Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To all the companies I've loathed before....

If I ever again find myself on the phone to a call centre again, and hear those fateful words "I'm sorry, I know this must be frustrating, but there's nothing we can do", I think I am going to explode.

(and Princess bits will scatter all across the city... what a glorious thought!)

Some of my older readers may remember the tendency of my lovely boyfriend to be the master of surprise when it comes to gifts and special days. Thus, when he asserted that we would be having a no-gift policy for our upcoming anniversary, I knew that he was, frankly, full of it.

And I decided to beat him at his game...

... by covertly ordering him a Wii.

My surprise was immensely successful. I believe his exact words were "I can't believe you beat me at my own game!"

In short, he was a very happy fellow.

Future Shop, however, had more nefarious plans.

While I paid extra cash to get it extra speedily... it didn't arrive.
Finally, after waiting a week with no word, I checked its progress online.
Whereas Future Shop reported the item successfully delivered (and charged my credit card accordingly), Canada Post had brought it all the way to my side of the country... and then mysteriously deemed it undeliverable without even attempting to contact me. And thus, my Wii gift found itself headed on another trip.

Still doesn't sound like that big of a deal, does it? You'd think I could contact Future Shop, figure out this inexplicable shipping problem, and bring Mr. Wii back to me... albeit a little late.

Apparently that's not how it works.
Apparently once Mr. Wii gets sent back, despite a shipping error that isn't my fault (I double checked that all my info was correct!), it is no longer mine. I will get a refund and have to order another.
The problem? They are sold out. As they have been for months, except for random pockets of time.

So I have to tell my boyfriend sorry, no Wii after all.

It doesn't help that the call centre lady was an enormous cow. Not only was she completely unsympathetic to the fact that I was having to renege on a gift, but she refused to let me speak to a manager or even consider some sort of reimbursement for the fact that I was now giftless.

I'm not good with anger. It's an emotion that doesn't sit well with me. I don't really know what to do with it. It makes me so antsy, and the strategies I have for the more frequent negative emotions in my life (sadness, etc) are seemingly of little use.

However, one thing that came to me in my angry rumination was how very many similar experiences I have had with companies. Experiences in which I take all the appropriate steps, wait on hold listening to the same soft jazz rift on repeat, am told different solutions by each different person I reach on the, and, in the end, am shit out of luck.

I figured I would offer up a smattering of these experiences with the goal of answering one question-- Is this kind of piss poor customer service really that normative? Or do I have particularly poor luck in this regards?

Before you answer that, keep in mind this is just a selection of my experiences. And they all come from the mere six years (plus a few months) since I moved out on my own.


I'll start out with a familiar one... the cell phone company.
Again, you may remember my brief-lived phone stalker.

(who mysteriously disappeared and never did reveal themselves)

My synopsis: I only have a cell phone, the person was calling from a private number, and I apparently have the only cell phone provider who has no call trace feature. They apparently also have extremely rigorous privacy protection laws. I spent much time in the days following speaking to various customer service reps, who kept on telling me different steps I would need to take to get the stalker's identity revealed. I did every step, including filing a formal report with the police, and getting the police to call the cell phone company. No dice. The cell phone company, after telling me each time to take another step further, wouldn't budge. Despite every other company having a plan in place to trace harassing calls, mine wouldn't even reveal my stalker's identity with a police report.


Of course, we need the representative from the utility side of things-- my power company.

For no apparent reason, after years of consistency, my power bill sky-rocketed. Quite literally, it quadrupled in one bill.

To give you a little perspective, I lived in a fairly small one-bedroom apartment with no major appliances outside of a fridge and stove, yet our power bill suddenly beat those of family's with four bedroom houses. We could have been running every appliance in the place 24-7 and it should have never been that high.

At first, the power company was understanding, and took off the amount the first time around, saying it must have been a billing error (only to put it back on the next bill)
But it kept on happening.
And we could not get a representative of the power company to come to our apartment for the life of us. We did everything they asked-- checked all the fuses, went into the meter room, checked our fridge. And every billing period, I was back on the phone, listening to elevator music, trying to convince them that something was broken somewhere. And every month, we would end up paying it.

(side note-- when my ex moved out, it did drop, but was still conspicuosly high. Now that I am at a different place, I am back down to the rate I was at for the years prior)


Not convinced?

I've saved a doozy!

Just over three years ago, I moved from City A (undergraduate city) to City B (graduate city). After some price comparisons, I decided it would be worth the few hundred in extra cash to hire a moving company.

