Reading this Reddit thread on stupid customer stories reminded me of the stupidest thing I've ever done as a customer. I had flown all night and gotten into my hotel near San Francisco International very late. Blearily, I unpacked my toilet case and brushed my teeth, had a pee, flushed and climbed into bed. The toilet's plumbing made a moderate amount of noise as the cistern refilled, but just as it got to the point where the stopcock kicked it, it began to make a horrible, loud, nerve-jangling BRRRRRRRRRRRR noise.
I waited a couple of minutes for it to stop, but it wouldn't stop. I got out bed and looked under the toilet. I jiggled the handle. I flushed. BRRRRRRRRRRRR
I called the front desk. "Hi. There's something really wrong with my toilet. I flushed it and now it's going BRRRRRRRRRRRR. Can you find a maintenance person, please?"
It was about 1AM. There weren't a lot of maintenance people around. Ten minutes went by. BRRRRRRRRRRRR. Fifteen minutes. BRRRRRRRRRRRR.
I called the front desk again. "Hi, I don't mean to be impatient, but I've got a meeting early tomorrow morning and I really need to get some sleep. If you can't get a maintenance staffer in the next couple minutes, I think I'll need another room, OK?"
The maintenance guy came. I told him what had happened. We stood in the bathroom together, blearily, confronting the incredible, loud, nonstop BRRRRRRRRRRRR that seemed to come from all around us as the pipes shivered in the very walls. "I've never heard a toilet make that noise before," the maintenance guy said. "Me neither. I'll just wait in the room."
I went and sat on the bed, half-fuming, half-dozing. Suddenly, the BRRRRRRRRRRRR noise became much quieter: brrrrrrrrrrrr. Then, quieter still: brrrrrrrrrrrr.
The maintenance guy came out, holding my toothbrush. It was one of those battery-powered ones, but the battery had died three cities back, so it was just a toothbrush now. I had left it switched on, in the water glass by the sink, on the marble countertop -- a perfect sounding-board for the anxious little motor in that fucker, which had somehow sprung back to life after several days of being dead.
And that was the stupidest thing I've ever done as a customer. I practically prostrated myself in apology before the maintenance guy, called the front desk and told them "Never mind, I'm a huge idiot," and managed to get to sleep at last.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.