There’s no funnier name than Bob.
Oh sure, you got your strange names, people stuck with words that were never meant to be names like Apple or Banjo or Ocean.
And there are the old names that sound strange to our ears now. For instance, I have a great number of women named Mehitabel in my family tree, but none for the past one hundred years.
But as far as regular old names go, Bob is the one that makes me giggle.
Just think about it. There’s the movie “What About Bob.” That wouldn’t sound as funny as “What About Charlie” or “What About Mike.”
And there’s Bob the Builder and Sponge Bob. Alex the Builder and Sponge Tom just don’t have the same ring.
Plus it’s a palindrome.
I realized how funny the name is today because I had a funny (at least it’s funny now) customer service experience that was made all the more amusing because the salesman’s name was Bob.
This afternoon we went shopping for a dishwasher. We headed to the local branch of a national appliance retail chain and, because we were there just five months ago buying a refrigerator, I headed confidently toward the dishwasher section.
I was stopped by a man in his early sixties, with gray hair and a nametag that read Bob.
Bob explained that it was only his second day back after two years away from the store, but took us to see the dishwashers anyway.
Before he asked I told him that we wanted stainless and named the brand we were interested in. (We have a strange brand matching thing going on in my house. We like them all to be the same.)
Last August two of our local shopping centers were flooded during a tropical storm. This retailer is still in a temporary location and Bob explained that they didn’t have many dishwashers on display because of the limited space.
They were all stacked along the back wall, on cardboard boxes.
Bob opened the first one to show us the interior, and it promptly fell forward. I had to help him catch it.
Then he pulled out the top rack. It got stuck and he couldn’t get it back in. Finally, he pushed with all his might, forcing the misaligned rack into the dishwasher, muttering “Someone should fix this,” and closed the door with a bang.
That’s when I noticed that it was the wrong brand.
The next model he showed us was the right brand. It also fell forward when he opened it, but Bob was ready for it.
We toured the stainless tub, the stemware racks, the adjustable silverware basket.
Then Bob closed it up to show us the control panel on the front of the dishwasher, but before he did that, he looked at the tag taped to the front.
“Never mind,” he said,” this one doesn’t come in stainless.
We wandered down the short display, ruling out this one by brand, that one by color, until we reached the end of the line.
Again, Bob explained that they didn’t have much in the store. But, he continued, they could order us a dishwasher from the website.
He glanced around the space, where his co-workers were busy helping other customers. He screwed up his mouth.
“We only have two computers.”
Bob took advantage of the delay to explain to use how many decibels a dishwasher should emit, pointing out that the most expensive brand was of course offered the quietest dishwashers.
The computers were still busy, so Bob, in one of the wackiest customer service moves I have ever witnessed, told us that we should go home, find the dishwasher we wanted to buy on their website and then come back to order it.
He said their servers were really slow anyway. And he handed me his card.
So, in essence, Bob wanted us to do all the work for him (except for the fine tour of dishwashers that didn’t fit into the two requirements we had) and come back so he could collect the commission.
We left, a little bit dazed and a lot flabbergasted.
And, the best part of the story is that we did exactly that. Well, almost.
I did come home, go to the stores website and compare dishwashers until we narrowed it down to one.
Then I attempted to purchase the dishwasher online (Take that, Bob!).
I would have completed the order, but I had over eighty dollars in store rewards points I wanted to redeem and the website wouldn’t let me use them.
Eighty bucks is eighty bucks, so we decided to return to the store. Bob had told us that he was there until five. We went back at 6:30. (Take that again, Bob!)
When we walked in, a young man approached us. “Can I help you? You were here earlier right? Who were you working with?”
Although I didn’t want to give Bob the commission, I didn’t want to get the guy in trouble either. So I hedged, said I couldn’t remember the salesperson’s name.
My mother had no such qualms. “We talked to Bob,” she said. “He told us to go home and look it up on the website.”
This salesperson was mortified. He apologized and immediately called over another salesperson. “Bob told them to go home and look it up themselves. That’s the second person who he told to do that today.”
Then he looked at us. “We work on commission.”
I already knew that, but I thought his simple comment brilliantly summed up the problem with Bob. I shook my head. “Oh, Bob.”
I had brought the print out of the dishwasher with me and five minutes later, we walked out having made our purchase. No thanks to Bob.
Would the situation still have been funny if the salesman’s name had been Andy or Mark? Sure. But it’s funnier because he was Bob.
After all, wasn’t sending us away a very Bob thing to do?