Monday, August 30, 2004

Customer Service no longer exists...
Trying to get anything done these days with an impersonal, behemoth-like corporation is a frustrating experience, to say the least. To begin with, you cannot get a human being on the phone unless you waste 20 minutes of your life working your way through the "key tree" of an "automated response system". The first indication that something is wrong is when you get the message to press 1 for English and something else for Spanish. Now, I don't know about you, but this is the United States and the last time I looked, this was an English-speaking country. Apparently not anymore. Sometimes I wonder just would happen if I accidentally pressed the button for Spanish and got all the way through to a REAL LIVE HUMAN BEING and insisted on using English? Sometimes, you just have to make your own fun.

Now, normally, things like this bother me for about 12 seconds, but in the last month or so, I've spent more time pressing digits to direct my call to a "customer service representative" than I care to think about. After the exhaustive and annoying experience of dialing for attention, when you do finally manage to reach a human being, three things immediately jump out at you:

1. The person on the other end is an idiot, and, usually, an affirmative action hire.
2. Most of the time, after you've gone through this process, the person can't help you anyway.
3. You suddenly discover just WHY people go beserk in a post office and shoot every living thing in sight.

Now imagine, for a second, that you have, somehow, signed up for a service that your internet provider manages not to tell you about, but somehow manages to charge to your credit card anyway. You call said ISP and once you have clearly and precisely spelled your screenname for a computer, given your home phone number and a blood sample, you are instructed to wait for a customer service representative. Who informs you that despite the fact that you have used their service for 8 years, and that somehow they have been managing to charge it all to your credit cards, that she cannot find any record whatsoever that you exist. No screenname, no address, no phone number, not even the credit card number they charge it to, yet somehow, the ISP manages to get paid. Now you complain about what you intended to complain about: I never ordered this particular feature, I do not wish to pay for it, please discontinue the service. No problem, they'll just mail you a form, fill it in, and send it back -- no hassle, no fuss, and it gives them the opportunity to charge you at least one last time.

Three weeks go by and you have not received the form.

So, you press 1 for English, etc, etc, etc, and finally get a different nitwit. She also cannot find your account information. Since I'm sure that somewhere down the line SOMEONE knows who I am and they're getting paid, this is not relevant at the moment. All I want is that stupid form you said you would mail me. Guess what? There is no form. Whoever told you there was a form was mistaken! And until your customer information somehow mysteriously appears from within "my system", I cannot stop this feature you do not wish to pay for.

Well, isn't that just f*cking dandy!

Is there anyone else I can talk to? A manager, a supervisor, someone who isn't using his brain for a seat cushion? Certainly sir, just a moment, please. The moment lasts long enough for the grass on the front lawn to grow three inches before someone with an important-sounding title gets on the line. You go through your spiel again for their benefit, and they inform you that they also cannot find your account information, and unless that somehow appears, there is nothing that can be done. However, if you wish to dispute the charges, please send copies of the credit card statements and a letter explaining which charges you wish to dispute. I have to serve customer service!

We go through this all the time, and it's not just ISP's. The phone company is good for this too. You paid for a certain calling plan, at a certain price, and then they pile up charges on you that were never explained to you by the salesperson, the 62 page document they sent you, or even on the bill itself. Eventually, you wind up paying $181.09 for exactly $15.29 of long-distance charges, when you agreed to pay $49.95 per month. "How does this happen?", you ask the person on the other end of the phone, "Well, Sir, you opted for this particular plan and..." Yes, I know I did, and the plan stated that I would have a flat price, this ain't it. And, if I'm not using $49.95 of long distance per month, why am I still paying $49.95? "Well, Sir, you opted for this particular plan..." Can I go back to a "pay-as-I-use" plan? "Sure, Sir, but then you can't guarentee the flat rate that you have with this plan..." So, I have the guarenteed flat rate, even if I don't use the phone that much, and the bill doesn't reflect the flat rate at all? "That's correct, Sir". Who can I complain to? "Here's another toll-free number..."

You have to call a DIFFERENT customer service line to get customer service.

Is this any way to do business? Records cannot be found, prices are never what you contractually agreed to and when you need to have a question answered you can't? Do you have recourse? Certainly! But have you ever tried to get through to a human being at the Public Sevice Commission?

Press 1 for English, press 2 to rant about the phone company, 3 for the electric company, 4 for the gas company, 5 for cable tv complaints, 6 if it's your mother's birthday, sit through the announcements until it says "press 0 for an operator" and then get disconnected, or worse, be connected to someone in Bombay who would ordinarily be working the night shift in a gas station, and who has a speech impediment.

What a racket!

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