Well wouldn’t you know it, if we didn’t have enough on our plates already, a company called The Room Store has filed for bankruptcy and on their only 800 number left in the world they have mistakenly — (or not) — given out OUR record company’s 800 number as their “claims department”. It started about a week ago. We started receiving an inordinately high volume of calls compared to normal, and more odd was the fact that they all seemed to be coming in from “middle American” towns and States like North Carolina or Texas, places we never receive calls from. Being in the entertainment industry, I’d say a good 99% of the calls we receive come in from either New York or LA. [Hold on. I’ve got to take another call from one of them….] One can tell from the area code if it’s a real business call or not. A lot of times if it isn’t a NY or CA area code it’s a wrong number; or it’s some poor young artist who thinks they can just call up a record label and get a record contract. (I remember being like that once… So I don’t blame them. But it just doesn’t work that way. Damned if you can get an undiscovered young artist to realize that though…)
Talk about annoying. At first I and the rest of us here at DVG just kept “ignoring” all the calls and sending them right through to voicemail. After a few days, we were going so out of our minds with it that we started answering the calls and telling the people that we were the Room Store and that we were going to award them a $500 gift certificate for their troubles. [Hold on. I’m taking another call now…] We only did it a few times and were just having a little fun. Hey, remember now, we’re in the business of rock and roll and compared to most of the things we do, this is pretty mild. But we hadn’t yet discovered what was really going on. After speaking to one too many of the Room Store’s frustrated customer’s we discovered that the company has in fact gone out of business and filed bankruptcy.
The problem is that they owe all these customers of theirs either money or furniture! None of the dollar figures I am hearing about is [Hold on, there’s another call] too much. But “too much” is a subjective term isn’t it? Most of the “claims” I’ve been hearing about are in the range of $500. But I swear, each of these customers I’ve spoken to is acting like that’s a lot of money to them. And you know, maybe it is. Money is a weird thing. It’s all about energy and state of mind. One man’s $500 is another man’s $5,000. And so it is. [Hold on, there’s another call]
As a note, to show just how heinous this crazy situation is to us, since I started writing this entry dear diary, I have taken at least ten calls from sad or angry Room Store customers. It’s absolutely insane. It hit me earlier this morning that I had to do something besides send all these people’s calls to voicemail and delete them. By the time I awoke this morning our voicemail was already full. I meditated on the situation. Contemplated a way that we could perhaps block all incoming calls from Room Store customers. That wouldn’t work. [Hold on, I’m taking another call now…] Thought about trying to track them down and tell them to remove our phone number from their system. I called the 800 number they’ve been giving to their customers.
Sure enough, it says “If you are owed money from The Room Store, we regret to inform you that we have gone out of business. Please do not leave a message. This voicemail will not be listened to. Instead dial 800… and extension … and leave a message there.” Well that 800 number they are giving out is OUR NUMBER. A number we have had since the year 2000 at least. [Shit. Hold on. I’ve got to take another call…] We also thought about trying to figure out who their phone carrier is and calling them to request that they deactivate that line so the customers could no longer call that number and hear that message. But there doesn’t appear to be a way to do that. And besides, how will that help all these disgruntled customers who’re owed money?
My guess is that they probably just made up a phone number and never bothered to give it a ring to see if it was a valid number or not. That may be true. Or it may not be. Perhaps it was a genuine mistake. Either way, we’re stuck answering the phone all day and speaking to people from all over the east coast of these great States of America about their poor claims and listening to their problems and complaints about their furniture. Seriously. Funny right?
So what to do? Well after thinking about it, the idea hit me. If we keep ignoring these poor people’s calls and deleting their voicemails, nothing is going to be done for them. Not a damn thing. Unless one of them [Hold on. Another call!] Unless one or two of them happens to be smart enough to understand how bankruptcy works and they find a way to contact the law firm that is handling their case and they can get themselves on the creditor’s list. But by the sound of it, most of these people just aren’t the kind of people who will ever be able to figure out how to do that. It’s bad karma if you ask me. Just bad all around. So since this morning I decided that what we would do is answer each and every call and tell the customers that they’ve been given the wrong number, but that if they give me their name and number I will make sure to find the people in charge and hand over the list to them.
So far I have taken a good 100 phone calls today alone, and written down each and every person’s name and telephone number. Easily. I’m keeping a list in a notebook. I’ll have my assistant type them up and in the meantime we will go online and find out who is handling their bankruptcy. Then we will hand over the list. Either that, or we will give it to the Better Business Bureau. That way maybe these people will get their money back. It’s a major pain in the ass. I won’t sugar coat it. But I feel like it’s the least we can do. Truth is, I’ve had some interesting conversations. And even more learning about humankind and human nature as always. The women are mostly sad sounding lower income types and they just sound dejected and discouraged, believing that they’ve been ripped off and will never see their money again [Hold on. yet another call…] I try to cheer them up. Poor creatures. The men are a bit different. This last guy just told me “Well thank you for what you’re doing there… I hope we find these fuckers! Excuse my language.”
It’s an amazing experience to be honest. Half the people say “I’ve got the wrong number I’m sorry” when we first answer. Then we explain that they do indeed have the wrong number, but not because they dialed it wrong and we further explain what is happening. Most people are just so confused by what they are hearing that they just give their name and number before even thinking about it and that’s that. Some of them start asking me technical questions about their “furniture warranty”. In which case I have to explain to them yet again that this is a record company in New York City and we don’t have anything to do with selling furniture. But it’s hard for most people to wrap their minds around.
The thing that strikes me most about this whole thing is how symptomatic it is of the economic times we are going through right now in America. Is The Room Store guilty in some way as so many other American companies have proven to be? Is this just another story of big corporate America ripping off the small everyday-man? Or did they give it their all and just not succeed in the end and have to close up shop? Well only The Room Store themselves can answer that question. I’ve got no fucking idea. I’m just a singer. But I’d love to hear the end of the story and see how it all pans out.
That in and of itself I believe shows just how easy it is to con people and rip them off if you’re of the mind to do so. They don’t quite get it. And it probably makes it even more confusing for them when this guy on the other end of the phone is telling them that he’ll “track these people down for you and give them this list with all your names and numbers. That’s the best we can do ma’am. I’m sorry, I hope it helps.” Yes. So yet another strange bit of weirdness has landed in our world. Can’t say it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened. But it may just be the funniest. At the least, I feel like we are turning something rather heinous and negative into a positive. And you can’t feel bad about that.