Before I get into the real meat of the story here, there’s a little bit of information you need to know about me…
I am currently employed by eBay as a phone monkey. For those of you who have ever had to call eBay, you probably talked to someone in my department. One of the big things that we push as a customer service department is member connections. We’re supposed to take our conversations beyond just empathy for whatever situation happens to come through our phone. The way I interpret what they’re trying to get us to do is, “Make their conversation with you something that the member will never forget.”
Normally, I suck at this. If someone calls in and launches right in with their problem, I assume that they know what’s going on and they want me to fix it, so I get right down to the point and get it taken care of and send them on their merry way. Every now and then though, someone comes on my phone that I just can’t help but chit chat with a little bit and we usually have a few laughs while we get their problem taken care of.
Today, however, I took my little mantra to a whole new level. Only one other time have I ever connected with a member like this and she is now someone I consider a very close acquaintance if not a friend. We even became Facebook friends recently. Today, I took a phone call that I will never forget, and I hope that, we’ll call him Ray for anonymity’s sake, will say the same.
I knew Ray was different as soon as the first sentence came out of his mouth. After going through my “Thank you for calling eBay” spiel and verifying that I was talking to the account owner, I asked him what I could help him with. The words that came out of his mouth made me laugh and set the mood for the rest of the call, “I’m guilty here. I just wanted to put that out there.”
Ray’s problem was relatively simple to resolve and I made sure to address a few underlying problems that I noticed as well. It took about twenty minutes for me to have him all situated and ready to go. Before I got him off the phone, I wanted to make that personal connection with him though so that I didn’t get yelled at by my boss, so I pulled up his Sold Items history. Ray, come to find out, sells pens. All kinds of pens. So I said to Ray, “Before I let you go, I want you to know that I’m an author that doesn’t own a pen that I can call mine, so I’ll be keeping an eye on your items for sure and you can expect to see a transaction or two from me before too long.”
I had unknowingly touched on a very deeply rooted passion.
This simple comment launched us into a conversation that lasted more than an hour and a half. Ray is an avid lover of pens and has a wealth of knowledge that spans more topics than I dare to write about here. We talked politics briefly, pens at length, carpentry, volunteerism, a cruise he had taken to Belize with his wife (which lead to more talk of carpentry and woodwork), holocaust victims (check out the Holocaust Museum of Houston and the boat that he is helping restore), cancer, and so much more.
At one point in time he told me that he should let me go because I surely had other things to do and, before I could stop myself, I said, “If you can talk to me for the next 40 minutes, I’m off work and I’ll be a happy camper!”. Well, Ray didn’t disappoint!
It was the most engaging, thought provoking conversation I’ve had with an eBay member in the year I’ve worked there. If I could pick my favorite thing that I learned from this kind old Texan, it’s that you can indeed make a completely random stranger’s day take a 180 degree turn for the better.
Ray’s stories from his life were so interesting and real that it rekindled my desire to write a sort of anthology of mini-biographies. My grandmother was the first person to plant this idea in my head, but over the years my desire to tackle this project had dwindled. Now, thanks to Ray, the flame has been rekindled and my fingers are itching to get started.
But first, I wanted to share this story with you in hopes that you might have a little bit of your faith in humanity restored. There are still good people out there who are more than happy to sit down with a random stranger and share their wealth of knowledge simply for the sake of having the opportunity to do so. Ray is a shining example of how I wish the whole world could be.
Thank you, “Ray”!
As always, happy writing!