“So, what is ‘Khoroo 2’ ?”
As I sat somewhere in the middle of holding back hysterical fits of laughter and gaping in unbelief, I couldn’t help but think that no cookbook, was worth this effort.
Earlier that the day, my two friend from the office (let’s call them Sarah and Emily) approached me to ask a favor.
Emily needed me to register an online cookbook for her and get the validation number. The first month’s trial was free, but after that, she had to call the company in the States and register the online subscription to keep using it. This was in fact, the last day that they could register it before the free trial expired. Sarah and Emily were very concerned about it. Seeing as my English is my first language and not theirs, it made sense that I should be the one calling.
It didn’t strike as odd that they were using online cookbook. Sarah loves to cook. In fact, most women at my office love to learn how to cook new things. They are always asking me to teach them how to bake cookies, cakes, chocolates, etc. I thought using a regular cookbook, which really aren’t that expensive, would have been much easier. However, I wasn’t going to argue. It was actually kind of cute that they were using an online cookbook and were very concerned about keeping it. I could almost see them having some kind of cooking club.
After calling the company’s international phone line, going through several automated phone menus, I learned that their offices were closed in the U.S.
Sarah and Emily asked me if I would please call when it would be morning in the States (9pm for us in Ulaanbaatar) because they really needed to register this cookbook and the get the validation number. I sighed inside because it seemed rather trivial to me, and could be a potentially messy situation if I called without them around.
“Well, I don’t know how to register the cookbook. I mean, they are going to ask for information that you guys know, but I definitely don’t. So…”
“Oh no no.” they reassured me. That would be no problem. They gave me the product number, license software, and the business phone number the software was registered under. I caved. You don’t have to know me for long to know that I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to my friends. I would call the company back at night to get the validation number.
But, right then in the morning, was when it first began to get strange. At some point during the many phone menu options, I had to enter the “10 digit business phone number” of their account.
I looked at Emily a bit perplexed and said, “They want the ‘business’ phone number you registered the cookbook under.”
Unphased, Emily gave me the phone number. So I shrugged it off. I had no idea why they wanted a ‘business’ phone number. Pretty sure Sarah and Emily weren’t registering this cookbook for our organization. But since it made sense to them, I ran with it.
At 9pm that night, my roommie, Kerry, and I were sitting in our living room when I called the company again. I went through all the phone menus again and this time was transferred to a real live customer service person.
Who did not speak English as his first language.
And who could not understand me. No matter how clearly I annunciated my words.
I think he may have been working in or very near India.
“Hello. May I ask what your name is?” the man said.
“Yeah, my name is April. Just like the month," I replied.
“So how do you spell that? A. P. R. …”
“Yes, yes. A. P. R. I. L.”
“So, A as in ‘apple’, P as in ‘Peter’, R as in “Robert, I as in ‘igloo’ and L as in ‘London’ ?”
“Yes. That’s correct.”
“Ok can I have the 10 digit business phone number you registered your product under so I can look up your account details?”
I gave him the phone number that Emily had given me.
“This isn’t a United States phone number. There are more than 10 digits…”
“Well, it’s a Mongolian phone number.”
“May I ask where you are calling from?”
“Oh, well we need to make an account for you then.”
(SAY WHAAA….???? In my head I was thinking - Oh crap. This is not what is supposed to happen. How am I supposed to register an account for Sarah and Emily in Mongolia…!)
“Ok Ma’am ? What is the name of the business?”
(What the heck do you mean ‘the name of the business’! This is for Emily! Aaack!)
I had two options. Register the cookbook for the only Mongolian business I knew and had information for (i.e. – my organization) or I could tell him I’d have to call back later with the information. The trouble was that it was late at night for us (about 10pm) and I didn’t think my friends were awake to give me whatever the heck the ‘business address’ was. Also. This was the last day to register the cookbook. I didn’t want to let them down. Plus, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be an issue to register a cookbook for my organization. It was kind of funny, but all in all harmless. Who was going to care if we had a free cookbook at work? So I answered:
“The business name is spelled V. E. T…”
“So that’s B as in ‘bravo’, E as in ‘Edward…”
“No no. V as in… ‘Vincent’. The first letter is V.”
“Oh sorry, so P as in ‘Peter’, E as in Edward…”
“No. It’s V as in … ‘Victor’! V!”
“I’m sorry. So “V as in ‘Victor’, E as in “Edward”…”
This was going to be a long conversation. And I proceeded to spell out letter by letter the name of the business. In fact, from here on out, you should just read all of my responses spelled out, letter by letter with an example of what each letter stood for.
At this point, Kerry was fighting a bad case of the giggles. I was on the verge of laughing too.
Sometimes when you’re tired you get frustrated. Other times when you’re tired, things are absolutely incredibly hysterical.
And this was one of those times.
If she laughed, I was going to lose it. And the poor man on the other line would have no idea why registering a cookbook was so funny. And I didn’t want to have to explain it to him. So I fought desperately to control myself.
“Ok. What is the business address?”
(You have to be kidding me. What kind of online cookbook needs a business address and phone number? This is ridiculous!)
I gave him the address.
Spelled out letter by letter.
