Caught in Customer Service Hell


If I were able to re-write this saying, it would read “One who gives charity in secret is greater than Moses.  But still can’t get Hamilton tickets.”  Read on to see why.


On Tuesday night, my husband and I were supposed to see Hamilton (you’ve heard of it, right? It’s a cute little Off-Broadway production about some senator from a long time ago or something).  I had really been looking forward to seeing the show, mostly because I had heard so many wonderful things about it but partially because I wanted to finally stop debating endlessly about whether or not I could actually allow myself to spend an obscene amount of money on two hours of entertainment.

The show was at 7:00 and I got there at 6:40.  I left a ticket for my husband at “will call” because he wasn’t there yet and I had to pee.  Couldn’t wait one more second.  I handed my printed ticket to the ticket collection man (he probably has an official title but I would just be speculating), he scanned the barcode and said “Hmmm.”  FYI, this is not the reaction you want when you’ve practically had to take out a second mortgage on your home to buy the tickets.  “It’s saying that you already used this ticket to enter tonight.”

Clearly, I haven’t, since I’m standing here handing you the ticket.

“Go to the ticket window and speak to someone there.”

I walked a few steps over to the ticket window, slipped my paper ticket through the slot and explained to the man inside what had happened.  He typed away on his computer for a few seconds and then asked “Did you print two copies of these tickets?” I had not (although I didn’t know that you weren’t allowed to do that).  He continued typing.  He then called over two more people who gazed at the computer screen, looked down at my ticket, gazed at the computer screen and generally looked very confused.

“You bought these tickets through Ticketmaster, correct?”


“And you bought them on resale from someone who had already bought them from Ticketmaster?”


“It looks like Ticketmaster neglected to cancel the original owners’ tickets when you purchased them, so both the original owners and you have legitimate tickets.  But they already used their tickets tonight to get into the show.”

Now, the lobby of this theater was tiny and loud, so I could barely gather my own thoughts, let alone convey a coherent argument through a thick plate of glass to the men on the other side.  Plus, Colin Quinn was standing at the booth next to me picking up his tickets, and when I pictured myself having a fit, screaming and yelling and crying and being overly dramatic, I also pictured Colin Quinn writing a skit about me and taking it on the road.  So I hesitated.  Moreover, throwing a fit (out loud) is not really my personality.  Fits are thrown in my head all day, and heads roll, but almost never out loud.  I wish I could say I was the type of person who could have said “Ok, here’s what’s going to happen.  You’re going to go into the theater, pluck the original ticket owners out of MY seats, show them to the door and gently kick them in the ass as they are ushered into an alley by your security team, because I’m not leaving here tonight without seeing this show, either from the seats I purchased or better ones.  You choose.”  But I just don’t operate that way.  I would love to, really, I would.  But I don’t have it in me.

Instead, I held back the tears, I didn’t scream and yell, I accepted the manager’s card so that I could call him if Ticketmaster gave me a hard time about getting a refund (which is not what I wanted…I wanted to see the show), and I left the theater feeling very taken advantage of and very angry (at Ticketmaster, at myself and at the bozos sitting in my seats) and I went home.  I honestly couldn’t believe what had just happened.

I called Ticketmaster from the cab and it rang busy about five times (side note: is Ticketmaster just some guy named Jeff who works out of his studio apartment on 48th and 9th? Or is it a real company? I just feel like real companies don’t have phones that ring busy.  And they also don’t issue two sets of tickets for the same seats). I finally got through to “Jeff” who had clearly been trained to handle people such as myself.  He was so calm that it made me feel worse.  How could he be calm at a time like this?  Where was the outrage?  The horror? “Jeff” said he was sorry for what had happened and that he would put me on hold for “a few minutes” so that he could “prepare” my complaint.  Why the quotation marks? Because it wasn’t a few minutes, it was a total of 45 minutes, and I don’t think he really prepared anything because when I asked him to send me a copy of the complaint or at least proof that they were doing “everything they could” to process my complaint, he told me that Ticketmaster doesn’t put anything in writing. Let me tell you what I would like to see happen: (1) I would like Ticketmaster to send me tickets to Hamilton for a show this month, the same seats or better, and (2) I would like Ticketmaster to trip and fall in the street and get run over by a mack truck.  Doesn’t matter which one happens first, although I would like to be issued the tickets first in case Ticketmaster dies from massive injuries resulting from getting run over by the truck.

