The Time I was Called a Tooth Demon

The Time I was Called a Tooth Demon

In my late teens, I worked as a phone rep in the call center for a Christian television company. The Israelites had ten commandments, but we had two:

  1. Thou shalt not shake the snack machine.
  2. Thou shalt not grant a refund (or even imply that one might be possible) to a customer.

The first was due to to the snack machine being old and mostly broken down. It was not a matter of if it would steal your money but a matter of when. When that fateful day came, you were to report it. Your sustenance may be delayed until reimbursement, but make no mistake: you would be fired if you shook the vending machine. It perpetually had a post-it note taped with many layers of scotch tape to the front of it warning of your termination upon so much as tilting the machine. In fact, that seemed to be the only sure-fire way of getting fired.

The second was more nuanced. While it appears to be an utterly insane policy that refunds would never be given out, it makes a bit more sense in context. You see, this company provided programming from a satellite. Unfortunately, they did not have nearly enough money to launch their own satellite. What they did have was exclusive rights to a particular satellite position. They used that to leverage a deal with a very well-known satellite company with a name that is a bit too on the nose.

Satellite Company got to use the position in the sky for their own programming, while the company I worked for got to use a select spectrum of the satellite for their own programming. The catch was that we had to send a request through Satellite Company whenever we needed to activate a new customer's programming. That initial signal cost roughly the same as a three month subscription to our thirty-some-odd channels.

Because the company wasn't affiliated with any particular Christian denomination, the higher ups had no issue with providing a channel that was specifically Catholic, another specifically Baptist, etc. There were only a few, but those were enough.

This scenario played out way too often:

A customer would pay for a month of programming. While flipping through the channels, they would end up seeing something they disagreed with. Maybe they thought the Catholic church was the whore of Babylon and the Pope was the antichrist. Maybe they saw a woman preaching. Maybe they couldn't believe a so-called Christian music network would feature bands with drums and/or screaming. Regardless of the cause of their outrage, they would call up to cancel their subscription. Often, they would demand a refund.

The company was hemorrhaging money.

The chosen solution was to charge for three months in advance, all of which was non-refundable for any reason except if the customer was physically unable to get service due to something obstructing the signal from the satellite. On top of that, prepaying for a year was always incentivized. Pay for the year, you got a lower per-month rate and something extra thrown in. I was there when The Passion of the Christ was released, so we threw in a copy of that on DVD.

One night, a woman called in speaking with a pretty thick accent. Before I could get any information from her, she said that a woman named Barbara was talking to her the last time she called in, and Barbara told her to call back that night for her refund. Now, there was indeed a Barbara that worked in the call center. In fact, she was a supervisor and was more than capable of issuing a refund if she decided that the situation called for one. I knew something wasn't right about this situation immediately.

"I'll need a little information to pull up your account."

I didn't mention that we were required to leave notes on the account for every single call from a customer. When I was able to open her account, I immediately went to the notes. Sure enough, the last note was left by Barbara earlier that day.

The entirety of the note was:


I cringed. I hated being the bearer of bad news, especially to someone that had made such an impression on the usually calm Barbara to cause her to leave a note in all caps.

"Well, I do see that you spoke with Barbara earlier regarding a refund. Unfortunately, the note left on your account says that we are not able to provide one."

There was a dread moment of silence on the line. I had no idea what was coming next, but I knew that it wouldn't be pleasant.

"You teef! You Satan!" After those two short sentences, the rest of what she was saying was unintelligible yelling, occasionally punctuated by a very clear curse word.

As a rule, we were not supposed to hang up on customers. However, the higher-ups also didn't want their employees to suffer abuse. If a customer was yelling, cursing, or otherwise being uncivil, we were allowed to give a warning that we would disconnect the call if the behavior continued.

I tried to wait for a break in the yelling, but this woman must've been a master of circular breathing because one never came.

I took a deep breath and loudly, calmly said, "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to stop being abusive, or I will have to end this call."

Either she didn't hear me or she didn't care: the screaming continued. Confident that I had tried my best, I hung up and left a note on her account.

When I came into work the next evening, there was a post-it note on my monitor.

Sorry. -Barbara

I looked up the woman's account and saw that she had called in multiple times throughout the day, still trying to claim that Barbara told her she could have a refund and that the man she spoke to last night was very rude to her.

I never found out what caused her to want a refund in the first place. I believe Barbara told me something like that the customer had started off their conversation by saying that we were in league with the devil and that she was looking forward to Barbara's children rotting in hell.

From what some of my coworkers told me about their horror stories, this was relatively tame.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash