# Customer service and security

I placed an online order with Office Depot today, using my company’s corporate account, an account we’ve had for 20 years. Hilarity ensued.

Late in afternoon, I got a call from someone who said she was with Office Depot (Caller ID agreed). She said the order had been placed on hold subject to confirmation of some details about our account.

“I won’t give you any details about the company over the phone. You called me, and I have no way of knowing you’re actually from Office Depot.” Because of Caller ID, I was pretty sure she was who she claimed, but why risk it?

“Sir, I need to confirm your account information.”

“Yes, I understand that, but I have no way of confirming you’re really from Office Depot. You called me out of the blue. Will I be able to get to your department if I call the Office Depot customer service number?”

“I just need to confirm your information for this order to go through.”

“I’m hanging up now and calling customer service. Will that get me to your department?”

“Yes, but—”

“Thank you.”

So I called the customer service line. The automated system asked me to punch in my account number, so I did and was put in the queue to “speak with a representative.” The wait was only a minute or so, and the first thing the representative asked me was my account number. This happens with almost every telephone support system I deal with, so I no longer give the poor rep grief about it, but it still bothers me. This is one of those dumbass pseudo-security features that make a manager somewhere feel like he’s doing something valuable.

In any event, the rep confirmed that my order was on hold, but she said that it was on hold because an invoice due in mid-April had not been paid—not exactly what the first woman had told me. I got the details on the unpaid bill and asked if she could hold while I checked our system to see if it had been paid. She said yes, so I went off to our accounting office.

I fired up QuickBooks and saw that we hadn’t made any payments to Office Depot since late February and none that matched the amount of the unpaid bill. I also learned that we had no pending Office Depot invoices in our accounts payable file. The bill was lost in the mail, most likely.

When I got back to my office and picked up the phone, I learned that the Office Depot lady had hung up. I called back, went through the same nonsense of giving our account number twice, and explained the situation to the third customer service rep of the day.

“How would you like to settle your account, sir?”

“Well, I’d like to pay it, but I need to have a bill.”

“The outstanding amount is $139, but you can make a payment of$58 to get the hold on your order cleared.”

“I’ll pay the amount in full, but I need to have an invoice in hand before I do that. Just send me a copy of the bill.”

“All right, sir. Can I have your fax number?”

“My tax number? Why do you need that?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

He wasn’t. A few minutes later, the fax (which, like the company and our Office Depot account, is 20 years old) rang and printed the bill.

“OK, there’s a late fee and an interest charge on this. You need to take those off.”

“Well, sir, I don’t know…”

“How long have we had this account?”

“It says here the account started in 1995.”

“And have we ever paid a bill late before?”

“Well, I don’t have the full history, but it does look like you have an excellent payment record. I’ll remove the late fee.”

“And the interest charge.”

“I can’t do that, sir.”

“Sure you can.”

“I’ll have talk to a supervisor.”

“I’ll wait.”

The interest charge was, of course, removed, and I made payment arrangements.

I don’t blame Office Depot for wanting to get paid on time, and I understand the foot-dragging on getting the added charges removed. But I’m not inclined sympathize with a company that

1. Starts a conversation by misinforming me about the purpose of the call.
2. Then asks me to do something that’s thoroughly insecure.
3. Forces me to waste my time with a “security feature” that provides no protection.
4. Hangs up on me mid-call. I should point out that I had to wait several minutes during these calls as information was looked up, verified, and approved. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
5. Continues the “that’s not possible” charade after it’s clear that I’m not buying it.

There’s an inertia to our continued use of Office Depot for certain supplies. We’ve switched to Amazon for so much, maybe it’s time to go all in. At least I know I won’t be getting phone calls from them.