imperial oil

Decimal Points Matter

This past weekend I had an adventure. Actually I had two; one intentional, the other less so.

The first was a rather unusual show for a group of five people in a hospital lounge in on the far side of Ajax. I'm always nervous when given the opportunity to put magic in situations where it wouldn't normally be found but the group was terrific and it was a wonderful show.

On the way home, however, was another story. I hopped off the 401 to get gas in Whitby. I located an Esso station (150 Consumers Drive, for those who want to avoid it). They had gas posted for 92.3¢/L which seemed quite reasonable. I authorized my card and began pumping. But soon it stopped. When I looked up, I was rather confused to see that I had managed to pump less than 14L of fuel and the price at the pump what a whopping $125.00. The problem, if you can spot it:

Decimal Points Matter - 1

The decimal point is in the wrong place and their gas was ten times as expensive as it should have been. If you're like me, you can imagine how hilarious of a screw up this is. That alone kept me cheerful enough to avoid screaming at anyone.

For those interested in the tangent, the decimal point was invented by a Scotsman, John Napier, the Laird of Merchiston. Oddly enough, I know this because of I make use of this fact in my show with Tyler Wilson in 2013, Illusions of Grandeur. (Not so much the decimal point, but the fact he used to walk around town with his black pet rooster causing the locals to suspect he was in league with the devil.) Decimals are an essential weapon in the everlasting struggle to tell whether or not some numbers are bigger than other numbers.

After pushing the intercom button and notifying the attendant of the problem (and standing out in the snowy cold for a good five minutes waiting for some instructions) I was invited inside. Unfortunately because it was a pre-authorized transaction on my card they were unable to cancel it before it was charged. This was also someone who was new in her position, was completely clueless as to what to do, and was on her cell phone desperately trying to locate a superior for some guidance. I met someone else who had experienced the same problem (who had somehow gotten off lucky at just a $60 charge.) One has to feel sympathy for her since of everyone involved in this farce, she is the one for which there is truly nothing she could have done about it.

I decided to leave my number and get on with my life and allow people who actually understood this advanced technology to deal with it on their own, and increase my chances of having someone actually responsible I could yell at. Besides, I had a show to be at in Toronto and didn't have the time to spare.

When I got home that evening, I forwarded a copy of my receipt, clearly showing the exaggerated fuel rate, to what I supposed would be a crack team of savvy motivated customer service specialists who would have this death with in short order.

But... the best laid plans.

While it seems they have no shortage of people who are willing to admit that this was an error and that I'm entitled to a refund — and also no shortage of people who are inclined to tell me that the reason the decimal point on the price of gas was in the wrong place was because when they changed the prices, someone entered it with the decimal in the wrong place as though this was something they had discovered, not something I had told them — the entire multinational organization seems to be devoid of anyone who actually knows how to do it.

At three separate points, a solution was suggested that I could get a refund to my card if I were willing to drive back to Whitby to claim it. This was followed by perplexed noises when I explain that I do not live in the city where I was overcharged for gas.

One curious email assured me that they "certainly wish to Delight [their] Customers" [1] which caused me to waste a solid twenty minutes of my life trying to recall if a trip to a gas station had ever succeeded in causing me "delight". I think I'm beginning to understand the corporate culture that led to this mishap in the first place.

We are now four days later and they show no signs of figuring out how to solve this. On the bright side, I've been promised a $25 gift card for my troubles if they ever manage to figure it out. I'm not entirely sure, but it sounded like as a special bonus, the $25 would only work in Whitby. They also seem bent on making sure I pay for the 13.54 L of fuel I did manage to get in the transaction. What they lack in competence, they make up for in fairness.

Join with me as I wait for the climactic conclusion of this epic saga where this crack squad of customer service professionals at a multi-national problem try to overcome the challenge of reversing a credit card transaction.

Doubtless, Peter Jackson will want to option the move rights. Maybe this is my chance to meet Orlando Bloom.

[1] Apparently capital letters are more abundant in Whitby