Monday, July 27, 2015

The Name Has Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

Shortly after she purchased a new cell phone as a University of Wisconsin sophomore, my sister Sara began receiving calls and voicemail messages from panicked tree lovers.

"Why aren't my pine trees here yet?!"

"You planted the wrong kind of oak trees!"

"All of my trees are dying!"

"Someone stole one of my trees!"

Sara told the first few callers, all of whom seemed intent on reaching a local tree service called Trees to Go*, they had the wrong number. She then called Trees to Go herself, hoping to explain and take care of the mix-up. After four rings and no answer at the number listed on the website, an answering machine picked up…and Sara heard her cell phone number listed on the outgoing message as the Trees to Go emergency contact number. She left a message explaining the error and assumed the company would immediately remedy the situation.

They didn't.

The calls continued - at all hours of the day and night, by the way - so Sara called Trees to Go again. She left a second message giving them fair warning, so to speak, that if they didn't remove her cell phone number, she had every intention of telling callers whatever came to her in the moment. Sara felt sure the company would change their message rather than risk a college student "going rogue" on their customers.

They didn't.

So Sara started telling the panicked customers whatever came to mind when they called.

"Why aren't my pine trees here yet?!"
- They're on their way.
- They've been delivered to Milwaukee.

"You planted the wrong kind of oak trees!"
- Yes, but aren't they pretty?
- Deal with it.

"All of my trees are dying!"
- Bummer. I bet the aphids/locusts/cicadas got 'em.
- Have you been singing to them? You were supposed to sing to them each night.
- Quick, pour honey on them! Do it now!

"Someone stole one of my trees!"
- It was me. You don't deserve a tree.
- Each time you call I die a little inside.

Yes, every one of those is an actual response of Sara's. 

The answers, suggestions, and instructions Sara provided depended on the time of day (she received quite a few calls in the late evening hours, or what I would now call the middle of the night), her mood, and a variety of other completely irrelevant factors. Sara's responses may have also depended on whether or not she'd had a drink or two…she was a college student back then, after all.

So what happened, you ask?

THREE YEARS LATER Sara graduated from college and got a new phone number.

That's right, Trees to Go never changed the message and Sara continued to receive their emergency calls for three l…o…n…g years.

I used this pic two months back,
but I couldn't help use it again.
Little tree lovers...
Thinking a company with such poor customer service couldn't possibility be in business 10+ years later, last week - on a Wednesday at 9pm and after a drink or two - Sara and I called the phone number listed on the Trees to Go website. When someone unexpectedly answered, we hung up faster than if we'd been 7th graders prank calling our boyfriends and then immediately wrote this post so we'd always remember the story of Sara's short-lived career as one of Madison, Wisconsin's most popular and creative tree resources.

* The name of the tree company has of course been changed. 

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