On a positive note, our credit card company already refunded us and I was told that they had never heard of this happening before.  So it probably won’t happen to you.  I still hate Ticketmaster.  And I’m also thinking of finally suing someone (Ticketmaster) for my favorite tort from law school, negligent infliction of emotional distress.  Let me know if you want to join and we can make it a class action.

So that was Tuesday.

Thursday I get a charge on my credit card from Nordstrom for a pair of Heely’s that I had ordered for my daughter’s birthday.  That sounds innocuous enough.  Well here’s why it wasn’t.  I ordered the shoes a few weeks ago.  About a week later I received an email from Nordstrom saying that the shoes were on backorder.  I thought it was very responsible of them to keep me in the loop.  A week later I received another email saying that the shoes were going to be backordered for longer than expected and that they assumed that I would like to cancel my order and that, if that were the case (which it was) I didn’t need to do anything and my credit card would not be charged.  If, however, I would like to wait for the shoes, I should email or call customer service to let them know.  Responsible! In the meantime, I purchased the Heely’s from Amazon (aka my one true love, soul mate and best friend). They arrived 17 minutes later by drone, and the drone even put them on my daughter’s feet and showed her how to use them.

Thursday I got a charge on my credit card from Nordstrom for the shoes.  Irresponsible! I was really baffled.  I looked back at the email to see if I had misread it but I hadn’t. They were supposed to cancel the order if they didn’t hear from me.  I called Nordstrom today and the customer service representative said “How strange. I’ve never heard of this happening before” (Sound familiar? I’m starting to think it’s BS).

So that was today.

And finally, the ongoing Stadium Tennis saga.

I signed my daughter up for tennis lessons at Stadium Tennis in the fall.  In October she fractured her arm at gymnastics, causing her to miss five tennis lessons.  I called and spoke to Stadium about it and they told me to send a doctor’s note and that they would refund the money from those fives lessons.  That was October.  It’s April.  Ask me if I’ve seen any money from them.

I can’t even begin to detail the number of times I’ve called and emailed about this issue. They ignore all of my correspondence for weeks at a time, and then they send me a long apology email about how negligent they’ve been yada yada yada and I’m convinced that the refund will be forthcoming.  At the end of the fall session, I was told that if we signed up for the spring session (which we planned to do because we’re idiots), they would just deduct the amount of money from the spring session that they owed us from the fall session.  They did not.  And you know what they had the nerve to say when I called for the 57th time to complain? “If you sign up for fall of 2016, we’ll deduct the money from that session.” Fool me once, Stadium Tennis.

I hate you, Stadium Tennis.  I hope you and Ticketmaster go on a date and trip and fall in the middle of street and get run over by a mack truck.  But not before you issue my refund.

Now, there may be some of you out there who are thinking, “Oh poor baby…Hamilton tickets, Nordstrom shoes, tennis lessons.” Stick it.  I bet you’ve spent money on something before that didn’t pan out either.  Don’t be the pot.

And on that note, I wish you all a lovely weekend, free of phone calls to customer service representatives of every kind.



Bedtime Routines

two colorful toothbrushes


Not to grossly generalize (which is exactly what I’m doing), but I’ve noticed, through my own experiences and from talking with friends, that the bedtime routines of men and women vary greatly:


  1. Floss and brush teeth
  2. Remove makeup
  3. Wash face
  4. Exfoliate
  5. Apply face cream, eye cream and neck cream
  6. Moisturize
  7. Take various pills
  8. Clean mouth guard (which is needed in order to prevent teeth grinding which is caused by, among other things, the anxiety of having a lengthy bedtime routine)
  9. Think. Can you go to Hell for grossly generalizing? Is there a Hell? What happens when we die? Am I dying? Why am I thinking about dying?…Why did Victoria say that to me today? Was she trying to be mean? Or is she just insensitive? Or stupid? Maybe she was just hungry. She’s getting really fat, actually. Stop it, that’s mean! You’re totally going to Hell…Do I really have to get up at 5:30 for spin class? If I don’t go I’ll have to pay for the class anyway and I will have wasted a bike that someone else could have used. Oh but there’s a wait list! Someone will be thrilled to get off the wait list, more thrilled to have the spot than I am.  It’s settled, I’m not going.  It’s the unselfish thing to do. Or should I just go?…..Why wasn’t I invited to that dinner? Why do I care? I don’t even want to go to that dinner.  But if they ask me now I’ll still go.  Or maybe I shouldn’t.  It’s rude to extend the invitation so late!…What should I wear to my meeting tomorrow? Thank God I still work. But maybe I should quit so I can spend more time with my kids. They say kids need their parents more as they get older. Are my kids “older”?… Should we go skiing in March? There won’t be mosquitoes in Utah, right? Although there was one in our apartment last week. Maybe we should just stay home. But Winter Break was sooooo tedious. Not that I don’t love spending time with my kids.  I really do. Especially when there’s no schedule. But they really do better with a schedule. Maybe we’ll stay home and I’ll sign them up for some activities. But they’ll complain if I make them do activities. Maybe we should go away after all…


  1. Brush teeth



800-588-2300 Empiiiiire


After a particularly nasty run-in with a particularly nasty and irrational neighbor, I had Empire Today install some relatively inexpensive hallway runners. Not because I needed to, but because I never wanted to hear from this neighbor again.

If you haven’t used Empire before, you should know that, as with many service providers, once you use them, you are on their call list forever. And they call often. Good thing their phone number is so catchy because I always know who’s calling and I answer the phone and immediately hang up. Immense feeling of satisfaction and power? Check.

A few weeks ago they called and, although my blood boiled, I was feeling the Christmas Spirit so I answered the phone. The telemarketer told me that Empire was running a special and he asked if I needed new rugs or shades or if I needed anything cleaned.  Ding ding ding.  We actually needed shades.  I asked if they had blackout shades and he didn’t know what that meant (interesting choice to select a telemarketer to make cold calls who isn’t familiar with the company’s inventory, but who am I to judge?  Oh right, I’m the customer, aka the one who gets to judge). After putting me on a “brief hold” I was told that they did indeed sell blackout shades and we settled on January 8th from 9:00-11:00 for someone to come take measurements and give us a quote.

January 8th arrived.  My phone rang at around 9:00am and on the other end was Doodah (that was not actually her name, although I don’t think it’s that far off; since I can’t remember it, Doodah seems fitting). Doodah wanted to confirm that I was expecting someone to come take measurements and then she asked the oddest question: “Are you the only one in the home who will be making the decision about whether or not to purchase the shades?”

What am I, seven?

“Well, I guess I’ll discuss it with my husband at some point.  Why do you ask?”

“Will he be home when I come over?”

I had never been asked these questions by any service provider before. Was it some sort of trap? What information was she trying to ellicit and why? Was she going to rob us?  Did she need a headcount of who would be home?  Did she want to know if we had weapons?**

“No, he’s at work.”

“Maybe I should come tomorrow then?  So that you can both be there to make the decision?”

“No, I think I’ll be capable of making this decision on my own”.

What is it, 1950?  I need a big, strong man to help me make a (decorating) decision? To give me permission?

So Doodah agreed to come over. She arrived at my apartment (with her carpet bag, literally, but she was no Mary Poppins) and took a few measurements while I looked at the color options.  FYI, they’re all variations of white.  So I chose the white one.  She did a few calculations and told me that, with the 40% (!) discount, the shade would cost [$    ]. I’m not going to tell you what the quote was, but suffice it to say it was outrageous enough that I wanted to check with my husband to see if he also thought it was an outrageous amount and thus justified getting an estimate from another company. So… it turned out that Doodah was in fact, correct, I would not be making this decision on my own. Infuriating! I hate being wrong.  Especially when I thought I was justified in feeling offended by her questions. I mean, could I have made this decision on my own? Of course I could have. Because I’m a grown ass woman and I’m capable of making my own decisions.  However, I’m the same grown ass woman who has been known to make decisions and regret them. Immediately.

