Contest #158 winner 🏆

Your Cat™️ Customer Service

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write about a character with questionable morals.... view prompt

122 comments

Crime Fiction

Hi, I'm Timmy McHill and drugs and AA started me on the road to where I am today in the world of feline telephone fraud. I’m not sure which one, maybe both. My career in Customer Service began right after I took a quick detour from university at age 19. 


My educational readjustment happened because the University Police didn't understand the economic theory of harm reduction. Since the nursing students I was attending class with had an inflexible demand for party drugs, they would be dealing with real drug dealers downtown, which was harmful, if I wasn’t in the middle balancing supply and demand. Much better right? Getting along with all types of people myself kept those students safe, and kept me away from working at a McDonald's, or probably someplace nicer like a Chipotle or Ruby Tuesday. 


After throwing the textbook at me, the University Police said they would drop the charges if I agreed to attend 12 months of 12-step meetings, take regular drug tests, and most importantly, not sell drugs on-campus. They didn’t mention not selling drugs off-campus so I agreed.


Attending sobriety meetings for a few weeks, I started to feel it wasn’t a good idea to sell drugs off-campus either. The message of “Let’s get high on life” began to sink in. But to get high on life, I needed to gain elevation by accumulating some dollar bills. The 12 steppers only gave me free coffee. Money was no longer flying in from freshman year nursing students. 


My AA sponsor, a really great guy who could be a bit inflexible, said I needed to start over in the real world and work my way up from the bottom. I began to check job ads. I was slightly lacking in the qualifications that most companies were looking for, until I saw:


‘Are you good at talking to people? Can you handle a high stress job environment? -Regency Estates’


I could answer yes to both questions. On their website, I filled in my details, describing my last occupation as ‘Lifestyle Enhancement Direct Sales’.


I met with a Mrs Anderson at their 2nd floor walk up office. She didn’t seem to mind that I was only 19, said I was a smooth talker, and the next day offered me a job.


The company, which was to be my introduction to Customer Service, was a professional Airbnb host. On paper, I was a Customer Service Officer, but my real job was to keep reviews high on the website.


Mrs Anderson said I needed to learn on the job so I sat in front of the telephone and waited for the first call to come in.

An angry voice shouted, “Thank god, I finally got through to somebody.”

“Regency Estate, how can I help?” I replied.

“My neighbor is making noise, banging over and over. I AM a paying customer, so you need to make it stop.”


This would be easy, so I said, “I’m coming over now,” and got moving, eager to fix the noise problem. Having a first day success would help guarantee Mrs Anderson kept me on past the probation period.


At the apartment, I heard a banging noise just like he told me. I rang the offending neighbor’s doorbell. 

A man with huge arms opened the door and asked me, “Who are you?” 

Undeterred by our size difference, I said, “I’m with Regency Estate, we own the apartment next door. We heard a noise coming from your apartment?”

“Oh that? Kneading. I make bread on Sundays.”

“Can you stop, or at least lower the volume?”

“No,” he said. His huge hands were covered in flour, “is there anything else?” 

Then he shut the door before I could say anything.


20 minutes later, I saw a notification on Airbnb: 

‘The host’s intern came over and just made things worse. I recommend everyone to avoid this host's properties.”


Mrs Anderson called me to her office, said one complaint was nothing to worry about. She gave me a few customer service pointers, then said she’d terminate me if I didn’t follow them. 


I waited for the next call.

“The tap is leaking, it's been dripping all night.”

“That is terrible to hear. I can assure you we have never had that happen before at the property,” I said, “our maintenance expert will be available this Thursday. Let us know then if you’re still having the problem?”


He didn’t have much to say back to this and said goodbye.


I watched anxiously but didn’t see any notification appear. Of course, Regency Estate didn't have a maintenance expert. 


The days and weeks flew past…


“My air conditioner is too cold.”

“The apartment smells.”

“There’s mold in the bathroom.”

“The sofa has stains.”


Bait-and-switch, delay, distract, free gift packages, at most transferring the tenant to a different property with a new set of issues, but making them feel heard and valued so they didn't leave a complaint.


3 years later, the Airbnb host job blew up when I told a tenant to ignore a minor gas leak until our maintenance expert was available. The Fire Department said someone needed to be responsible for the unfortunate conflagration. Mrs Anderson said that someone was me. I began to look for new job opportunities.


