So I Wrote to Rural Metro . . .

August 2, 2003

Mr. Michael Addario, General Manager, Rural Metro

Re:  Medicaid Transport Dispatch

Dear Mr. Addario:

Please be advised that your employees are restricting my choice of transportation carriers.

  • Last week, while on the phone with one of your employees, I was looking at my computer screen that reflected an order with one company, while your employee was looking at her computer screen and saying the ride had been sent to a different company.  When I asked her who had changed it, she said she couldn’t tell because there was just an extension number on the screen.
  • I have received phone calls from your employees telling me that I have filed for “the wrong” company.
  • Your employees have told me that I always have to ride with the same carrier.
  • Your employees have told me that I cannot ride with two different carriers on the same day because only one will get paid.

Please be advised that I am not a slave who is wholly owned by a single carrier; I am an American and I have the freedom to choose.  I am independent, and I split my ticket when I vote.  Likewise, I have the right to split my transportation carriers when I ride.  [I was referring to using two different vendors for two different round-trips, not one vendor to-destination and a different vendor from-destination.]  I have the right to shop at both Wal-Mart and K-Mart, and a taxi driver does not have the authority to prevent me from doing so.  I work with my carriers, and change them based on time of travel, destination, and other factors.  Competition between companies keeps the economy healthy, and ensures the highest quality service for the customer.

Let me tell you where I think the problems originate.

First, your employees have some standard against which they are comparing ride orders.  Either it’s the last order filed, or else you are maintaining some sort of customer profile that states an individual rides with a particular carrier.  You need to get rid of that; eliminate the default setting.  As long as you have a standard profile, your employees will presume to tell customers that they are riding with “the wrong” carrier.  To some extent, front line workers want to do what they are told, and they interpret that profile as an instruction on what they are to do.

Second, you need to post a simple, clear statement that Any customer can order any carrier at any time, and you are not to challenge it.  It is upsetting to me to get phone calls in which I have to fight with your employees to get the carrier I want.

Third, some of your employees have a bad attitude.  Men have a tendency to look at this restraint of free trade as some sort of business conspiracy but my life experience says that it’s about petty people seeking to control others.  Front line workers get an attitude that they are not there to serve, but to control.  “I’m the boss,” they declare, “and you have to do what I say.”

My reply to that comes from a four-year-old girl who planted her fists on her hips, tossed her head defiantly, and declared, “You’re not the boss of me!”

You need to make it very clear to your employees that they are there to serve, not to control.  Everybody wants to be the boss of somebody, but it is your job to set a standard of service, not power.  When a customer makes a request, it is to be filled, not challenged.  Respect the customer.

Third, you need to establish a policy of personal responsibility.  Your employees need to know that they cannot use anonymity to avoid responsibility.  It has become common in the medical industry, particularly among people who work the phones, to refuse to identify themselves so they can’t be held accountable for their behavior, consequently, their behavior becomes increasingly dictatorial.  Have you made it clear to your employees that anyone paid with public monies is required to give their full name and job title, and the full name and job title of their supervisor to anyone who asks?  Likewise, when an order is filled, the employee should put his or her name on it.  This will enable both you and I to identify any particular employee who is doing the job wrong, instead of blaming your company as a whole.

Fourth, there needs to be more specific retraining.  I was told I could not order rides with two different companies on the same day because only one would be paid.  The next day one company accepted a pickup order but rejected the return and your employees placed the return with another company.  Clearly, there is a logical inconsistency here.  How, in fact, does the system work?

Fifth, when I place an order I am now usually sending you a scheduled return time, and your employees are not sending the time to the carrier.  They are just flat-out dropping the return from the order, consequently, I have sat in doctor’s waiting rooms for as long as an hour and twenty minutes waiting for a return pickup.  This results in customers being livid with anger when the drivers arrive, and drivers becoming insensitive to their riders in order to cope with it.  (You didn’t know, did you, that man’s inhumanity to man all starts with your employees dropping return times?)

The question is, is it your policy not to transmit what you consider to be extraneous information, or are your employees making it up as they go along?  Do you need retraining, or do your employees need better supervision?  Good carriers plan their schedules, and refuse rides they cannot handle.  If you don’t tell them when the return is, they can’t plan for it, and I get stuck.  If I give you a return time, you must give it to the carrier.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, Government Services, Medicaid, Onondaga County, Poverty, Power, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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