The Customer's Always Right : The Grand Illusion

Jay Bartels
 


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I have to tell you I was dumb founded by what I was hearing from the Cingular “Customer Service?” Rep. Wasn't this the same company that spent millions of dollars with their ad campaigns, telephone solicitations, and those cozy family plan commercials offering free phones and wonderful plans with their smiley employees, so friendly, with their “we'll take care of you" promises? How comforting it was to know that there is still a company out there with the lost philosophy of “the customers always right". What a relief.

Let me fill you in on my latest conversations with the good people at Cingular's customer dis-service department. I have 5 phones from cingular and in all we have about 12 in my family. We liked the idea that we can have unlimited calls to others with the same service, and indeed we do. That's about the last positive thing I can say about our mobile phone service.

My final fiasco began when I lost my main phone some weeks back. This number was on all my business cards, car magnet, internet sites, and in countless advertisements in print and online. So needless to say, I needed to keep this number.

My first call to Cingular was to report the phone lost. which I did that same night. My first question to customer service was “How can I keep this number, yet block any out-going calls at the same time should the phone end up in the wrong hands?

Here are the options that my phone company gave me:

1) We can turn that phone off and you can purchase a new one. (Okay, that sounds fair, after all they practically give these phones away, so how much could another phone possibly cost. )

"Well sir, to replace the phone you lost will cost you $249.00". “I don't understand", I replied quite puzzled. “I only paid $50 for that phone when I bought it, plus I received a $50 rebate, so I paid nothing for it"

"Well sir, that price is only available when you sign a 2 year contract, unfortunately you don't qualify for an upgrade for another 5 weeks when your existing contracts expires on that particular phone" Okay, do you see where this is going?

So I’m forced to bring out the heavy ammo. I have no alternative at this point but to threaten to cancel all my accounts and I let them know I’m taking my entire Network of friends and family members with me. I hate to do it , but these people have to realize how serious I am in order for them to fully understand the ramifications they are facing by jeopardizing their chances of losing this large account that they spent so much time and money on to make sure we didn’t fall into the hands of any of their many competitors. Basically they said, “See yuh!”

Now I’m stuck like chuck and end up buying the cheapest phone they have and now the old number is forwarded from the lost phone I can no longer use, (yet I’m still paying for) to the new phone I was forced to purchase because I still have 6 weeks left on my contract. Are you following me so far? Now pay close attention, because this is the proverbial “icing on the cake”.

My phone bill arrives and I’m being billed over $500. Surely there must be a mistake and I know with just one quick phone call to my friends at customer service this will all be corrected and the charges will naturally be removed due to some understandable mistake on their part. It was then explained to me why my bill was so unusually high. You see, it seems I had made several calls out of the country from the phone I reported lost and no longer had in my possession. Yes, after having this account for 3 years it seems I was now making calls to Haiti and points beyond. Good thing for me I had reported the phone lost and Cingular put a calling restriction on the phone in case it turned up one day. Could you imagine if I was the one they were going to hold responsible for all those calls? I knew their fraud department would pursue this and maybe even recover my phone. “Excuse me, what did you just say?” I asked the fine folks at the phone company. “You want “ME” to pay for the calls to Haiti, are you serious?” Oh yes, they were very serious. They are demanding, yes demanding, as in threatening to cut off my service if I don’t pay the bill from the phone that I reported had been lost over a month ago.

Are you kidding me? Try talking to a supervisor; see how far that gets you. First they try to keep you on hold long enough to get you to hang up. Tactic 2 (unofficially there are rumored to be 113 stall and distraction techniques, but this is only a myth and the exact figures are top secret and perhaps we’ll never know. This is Cingulars version of the “Grassy Knoll” and to speak of it may be endangering my next phone bill at this very moment. )

Do you get the big picture? This is big business’s version of “You can’t fight city hall”. The sad truth is the customer is not always right any more; in fact we’re almost never right, because they have an excuse for everything. They have it right there in front of them in the form of cheat sheets. You say this, they say that. They don’t care about giving the individual “Customer Service”. They target millions of people all in the same fish bowl. If you or I have a problem they really aren’t concerned about losing our $50 or $150 dollars a month, they have trained people to deal with dis-satisfied customers and they call those specialists “Customer Service Reps”, which translated means “see you, wouldn’t wanna be you”. Face it folks, you can’t win, the best you can do is think you won, and go away happy. And that is where Customer Service Reps excel.

If you enjoyed this article, please visit Jay's Family sites at Jays Plan - Secrets of a Single Dad and Family Health With Mister Mom

Jay Bartels is the author of many human interest stories. Jay's own story of hope and inspiration can be found on his highly resourcefull family sites. Jay is a single father raising two young girls and shares his experiences in several journals that can be found on his web sites.

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