Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Yes, I'm from Toronto..."

If there are four words used as an introduction by a caller, which guarantee you're in for an interesting time, it's the following: "Yes, I'm from Toronto...". I just finished a call with such a woman. After she was done with her intro, she then proceded to inform me that she had "just finished being bounced around by several government phone lines". This kind of preliminary bitching is supposed to serve as a warning, I would assume. It says: "I already have a short fuse, because I have no idea who I should be talking to about this. I have already phoned several places which have nothing to do with my request. I am pretty much a total fucking moron...".

This is designed to alert you to the fact that you don't want to join the list of government agencies that are now already on her shit-list. So you'd better be able to deliver the information they're after, or you'll be sorry... Ummmm... R-rrriiiiiiiiiiighttt...

For any of you thinking of contacting a government information line with this type of dialogue or attitude in mind... don't. I am as professional as they come as far as Information Officers go. I will go out of my way (but not out of my mandate...) to get you the information you need, or if I don't have it, make sure I can refer you to where you can get it. I pride myself on being able to do so. But if you start off our conversation by trying to hold me liable for your inability to find the information you want, things will not go well. Oh, no... no. Not well at all. Not only will things not go well, but there is a very good chance that you will find yourself talking to a dead phone. You will accord me the respect which is due to me and you will know without a doubt, that I am in control of this call.

So "Toronto-lady" carries on: "I bought some fish recently and when I prepared and ate it, I found some worms in it. I want to know where I can go to report this and what I can do about this". I ascertained that she was looking to lodge a complaint about some seafood product she had recently bought. (The very first thing any consumer should do, is to return the product to the point of sale... meaning: bring it back to the store from which you bought it!!) By this time I already had the program opened in my database, which of course was the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Fish Inspection Program. I ask her whom she had called within the federal government up to that point. She replied that she had called the CFIA's Food Recall Line. I advised her that the Food Recall Line would have nothing to do with the service she was looking for, unless of course they had instituted a recall for this particular product she had recently ingested.

After introducing the program, I advised her of what it is that these folks do:

The Fish Inspection Program regulates the quality, safety and marketability of fish and seafood products produced or sold in Canada through the following activities:

- registering and monitoring fish processing plants
- inspecting domestic fish and fish products for consumption
- issuing export certificates
- enforcing labelling and packaging regulations (including language requirements) for all fish and seafood products
- updating and maintaining databases on contaminants in fish and fish products
- inspecting fishing vessels, facilities used in the offloading and holding of fish prior to processing, vehicles used in the transportation of fish, fishermen packer facilities and cold storages.

The program also investigates consumer and merchant complaints involving fish products and takes appropriate follow-up action.

I then advise her that the local offices which serve her area are located on Courtneypark Drive in Mississauga, provide her with the address and offer their phone number, fax number and website. She decides to take their phone number, which I then procede to give her. After hearing the phone number, she says: "That is the number I called and there's no one there...".

I advised her that the line did in fact have a 24hr telemessage service on it, but that according to the information provided to us by the CFIA, they also had officers available between 0830 and 1630hrs, Monday to Friday. They were also closed between 1200 and 1300hrs for lunch.

"Is there a contact there...?"

"I'm not sure I follow, Ma'am... What do you mean by a 'contact'?"

"Is there a particular there a name of anyone I should speak to?"

"Anyone who answers that line Ma'am, will be able to help you."

"Well... there's no one to answer the phone there so what am I supposed to do? The voicemail won't even bump me onto someone else...".

This is akin to finding your local branch of the Royal Bank closed for lunch and then phoning Canadian Tire to complain about it. It really makes just that much sense... Here is a woman who already had the correct number for the service she was looking for, yet calls another, totally unelated federal government department JUST TO BITCH ABOUT IT!!!! Seriously??? Like do you think any branch of the federal government acts as a mother for another one??? Like by phoning DFO, we're going to tattle on the CFIA and get them in trouble for "not answering their phone"???

"Ma'am, if I might suggest, their offices are open from 0830-1630hrs, Monday through Friday, for in-person service." To myself of course, I'm thinking the reason they're not answering their phone is because they're busy tending to people who actually bother to show up at their office. They only have so many staff, you know...

"Oh! So now I have to go there because there is nobody to answer their phone?"

"I'm simply suggesting that as an option, Ma'am. You're more than welcome to continue trying to reach them on their phone line."

"Do you have another phone number for their office?"

"No, Ma'am... That is THE number for the offices that serve your area of Canada".

"There's no other 'central' number for them...?"

"No Ma'am... That is the only number which we have for those offices, which by the way was provided to us by the CFIA.

"And just to situate you Ma'am, we are the General Enquiries line for Fisheries and Oceans Canada... we have nothing to do with this situation whatsoever...".

"I know that", she bristles..."I'm not stupid!"

A smile pops onto my face as a little voice in my head screams: "If that were true...we would not be having this conversation!!!"

So I'm grinning like some demented hyena as I ask: "Is there anything else I can get for you today, Ma'am?"


Ahhhh.... Yet another satisfied caller.

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