The Customer Is Always Right, by Anna Salonen

No Comments

Customer service, amirite? One of the worst jobs in the world, because no one enjoys doing it, and no one enjoys making use of it. But when you find someone like our little-seen protagonist in Anna Salonen’s story, who knows what they are doing and can get the job done efficiently and pleasantly, they’re worth their weight in gold.

The Customer Is Always Right

by Anna Salonen

Performance review, employee #34677, Jobe Wallis.

Transcript of “The Incident.”

(Ringing.)

“Hello, you have contacted the AIs Incorporated customer service. How may I assist you?”

“This is Private Johnson calling from Arcadia, Bree’s World. I’m having trouble with the Annihilator5000 you sent me.” (Sound of explosions, screaming, gunfire in the background.)

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience you might have experienced pertaining to our product. Customer satisfaction is very important to us, and I will do everything I can to assist you. What is the problem, sir?”

“I’m in the middle of some heavy shit here, and it isn’t doing anything!”

“Did you try turning the android off and on again, sir?”

“Well, obviously! Do you think I’m an idiot, or something?”

“Of course not, sir. I apologize. Has it been connected to a power source for forty-eight hours, as recommended?”

“Yes, yes! The display says fully charged! Look, I’m kind of on the clock here. They’re coming, and I’m the only one left. I don’t get this thing working, I’m dead!”

“Let me check your order. Do you have your customer identification code?”

“No, I don’t have a goddam code! That piece of shit is paid for by the Coalition Marine Corps!”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to calm down.”

“You calm down! I’m surrounded by hostiles and that thing was my ticket outta here! You gotta help me!”

“Of course, sir. Please open the control panel on the android’s left side.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.”

“Please read me the serial number on the inside of the panel.”

“Okay…Um, three-two-double-five-oh?”

“Thank you. Are all of the lights registering green, sir?”

“Yes.”

“Do you see a big, red button?”

“Yeah.”

“Press that, and try the initializing sequence again.”

“Okay.” (Whirring and clicking.) ”It’s doing something. The eyes lit up.”

“Good, now re-enter the command.”

“Oh God! They’re almost here! Okay, now it’s advancing!” (Pause.) “Wait a minute! It’s not firing!”

“What is it doing? Sir?”

“I dunno. It’s lit up like a goddam carousel at Christmastime. They’re gonna blow it up if it keeps doin’ that. Now it’s…waving? It’s surrounded. Those grubby aliens are pokin’ at it!”

“I’m certain it’s doing strategic calculations, sir. This model has received ninety-eight percent positive ratings on our multiweb site.”

“Wait. It’s doing something. I can’t believe it! It’s serving them grilled cheese sandwiches and lemonade!”

“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t believe that model is equipped with domestic functions.”

“Well, that’s what it’s doing! Oh hell! Those things are actually eating the sandwiches!” (Long pause.)

“Sir? Sir! What is the android doing now?”

“I dunno. It’s spinning around and blinking. What the hell is that? It looks like a disco ball?” (Faint dance music.) “Well, I’ll be!”

“Sir? I’m looking at your order right now, and I think I know what happened: the model you ordered is designated 2001-20-F, and the DomesticDroid1001 is 2010-20-F. I’m very sorry for the mix-up, and the company will of course be willing to give you a full refund and a complimentary subscription to Amazing Androids magazine. We are sorry for any inconvenience—”

“Yeah, yeah. I don’t care. Boy, can those aliens dance! Now it’s making margaritas. I’m going out there.”

“All right, sir. Would you like to fill out a customer survey? Sir?”

(Dial tone.)

(Ringing.)

“Hello, you have contacted the AIs Incorporated customer service. How may I assist you?”

“I’m calling about my order. I have the number right here: 5037943-328. I must tell you, I’m not satisfied, not satisfied at all!”

“I’m very sorry to hear that, ma’am. I’ll just call up your information on my terminal, here, and I’ll do what I can to assist you.” (Pause.) “Oh yes, the DomesticDroid1001, a very popular model.”

“Yes. My cousin Sylvie recommended it, said it helped her out ever so much around the house, did the vacuuming and everything. Showed up that good-for-nothing husband of hers, he never bothers with anything, not like my Danny—”

“Ma’am? I’m sorry to interrupt, but you said there’s a problem with our product?”

“Oh yes. Well, I asked it to take care of my darling Fifi and the unfeeling contraption vaporized her! I don’t know what I’ll do without my Fifi, I really don’t. How you can sell these things with a clear conscience…No! Stop it! Oh dear, oh dear, now it’s taking potshots at the parrot.” (Sound of plasma weapons discharging and glass breaking.) “And there goes Aunt Jeanine’s vase.”

“Ma’am? I suggest you power the android down.”

“Now how am I supposed to do that?”

“Do you have the remote control?”

“Oh, is it that bobbly thing taped to its back?”

“I’m afraid so. Can you get to it?”

“Oh, my. I’ll try.” (Sound of parrot screeching, footsteps, tape tearing.)

“I’ve got it!”

“Press the red button, ma’am.”

“Oh no! Now it’s shooting lasers out of its eyes!”

“No, the other red button!”

“Oh yes. I see it now.” (Explosions stop.) ”Ah, that’s done it.”

”Very good, ma’am. I’ll send someone to reconstitute your dog right away, and we’ll bring you a brand-new Domestic Droid, free of charge, of course. AIs Incorporated is very sorry for any inconvenience you might have experienced.”

“All right, then. I’ll be waiting.”

“Thank you for your business, ma’am. Have a nice day!”

“Goodbye.”

(Click.)

Recommendation to the board: We propose naming Mr. Wallis employee of the month and giving him a raise of 0.3 Cr per hour, effective immediately.


Anna Salonen has been exploring imaginary worlds ever since she could pick up a book, and she loves speculative fiction in all its forms. When she’s not writing, she enjoys graphic novels, console games, and playing robot ninja pirates with her niece and nephew. She lives in Turku, Finland with her husband. You can read more of Anna’s work in SpeckLit ezine and the upcoming Far Orbit Apogee and Frozen Fairy Tales anthologies from World Weaver Press. Her blog can be found at strangeandcuriousthings.blogspot.fi.