November 5, 2004

To: Verizon Wireless Customer Service
From: Conor Friedersdorf
Subject: Can You Hear Me Now?

Dear Underpaid “Customer Care Associate”:

I once answered phones for Mazda Motors of America, manning the 1-800 number customers call when their vehicles break down.

“Zoom zoom,” I’d greet callers.

My supervisor never told me to say that, but I found caricaturing the summer job helped to make its degrading moments more palatable. So many callers were primed to “tear me a new one,” as we say in the business. Thankfully I devised a strategy to check their tirades:

Me: “Zoom zoom! This is Mazda.”

Customer: “My Miata just broke down for the fifth time!”

Me: “Yelling at me makes some Mazda owners feel better, sir. Go ahead.”

The Preemptive Theory of Customer Service worked nine times out of ten. Perhaps you can employ it to your advantage?

Surely our rapport now approaches what I felt for a few favorite customers who empathized so fully that it seemed they too were staring at the pale gray walls of my cubicle, listening to the portly co-worker across the aisle clear the phlegm from his throat. They alone fathomed my power: my ability to subsidize repairs, to send them leather driving gloves or deluxe floor mats, to provide free oil changes to last ten thousand miles!

Are you imbued with similar discretion?

If so, consider my plight. I’ve given Verizon Wireless the best years of my mobile-phone-using life. But I’m moving to Europe in a few days, two months remaining on my service contract.

Surely we can find a way to overlook this unfortunate circumstance? If so, I’d love to re-sign with your employer when I return from Europe (having already written its Customer Service supervisors to commend the prodigy who kept my business).


Conor Friedersdorf
Account #145656998

p.s. Do you drive an aging Mazda 626? Good luck with that transmission!