If you have a question about your City of Newburgh sanitation bill and call the number at the top of that bill, 569-7339, and it happens that you’ve dared to call them at 4 p.m. or later, or on weekends, or on holidays, a peculiar thing happens. You hear: “Today is Monday, October 29th and we are closing at 1 p.m. due to the storm. You can drop off your payments on November 1st with no further penalty.” Then: Click.
Early this month, as a public service, i called the Collector’s Office before 4 p.m. and suggested as politely as i could to the woman who answered that, since that greeting is three and a half months out of date, they might want to change it. The woman i spoke to said she’d tell her supervisor about it. When a week went by with no change, i called the mayor, too.
Shortly after that, i misplaced the bill in question. At 12:30 a.m. today (that is to say, just a few minutes ago, in the middle of the night) i went to the city’s website. There, in the listing for the Tax Collector’s Office, it gives the number as 569-7330. When you call that number, you get a message that is less embarrassing than the other one, but also erroneous: “You have reached the Collector’s Office. Our normal hours are 8:30 to 4. We are sorry we can’t take your call; we are taking care of other customers.” Then: Click.
My suggestions, which would be totally free to implement and would take about one minute to effect:
1. For the 569-7339 answering machine, change the message to indicate that it is no longer Monday, Oct. 29.
2. Change the “away message” for the 569-7330 number to say, “You’ve reached us after hours; our hours are _____ to ____; please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.” And don’t say you’re “taking care of other customers” if it’s after hours. That’s what you say if you’re asking someone to hold. If it’s midnight, you’re not “taking care of other customers”; you’re off duty. By the way: We’re not your “customers”; we’re residents, we’re taxpayers, and we’re your bosses.
3. And then, as the icing on the cake, go ahead and listen to the messages each morning, and actually return the calls. i dare to hope that within my lifetime, city residents will have the chance to leave a message if, like fools, they call the Collector’s Office at 4:01 p.m.