I find that I tend to spend more time on the phone with customer service people since I joined the foreign service. There are more things that can go wrong and my situation is more complicated.
For example, earlier this year UPS re-routed a package addressed to the consulate’s PO box to my parents’ house which is located over 10 hours away from here without contacting me or the company which shipped the item. Now, both times, the company shipped something to a PO Box via UPS, and they should have known better. However, UPS re-routed it without verifying the new address. Apparently their computer will look for other addresses associated with the same name and somehow they found my parents’ address and sent the package there. So, after calling UPS five times over the course of two hours, getting redirected to the El Paso UPS office which couldn’t do anything since the package had already been delivered elsewhere, and finally getting a supervisor who would take ownership of UPS’ mistake and could do something about it, they told me that the package would be picked up from my parents’ house and delivered to the consulate’s physical address in El Paso. However, nothing is ever that simple and the UPS person came by but left the package since it didn’t have a label to tell them to pick it up. So, I made another couple of calls to them to have it picked up and finally talked with a local manager where my parents live who sent someone out to pick it up. However, this was about the time that a giant ice and snow storm hit large parts of the US, so the package went from my parents’ house in Texas all the way up to Kentucky then Missouri, before making its way back to El Paso. 😛 This was actually the second time UPS had re-routed a package, but the first time I couldn’t figure out whether it was the company’s fault or the UPS’ fault, since I had ordered things from that company to be delivered to my parents’ address before.
I had a similar experience with my insurance provider. I called to update my addresses and contact info prior to moving here and one representative told me that it would be no problem to continue my car insurance and renters insurance in Mexico. Great! However, a couple of weeks later, I get a letter in the mail informing me that both policies would be cancelled since I was now living in Mexico. Again, I called and spent about two hours on the phone with a representative trying to find out one way or another whether I could continue the policies, or whether I would have to find a new provider. To her credit, the lady tried to run down every angle to find an answer one way or another, and I eventually got an answer but I spent 2 hours on the phone with her then and another hour on the phone with another representative this weekend about renewing the policy. When I got insurance for my car through the same company but was simply living in the US, I spent about 20 minutes on their website.
Fortunately, these situations have been resolved and ended well, but these are problems adventures that I wouldn’t have had if I were not in the foreign service.