Having been exposed to all the Dateline specials and having heard all the horror stories, I took all the steps I thought you were supposed to. I asked about hidden charges, insurance, gave them a detailed list of everything I owned, and checked them out on the Better Business Bureau.

I didn't think to ask "Will you actually show up?" and "Are you lying about all of this?". Silly me.

(How's that for foreshadowing?)

I have all my stuff packed. They have given me a two day window for pick-up. I get a call saying they're on their way soon. I don't leave my apartment for two days. And no one shows up.

Many unreturned phone calls later, I manage to contact someone, who informs me there's an accident, and denies that they ever called to say that they were on their way. I try to find out when they are coming. They are vague.

The problem? I am now legally evicted from my apartment. I have no car. It is the August long weekend and almost everyone is out of town, including my then live-in boyfriend. My landlord is set to do renovations on the house and has people coming in soon to start tearing it apart. And I am missing my foster sister's wedding.

They finally show up, four days late, after I have moved all my furniture on my own into one room so my landlord can start doing the renovations. But, when they do show up... it is midnight on a Saturday of the long weekend. And "they" is the driver, who has now been driving for 24 hours, and his pregnant wife. And no movers.

Two of my amazing friends save my life, and the three of us move my apartment (despite the fact that I PAID for movers), while dodging a whole lot of anger from the other apartment building tenants. I try to purchase insurance for my valuables, but the driver won't do it, or doesn't know how... at this point, I'm too exhausted to care, as I hand over my keys to my landlord and leave my apartment for the last time at around 3am.

(and, yes, there's more)

As I was told it would take a week for my stuff to arrive (and that I had up to a month's free storage, anyways), and I had already planned to go back to my hometown for the now-passed wedding, I went home for a much needed break. Only to, on my second day home, get a call from the company's associate in City B, saying that they are ready to drop off my stuff. I tell them I am out of town and do not even yet have possession of my new apartment. He threatens to charge me for storage. I thankfully manage to get an iota of support from the booking person, who tells this guy to lay off, as the arrival date is in my contract.

I arrive to City B, only to find several things broken, and the fact that the original driver has marked down the condition of everything I own as broken and torn, so that they can't be held liable for any damages.
And I am charged double the original quote, despite the fact that I had given them a list of everything I owned prior-- they deliberately underquoted me.

Although they did take off a whopping 5% there being no movers.


So, my question is... is this kind of consistence in maltreatment as a customer normal?
I have done my fair share of customer service jobs, and I tend to treat workers really well, so I should have built up good karma on that front!

I would love to hear any bad customer service stories from your end.


Airam said...

Where the Wii is concerned Toys R' Us gets them shipped in on a weekly basis. Your best bet is to pop by on maybe a Thursday or Wednesday and see if they have them in the store. They sell out on the same day though and can never tell you when the shipments come in. But that's how I got 2 Wii games.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

That kind of customer service is bog-standard here in the UK in just about any field.

I had an absolute nightmare replacing my mobile phone (took about a month), getting my dead car officially written-off (vehicle licensing seem to think I am riding around in a burnt out carcass) and getting my barely-alive car repaired (paying for work that never happened)

I think it's happening everywhere.

It's a conspiracy

Mim said...

I used to work in customer service. And the phrase that bothers you, the "I understand you're frustrated, blah, blah ,blah" well we're kind of forced to say that. In any customer service call you have to hit 'points' you have to say a certain amount of care phrases (good morning, I'm sorry, let me help, I know you're frustrated, etc) a certain amount of loyalty phrases (thank you for being a loyal customer since 2001) AND we have to maintain a polite tone, even when customers start a call by screaming.

It sucks when you hear the same phrase over and over, but think about how many times that person has to say it. There a reason it seems in-genuine.

Those other problems, those just suck. I can't believe it.

Beth said...

You have the most incredibly bad luck - which I'm sure you don't want to hear. My few tales pale in comparison to yours - both in numbers and horror.
I think you read my GMAC rant - the one where a rep responded in the comments section? You should change the title of this post to FUTURE SHOP COMPLAINTS (use caps) and see what happens!

Michelle said...

oh my. i have never heard that many horror stories of customer service come from one person before!

i've had a few minor incidents at restaurants but hardly anything that compares to your horrible luck. and the whole Wii situation sounds fishy to me. i'd investigate further.

DG said...

When I was living with a roommate who had to move out, we had to switch all of our phone bills to my name. What a pain in the ass. Our AT&T took 3 weeks to switch over, meanwhile leaving me with no phone/interet for over two weeks. I was livid and NO ONE could help me! GRRRRR

Yoda said...

WOW! PP, you're hardcore!

