The Complaints Department - Have a Gripe? You're in Good Company!
Welcome to the Complaints Department
Hey - are you out there sitting on hold waiting for customer service? Been an hour or so, right? Well, here's a great place to browse while you stay queued for those canned (or unintelligible) answers. We have a lot more than today's customer service environment to discuss, though. There are products and companies, large and small, along with all the little things in life that are simply irritating! Have fun - and gripe away!
The Little Things
They say don't stress the small stuff. Sometimes those little annoyances can be a deal breaker that determines how your day goes.
1. Neighborhood watch signs with tiny print (yeah, that's it to the right) that you can't read until you're two feet away. Now, which burglar do you know is going to concentrate on stopping and reading a sign?
2. Face cleansing soap that burns your eyes.
3. Online retailers that don't provide shipping charges until checkout. In fact, some don't even tell you which credit cards they accept until you're on that l-a-s-t page.
4. Junk Mail Credit Cards - and you're pre-approved!
5. Product Registration Cards that are open-faced so all your information is in view. Foldovers would be nice.
6. Catalogs with your name plastered all over the middle insert. Remember to pull those things out when you shred (you are shredding, right?)
7. Old-fashioned popcorn machines loaded with buttered-up kernels in the lobby of a hospital.
8. Concession stand prices - and oh-so-healthy, too.
9. Billboards touting clean restrooms (20 miles ahead - clean restrooms - but the billboard is tattered and faded. hmmmmmm)
10. Matches that break in half while you're striking them. Fire hazard, anyone?
11. The assumption by manufacturers (hair products in particular) that everyone loves the smell of coconut.
12. Hotel/Motel Internet Access - For those of you who travel with a laptop, who has noticed the cost of Internet access? WiFi and broadband are often free at the lower end motels while high-end hotels charge. Rather in reverse, don't you think?
How many billions of times do we hear these - they "seriously" just need to go away.
Watch this list grow!
On the Job
-Think outside the box (please let this one die)
-"We" can do it (the ever-so-royal "we," that is)
-Won't take you five minutes to whip that out (major design project, I presume?)
-Don't worry, you have tenure ("you're making waaaaay too much money - pink slip is on its way)
-We have to batten down the hatches (you're outta here)
-Back in the Day (Which day might that be? Sounds pretty silly when you're only talking about the 1980s.)
Big Company Complaints
We have plenty of larger companies to complain about, don't we? Some make the short list and get a category of their own.
AAA - Non-Customer Retention
AAA is not on the fast track to customer retention. Some weeks ago, we let our membership lapse, but recently chose to renew. Paid the fee of $52 plus $30 for premium roadside service. No card came. We received an invoice for $20 without an explanation as that this new charge was for.
With a phone call, we learned the extra $20 was for being a lapsed member.
When we asked to cancel over that stupidity, we found our original check of $82 could not be refunded.
How's that for great customer service? Renewal incentives, anyone?
(In order not to lose the $82, we were basically forced to pay the additional money.)
Blue Cross Blue Shield (of Texas)
Nice - the older you get, the more frequently health insurance companies raise rates (with no health issues on the table). Up to two rate changes per year and when you're footing the bill, sooner or later it hits a ceiling you don't want to/can't go past. Sure, it's time to shop around. In the meantime:
Step 1 - try to downgrade to a lower level by mail (this is the one where you pay for ALL office visits)
Step 2 - receive letter - can't do it this way.
Step 3 - call a rep and are redirected to fill out a new form.
Step 4 - informed there's a $30 fee to downgrade.
Step 5 - the $30 fee is applied toward payment at the ORIGINAL level (the one you don't want).
Step 7 - letter arrives stating it's the wrong form. (And, by the way, when they receive the new one, they'll "consider" whether to allow it or not.)
Step 8 - letter arrives stating you've been canceled.
Step 8 - phone call clears it up - the canceled letter is for previous policy level; new ID card on way.
Step 9 - cancel appointments/hope for no emergencies while WAITING for new card.
Thanks, Blue Cross Blue Shield for taking thousands of dollars each year and making me go through the hoops to find something affordable.
What's not to complain about?
Service and product quality at Wal-Mart defy description. The down side is that for many folks, it's the only place within a few miles to actually shop. Always keep an eye on prices - they can slip some good ones in on you.
We're taking a stab at our biggest gripes. Boy, does it continue to grow!
-Frozen foods - don't be so sure they have always been in the frozen state. We've been to the store and spent up to 90 minutes wandering the aisles. The same boxes of frozen foods remain sitting all alone on the floors, waiting for stocking.
