Paying Extra for Average Customer Service

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We have been bombarded with robocalls this past year. At least 10 times each week, we get automatic calls to our home’s landline. The calls can show up on caller ID as “private” or “credit card security” or “bankers trust,” so we don’t really know where they come from.

And of course when we answer the phone, there is no one there or no message left. This had gotten aggravating to the point where we got serious about having our landline taken out; if we did so, the only one we would have to tell is my mother. Everyone else uses our cell phone numbers or my business line.

So my wife called our phone carrier and spoke to someone about this. We’re on the “no telemarketing calls” list, she pointed out, so what happened? Why are we still getting all of these unwanted calls? The person on the other end of the phone informed her that the “no call” thing was now obsolete because that was for telemarketing and these calls we were getting were not telemarketing calls.

But she said there was something else we could do…for a fee, of course.  We could pay an extra fee every month and then if we wanted to register each call as it came in by pushing a few buttons right after they came in, they would be stopped. It was only five bucks a month.

Great. So now we have to pay $60 a year and do something to get rid of this inconvenience. How much money is the phone company making off of their avoidance and incompetence?

Remember when things used to work, and services and systems were more efficient and, yes, everything was included as part of the service that we were paying for? Now we live in a world of lousy service, full of inefficiencies and incompetence, and we have to pay a special fee to preclude that incompetence and get the service we used to get.

The airlines, of course, have turned this technique into a great moneymaker.

Here is what I mean:

  • Some genius came up with the zone or group method of boarding airliners; you know what I’m talking about. And of course it doesn’t work, so now for a fee you can pay to be in the first group that boards. So there you have it: From good service to lousy new, inefficient system to having to pay a fee for the privilege of circumventing the incompetence.
  • Then there are the seats. Airlines are trying to cram as many seats as possible into the smallest amount of space while the rest of us get bigger and bigger. There was more room on the slave ships than we get on some airlines; I figured it out once. So what’s the solution? Easy, pay a fee for an “extra space seat” that gives you about the same amount of space that you used to get.
  • Then there’s the Transportation Safety Administration, that great Kabuki theatre of false security, where their very product is making sure that we spend time there so that we will feel safer and happier about the money we are throwing away on that system. Of course, it doesn’t work and now there are long lines (especially when they want to make a case for hiring thousands more people). But wait! There is a way to avoid the long lines: For a fee, you can get there “even faster.” The small fee entitles you to go through a special line and avoid all of the normal incompetence. I wonder how the TSA and the airlines justify that one. Does the TSA get a piece of the action? If I were ISIS I’d just pay the fee and get through the line faster with my bottle of shampoo and nail file and other weapons of mass destruction.
  • Then, of course, there’s the food. With airlines, it’s always about the food isn’t it? Now there isn’t any. Unless you want to cough up $8 or $10 for something that looks like an adult version of Kraft Lunchables.

But we all know airlines suck, so let’s move on to other industries that now charge us a fee to preclude their incompetence.

JC Penney tried to charge their customers $15 to pay by phone. Fortunately, there was a huge outcry, and because the company was already in dire straits, they dropped this idea.

Some service companies are charging a fee to give you an exact time that they will arrive at your home.

Best Buy now wants you to make an appointment to see their Geeks in their stores. Really? Sorry, Best Buy. Your Geeks are no geniuses…they’re certainly no Apple Geniuses.

Your cable company makes a deal with you for a package with a certain amount of channels, including your favorites, only to dump some of these channels a year later so that you have to upgrade your package to get them back.

So, this is where we are today. We live in a world where companies with gross inefficiencies and incompetencies are not punished. They are rewarded with the opportunity to add extra fees for giving us the distinct privilege of circumventing those very inefficiencies and incompetencies.

There is nothing about this that’s makes any sense, never mind common sense.





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