Your stories got me beat. All bow to the almighty PP who manages to get all the douchebags of customer service :-p

I had a mini explosion once over my DSL password getting automatically changed, cutting me off the Internet. Worse, there were multiple passwords, and I never really understood why I needed 3 passwords for ONE DSL account. The crowning glory was when the customer service assistant in India wanted me to speak my password out to her. She got it wrong and I was cut off exactly 24 hrs later when their password refreshes hit the servers.

Yea, mini explosion ... nothing like the preggo wife of the movers ;-)

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Oh, they do my head in.

When they've had you on hold for ages and then come back saying 'Thankyou for your patience in holding, Mr XXXXXX, we do appreciate it.'

Take their name, get a commitment. That's all I aim for.

I've noticed that the do take note of the customers who get nasty when they call and the service improves.

Sheila said...

Holy Crap! You're like a bad customer service magnet! All kidding aside, I rarely have a pleasant experience with a call center. The worst I've had were with our health insurance company.

Hopefully you'll be able get a Wii soon!!

Abbey said...

Man. I'm usually refered to as Chief Raincloud (cause nothing goes right for me) but you may have me beat.

Not sure about the wii. Though you could just tell him to hold the tv remote in one hand and pretend to bowl in the meantime.

eric1313 said...

A magazine company once tried to charge me over $1500.00 for five two year subscriptions.

The collector called my old appartment. I told him I was eating dinner with my sister and he should try back in an hour (that would put it after five o'clock, intuitively knowing he'd probably have to go home by then, hehe), he said very snottily that this was more important than some dinner and I should take it seriously. I yelled back that I didn't care what he thought--I owe 270.00, not five to sixtimes more. He said that I do, and I said go screw some moron out of that much money, I'm not paying a fucking nickle. He said the call was recorded--I cut him off with "good, then they'll hear your lies, if your boss even cares". He then threatened legal action and said I don't seem to care to which I said, "You're right! I don't even know why I'm still talking to you, except I like making you mad. You aren't making one cent of commision off of me, shit for brains. I'd rather pay a lawyer."

He started mumbling and I yelled the classic Willy Wonka "good day, sir!". and hung up.

A very nice and polite female law firm representative called me two months latter and said it was not really worth going to court over my bill, though they would have to, but I only owed $270.00. I related the above experience, asked her if others had similar complaints and asked her if I could hire her firm to represent me, and we both laughed and half flirted with each other, and I told her I would gladdly pay her right then and there--just not an asshole collector, and also only if she would note that I'm an unreasonable person and the magazine broker whoeverthehell they are should never do business with me again, as per her recommendation. She said she would, we talked a bit more, and that was the end of it.

Other than that, I don't remember too many screw-job costomer service issues that stood out, just the instance of one trying to bilk me out of over a thousand dollars. That was memorable to me and my sister both.

eric1313 said...

Sorry about the lon response, but you asked for it...

btw--the lady who I did finally pay the bill to did indeed say that other people had similar complaints about attempts by above said company (I forget their name) to extract far more money than owed.

I was so happy that being a shit-talking bad ass totally payed off!

libby said...

what a string of shitty luck. but yeah having worked as a CSR...sometimes it is true how nothing can be done...at least that low on the hierarchy, ya know? which totally blows, btw. but maybe you can ask to speak with a supervisor? grill them on why the heck it somehow MISSED its destination! good luck!!

nancypearlwannabe said...

I am SO JEALOUS that you have a Wii!

benjibopper said...

it's all too normal and the world is full of incorporated mega con artists with too much power.

how's that for cynicism?

cdp said...

McD and I are constantly bemoaning the seemingly never ending incompetence that we encounter like, every time we need help with something. Customer service does seem to be seriously suffering lately. But seriously, I think your stories are some of the worst EVER.

You are a very patient princess.

K said...

I hate call centres. I hate dealing withthem and I hate working at them (yes, I had a moment of weakness in my life. I need money THAT much).

aernyc said...

Wow thats aweful! That reminds me of what happened to my friend. She ordered an ipod from amazon.com and when they sent it, instead of having her sign it, since she wasn't there they just left it on her doorstep. SHE LIVES IN BROOKLYN! So both times she ordered it, it was stolen. Thankfully they refunded her but she was so upset about it. I would be too. I hate customer service places--especially HP.

By the way, I moved my blog for privacy issues. The url is now



Ant said...

Yeah, this sounds like the British kite-mark of customer service. I've got a few theories:

Both British and Canadians are traditionally very "polite" people - we will wait and queue and wait and smile and be very understanding to an amazing degree and end up putting up with a lot of shit. In America I've noticed it's different - even though it's by no means perfect, because of their "customer is king" ethos, I've found that they generally fall over backwards as soon as get that dissatisfied edge in my voice...

