I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled like you get when you're having a tooth pulled or you've got poison ivy on your schnitzel. Why? It's because our relocation stateside has put me in close, intimate contact with many of America's finest industries: the home improvement industry (carpet installers, hardware stores, paint dealers, appliance shops), too many technology companies to count (cell phone, software, cable and internet), also the retail industry, I've been buying insurance, refinancing our mortgage and purchasing two cars. Normally you have a handful of these transactions per month but I'm getting a four year dose in a few weeks. It's tough to take. But when you restart your life after four years abroad you pretty much start from scratch. Sadly, this kind of scratch does nothing against that annoying ivy itch. (That metaphor is a big stretch and if you think it's a failed metaphor, I won't argue.)
The entire process of dealing with nearly 1000 imbeciles is a nightmare. I wake up at night haunted by computer-voices asking me to push 1 for new customers, push 2 for commercial accounts, push 3 for problems with your bill and all I want to push $#%* and tell someone to shove it up their ass. I'm not going to bore you with details of ten terrible customer service calls because I know you've all been there. But I will give you a brief excerpt from a real online chat transcript between me and the cable company as I tried to locate my "free router" that was a no show after a month. Keep in mind that prior to this chat session I called the company three times to find out where my free router was and each time no one had a record of my order and I had to re-do it each time. Also, realize that between every line of chat below was a one minute wait and a lot of swearing by me.
This is the real transcript – I have not done any of my usual embellishment.
user greg has entered room
Greg>i want to know what the status is of the router i ordered
analyst Rex has entered room
Rex> Hello greg_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Rex. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Rex> Hello Gerg, We appreciate that you are giving us a chance to resolve your issue today. By the way, how are you in this lovely day? I hope you are doing great.
greg_> good thanks
Rex> After reading your concern let me make sure I got it correctly. I understand that you check on your order for our router, am I right?
Rex> So sorry to hear what has happened let me help you out on this issue today.
Rex> I know how frustrating that could be. I understand were you're coming from. Not to worry, I will be more than happy to assist you and work with you hand in hand with your concern today.
Rex> Greg, we do have a dedicated line for order entry and follow ups on the router.
Rex> They are able to trace it down for you.
Rex> Would you like me to get you there?
Rex> But before that Greg let me get the following from you, if you don't mind?
Your Billing Phone Number
Your Account Number
greg_> (I give my name address and phone here).
greg_> i don't know my acct number
Rex> Thank you so much Greg for that information, that does help me a lot.
Rex> By the way, before we end this part of the chat, let me remind you of the things that we have done on this chat today.
greg_> i dont' need a reminder thx
Rex> You had chatted in because you wanted to check on the status of your router order, I resolve your issue by getting your information to our sales department for routers
greg_> i just want to know when my router is coming - i've been wiating for a month
Rex> Greg, it has been my pleasure serving you today and I truly appreciate your understanding and cooperation.
Rex> Would there be anything else that I can help you? I will be glad to assist you further.
greg_> you haven't resloved the issue
Rex> My apologies, let me get you there Greg
Rex> Hang on
Rex>Happy to help you, Greg. Have a good one.
greg_> WHAT IS THE STATUS OF MY ROUTER?
analyst Michelle has entered room
Rex> Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst
Michelle> My pleasure to have you on chat! I always remain committed and focused to provide you quality customer service at my fullest effort. In line with this, we do promise to provide you the best service you deserve. Before anything else, may I ask how was your day going so far?
analyst Rex has left room
greg_> it's going downhill very fast
This went on for about 20 more lines.
This transcript is hardly a revelation. We all know that phone and chat service is inadequate, but what about an in person service issue? Well, I can tell you that is no better. I recently visited my local Ford Dealer about a warranty claim on my 2007 Ranger.
About 1500 miles into my 2000 mile dealership-offered used car warranty I took my Ranger in because on hills (even small hills) the truck (an automatic) rolls backwards in Drive. When I'm sitting on a hill and I switch my foot from the brake to the accelerator, if I'm not lightning quick, I'll roll back two feet. Imagine driving a standard up Lombard Street. It's just like that but I've got an automatic and I'm in Germantown.
Enter "Brandon" the Ford service manager. Smiley. Nice tie. I'm thinking douche bag. "So," I tell Brandon, "I'm at the end of my warranty and I have this roll back problem." Brandon listened to my argument until my first pause.
"It happens on all cars," he tells me.
"No way," I say. "Not like this." After a bit of back and forth he said he would demonstrate how roll back is standard on all cars. Brandon and I load up in some forgettable sedan and he drives to the biggest hill within a mile of the dealership. I'm worried because although my truck would roll back on such a hill, I wasn't sure his sedan would. Well, he pulled up the hill, took his foot off the gas (still in drive) and the car held perfectly still.
"There you have it," I told him. "Now fix my car."
Brandon rubbed his chin. I noticed a cut on his cheek, probably from shaving, but definitely not relevant to this story. Brandon says: "You have a Ford Ranger. We didn’t test a Ford Ranger. The only way to know for sure is to test a Ranger."
"Get one," I said.
On the lot was 2009 Ford Ranger, V6 like mine, 3 liter, just like mine. It was even Red like mine. The truck held the hill like a champ. That's two cars that held the hill but Brandon was not convinced. He wanted to see how my car did on the hill.
We should have started there.
My Ranger was parked in front of the showroom pointing at a very memorable jet black Lincoln Navigator with alloy wheels that looked like ship from The Last Starfighter. Sweet. Brandon was sitting shotgun and I told him to buckle up, this truck ain't safe. "Ever see someone back out of a parking spot in drive?" I asked. Although I was facing the showroom, I put the car in drive and took my foot on the brake. We didn't go forward, we rolled backward from the parking space as if I were in reverse. When I was pointing the correct way, I gave it some gas and off we went. "Convinced?" I asked him.
No. Brandon the jackwagon wanted to do the hill. The hill that was about 20 percent steeper than my parking spot! Of course I'm thinking, if my car just rolled backward in the parking spot don't you think it will also roll backward from the big hill, you jackwagon? Did I say jackwagon? I like saying jackwagon.
Well, just I expected my car rolled back down the hill fast and hard. Brandon had no choice. He had to fix it. But 24 hours later he called me to say there is nothing wrong with my truck. I suggested they put that Navigator behind me and let me put my truck in drive. Brandon didn't laugh. He began a two-minute well-prepared lecture on all the hard work they did which included computer tests, all sorts of tests, they used the phone and called Ford, they even searched all the service bulletins. His final words, however: 'Your truck is normal.' Brandon even said the only way to know my truck was truly faulty was to get a minimum of ten identical 2007 3 liter V6's with red paint and test them. He honestly said this. (Okay, he didn't mention the red paint.) Well, after about a half an hour of me screaming, Brandon said he'd look into it further.
Then something magical happened. Brandon called me the next day and they were very, very happy. He told me everything would be okay. He had decided to do a very expensive replacement of the torque converter. Wow! How reasonable and fair! Why the change of heart?
The reason, as it turns out is, is that the dealer realized they would not have to pay. Not only did my truck have the dealer-offered 2000 mile used car warranty but the truck also had a few hundred miles on the original warranty, something I did not know. This meant the dealer would not have pay but Ford Motor Co. would.
Suddenly, my truck was indeed broken.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is strictly an American thing. This happens everywhere, I'm just sooooo reminded of it lately. I know there's little we can do about it except vent. Well, that's not quite true. Take a look at how these Belgian guys got back at Big Business. It's genius.