'Go **** yourself," and plotting a novel

Raymond Chandler once described an activity (not important what) as being “as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency.” I have happened upon a dark corporate art still more wasteful and, being a writer, I see how it’s related to the plotting of a novel.
I’ve had a couple of mild run-ins with corporate complaints departments of late – customer service departments as they are known. The service, of course, is the kind of servicing offered by a stallion to a mare.
I’ll sum up what’s been going on, and then I’ll tell you why the “customer service” department is the anti-creative, anti-crime novel acme of our society. I’ll also tell you why I bet Dick Cheney doesn’t like crime novels.
But wait, first, my complaints. I rented a car with Hertz on a recent trip to the UK. I was caught on a speed camera doing 36 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone, and elsewhere doing 45 mph in a 40 mph zone. So I have to pay a fine. Well, I don’t like drivers who speed, so I’ll pay the fine.
Yet Hertz charged me 30 pounds plus tax to let me know that I was liable for these fines. I called to tell them I thought this was excessive and was given a very rude brush-off by a nasty Irish woman. I forgave her, because while I owe 60 pounds plus tax for driving too fast, she personally owes a few billion Euros just for being Irish.
I then wrote to Hertz and received a reply from Lisa Walsh of “Customer Services” in which she said the 30 pounds was to cover Hertz’s expenses. “Our financial controller has set the cost at 30 pounds per fine.” Oh, well, if your financial controller says it’s reasonable, what do I know? Lisa then added: “We appreciate your business and look forward to the opportunity to serve your future rental needs.”
I’m not a lawyer (there’s only room for one of those on this blog — see if you can guess which of my blogmates used to earn their money soliciting, if you’ll pardon the phrase; answers to the comments section), but I know when someone has said a very lawyerly “Go **** yourself” to me.
I responded that my concern hadn’t been addressed. Namely, that 30 pounds seemed a lot of money for Hertz charge just for passing on a fine to me. The nasty Irish lady had told me Hertz takes a week’s work to “check whether it’s from a real police force or not.” Does that mean that a week’s work at Hertz earns you 30 pounds? Or that they’re suspicious of the Glamorgan County Constabulary? A shifty bunch, those Welsh coppers.
Jonathan Cooley, of Hertz Customer Services, got back to me. He upped the ante, telling me “Go **** yourself, you stupid, illiterate ****.” Here’s what he said: “The administration fee was clearly outlined which was clearly accepted by you when you made the booking.”
Nice grammar, Jonathan. Clearly, I should’ve read the small print on my rental contract, but I was only on vacation for 10 days, so I figured I’d best not spend half of the trip in the Hertz office at Heathrow catching up on my reading. He also pretended that I had contested the fine, when actually it was Hertz’s surcharge I opposed.

Read the rest of this post on my blog The Man of Twists and Turns.

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Comment by Stephen Brayton on December 18, 2010 at 12:34am

Yeah, seems a little excessive for them to fine you to tell you you had to pay a fine. I'm surprised your law enforcement is that sticky. Five miles over and you get a fine? Guess we'd better watch our speed.

Comment by I. J. Parker on December 17, 2010 at 4:46am

Umm, haven't you just wasted a good part of your intelligence on arguing with Hertz after the fact? But then, of course, there was the blog, one of the really funny ones that speaks to all our assorted frustrations.  :)

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