people helpful,more often than not very irritating.. their response or lack of it. how many times we have called for some help or complaint and one on line who took their sweet time to find out everything about us and our problem and then line got dissconnected before they could offer us any help and when we dialed again it was a new person asking same things..

    loved the story.
    Soma Mukherjee recently posted..The Magnificent world of WombiesMy Profile

    • I have that happen, but it is normally my fault. But that is what I get for calling about a miserable connection! Glad you liked this one.

  4. What is it that incites people to mess with customer service agents. Hmmmm… Lemme see, I’ve always had excellent service from anyone I call and they’re most helpful so if I had to go to “other” people’s mindsets when “they” call these places?

    1. They’re completely out of control looking for someone or something to blame for their current situation vs. taking responsibility and realizing the whole world is not out to get them;
    2. They lash out irrationally at customer service agents because they are an easy target and more particularly when they don’t get their way, the tantrums abound and the abuse unfolds (not all people mind you);
    3. They’re an a**h**e to begin with (no explanation needed here);

    Personally? I can’t see the point of taking any stress I have out on a person on the other end of the phone. I speak to them with respect, they help me, that’s what we need them for and I think, while we all can have stress, there’s no reason to treat another human being with disrespect.

    I’ve found that CS agents are “always” helpful and usually when I get off the phone with them? They tell me I’m the best call of the day and they thank me, I thank them and off we go onto whatever else needs to be taken care of.

    Now! Some CS agents are snarky as hell, but how would you/me/anyone be if everyone spoke to them like they were garbage all day long? Snarky… thaaaat’s right. If I have gotten one, on occasion who is crabby, it’s a very simple process, you empathize with them, they come around and they’re kinder … it’s just that simple. Truly, just that simple.

    • I have about a 50/50 track record with CSR. I attribute my success rate with the patience it takes to explain I am not calling to go through the checklist because I went through the checklist before I called. Overall, the service industry has farmed out the jobs to those who do not speak the language of the ones whom they serve. While this is not always the problem, sometimes it is merely a training issue, it is a big portion of the problem.

      Lots of people only call when they are beyond the point their patience (or knowledge) is exhausted.

      I adore the ones who want me to do a survey about their service. Those are normally the 1 of 5s. I do much better with the snarky ones. We commiserate about the product 😉

      • I think I forgot to click the reply thing at the bottom there… Oh yah, I’ve had people who, while they were kind enough to look up the information I needed, took longer due to a lack of training as to what their job was. I don’t mind most of the time because they’re still helping me.

        I don’t take the quizzes unless it’s one question, yes or no because by the time I’m done with the call I don’t want to hear another single thing. hahaha!

        There was one company I lost my temper with years ago over some product that was horrid and I was trying to return it and I explained over and over again that what I got was “NOT” what was on the TV but a crappy version of it and I wanted a refund. They offered me everything under the sun to keep it and I finally had to get a supervisor… it goes a little sumpin like this …

        “I’m sorry, we must be having some kind of miscommunication here, please give me your supervisor.” But, but, but… the warranty? That was the rare occasion, so I’m pretty lucky. 🙂

  5. Seems to make sense the way they put call centres in India so we can’t get at people who have no idea what they are doing and work from out of date checklists!!!

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Sunday – files corruption strikes!My Profile

    • I despise the checklists because I have already done that by the time I call. Funny. I call the information line for information. Whodathunkit? {HUGZ} Red.

  6. Wonderfully done, can’t say how many times bad customer service sends me over the edge. Causes me to want to free pour rum into a glass or even better directly from the bottle down my throat. I suspect it is simply that there is a pat answer rather than an attempt to understand the problem.

    Loved the story though.

    • Glad you liked the story. I have those as well. I am really lucky to have direct lines into the places I call most. It saves me the hair pulling of calling the CSR who do not have the solutions for the problem.


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