-Cold food - same deal here. We've returned home with butter that clearly melted while it was on its side, then refrigerated again.
-Pricing - Not "always" low. And not "always" the same at the checkout counter as you see on the shelf tags.
-Product of China. This goes from dog toys to ingredients in foods that don't have to be listed by law.
-Dog toys - Always check those rag tug-of-war toys. I once found a very large, very sharp metal spike in one. The manager was rather "not" interested when I took it to her.
-Checkout clerks. You can always tell who's new - they're still friendly. Some are downright scary, rude, and a host of other words we won't mention here. Who ya' gonna complain to? The managers are those who have been promoted from checkers.
-Meeter Greeters - saving this one for last. They're often too busy talking to other employees to acknowledge they have a job of, er, greeting.
AAA - Thanks for the Lack of Customer Service
AAA has a few quirks that are definitely not customer-service friendly. We let our membership lapse for four months, and when we did decide to renew, we found an unexpected $20 charge on our statement.
The $20 was for letting the membership lapse.
Then, our decision was just to cancel as we had not received a usable card yet. Nope, you can't cancel once they receive your payment. Nonrefundable.
Now, how's that for not-so-great customer service?
Companies That Don't Acknowledge Problems
These are both large and small companies that know a product is bad or has a fault, but refuse to acknowledge it. Their solution: Replace it at your expense of course!
We present our "case load" below.
GE - Case in Point
We're seeing a larger failure in General Electric appliances as a whole. But our very nice and beautiful fridge seems to have a problem with the line to the water dispenser freezing and, of course, not working. According to on-line research, this is a very common issue among consumers. Their solution? Replace the door for about $500. Our fix? Keep the freezer door open for 30-45 minutes and the problem is resolved for about 2 weeks - until the next big freeze-up.
Allstate - Case in Point
You're in Not-So-Good Hands
Whatever you do, don't file a claim no matter how small. You'll likely get dumped. An estimator arrives and in a non-biased way cases the joint. In our case, we had old security alarm company stickers on the windows, although we were hooked up through a new company. Of course, it was also our luck that repairmen were at the house that day. Of course they were "fixing." A week later, we received notice we were being dropped. Our "non-biased" estimator, who had been there to have a look at minor damage from a garage leak, had called the old alarm company based on the stickers. She had also said our home was in need of repairs (those that were "fixed" and then inspected).
The solution? Shop around - in all likelihood, you'll find a new company and a lower price. We did!
Target Credit Cards - Case in Point
You can enjoy a rather significant savings on larger purchases by signing up for a Target card on the same day. Everyone gets all excited when you do that, too. Commissions, anyone? What they don't tell you is that there are two cards to choose from - one is an in-store card and the other is an actual credit card. If you don't need another credit card, you're stuck, but you won't know that until you receive the first billing statement.
Chili's Restaurants - Case in Point
When You Gotta Go
As much as we love Chili's, we do have a beef. In towns with lower populations, they build smaller restaurants. Granted, we personally are grateful for that. However, in the layout, they lop off the non-smoking portion where the restrooms are generally located. That means anyone needing to "take a trip" must weave through an area often filled with smoke. At the very least, younger children are exposed to those who are imbibing - or have imbibed to the upper limits. Not a good example, is it?
Disclaimer: We always sit in the bar area and do imbibe.
Credit Card Companies - Case in Point
Is Your Credit Card on Hold?
You have a high credit line, but typically don't make huge purchases. You even pay it off monthly, perhaps. Then, one day you bite the big one and go for it. A single purchase that ranges between $800-$1400. Your card is rejected. The clerk gives you a knowing look (or states outright in front of everyone that you must be over your limit). You have no recourse - either put it on another card (American Express - no questions asked) or walk away.
What happened? It appears that some credit card companies put an automatic "hold" on cards until a big purchase is made. Of course, they don't tell you this until you return home and make contact. Sometimes they'll even call after the fact to let you know "someone" might have tried to use your card. Your "personal customer service rep" - often situated overseas - will then release that "hold" while you're on the phone.
Bottom line: When you're ready to buy big - make sure you're in the clear first. Give them a call.
McDonald's Restrooms - Case in Point
Let's face it. Happy Meals aside, we've all run into a McDonald's to use their facilities. When they first began popping up years ago, it was like the replacement for gas station restrooms where you for sure had to "fill up" as a Thank You for taking advantage. In those days, you could count on any McDonald's restroom being spotless. As "payment," most of us probably at least bought a cup of coffee (not great-tasting then) or a McMuffin or fries, or something. McDonald's is no longer the gold standard for clean restrooms. In fact, they're right up there with some very interesting places you might find overseas. I doubt the marketers have factored that into any loss of sales, you think?
