Basically, I help in the daily operations of 2 companies. The one company (PGT) manufactures gaming trailers and the other (MGR) hires them out to events like birthdays, non-profits and team-building exercises for corporate and everything in between. My roles include (and are never limited to) scheduling new events, planning parties, managing clients and leads, invoicing, collecting payments, overseeing drivers, managing social media and any other miscellaneous tasks that can fit into my 5 hour shift.
The joy of my job is that no one knows that I’m sitting in my bed, in SA. In fact, not even the other staff at the company know. The only person who is aware of my location, is my boss. Everyone assumes that I am in our office. This often leads to embarrassing things like me saying good evening, when it’s 11am or customers complaining about how hot it is, but I am freezing (never talk about the weather – rule of life, when you are located in a different hemisphere!) Also, when getting the address for the event, they tend to try and explain exactly where by saying things like, “what’s the name of that shop on so-and-so-road” or, “oh, we’re just down the road!”. We’ve had all sorts of funny things like people wanting to meet me, or have me work their event, to calling the drivers from the office phone, while they’re standing in the office (our go-to is that I am grabbing coffee).
I have been working for said American based company for close to 3 years, and through my time here, I’ve encountered some odd balls. I thought that I’d share some stories and things that I hear…
90% of the time, my accent is the topic of discussion. (FYI, South African accents are proven to be completely neutral, in the sense that no one picks up a South African accent, when visiting) but that’s not to say that people don’t notice it. These are things that have been said, on numerous occasions about my accent.
“You have a wonderful accent – is that Australian or is it British?”
“Oh, you’re South African! Is that near Egypt?”
During my first week at MGR, I had someone ask me where I am from. I hadn’t quite learnt how to answer this question yet, so told her from South Africa. She showed general excitement for speaking to an “African” and then proceeded to say that “she just needed to find her credit card and would call back”. She did call back, only I was out and she got hold of my boss, which lead to a 30 minute ear full about how can she trust us and that we must be running a scam, because we hire Africans.
Some people, also tend to think my accent makes me stupid and insist on talking exceptionally slow. Try getting all the booking information, when being spoken to like a 2 year old and not end the call with, “and you have a nice f###ken day, too!”
I’ve also been told my accent relaxes people, that it’s delightful, beautiful, exotic and joyful… So there you have it guys, who needs French anyway!?
Some things that I’ve learnt about Americans include (and again, are never limited to):
1. They will threaten to sue you… Even if it’s over $2.79
As part of company policy, I am expected to charge $2.79 per mile that exceeds a 15 mile radius from my offices. After everything is calculated, an additional 7% is added as tax. I’ve had a woman not only threaten me, but try follow up her threats as she believed us to be robbing our clients by adding tax to the mileage.
2. They will try everything to pay less. EVERYTHING!
Being a small company of just 2 people in the office, I pretty much handle all the calls. Except maybe one or two, who call before I get in, each day. I can’t tell you the amount of times they’ve used chatting to my boss as an opportunity to say, “but he promised me discount” or telling him, “but she said she’d waive the mileage fee!” I swear we’ve even had people try say that I promised to throw in a yacht, too. They are ruthless and will do anything to save a buck.
Without a doubt, come Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll have one mom call me in a panic, looking for availability for the upcoming weekend. I do, honestly, try my hardest to accommodate them and slip them in but the best is when they say things like, “no, that time won’t work, I’ve already sent out the invites for 11am, and they’re expecting you to be here, then!” Or in the few times that I haven’t been able to help, they get genuinely annoyed and scream and perform because of our availability – people, I’m currently booking events for JANUARY 2016!!!
4. Ladies, stop being so hard on your men.
Ahh men, I have such sympathy for ya’ll, especially when you’ve left things for the last minute. They’ll try anything from flirting, to promising to pay extra, if you can just slip them in for tomorrow. The poor guy always ends the call with, “my wife is going to kill me!”
5. Americans use voicemail boxes, religiously. They also never answer.
9/10 calls ring until it goes to voice mail and then my call is returned 10 minutes later. It’s rather odd how they just refuse to answer their phones and will only call if and when you leave a message.
My boss and I do not take calls on Sunday. Everything is sent to my voicemail and dealt with on Monday. This is a system that had always worked until… Bruce. Bruce works for a call centre that books events and then outsources the services. They add on more than double to our regular pricing and call it a night. So one Sunday, my phone kept ringing… Both Lee and I checked our phones to see that it was the booking company. Not wanting to deal with work, we both left it to ring, expecting them to get the idea that we were out of the office- again it’s a Sunday. TWENTY-THREE calls later, filling our voicemail box and still not getting the message, I eventually answered and had to explain that common sense would tell you that we’re not in, at the moment. When I did eventually deal with Bruce, we weren’t available for the time or date. It took 18 calls in the two weeks to follow, for him to eventually understand that we were unavailable and that we do not get cancellations.
7. Everything is a scam
So, besides an African working for a US company being a clear indication of a scam, we’ve also run into a bunch of other things. For instance, requesting your zip code to check your mileage fee (and where to send my drivers, to service your party!!) is obviously a scam. Asking for a contact number for following up, is also a sign of a scam. But most recently requesting a billing address, while collecting credit card info, is the biggest worry of all and when I tried to explain that it was a requirement from the credit card company, as a security precaution, I was told off.
8. They need to be spoon fed
Never ever expect them to safely assume or think for themselves. They can’t. The proof is in the puding by the fact that I have to create a lengthy colour coded schedule for EACH driver because we can’t trust them to log into our system, open the booking and read through the information which is right in front of them. Also, if we were to send a combined schedule, with each person’s name clearly indicated, they will still phone and ask who should attend which event. Last week, there was an error on the schedule, I sent an email that explained the changes and attached a new schedule. They don’t call me – because you can already pick up that I’m out of patience- they call my boss to explain which schedule they should revert too. The title UPDATED SCHEDULE wasn’t enough.
I’ve had every sort of treatment from them calling me a liar, to shouting, swearing and even drunk calling (for over 2 hrs long – to tell me how bad their marriage is) but in all honesty, 90% of my customers are the best people that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with and I love being included in creating their treasured memories. Nothing makes me happier than reading reviews on a Monday morning and seeing photos of our services!