Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Bluff The Listener

Our panelists tell three stories about improving customer service.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing his week with Luke Burbank, P.J. O'Rourke and Paula Poundstone. And, here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Carl. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME.

ANDY KIEHL: Hi, this is Andy Kiehl from St. Louis, Missouri.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in beautiful St. Louis?

KIEHL: I'm actually in Peru, Illinois right now, on my way to visit a friend in Iowa for the weekend.

P.J. O'ROURKE: Oh, talk about the good times.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's great.

LUKE BURBANK: Think about how disappointed someone is when they realize they're in Peru, Illinois.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: That's the last time I use Orbitz.

O'ROURKE: Where are the Incas?

SAGAL: No, it's great. No, it's cool. They've got a model made of popsicle sticks. It's awesome.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Welcome to the show, Andy. You are going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Andy's topic?

KASELL: Call 1-800-Carl to rate my diction.

SAGAL: So you know it's all about customer service in business, even though it doesn't seem like it's all about customer service. Well, this week, we read a story of someone going the extra mile to improve their product and keep consumers happy. But it wasn't the kind of person you expect to hear about doing that. Guess the true story; you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine. Ready to play?

KIEHL: I'm ready.

SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Luke Burbank.

BURBANK: First dates can be tough: the small talk, the awkward pauses, the realization that the other person's online profile photo apparently dates from the early 1970s.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: And even when you think things went great, they might not be that into you. Well, Michael Stoler of Philadelphia decided he would crack the code of why first dates do and don't work by sending dating response forms to women he'd gone out with.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: So far, he's sent six women the date survey email. He's received two responses. The survey contains such multiple choice an essay questions as: please rate Mike's outfit on a scale of one to ten, with a higher score associated with how much you wanted to take the outfit off.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: Another question references his physical appearance. Mike is very self-conscious about his hair. Does he have reason to be?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: Reaction to Stoler's unorthodox romantic data collection has been mostly negative, with one woman responding, "Mike dresses like an old man and wears suspenders more than he should." Another woman said he had the manners of a 5-year-old. Stoler says the attention from all this has actually landed him a few new dates. And he insists, for the record, he is not creepy. Although, if you found Mike creepy, please check box 2B.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: A guy trying to improve his dating performance by having post-date questionnaires with his former dates. Your next story of someone listening to their customers comes from P.J. O'Rourke.

O'ROURKE: Italy's Red Brigades were behind scores of kidnappings, bombings and murders in the 1970s. The Italian public was appalled. The terrorist group was suppressed by authorities. But now, the Red Brigades are back, with a new twist: social media marketing campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

O'ROURKE: Coupons are offered, in return for attendance at anti-austerity riots: disorder groupons, as it were.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

O'ROURKE: Discounts are available on ski masks, graffiti spray paint, teargas unguent and instant Molotov cocktails, just add gasoline. Site visitors are invited to post videos of sabotage and vandalism they've committed to protest capitalist exploitation.

There's even a feature on the site that let's users vote on which people or institutions should be the target of Red Brigade attacks. The Red Brigades claim to be in the forefront of user friendly radicalism. Their motto is: "the proletariat is the customer and the customer is always left."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The Red Brigades, a bunch of terrorists using social media to, you know, connect with their consumers. And your last story of a bold attempt to make things better from a customer service point of view comes from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: In the tenderloin district of San Francisco, a panhandler who calls himself Bullfrog is looking for customer feedback. Most days Bullfrog can be found appealing for funds from pedestrians on Kearney in the block between the Owl Bar and Tenderloin Liquors.

"There's a lot of guys out there needing help," says Bullfrog. "I'm not better than them but I do want to connect with the folks I put the ask on. I want it to be good for everybody, so I got a questionnaire."

Bullfrog's questionnaire opens with a note. "Hello, my name is Bullfrog, and I need your help." And it contains questions like number one: would you prefer to address me by my first name, Jonathan? Number two: are there times when you might give me $10 if I'd give you $9?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: Number three: Would you prefer to pay by phone? Number four: are you more likely to spare some change if I shout, A: bible verses; B: government conspiracy theories; C: unflattering personal criticism, possibly focusing on your butt?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: OK. Somebody out there is trying to connect with their customers in a new way. Is it from Luke Burbank, a guy who wants to improve his dating by surveying his former dates? From P.J. O'Rourke, the Red Brigade, a terrorist organization trying to enter the 21st century using web interactivity? Or from Paula Poundstone, a panhandler in San Francisco's Tenderloin, giving questionnaires to the people he hits up for spare change? Which of these is the real story of unexpected customer service?

KIEHL: I think I'm going to go with Luke's story.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Luke's story.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That's the guy surveying his dates. Any particular reason?

KIEHL: It sounds useful.

SAGAL: It does sound useful.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's innovative.

BURBANK: It's got you thinking, Andy, huh?

SAGAL: Well, we actually spoke to the person who instituted this program. Here he is.

MICHAEL STOLER: I decided I'm going to make survey and it's going to kind of show a little bit of who I am, both my fun side and my neurotic appreciation of uncomfortable circumstances side.

SAGAL: That was Michael Stoler, the young man surveying his past dates.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Who, as far as we know, remains single. Congratulations, Andy, you got it right. You earned a point for Luke. You've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home answering machine. Well done, sir.

KIEHL: Thank you, Peter.

SAGAL: Thank you for playing. Well done. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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