Hampton Bay - Case in Point
We bought a really cool light fixture from Hampton Bay (exclusive brand of Home Depot) and installed above a counter that divides the kitchen and living area. It's contemporary, brushed metal with four lights on a wavy bar. Not long after, in the evening, we heard this crash and bounce.
Checked out the kitchen and noticed that a rim had popped off one of the lights. Picked it up - ouch, ouch, HOT! The next day, we replaced it. Over the next few weeks, this continued - not just on one, but on three out of the four. Tried electrical tape - didn't hold. At this point, it was time to do research - we're afraid one will pop and land on us or the dog.
We found that:
Hampton Bay no longer makes these types of fixtures.
They recalled one particular style only, but not ours.
It was a forced recall due to Home Depot employees complaining that the fixtures were popping off of display units in stores.
See the photo below - the first bulb has no rim while the last two still have them attached. We're just asking - why wasn't there a recall across the board?
One last question - how many of these fixtures are still out there?
Hampton Bay Light Fixture with Pop-Off Rim (Hot!)
Stearns Life Vest - Case in Point
Bring on the Purple Dye - Life Vest Fades!
The Stearns adult V-Flex Watersports life vest fades. Not on the outside from the sun - on the inside, leaving bright purple dye all over clothing. Granted, this particular model came from Wal-Mart and it could be a special offering made for the big-box chain.
Here you can get a good look at the vest as well as the damage it does. The front of the Stearns spreads dye on one side only, while the back leaves you with pretty good coverage. To date, the back did wash out, but there is difficulty in getting the front to come clean. No luck, yet.
The vest has been returned to Wal-Mart, but since they stock a whole bunch of Stearns life vest models, you may want to keep your receipt.
Not Better Mousetraps - Tomcat Brand
How to dispose of cheese - put it on a Tomcat mousetrap
The classic wooden mousetrap did not get better with this company. Not with cheese nor with peanut butter over the course of two nights. Four traps set each night; all food consumed by morning. Traps still untriggered. And it's not exactly brain surgery to set them correctly. If you're in the market for wooden mousetraps, try another brand besides Tomcat. Otherwise, you're just inviting the neighborhood rodent population in for a free buffet.
The Job - Just a Gripe or Two
Now, here's a loose cannon filled with a blast of gripes. We can start at the top, of course - the B.O.S.S. Then, we work our way down to all our great co-workers; peers, if you must.
Bosses - Let 'er Rip!
--The Napoleon syndrome - the shortie boss who overloads on conceit. They generally think they're bulletproof. (They don't have to be just overly nice to underlings, either.)
--"Spare me the details" - The ones who don't know what your job is. They wander by, stop in the doorway to chitchat, but are always afraid to come in and sit down for a "real" discussion.
--The Instigator - This is the boss who loves to jibe and joust until two employees are going after each other while the "instigator" walks away laughing.
--The "my workplace is my personal playground" boss. This is the one who doesn't mind asking employees for personal stuff - like picking up laundry or doing a little extra paperwork for the kids' school projects.
Job Reviews: The Annual Rip 'n Burn
Who hasn't heard a few of these?
--"Well, I can't give you high ratings for everything, or you wouldn't have anything to strive for in the future."
--"We're going to give you a new title." (No salary increase, but how neat - an IMPORTANT title on your business card.)
People, People, People
Oh, if everyone were perfect, eh?
--People who leave shopping carts in parking lots without returning them to the collection area. Now, how hard is that?
Get a Grip on Griping
When those little things get under your skin, here are some stress relieving ideas.
Can't say it any better than Dilbert! Squeeze 'em, throw 'em, see how many walls you can hit before they land on the corner file cabinet.
Boss Catapult - now here's a handy gadget for sending someone "straight to the moon."
Customer Service T-Shirt
Spread the word about customer service on a Tee
Available in 14 colors and value-priced at $17.99 + shipping
Names We Won't Name
(Oh, the heck we won't)
--Shoe treads that are so small they pick up gravel and dirt that tracks through the house and scratches floors. (Hello, Reebok)
--Cooking spatulas that melt in the skillet (Yes, that's you, Good Cook)
--We give credit to companies that provide low-salt canned goods. Giorgio's is a case in point. On the other hand, in two recent instances, there have been "issues." The first was a horribly disfigured mushroom - with huge black growths all over it. Nice to look at. The second was a nearly empty can. Interesting - at the company's web site, there is no way to make consumer contact. They're all about wholesalers. Now, how's that for customer service? Update - Not too many weeks later, a similar smaller mushroom with the same hideously warty appearance showed up in another can. You don't need to see more than one of these, do you?