A job listing said, “Are you good at talking to people? Can you handle a high stress job environment? Do you want to be part of the FUTURE?”


“I want to be part of the future!” I said to myself and filled in my particulars, describing my previous jobs as “Real Estate Management” and “Lifestyle Enhancement Direct Sales”. 


After a Zoom interview, I met the hiring manager on the 17th floor of a downtown office. She had a more university educated vibe than the people who worked at the Airbnb office. Fortunately, she didn’t mind that I was 22 years old. She smirked as she read ‘Lifestyle Enhancement Sales’ but didn’t ask any questions about it


She pointed toward the chair, “Can you sell me that chair?”

“Sell you that chair? Sure.” 

I sold her her own chair through unequal parts hard logic, subtle persuasion and overt flirtation, and passed the test.


She smiled and said, “You're hired! Come back 9 am tomorrow for training.”


“Can I ask, what does the company sell?”


“We provide a service for cat owners to clone their deceased pets.”


“Cloned cats?”


“Yes! An amazing new breakthrough technology.”


The next day, I arrived at their office and after spending all morning at a frankly, slightly dull orientation meeting and learning the Your Cat™️ lingo, I started picking up calls.


“Your Cat Customer Service, how can I help you?” 

“Pepperidge Farm is chewing our sofa. Oreo never did that.”


I read from the script, “I’m so happy you called us with your concern. Pepperidge Farm’s and Oreo’s DNA is identical, but they have had a different life journey,” these customers paid more so we spent more time with them, “You are also now a more experienced cat owner. I’m sending you information on preventing chewing in your clone now.”


It wasn’t so different from my last job.


On the next call, the customer worried, “We are starting to see stripes on Gizmo. Whiskers didn’t have stripes.”


I checked her file, and told her: “Gizmo was born in winter, his life parent Whiskers was a summer cat. This is a normal development we see in most of our clones. Thank you for your call.”


After spending a few weeks making customers happy with their pets at twice the success ratio of my other colleagues, Your Cat shifted me to Customer Procurement. I would now be making commission on each $25,000 sale.


I got the picture of what was going on quick. My first assignment of the day was waiting on Line 1:

“This is Jake Johnson, I’d like to know why you are asking for 5 more pictures of my cat? He’s dead. Where am I supposed to get those from?”


Jake was angry. He was probably getting pressure from his wife.


I said, “Because of Dusty’s pedigree, our CEO is interested in her as an example of our life rejuvenation technology, and possibly using her in future marketing materials. That is if you consent, of course.”


I felt Jake thinking on his side of the call whether this would please his wife or not. After he decided, he thanked me, said he’d find some more pictures from his social media history and hung up.


In truth, our request for more pictures was sent because the Cat Procurement Department said his photo was too fuzzy, and needed to get a clearer look at Dusty to find a match from our shelter kitten inventory. We didn't want to embarrass ourselves.


You see, cats in the wild match on 99.87% of their DNA. With a good pick at the Humane Society, we could get that above 99.9%. The founder let us know he had a legal opinion this was high enough to get us over the legal limit for using the word ‘identical’ in our clone marketing material.


99.9% is identical, isn’t it? If you ate a cookie that was 99.9% the same as the last one, you would say it's an identical cookie.


Before you call selling shelter cats as clones immoral, consider this, the cat owners are happy, in fact overjoyed, to have a clone of their original cat. The company pockets 25 grand an order. I get a commission. I say it's a win-win-win all around. 


I know, some day a team of journalists will send us a photo of a Himalayan and the DNA of a Siamese, and if their ‘expose’ gets enough attention, Your Cat™️’s good run will be finished. Those selfish journalists care more about selling subscriptions than about disappointing thousands of cat owners.


But when that happens, I will move on to my next Customer Service job, hopefully one where I will be able to assist you with what you are looking for.

August 09, 2022 00:22

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122 comments

02:15 Aug 09, 2022

First of all, great opening line. Second. The trademark symbol is genious. Third. Its scary knowing this would actually work as a business model. As for the hurdle in the last paragragh. This is failry easy to overcome, as DNA kits for animals are readily available, and could be used to test incoming samples. Should you decide to pursue this as a real venture, I would be interested in helping you with funding. :)

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02:35 Aug 09, 2022

Thx! it was fun channelling a young Jimmy McGill 's path to deceptive marketing practices. Perhaps we should trademark the name Close Enuf Cat, and then see how it goes on Shark Tank!

