In our often cold and impersonal modern world, you would think a business that boasts of delivering its services with “a personal touch” would be something to celebrate.
Yes, you would think that. And you would be dead wrong in this instance. Believe it or not, the personal touch can really screw things up. The week before Mother’s Day I started scouring the worldwide web for an appropriate mother-to-be present for my daughter. The choices ran the gamut from a $4,000 bracelet with the word “Baby” spelled out in diamonds to an $8.99 t-shirt with an airbrushed “Baby” above a big arrow pointing south. Neither of those seemed a good fit—the former for my wallet, the latter for my sense of decorum.
I was about to give up when I came across a tasteful, moderately priced “milestone” necklace, a jewelry term I’d actually never heard of until that very moment, perhaps because most of the milestones I’ve reached haven’t quite warranted jewelry. (Do they make Pandora charms for “first gray eyebrow hair” or “impressive back fat”?)
The milestone necklace consisted of a sterling silver chain and bar pendant, set with a single birthstone. “Minimalist style meets the unique personality and beauty of birthstones,” read the description. Perfect, I thought, and I clicked to select the chain and one pendant with an October birthstone. And that’s when the personal touch overkill began. Every time I clicked “add to cart,” a pop-up “click to personalize” button prevented me from adding the necklace to my cart. I didn’t want to personalize the pendant because the baby has not been born yet and she doesn’t have a name. I was already taking a chance on the birthstone because back in 1982, this baby’s mamma was supposed to come in March and she waited until April 7th to make her debut.
After several unsuccessful attempts to “proceed to check out,” I called the customer service number, whereupon I was directed to read this line in the product description:
Each pendant can be engraved with a name or message, up to ten characters on each side.
Me: Yes, that’s a lovely idea, but I don’t actually want to personalize it now.
Rep: Ma’am, the personalizing is free.
Me: Yes, that’s wonderful, but the baby hasn’t been born and I have no idea what the name will be. I just want to buy the necklace without adding a name.
Rep: You don’t want to personalize it?
Me: Correct, I don’t want to personalize it.
Rep: Do you understand you cannot buy it now and send it back later to have it personalized?
Me: Oh, yes, of course. After the baby is born, I’ll have the necklace engraved somewhere.
Rep: But if you personalize it now, it is free. Do you understand we do not charge extra for personalizing the necklace?
Me: Yes, but do you understand that I don’t know what the baby’s name is? (Trying to keep my sense of humor) Hey, if I choose a name and put it on the necklace, will the parents be obligated to call the baby that after she’s born?
Rep: (Dead serious and redirecting my attention back to the “the line.”) Ma’am, it clearly states in the description that each pendant can be engraved with a name or message, up to ten characters on each side. Do you understand what that means?
Me: Yes, it means can be engraved, not must be engraved. Can is ability, must is requirement. (Was I really going to have to teach a grammar lesson on modals to get this damned necklace?)
Rep: If you don’t want to personalize it, then we cannot sell you this piece.
Me: Are you kidding me? I just want the necklace, plain, nothing engraved on it. That’s less work for your people—why can’t I buy it?
Rep: We only sell personalized items. That’s why there is a “personalize” button on our website.
Me: Surely you can bypass that option on your end?
Rep: (Aghast) Oh, no, ma’am! It’s not possible to bypass the system. The system is the system. And the description clearly states items can be engraved.
Me: (My head in my hands) Again with the “can.” Oh, dear God, our civilization is doomed. Good-bye.
Further calls to supervisors and managers yielded the same result. I was about to grab an ice pick to jam into my eye when I decided to search the interwebs one more time instead. Lo and behold, I found the exact same necklace for a little higher price on another site. And, I was able to decline the personalizing option on this site! Oh, happy day, I thought…until I realized that declining to personalize added almost $100 to the total! With the death knell of intelligent life tolling loudly in the background, I returned to the original website, clicked “personalize” and entered my message. I toyed with typing in “Welcome to this insane, screwed up world where idiots who don’t know what modals are or what they mean are allowed access to technology and software programs that they cannot properly manage. Get used to it, kid. Love, Nonna.”
But that seemed like a rather harsh greeting for a newborn and my first grandchild to boot. Besides, it was way over the ten-character limit. So I settled for a lame “Baby Girl” and explained to my daughter that I would replace the pendant with a personalized one after the baby arrived.
In the meantime, I can think of a personalized message or two for those customer service people, but since I’m about to be a grandmother, perhaps I’d better tone it down a little. I’ll just leave it at a simple “Kiss my modal!” and bypass what I’m really thinking!