Monday, June 28, 2010

Me and Melanie Wilkes

I just finished a Live Chat with a rep to voice my concerns about problems with our online business. (I'm avoiding searchable keywords in this post.)

I wasn't expecting to get our highest-rated seller status back, but wanted to protest the policy, show what it's like on this end, explain the need for some kind of dispute/appeals process, and, basically Bitch Nicely.

Larry does more business work than I do, especially lately, but he told me "You need to contact them because I will turn into a New Yorker if I do it." I, on the other hand, will turn on the Southern Cream and Sugar.

Which I did, quite calculatingly. I was raised southern, raised to Work It and know how, but I also grew up in a different era from the one in which the people who taught me Southern Lady Behavior grew up.

I grew up in a revolutionary era; protests, feminism, skirts that did NOT cover our knees. One grandmother really had trouble with that. But not with short skirts (short within reason) when one was standing or walking. In particular, it was when sitting that a lady's skirt always covered her knees, and that was often achievable even with a mid-thigh skirt, if it wasn't a tight one. Ever after, I could feel very comfortable on my feet in a short skirt, but always spread it over my knees when sitting, or felt, if not guilty, at least aware of it when the style didn't allow knee coverage.

See what yall who weren't raised Southern missed? There are odd rules you don't even know about.

Anyway I was a grouchy anti-authority child in an era that encouraged that, and most of those proper southern behaviors became things I could do but not things that were a real deep-seated, autopilot part of me.

So with the online representative, I was partly calculating and partly not. Honest, there wasn't total cynicism in my niceness because I used to work for a county government, and got it in the face when someone was displeased with rules made way above my head. I hated the fact that hardly anybody grasps the obvious, which was that *I* had no power to change a rule for them. I know well that these reps are in the same boat. I've been on the receiving end, do NOT want to dish it out.

But I also knew that turning on the charm would make him/her (it was a her) more likely to listen. Nice, even vaguely witty words were more likely to get read, even if i repeated the complaints (A whole technique of its own -- rewording, to make it less of a dead-horse-flogging, and more like a clarification, or a refinement of the original thought), and my suggestions passed upwards (about requiring the customer to tell them what upset them, even if they don't tell us, thereby allowing appeal). Couple of repetitions of it being about power to dispute for us, couple of repetitions of how there really ARE nutjobs out there, who shouldn't have unquestioned power to hurt us financially. Blah blah.

And when I was done I felt wrung out.

So, Melanie Wilkes.

(This clip is completely unnecessary for this post, and both hilarious and annoyingly hyped up, but the part where Carol Burnett tells Dinah Shore to go stick her head in the punchbowl starts at about 1:45. It kinda goes with my point.)

Melanie in Gone With the Wind, typifies a woman who's physically fragile but mentally/emotionally strong. Much more adaptable to change than is her poor lost husband Ashley. Quite approving when Scarlett shoots the marauder, lies magnificently when the family out in the field starts to run home at the sound of the shooting, and has no compunctions about hiding the body.

But nice. Sweet. Self-sacrificing. And fragile.

It's supposed to show that physical fragility and mental strength can coexist, but as I look back on all the times I've gone into gear to Charm The Bleep out of someone, it tires me awfully. Not just now, not just stress or advancing age. Always did.

I don't think Melanie faded away at the end because "she never had any strength, all she had was heart." I think niceness sucked the strength out of her. Niceness Kills! That punchbowl can drown you. You know, just a thought.


Mike said...

I have often noted that, when you call some major company or gov't agency in the Northeast, they sound like they don't want to help you, even if they are trying, but when it's in Atlanta or Dallas, they can be stonewalling you completely and it still seems like they really, really care.

If companies were smart, they'd get their answering system messages recorded down there. "Now, I want you to please listen carefully, heah? 'Cause we had to change our menu and it can be just a little confusin' if you're used to the old one ..."

southernyankee said...

Re: Melanie Wilkes - Hence the need for NEW YORKER Man! Move over sweet southern girl - the guy from da Bronx has arrived, guns blazing, bodies cast aside, job done well or not, finito! Give Bronx Guy da respect he demands, or pay the price . . .we know where you live! :-) Oh, have a nice day!