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04:50 Aug 09, 2022

I love close enuf cat! I checked with godaddy and the domain is available.

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Tommy Goround
05:33 Aug 09, 2022

I'm in.

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Mia Fitzpatrick
04:55 Aug 20, 2022

Where can I sponsor this?

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You can also use Close Enuf Cat to save shelter cats who would otherwise be euthanized. Take your picks from kill shelters. Plus, with this name, no lying!

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Michał Przywara
01:17 Aug 10, 2022

Ha, this is amazing! Each job just gets better than the last, and the cat idea is glorious :) The narrator's got a fantastic voice here, kind of a natural (sleezy) sales person, and I love how quick he's at thinking on his feet. He can justify anything to himself, and thus to a customer as well. Super positive attitude too. Customer service is often seen as a brutal, soul crushing thing, but this guy's all in and loving it. I only wish we got to see how he sold the chair to the interviewer :)

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01:51 Aug 10, 2022

Thx for reading! Happy to hear this was enjoyable, was picturing a Better Call Saul' type of MC selling all of his 'good decisions'. I wish I was as good of a salesperson as Timmy McHill, I couldn't think of a good 1 or 2-liner to sell the chair;) Maybe it will come to me before the deadline!

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02:04 Aug 10, 2022

Reading it again, the chair part was too abrupt. Updated the one liner I haven't thought of yet placeholder: "I sold her her own chair, through unequal parts hard logic, subtle persuasion and overt flirtation and passed the test.'

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Michał Przywara
02:17 Aug 10, 2022

Nice! I think "unequal" here does a lot of heavy lifting, great choice of word.

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Michał Przywara
13:53 Aug 19, 2022

Congratulations on the win!

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15:12 Aug 19, 2022

Thx Michal! Every reader was v curious about how he sold the chair, I didn't see that coming, thx for your feedback about that one.

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Tommy Goround
05:32 Aug 09, 2022

Clapping. It wotked

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04:48 Aug 09, 2022

Also, Timmy Mchill, lol. I didnt catch that the first time...

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Oh my goodness, Scott, this story, and this character . . . The opening line pulls me in. Feline telephone fraud. What? The closing line is perfect. A quick, funny, wild ride of a piece—it's like being on a tilt-a-whirl. Excellent language and reasoning. Critiques: [The nursing students I was attending class with had an inflexible demand for party drugs and they would be dealing with real drug dealers downtown, which was harmful, if I wasn’t in the middle balancing supply and demand, much better right?] {Since the nursing students I was...

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01:33 Aug 13, 2022

Happy you enjoyed the story Guadalupe! and thanks for your amazing line edits as usual, those are super helpful. I was aiming to capture his way of talking, but if we write exactly as we speak, it makes for text that is hard to read. It's better with all the 'and' and 'since' etc put in.

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Mike Panasitti
13:36 Aug 10, 2022

This is a great story about a morally-compromised scam artist who is whose travails make him thoroughly likeable. I think branding himself as an expert in "Lifestyle Modification Direct Sales" would be closer to the truth than self-promotion as a health supplements salesman. Similar to the sound of cat cloning, "Lifestyle Modification" sounds more high-tech, promising, but ultimately flawed. Just a suggestion. The fact that you conclude by having the MC selling "close enough cats" is the icing on the cake of this take to the prompt.

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14:19 Aug 10, 2022

Nice to hear you enjoyed it. Thats a good way of saying it, i can picture timmy mchill saying, lifestyle enhancement™️ sales. thx for the fun suggestion.

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Tommy Goround
05:18 Aug 09, 2022

Cool...new sc story...brb

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Dawn Kaltenbaugh
11:57 Oct 04, 2022

You hardly ever hear a con man's story from his point of view. His moral ambiguity makes it believable. When you find what his job has to do with cats, it makes total sense that he would be okay with lying to grieving pet owners. After all, he could justify drug dealing to himself. Best story about this genre since I saw the classic movie 'paper moon'.

