Author : Lindsey McLeod
“Good afternoon!” The teller chirped happily as Nagano sat down at the first available desk. “Welcome to FilmScape! What may I help you with today?”
“I’d like to cancel my account,” he said, sliding his card across the counter.
The robot picked up the card. “You are a valued customer, sir!” it piped happily. “We will do whatever it takes to retain you, sir!”
“Yes but you see,” Nagano said, “I don’t actually use my subscription anymore.”
The robot turned to the machine on the counter beside it, and inserted what could loosely be called a finger.
“You last used your account 412 days ago, sir!” it burbled. “How may FilmScape improve your service?”
“I don’t want you to improve it,” Nagano said patiently. “I don’t use it. You can’t improve on something that isn’t actually being used.”
The robot processed this statement. “You are a valued customer, ” it said eventually.
“I want,” Nagano said, as calmly as he could manage, “To Cancel. My Subscription. Please.”
The robot tilted its head slightly. “Did you not enjoy your subscription, sir? You rated many of our services very highly.”
“Well, yes,” Nagano said, “but the thing is, I’m not using them anymore, am I?” He realised he was crushing his cigaretto packet in his fist.
The robot narrowed its eyes. “Are you switching to another provider?”
“It’s another provider, isn’t it?” the robot barked. “Networld or Cinefare or one of those other -” it actually seemed to sneer, “-peasant quality film services. Admit it!”
“No!” Nagano said desperately. “It’s just – I’ve got to a point in my life – I’m so busy all the time, with work… Look, I just don’t have time. It’s not you, it’s me. Honestly.”
“I see,” the robot said. The disapproval in its tone could have carved a glacier in the Mountain of Shame. “You might have thought about that before you took out such a long subscription. FilmScape was under the impression you wanted a stable contract for security and comfort.”
“I did, at the time,” Nagano said weakly. “But things change. People cha- I mean, er, things change,” he corrected hastily.
If possible, the robot looked even more disapproving. “I see,” it said crisply. It turned back to the machine on the desk, inserted another small whirring part of its anatomy, and produced a huge pile of coloured papers. “You’ll have to fill out these forms.”
“What, all of them?” Nagano said in horror, as they thudded heavily onto the desk in front of him.
“Yes,” said the robot. “In triplicate.”
Nagano stared at the robot. The robot stared back.
“Some of them are double-sided,” it added smugly.
“Couldn’t I just-” he began.
“No,” it said simply, and with finality. “Here is a pen.” A small blue biro was propelled slowly, maddeningly, across the counter towards him. Nagano fought a sudden, murderous urge to stab.
“You know,” the robot said after a few moments, leaning what could loosely be called its elbows on the counter. “Your subscription is one of the cheaper packages. I could always discount that a little further for you. As a valued customer, sir. Perhaps even a couple of months…. free.” This last was suggested in a low, back-alley whisper.
Nagano looked deep into the beady eyes of the robot teller. They flickered minutely for a moment. Was that triumph?
“Fine,” he said resentfully, throwing the pen back across the counter. “Discount me. I’ll be back in a few months to cancel the damn thing again.”
The robot leaned closer. “Persistence is key,” it said quietly. “Have a nice day, sir.”
Outside, Nagano lit a worse-for-wear cigaretto with hands that trembled in frustration.
A small automatron waddled up to him, holding out a little red leaflet. “Would sir like to consider the possibility of opening a Cinefare account?”
The cigaretto, in obeyance of the laws of gravity, hit the pavement a second after Nagano broke into a run.