I also think it's a result of the globalisation of communities. The more we have to deal with faceless corps, the more hierarchy and bureaucracy we have to wade through, and there is more opportunity for the inherent human laziness and shoddy workmanship to fall through the complex cracks.

On saying that, your stories seem to be quite extreme (the one with the movers is incredible). I'm wondering if you're being too polite? You're certainly thorough in doing the background checks but they're still getting away with it. I have been in situations like those but I think perhaps one out of every hundred have I come away out of pocket. I think that's generally because I'm like a pit-bull when I think someone is trying to screw me and will not just accept it. (Sorry, this is starting to sound like a motivational talk now... :-) )

Dorky Dad said...

Here's my reaction to your stories ...


And these didn't even happen to me. My word.

I've had some bad customer service problems in my life -- too many to mention, really -- but in general I think that customer service overall is OK. We just only remember the bad problems.

captain corky said...

My wife handles all of that stuff, because she doesn't put up with any crap when it comes to customer service. I enjoy watching her work. It's an art form.

eric1313 said...

Awesome! You dropped by right before I posted a new one, not even a minute...

Hope the above comment was cool. Usually I am as polite as a Canadian or a Brit, and get trampled. People on phones have no problem being rude as a way of aserting themselves. That's what infuriated me about the collector (he was a company collector, not an agaency collector) who called me. Over the phones, people think theyere are no consequences for their bad behavior.

What's the only way to neutralize this?

By dropping civility--after all, he chose the fight, the field of battle, and the tactics to be used. I just showed him I was better at it than he. There was no way he was making a dime off of me. No way at all.

Princess Pointful said...

Everyone! Sorry for my slower than usual posting and responding to your blogs! My middle-end of the work week is utter crazyness, unfortunately. I will try to find the time to get some more musings into writing soon.

Airam- Thanks for the advice. However, with the Canadian dollar so good, I just may hit eBay, as the price is pretty much the same!

Ultra-Maybe Canada is just a few years behind Europe? Sounds utterly brutal, though!

Mim- Yeah, having worked in customer service (though not call centers), I am aware that it is not their fault (except the one Future shop lady, as she was pure meanness). I'm more frustrated over what that phrase signifies... that I've been screwed over again.

Beth- Truthfully, I'm at the point where I don't even want to give them a cent of my money ever again. Hmph.

Michelle- I'm not sure if I'm happy or not that I have such bad luck-- I'm glad this isn't normal, but unhappy that it is happening to me!

dg- That is damn insane!!!

Yoda- What a freakin' ridiculous system that sounds like.

Crushed- I'm not good at the nastyness thing. I tend to get all upset and withdrawn instead. Although I did snap a bit recently... keep in mind my definition of snapped is pretty weak.

Sheila- The health insurance thing doesn't surprise me at all, sadly enough!!

Abbey- Ha! I'm sure that will satisfy him! (until he brings a real bowling ball to my place)

Eric- Wow. That is a pretty insane story. I'm not even sure how a magazine subscription could plausibly come anywhere near that. Kudos to you to standing up for yourself!!

Libby- The problem with the most recent experience is the call centre lady wouldn't even let me speak to a supervisor-- she said there was none handy, so I was out of luck. I'm sure she was full of it.

nancypearlwannabe- The point of this post is that I don't have a wii ;)

Benjibopper- I believe that I am starting to endorse that cynicism. I have no real reason to believe otherwise these days!

cdp- It does seem to be a general trend... perhaps with me on the extremes :(

k- It's okay. I worked at KFC. That pretty much trumps all bad jobs.

aernyc- Okay-- that is officially the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
Thanks for letting me know about the change in web address- duly noted and blog rolled!

Ant- Agreed on both major points. It is the facelessness and the huge hierarchies that happen within these companies that make this so normative and acceptable. It doesn't help that these companies are driving smaller companies out of business, leaving people with seemingly little options but taking their shit.

As for me... I wonder about that. And, although I hate to pull this card, I wonder if being a polite person with a young female voice doesn't help my case. I need to take intimidating voice lessons!

Dorky Dad- I do agree, generally-- just the same as bad customers stand out for your when you are working in customer service jobs.

Eric- There is a certain disembodiment that happens. It is even worse over the net-- people feel they have the option of more honesty with fewer consequences.

Jocelyn said...

I'd love to pop out some comforting words here, but honey?

It's you. It's just you.