“U and in ‘uniform’, L as in ‘London’, A as in ‘apple’, A as in ‘apple, B as in “bravo…”
For every line. And there are 6 address lines.
And the whole time I was trying not to get the giggles. I had to recompose myself at least 4 or 5 times. And then we had huge problems. Because his little screen in front of him, somewhere near India, had blanks that fit a U.S. address. Mongolian addresses are not at all like U.S. addresses.
“So Ulaanbaatar is the capital city”?
(Why on earth does that matter?!)
“Yes. That’s correct. It’s the capital of Mongolia.”
“So the zipcode goes in the second line?”
“Yeah. If you wanted to send something here, that’s where it goes. It’s supposed to go at the end of a U.S. address, but in Mongolia it goes in the second line.”
(I could only imagine him looking at his little boxes to fill in and being completely befuddled.)
“And what is ‘Khoroo 2’ ?”
This is where Kerry and I almost lost it. Because I proceeded to have to explain the geography of Ulaanbaatar.
“Yes there are street names, but no one uses them or knows them. Not even the mail people. So there are districts in the city and ‘Khoroo 2’ is a smaller part of the district we are in. Yes, I know you don’t have a box for a smaller part of a district. I’m sorry. I’m not sure what to do either.”
We were cracking up. Little bursts of giggles were slipping out as I tried to explain (and spell) everything. This was ridiculous! No cookbook was worth this effort. It would be so much easier to just buy a real cookbook for Sarah and Emily. Actually, it would be even easier to just google recipes. I mean, if you want to find anything to cook…you can find like 5 versions of the recipe online, instantly, and for free. Why on earth use an online subscription cookbook!?
After giving him the business phone number, business address, and business e-mail address, telling him how many people would be using the software (how many people is Emily going to share the cookbook with? 4? 5?), and how many computers it would be on (maybe 1 or 2?) he finally gave me the validation code.
I had no idea what kind of company sold cookbooks to businesses. Or why Emily was using a cookbook that was supposed to be for businesses. But finally it was done.
It had taken about 30 minutes. I was off the phone. And my organization had a new online cookbook.
Kerry and I were keeled over in laughter. It was the most ridiculous and complicated phone conversation ever! I wasn’t sure if that was what I was supposed to have done. I may have broken all kinds of rules. But at least the cookbook was registered.
But then it got even better. Or worse. Depending on how you look at it.
The next day my friend Karen, who works at the small animal clinic branch of our organization, came by for lunch. Kerry and I were telling her the cookbook story and laughing all over again. And then I remembered something and mentioned it as a sort of a side note:
I told Karen, “You know, it was funny. He kept calling it ‘Quick Books’ which must have been the brand name. He was asking me what version I had. Was it ‘Quick Book Pro’ or ‘Quick Book Elite’ ? Well, I had no idea what he was talking about or what version of cookbook Emily had registered, but anyways, now we have a new cookbook at work.”
All of a sudden, Karen’s eyes widened.
“That’s not a cookbook. That’s our accounting software.”
“Yeah. The girls at the clinic have a hard time saying the word ‘quick’. They always say it ‘cook’. So I’ve just gotten used to when they ask for help with the ‘cookbook’ at work, they actually mean the ‘Quickbook’ accounting software!”
“Karen. I just registered our accounting software. Under my name. I mean, they said I was the new contact person. Crap. What on earth have I done!? I had no idea! They asked how many people would use the program and how many computers it would be on. I was like, for a cookbook? Like maybe 4-5 people on one computer. But the accounting software…”
A cookbook is one thing…accounting software is an entirely different (and considerably more serious) matter. I was pretty sure I had completely overstepped my bounds. Like a lot. I was horrified…and fighting the giggles all over again.
The three us of laughed and laughed and laughed. This was going down as one of the famous “stupid/silly things short term workers have done and said” stories. It was the most perfect miscommunication ever.
Had the mispronunciation been a non-real English word (“Will you help me register my online kabutni?”…“ Say what?”) or had the word not made sense in context (“Will you help me register my online banana?”…”What’s an online banana?”) , I would have asked for a better explanation and figured it out immediately. But the fact that it actually made 100% sense to me made it even funnier.
“I almost wanted to hang up the phone at one point and just buy them a real cookbook! (Hahahahahahaha!) Can you imagine me presenting Sarah with a cookbook at work and saying, here this will be easier than the online one!? (Hahahahahahaha!) She would have been so confused! (Hahahahahahahaha!)”
Somewhere little beams of light suddenly pierced through some fog…the business phone number, business address and business e-mail, the urgent need to get the validation number right away…why the guy on the phone needed to know how many people and how many computers would be using the software…it all started to dawn on me…
The next day, I told the story to advisor of our finance department and explained (between sheepish giggles) what had happened and apologized for the giant mess I’d made. After reassuring me it was an honest mistake (albeit a stupid one, I think, looking back on it) and it shouldn’t cause any major problems in the future. He said he’d take care of it and have some one call back to get it all straightened out.
I do not envy them that phone call.
“Ulaanbaatar. So that’s U as in ‘uniform’, L as ’London’, K as in “Kazakhstan…”
“No no. U as in ‘uniform’, L as in ‘London’, A as in ‘apple’…”