The moral, for me, is that the minute I reached for the phone to get my husband’s opinion, I should have realized that I already knew the answer to the question I was about to ask him.  And as for Doodah?  I was able to withstand the high amount of pressure she was putting on me to sign the contract, even though I wasn’t sure I would be purchasing the shades from her. Practically begging, she was.  And no, I would not sign it even when she offered to waive the requirement of putting down a deposit.  Who would sign a legally binding document if it weren’t necessary? Not this grown ass woman.



Follow-up: We got a second quote and Doodah, even with her 40% off, was overpriced.  So we’re not getting the shades from her and I win.  Ha ha.

A lesson for Doodah: I’m no saleswoman, but I have a feeling that it’s easier to make a sale when you compliment the customer (“I love your apartment!”) instead of offending her by casting a distasteful eye around the crowded playroom and saying “I don’t know how people live in the city.”


**Important footnote: If you would like to send your child over for a play date but you want to know if we have guns in the apartment and you’re too afraid to ask me, lest I get angry and decide to shoot you with my gun, you should know that we do not have any guns. Do you?  Please let me know so that I can cancel all future play dates at your apartment.  And now you know where I stand on the gun debate.  Weight off shoulders.

Moving Out…Moving On?

Moving Boxes at new home

My parents are moving out of my (third) childhood home where I lived from ages 9-18, during college breaks, and for two years after college graduation. Last week they asked me to come over and go through some of my old things; they would like me to take what’s mine to my apartment, where I now live with my husband and children.  Sounds like a simple enough request.  But it isn’t.

On Friday I went over to my parents’ place to go through my things.  It was a process that was simultaneously wonderful and unsettling.  Until Friday, I really hadn’t been confronted with my past in such a tangible way.  As I combed through the piles, bits and pieces of my life that I had forgotten came flooding back.  Many of these bits I happily and gratefully accepted into my consciousness: the ticket stub from my first Guns N’ Roses concert, an English paper that I had done well on, pictures of trips and events where I was nothing but smiles, a Camp Lenox yearbook and pictures of my Fieldston Pre-K class, to name a few.  It was invigorating and reassuring to be reminded of good times, to see evidence of past happiness.

But a few of these bits and pieces might have been better left unremembered. I read letters that I had written, but never sent, to my college crush.  I thought, “Who wrote this?”  The author seemed like a stranger to me.  She said things that I would never say, and yet there were the words on the paper, the letter signed with my name.  I was appalled by my diary that I had kept when I was in Israel during the summer of ’94.  My diary entries, regarding the social aspects of the trip, sounded angry and jealous, so immature.  I seemed like that clichéd, angst-filled teenager who was in desperate need of an outstretched hand.  Reading that diary instantly made me feel 16 again, forced me to feel what I had forgotten in the 21 years since then. I wish I could have sent a hand back through time and squeezed that teenager’s hand, promising her that it would turn out all right.

At the end of going through all of my things, I had two “garbage” boxes filled with law school text books (very easy to part with–buh bye!) and law school notebooks (slightly more difficult to part with, but only because it was sort of fun to marvel at the detail with which I organized my law school notes–from the looks of it, that girl was really on top of the material, although I don’t quite remember it that way).

After that I was faced with the remaining items which filled two boxes.  It’s a strange feeling, to be forced to decide what to do with evidence of your life.  Keep it, only to bury it in the corner of a closet where it will collect dust, maybe taking it out once every 10 years when you’re feeling sentimental or when you want to share bits of your past with your children? Let it take up space that could be “better” used, perhaps as a storage space for items that belong to your own children that will one day be evidence of their childhood? Or throw it out and hope that memory will work well enough on its own; that you don’t really need to hold the photos of you and your friends in Greece after college graduation because you can remember the trip without the tangible evidence?

It’s not a simple matter, the decision of whether or not to throw away items that are a testament to your life.  I feel like I physically don’t have room for these relics in my apartment.  Or maybe it’s that I don’t have emotional room for them.  Who was this girl?  I don’t even recognize parts of her. But without these old photos, cards, notes, letters, Bat Mitzvah invitations, concert stubs, medals…who are we?  If we throw it all away, will we remember enough on our own, or do we need the physical evidence? Must we make room for evidence of the past, literally and symbolically?

Apartment Newsletter


The following is a fictional newsletter, circulated to a fictional group of residents in a fictional apartment building.  The newsletter does not depict any actual person or event. Even if you’re entirely sure that one of the characters is based on you, she isn’t. Even if your friends keep texting you to tell you that a character in this newsletter must have been based on you, he wasn’t. Even if you find my notebook and it says your name and then lists a bunch of personality traits and one of the characters is described with exactly the same personality traits as yours, she’s still not based on you.

Dear Residents of 612 East 49th Street,

It has come to my attention that many of you do not like me.  How has it come to my attention?  Well, for starters, you set up a table in the lobby with a placard that read “Let’s get rid of Michelle Smith” and you had a clipboard with what I can only imagine was some sort of petition.  It seems that, despite my every effort to the contrary, I have become the villain of the building. I’m going to do my best to refute your allegations so that we can once again live in peace and harmony in our esteemed, pre-war building (side note: don’t you love the high ceilings?! and the natural light?! and the upgrades?!).

Let’s begin with my neighbors in Apartment 30C.  Now I know that I accidentally took your clean dry cleaning, and that I accidentally wore Eleanor’s linen jumpsuit to a BBQ over the weekend, and that I accidentally peed a little bit in the jumpsuit (it’s very hard to go to the bathroom when you’re wearing a jumpsuit).  I have a similar jumpsuit and was in a rush, so I didn’t notice that it wasn’t mine (although, frankly, I should have noticed, since I wear Peter Pilotto and you wear J. Peterman).  I have since learned that you, Eleanor, were planning to wear said jumpsuit to your own BBQ this coming weekend but that you can’t now because it smells like BBQ.  And urine.  In addition, it’s full of wrinkles on account of its being made of linen and its having been worn once. But that did not give you, Hank, the right to aggressively bang on my door this morning at 6:45, accusing me of wanting to keep your wife’s clothing for my own “sick purposes.” Let me assure you that that is not the case (see above re: Peter Pilotto vs. J. Peterman; in addition, I cannot even imagine what “sick purposes” you’re referring to. Maybe you have “sick purposes” and have projected them onto me?  Yes, I also took Psych 101).  The truth is that I just really haven’t had time to weed through all the clothes in my closet to pick out what’s yours.  But as soon as I do, I will return your clothes.  From the looks of you, Eleanor, you likely have crabs, and I don’t need to get them. Again.

Let’s move on to Craig in 7D.  Craig, let’s be real.  You have been “winking” at me on A Match Made In… for weeks now.  I’m frankly appalled by your inability to spell or use grammar correctly.  Didn’t you grow up in New York? Let’s share an example with the building, shall we?  “I hate been alone and I’ll love to find that special person to spend the rest of my life with, please No drama, no complications, problems, is all about go with the flow and have a good time, I dislike confrontations, arguments, Love to live in harmony and Pease… I’m a open book you can ask anything and spec a honest answer also very metro sexual type of guy, love to take care of my personal image and I love beauty …”  Really, Craig?  Really?  In my profile, did I write “Looking for a man with especially bad grammar; someone cheesy and full of platitudes; someone who likes walks on the beach and puppies; someone who I can tutor in the art of the English language”?  No, Craig, I didn’t.  So take a hint, Craig.  I haven’t responded to your emails, I haven’t winked back at you, and I haven’t called. Leave me alone, Craig.  And do everyone a favor and lay off the cologne.  And you call yourself metrosexual (sound effect: snort).

Now for my neighbor in Apartment 26F.  I know that you have a walker and that it’s hard for you to get around.  I guess you feel nervous that you won’t make it into the elevator before the doors close. Is that why you always push past me when I’ve been waiting, so that you can get in first?  If you’re nervous about getting left behind, I’m ok with your pushy behavior.  Ok, actually, I’m not.  If we’re being honest here, just wait your turn.  The elevator is big enough for all three of us (me, you and your walker).  I promise that I won’t press Door Close as soon as I get in (like you did to me this evening).  In fact, maybe I should be angry with you.  Did you ever think of that?