--Landing on the exorbitant shipping cost pile: Tracker Boats - Anyone ordered a ball cap from them lately? Found a nice one for $11.00 - what a deal. Got almost through checkout before they slapped on a $4.95 handling charge. Even better, a $10.95 shipping charge added to the insult. Same setup for the $6.00 hat, too. We're not talking weighty items, here. What gives when shipping and handling is far more than the product cost? Hmmmm?
--Dell is charging a fee so you can get help with their computers from an English-speaking representative. Yep, folks - if you're only in need of temporary communications, English comes at $12.95 per month. If you need someone who's somewhat easy to understand to hold your hand for a year - you'll have to pony up $99. That's if there's a problem with THEIR computers, of course. Get it?
--Tax software from H&R Block that arrives in the mail. These little packages want you to pony up $34.95 for the privilege of being on someone's mailing list. Shop around - this same package is as low as $19.99 at Amazon.
--Where in the world is Amazon Signout? There's so much to love about Amazon, but have you tried to sign out when you're through shopping? Check any product page - top and bottom. Nope, not there. You have to figure out that the "my account" button on the top blue bar is your first hint. Click on that. Another page comes up and now you can find the light blue box with the signout button over on the right.
The English Equation
OK, so how far should we go in providing alternatives to the English language? Written driving exams in Spanish certainly won't help anyone read U.S. road signs. Here we are a melting pot and we only support two languages?
ATM Machines - Case in Point
ATM machines are now showing a welcome screen with the question - Spanish or English? To be fair, shouldn't there be an entire menu, such as Vietnamese, Italian, and Scandinavian? Of course, everyone accessing these machines can recognize a $20 bill (I think). Those are still in English, aren't they? Those American bills are heading straight to Western Union, by the way. Zippo - outta the country within minutes!
Great Ways to Gripe from Amazon
If you have a complaint, these books will show you how to do it well.
Read the Fine Print
Cell phone billing is one process where reading the fine print may not help. And asking a representative won't help unless you know what questions to ask.
Case in point: Verizon. With a recent change/upgrade, along with the purchase of two new phones, we were very pleased with our new package. We were not as happy about having to switch a nearly-new phone for the same model because "you're changing plans and we're not Alltel anymore." Fine, deal was done at the local store, we signed papers, and were on our merry way.
You can imagine a slight surprise when the first bill came in - it was double what we had expected. In addition, the add-ons piled on another $21.00. What they didn't tell us? Oh, for the first month's billing on a new plan, you're charged for two months (the add-ons being accumulated taxes). Really?
Be prepared for this hit if you're going to upgrade. If it's not in your budget, you may be in for a real surprise.
More Verizon shenanigans: This company tends to add monthly charges for add-ons and apps without telling you. We were charged $4.99 a month as an "insurance policy" against damage for one phone, but never gave permission nor requested the service. Additionally, a relative suddenly received a music app to replace the ringtone for $.99 a month with requesting it. In both cases, a trip to local Verizon offices took care of the matter.
The bottom line with any cell phone company: Always check your bill.
Commercials - A Few Things to Gripe About
Some commercials take artistic license on purpose. Others, you just wonder who was in charge that day?
--Brinks - The homeowner tells the operator: "Someone just tried to break in!" (First of all, the door has just been kicked in - that's a wee bit beyond "tried," don't you think?)
--TXU - Commercials are all about concern for the environment. Yes, their energy plants are responsible for the poorest air quality in Texas.
Other Great Places to Gripe
The Silly Side of Complaints
Things to complain about can take an amusing turn - all at the expense of the company, of course!
-AT&T phone problems. If your landline goes out, you can always give them a call (from a cellphone, of course) and be put on hold. OR, you can visit their web site if you don't have dialup. Their instructions when you have a problem? Give them your phone number so they can call you or submit the problem and (da ding!) they'll reply by mail (as in - the Post Office). What?????
-On occasion, the ISP for my web site changes customer passwords. This is a temporary thing that you have to re-set when you log in. From a security standpoint it's an excellent idea. They send an e-mail with the temp password. You log in and set it to a new one. Very easy. However, I loved their note that was posted AFTER I logged in. It said: If you are unable to access your account with the temporary password, please read this."
Helsinki Complaints Choir - Complaints Choirs put a Musical Voice to Everyday Issues
It's hilarious - complaints put to music. This one is dubbed, but you'll see that our favorite complaints are quite universal.
At the tone, please leave a message. We PROMISE to get right back!