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19:20 Oct 04, 2022

Thanks for one of the best comments I've received yet;) Perhaps I should work on a screenplay version.

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R. N. Jayne
19:36 Sep 23, 2022

"They didn’t mention not selling drugs off-campus so I agreed." -- a BCS-inspired loophole if ever there was one! The narrator had some extremely creative responses to the customers' complaints. (As a former CS representative, I can say the complaint scenarios hit home.) Plausible yet ludicrous, this story had me smirking throughout. Congratulations on your win!

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21:56 Sep 23, 2022

Thanks! Interesting, in your CS job, did they give you any training how to deal with difficult clients or is it just something people figure out? I had recently been told things very similar to about 1/2 of the responses in this story (we'll check in with you tomorrow,etc..) by professional airbnb hosts.

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R. N. Jayne
14:58 Sep 24, 2022

It's both. The biggest point hammered home: "The customer is always right." *sighs*

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03:45 Sep 17, 2022

So funny.

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16:36 Sep 17, 2022

thx!

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Jamus Hanscom
18:45 Sep 11, 2022

As a person is recovery I was rolling with laughter at this story. Thank you! I have just started writing myself (besides journaling and high school) and don’t know where it’s going to go. I’m reading previous winners and yours so far is my favorite.

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11:51 Sep 12, 2022

Thanks so much for commenting and happy you enjoyed the comedy. I myself just started writing six months ago. I can highly suggest going through the reedsy writing video about style, as they helped a lot. Especially about using strong verb sentences instead of is/was , and being more specific. Hope to see your future stories on the site:)

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Avleen Kaur
22:51 Sep 04, 2022

Omg, I loved this story so much! I mean like its great and you definitely deserve the win. However, I am just bit confused that is it a crime story?

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16:14 Sep 05, 2022

Selling fake clones would probably be a crime but I'm not an expert. Happy you enjoyed the story;)

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Ron Smith
17:59 Aug 31, 2022

Ahh...the joys of "working with the public." Probably lots of story lines available from sales folks...however, the cat idea was a clever one. A fun read.

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15:18 Aug 27, 2022

Not even close to being as good as Annihilating The Bridge Transient but congratulations on winning.

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15:19 Aug 27, 2022

Now you've talked me into reading that one lol.

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Riel Rosehill
07:39 Aug 27, 2022

Hi Scott! I'm super late to comment here, but again, congrats for the win! This was such a fun a story to read - deserving of the trophy.

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07:55 Aug 27, 2022

thx! Been steering toward light fun plots these days. I also look fwd to seeing your next creation;)

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Sky S
01:03 Aug 27, 2022

I thought this would have an underlying meaning or something like that, when it didn't I was surprised and further intrigued. I was uncertain about this story from the title, but once I was about 1/4 of the way through I was hooked! A wonderful work of art and a great twist on the real world.

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01:59 Aug 27, 2022

Thx! Ive been writing lighter comedies lately with perhaps a deeper subtext buried in them somewhere.

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Sky S
02:02 Aug 27, 2022

You're welcome. I'd super read more like this

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Ds Gilrea
08:32 Aug 26, 2022

Excellent. Love it. Well done.

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Jeremiah Rosas
21:51 Aug 25, 2022

I got nothing to say but "Awsome!"

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Brandi Yetzer
12:14 Aug 25, 2022

As a Better Call Saul fan, I have to tell you I really enjoyed reading this. It actually made me laugh how much it reminded me of the show, lol. Thanks for this. I'm so glad it won the contest -- it's well deserved!

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16:15 Aug 25, 2022

Thx Brandi! after watching many seasons, I had his way of speaking and trying to sell us something that doesn't make any sense still in my mind. I especially remember the season where he was going to retirement homes to sign them up for his class action suit as one of the peaks of comedy in the series!

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T.S.A. Maiven
19:50 Aug 24, 2022

I also would have loved to see how he sold the chair. :) Great story and I love everything with a good cat story. Great work, keep it up!

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09:25 Aug 25, 2022

thx for reading! wish the right one liner came to me;) I read that question came up in someone's real life sales interview somewhere.

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T.S.A. Maiven
08:57 Aug 26, 2022

No problem, I'll read whatever you write now. This was to good!

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