Beware of the SWB


I once held the moniker of the second-most scary woman in New Zealand. It was probably the first time in my life that I didn’t care that I wasn’t in the number one position. One of my best friends held that salubrious distinction.

But these scary women tags were not because of a team-entry into some kind of bitch quiz or competition. No, my friend’s husband used to openly furnish us with these adjectives thinking it was dead funny.  In April, his marriage to my friend was officially over. I guess she (and I) didn’t find being labelled as a founding member of a Scary Women Brigade (SWB) that funny after all.

My reflections on scary women (which actually is an unintelligent synonym for assertive in my opinion) has been heightened of late due to having one too many experiences with a BOUA (Bunch Of Useless Arseholes) which made me trumpet my SWB membership card with pride and more than a little prejudice.

If the Scary Women Brigade did actually exist, not only would I be a member but I’ve come to realise so would a number of my girlfriends.  I guess it makes sense that women of a certain ilk – that is self-assured and confident – would congregate together in a posse of pro-activity. And it’s no secret that I have never had any time for wet blankets or eunuchs for that matter.

My recent experiences where the level of customer service was so abysmal that not only did I repeat the phrase: “I really am flabbergasted” over and over in a car showroom to some poor unsuspecting newbie, but I also staged a sit-in on a repeat visit so that four months after paying a deposit for my first-ever, brand new car I actually had some small chance of finally receiving it.

Likewise, at about the same time, I encountered incompetence on such a grand scale that I got legal advice to try to get out of the situation. Thankfully my friend, and housemate, is a lawyer and also a card-carrying member of the imaginary SWB so I was able to baffle them with enough big words and legal jargon that I’m sure in the end they agreed to let me out of the agreement just to get rid of me. Plus I think they knew that I knew they were crap.

What I’m so astounded about is that I’ve had a better level of service from a lowly-paid chick in a cheap frock shop than I did with assets that were worth tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands of dollars. Were they taking the piss or did they really think that customers are of nil importance in such significant transactions? Or perhaps my penchant for looking like a broke hippie confounded their expectations of me?

It’s strange, though, that my exposure as a scary woman to unsuspecting salespersons has filled me with no joy whatsoever. In fact, I generally try to be nice because I generally am nice. Indeed, my boss told me the other day that I have an extraordinarily-long frustration lever, which he said meant it took me a very long time to get frustrated and then I generally did something about it.

My house-mate, who only lives with me part-time, is definitely a member of the SWB. She once argued loudly with a sunglasses salesperson for about 20 minutes after taking over from her husband – who is also a lawyer so is no shrinking violet – because he didn’t seem to be able (in her opinion) to engineer a replacement pair of sunglasses.

The problem was they hadn’t kept the receipt. After feeling the full force that is my friend, even though she is only five feet tall on a good day and in high heels but she also is Italian, the salesperson threw up her hands and ordered a new pair of sunnies. The day her husband went back to pick them up, the salesperson said: “I’m so glad you didn’t bring your wife with you”.  Seemingly this is a regular occurrence with her husband regularly saying to customer service reps that “you can either deal with me about this, and try to resolve it amicably, or you can speak to my wife and you really don’t want to put yourself through that”.

But as the stress from dealing with a bunch of dickheads, and marvelling at their extraordinary level of ineptitude, starts to fade, I have found myself appreciating every relatively genuine smile from the young bloke in the deli of Coles just that little bit more. And I’ve come to realise that being a member of the Scary Women Brigade is probably not so bad after all – you don’t necessarily have to have testicles to have balls it seems.

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