And as for you, Gertrude in 10F, I heard you talking badly about me to the doorman.  To set the record straight, I did not almost knock you over in the lobby when we were walking towards each other and I was looking at my phone.  I actually can read and walk at the same time.  I imagine you were purposely complaining to the doorman in a loud enough voice so that I would hear you, and the message was received.  You are an angry troll and are jealous that you don’t know how to use an iPhone or walk in a straight line, let alone do both at the same time.  Maybe you could hire a walking tutor?  It’s NYC, baby.  There are services for everything.

And, Nancy, my former confidante in Apartment 16A.  I know that my niece stomped her foot right near your dog a few years ago and scared your tiny pooch almost unto death.  But my niece is 14 now and she knows better, so you don’t need to pick up your dog and shield her with your body every time my niece visits.  It was a one-time occurrence 8 years ago and we have moved on.  Can you?

Last but not least, I must address my neighbors directly below me, in Apartment 28C.  I think maybe you don’t understand how noise works: I can make it, but you can’t.  It’s really simple, actually.  You can’t blast music at 11pm because I’m trying to go to sleep, and the vibrations coming from your apartment make my bed shake.  Conversely, I can wear heels and walk on my carpetless floors anytime I want.  Do you see the difference?  In one instance, you are bothering me, which is not ok.  In the other instance, I am bothering you, which is just your tough luck.  I think we understand each other now.

Well, now that we’ve cleared the air, I hope we can all go back to being civil. It’s been so awkward to have to cross the street to avoid all of you and to avoid making eye contact in the lobby and in the elevator.  I think you can now see that I’ve been wrongly cast in the role of villain, and that maybe you should turn your fingers around and point them back at yourselves.  On another note, so excited for the building’s Halloween party!  Can’t wait for all of you to see my costume!


Michelle Smith, Apartment 29C

P.S. I am now a licensed real estate broker, so please reach out to me if you’re thinking of moving.  I’d love to help!

“The Country, ” Deer Crossing and a Whole Lot of Laundry

US road warning sign: Deer crossing

For the month of August, we transported our family to “the country” (which, for me, means anything that is neither city nor suburb). While living in the country, I actually drove a car. Yes, I really did. I even learned how to turn the lights on at night and flick the brights on and off as needed. Hand to God. Did I have to give myself a pep talk before getting in the car everyday? Yes, I did. Did I like driving? No, I did not. Did I frequently talk to myself  about what decisions I was making while driving? Yes, I did. For example, at a four-way intersection that only had two stop signs, one of which was slanted and thus blocked my view of cars coming from the right, I was known to sing out “Here I cooooooome!” Ah, the memories of bucolic living.

Something I saw a lot of in the country was the above deer crossing sign. As with many things in life, my response to this sign was What??? What does it mean? I’m not being facetious. Ok, I am a little bit, but not entirely. I understand the point: deer have been known to cross the highway with frequency at or near where the sign is posted, so pay attention. Buuuuuuuut…don’t deer change their routes? Are they such creatures of habit, or sufferers of OCD, that they pick a spot and stick to it? All of the deer? Isn’t it safer for drivers to just assume that, when we’re in an area that is heavily populated by deer, we should pay extra attention to our surroundings? Actually, shouldn’t we always pay extra attention to our surroundings when driving, regardless of how many deer there are in the area? After all, so many people text while driving, and we should be just as concerned about them as about the deer. And regarding the deer signs, the lawyer in me asks “Can you sue the state/city/county when a deer crashes through your windshield if there weren’t signs posted, since the signs do exist?” Yes, I know, “Shut up.”

If we’re so sure of where the deer will be crossing the highway, why don’t we just build a few bridges for them? I’m sure they’d figure it out. Or maybe we could install traffic lights on the highway and the deer could push a button when they want to cross. While we’re at it, maybe homeowners  could put up signs on the edges of their property that say “Deer, please do not enter unless you are tick-free.”

Note: If you feel that this post is rambling and poorly written (now you say, “All of your posts are rambling and poorly written”), one reason is that I got out of the habit of writing when I lived in the country and did almost nothing but wash sheets and towels all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. In fact, I may be experiencing some sort of Tide-related intellect deficiency disorder (a.k.a TIDD).