What is the craziest lie a customer has come up with when calling your work to complain about you?
I was working as a Census taker for Statistics Canada during the national census of 1996 when one member of the public made a false complaint against me.To give the necessary background: Each census taker was assigned a different territory. We were each provided a detailed map of our own territory, clearly marking out its boundaries. Every residence within that territory was depicted on the map as a little square or rectangle. And for each street within our territory, it listed the relevant range of house numbers for each side of that street (e.g. one territory might end at numbers 49 and 50 Random Street, the next territory started across the intersection at numbers 51 and 52 Random Street.) If everyone got together in a huge field, they could potentially piece together a cool, giant detailed map of Canada.A big part of our job was physically delivering a census form to every separate lot within our territory with a residence on it. If the map showed a lot with a newly built home as empty, a form still needed to be delivered to that residence, and then we needed to mark the missing residence on the map of our territory. The maps were extremely accurate, and I had to mark maybe one new home on mine.The census was meant to be a snapshot of Canada on a particular day. If someone owned multiple residences, they needed to fill out the form for each property with information for that residence as of census day. So if the entire family stayed in one house on that date, the information for their second house would be that it didn’t have any residents as of census day ‡ there was no need to fill out any of the additional data on that form. If someone’s son spent that date in the spare house? Then the form would reflect that the second home had one resident as of that date, and that son’s data would need to be entered on that form.People didn’t have to fill out the forms on the spot, but could mail it in (at no cost) by the deadline, some date following the “census date”. If they had any questions about filling out the form, I could try to answer their questions while I was at their door, or they could call the help line provided on the form itself.There was a different, and longer, census form for farms. It collected some agricultural data as well as data about the residence and its inhabitants. If someone groaned about having to fill out the longer form, I’d point out that they only needed to prestimates for most of the extra questions (statistically, if someone slightly overestimated one figure, someone else would balance that out by underestimating). I’d also point out they could probably get all the information they required from their last income tax form. If someone hadn’t kept their income tax form and was concerned about providing any inconsistent data? I told them not to worry, because Revenue Canada is not allowed to see their census form, Stats Can is not allowed to see their income tax form (which is why they don’t just take the data from that), the data is all aggregated and, again, Estimates Are OK.This groaning was far from universal ‡ strangely enough, I had to talk some people who had a hobby garden in their backyards out of trying to claim the longer agricultural form to fill out ‡ but I quickly became used to having some people act reluctant about accepting the longer agricultural form.So, on with the story at hand: During one of my trips I came to one farm with clearly only one entrance to the residence, from a road well within my territory, to a home well within my territory. With agricultural form in hand, I knocked on the door and it was answered by a woman. I explained I was here to drop off a form for the census. She looked at the form then told me she will not fill it out. No explanation. She just said she would not fill it out.This wasn’t entirely unusual or unexpected (although up to that point I faced zero resistance ‡ only, in a couple of cases, some antsy migrant workers hurriedly running off to hide in barns.Some people think they aren’t required to respond to the census and consider it to be the government being too “big brother”. So I politely explained to the woman that all the information she provides will be kept private, and won’t be shared with any other government authorities. I was about to explain there are benefits to the census, e.g., ensuring that the appropriate level of health services, police services, etc, are provided to different areas. But before I could, she again said “There is no requirement for me to fill out the form.”So I read to her from a paper we were provided politely explaining that a census form is required to be filled out by every residence in Canada.Then she says she was already given a form. I asked if someone came up to this property? (Because that would mean another census taker erroneously came into my territory). No.Finally, she explained that she had received special permission from someone in the government to not fill out the agricultural form. Taken aback, I asked her where she got that advice from, and she said she had spoken to someone from the census office, and she was told that she wouldn’t be required to fill out a form for this address because they already had a form for another part of their farm operating out of the neighbouring territory.So, I thought to myself “why the hell didn’t you tell me this to begin with instead of wasting everyone’s time?”, but instead I said to her something like “Okay, I was completely unaware of that. How about I leave a form with you, and you give my supervisor a call at this number. Then if you don’t need to complete the form, just throw it out. He can also let me know if I don’t need to get a form back from you.” She seemed very agreeable to this. So I apologized for taking up her time, and headed off.This was in the days before everyone had mobile phones. So instead of driving home, calling my supervisor, finding my way back to where I had left off (which wasn’t at a convenient intersection), and getting back to the job at hand, I decided to continue going door-to-door and following up the next morning.The next day, before I could call my supervisor, he called me.He was a former highschool principal whom I had the pleasure of working with on other contract jobs with the government (Elections Canada, specifically), so he knew me fairly well. He said to me “Hey, I got a complaint from a woman. Don’t worry about it. I know you, and I think this is completely out of character, but she complained that you were very rude and aggressive. She said you threatened to call in the police and get her fined if she didn’t take a form from you, and other things that strike me as very unlikely.” So I told him my side of the story. He said, “You did the right thing. We verified that part of her farm operation is in the next territory, she’s already received a form for it there, and Stats Can doesn’t need her to fill out a second form. The other operation doesn’t have a separate residence, so she can fill that data in on the one form. I told her she can dispose of the form you left with her, and we’ll follow up on her complaint. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of that. Keep up the good work.”