Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bad Businesses Annoy Me

Christmas shopping is a time for businesses to really step up the customer service so you build loyalty.  Then there are those who are so bad at it they make you turn and run the other way.  Some examples I’ve experienced over the past month:

* Target.com – I order two products at once, one for my child and one for my wife.  I start getting emails saying “Something in your order is delayed.”  It does not tell me WHAT, mind you.  But it does tell me “Hey, just so you know, it’s too late to cancel this.  You can always return it.”  I’m not kidding.  They literally taunt me for a month, sending about 1-2 emails a week, always saying the same thing - “Delayed, can’t cancel.”  That is until today when they finally say “Yeah, that thing for your wife?  We gave up and cancelled your order.”  So basically my choices were to go out and buy one and possibly end up with two, and then have to go through the hassle of returning something after Christmas (fun!), or wait and hope it would show up, only to find out now, too late to do anything about it, that it’s not coming at all.

* Ticketmaster.com – I’m not the first to rant about their “convenience charge”, but really, there’s not enough ranting to do this one justice.  I’m already paying $88/ticket, plus a “building fee”, and then they’re going to slap a $12 fee on top of that?  For CONVENIENCE?  Newsflash, Ticketmaster – your site is anything but convenient.  Quite frankly it sucks, it’s one of the worst ticket buying options around.  Do I get to pick my tickets?  Do I get to see how much of orchestra section is available?  Or whether I could compare my seats on a Saturday afternoon versus an evening show?  Nope, none of that.  You know what is convenient?  I used to work in downtown Boston, and for tickets I once walked over to the box office at the Wang Center.  The nice lady broke out a seating chart and began showing me options.  She compared shows for me, and helped pick a good set of seats on a good day.  Charge for that?  Zero.

* T-Mobile – I’m so sad about T-Mobile.  I’ve been a customer forever.  8 years and counting, they tell me.  Since it was Voicestream, since it was Omipoint.  I’m pretty sure it’s even longer than that, it is the only cell phone I’ve ever had.  I once had to buy a phone in a hurry (on vacation my existing one fell in the ocean), and I called them up later to basically say “Yeah, I’d rather not extend my contract, but I still want the discount please.”  And got it.  When I called customer service I would hear them gasp when they looked at how long I’d been a customer, and often they’d thrown in an unsolicited “thank you for being so loyal” comment.  Well, I wanted an Android G1.  I really did.  My wife needs a new phone as well.  So I called up recently and said “Any chance I can get a G1 without the contract extension?”  Lady on the phone said no.  I said, “I’ve been a customer forever, I really don’t like having to lock myself into a contract after all these years.”  Still, no.  So I said, “If you insist on treating me like a new customer no matter how long I’ve been a customer, shouldn’t I just try my business with somebody else?”  She said, “You can do that if you want.”

That’s annoying enough.  What’s worse is that this week I got a letter from their marketing department specifically citing me as one of their top 5% loyal customers.  I realize it’s just a promotional gimmick, but still, the timing is horrendous.  Here’s one operator who basically acknowledges that in real life T-Mobile doesn’t care at all about customer loyalty, and I’m presented with a document that says “Sure we do.”  The offer itself was even more insulting, something about a free “companion airfare.”  The catch being that you had to book your travel 30 days in advance, and the travel had to happen before the middle of February.  So doing the math you basically have to live a life where you get this unexpected letter, drop everything and say “Hey honey let’s go book a trip.”  In this economy.  Yeah.

I once complained on this blog about my Dell laptop, and a Dell customer advocate found it and fixed my problem.  I’m curious if any of these companies are smart enough to keep an eye on the blogs to try and make customers happier.  I don’t really care about Ticketmaster, I think they know they’re bastards who are abusing their monopoly.  Target I expect is just too incompetent to really do anything about the problem (they refunded the money, so other than that, what can they really do?  It’s Christmas, my wife does not have the gift, thanks a lot).  But like I said, I’m upset about T-Mobile, and still wishing that I didn’t have to leave them.  I’m even eyeing the rumors of a G2 coming soon….

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