“customer service” iii

I think of myself overall as a pretty accepting person. I’m not saying that I never get angry, but I try to choose my battles carefully, and only to rage when I’ve been pushed beyond reason. Of course, this happens fairly frequently when driving, as most people behind the wheel are morons, probably have difficulty walking and chewing gum at the same time, and are too busy talking on their cell phones to pay attention to the task at hand.

I can also “lose it” when dealing with Second Son and his habit of leaving whatever dishes he’s used to accumulate at “his” end of the dining table for us to stare at grimly over our eggs and coffee in the morning, or when my dear lovely daughter waits until the last minute for the 457th time before collecting her belongings to head out the door for school or gymnastics or to go to her dad’s on Fridays.

But nothing pushes me over the edge like trying to deal with customer service people by phone.

So here’s the story.

I bought Second Son a videocamera for Christmas at Target. It cost $300, quite a bit more than I usually spend on Christmas presents, but I had helped buy First Son a computer, and Second Son is planning on going to college to study film next year, so I thought it would be appropriate and fair and I’ll just buy him less for his next 3 birthdays or something. I had a feeling he would maybe rather have an iPod touch, but thought I would encourage what I thought might be something more “useful” to him (as if!), and this way, if he had it in his hand, he might at least consider it. Therefore, I included a note with the gift that said “If you would rather have an iPod touch, do NOT open this package, and you can exchange after Christmas.” I purchased the camera with my Target redcard, to take advantage of the 5% discount.

You can all imagine what happened. He wanted the iPod touch, so badly in fact that he wanted to know if he could go to Target on Christmas Eve to exchange it. He goes to Target the day after Christmas (he actually sets his alarm so he can be there by 7 a.m. to beat the crowds; this is the boy we never see before noon on weekends). He takes the videocamera, the receipt, and my Target card. They accept the camera, but rather than credit the redcard and then put the iPod back on the redcard, obviously applying the same 5% discount they had applied to the videocamera, they credit it via a “giftcard” and then use the giftcard to purchase the iPod. Of course, they tell him, since they aren’t using the redcard for the iPod purchase, they “can’t” give him the 5% discount. Right. They “can’t” use the redcard to credit the original purchase, but they “can” use the redcard to charge the difference, resulting in the loss of the discount. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

He’s 17; he’s been taught to respect authority, plus he has a new shiny iPodtouchwithretinadisplay, so he says ok.

Well, not ok. I’ve been ripped off, and I’m not happy about it.

So today I finally decide it’s time to do something about it. As I review the original receipt before calling, I notice that I was also charged twice for the purchase of one movie. (Has anyone ever noticed how those mistakes almost always go in the store’s favor? Anyway. . .)

I get the phone number off the internet. I dial it. It’s 1:03 p.m. I weave my way through a tangled web of automated instructions, including entering the last 4 digits of my redcard and the last 4 digits of my social security number. (Has anyone noticed that these automated systems always ask for this information, but when you finally get an actual person they ask you for it again? Is this just a way to keep you busy so you don’t realize that you’re actually on hold for 20 minutes? Sometimes they ask so many questions I’m surprised they don’t ask what color socks I’m wearing or I have Prince Albert in a can.) Because of “high call volume,” there will be “an unusually long wait time.” I wait. At 1:14 I get a helpful young woman who agrees to put the 2nd movie, the one I didn’t buy, “in dispute,” assuring me that until it is resolved I do not have to pay that part of my credit card bill. Well that’s a relief.  I explain the rest of the problem (for full effect, go back and read the 2 paragraphs above which explain the predicament). Unfortunately, she is “not qualified to help,” but can forward me to “someone who can.” She helpfully gives me the direct number, in case the call is lost, and forwards me onward. I then weave my way through yet another tangled web of automated instructions, instructions which sound an awful lot like the automated instructions I followed at 1:03 p.m., and after another long wait, because of high call volume, I get Neil. I repeat my tale of woe (go back and read those 2 paragraphs again). He informs me that I have apparently followed the wrong series of prompts, and have reached someone who is unable to solve my problem. He forwards me on to “someone who can.” I find myself looped back to exactly where I started, so I hang up and dial the number Customer Service Representative #1 gave me earlier; remember? in case the call is lost? It is now 1:27. I’m not very happy right now, and I’m afraid it’s going to start being apparent in the tone of my voice. The last time I was this angry at Customer Service I pissed the lady at Comcast off so badly she twisted my internet service into so many knots it took 3 managers and 36 hours to fix it. So I take a few deep breaths, redial the number, follow the tangled web yet again, wait an “unusually long time” and end up with René. After repeating my tale of woe a 3rd time (go ahead, read it again; I dare ya’!) he apologizes that he can’t help me, and offers to forward me to “someone who can.” At this point I interrupt, tell him that I have spent the past half hour following instructions and prompts and waiting and being forwarded to people who are purported to be able to help me but can’t, and that I have no interest in being sent on yet again. He then apologizes for the inconvenience, and says to me, and I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP: “The reason you keep getting looped around is because that department is closed.” He then recommends that I call again tomorrow.

Do they do this on purpose? It’s $15; do they figure that if they jerk you around for long enough you’ll just give up? Is this Day 3 of their job training?

I’m calling back tomorrow. And maybe, in the process, I should offer to send them a bill for the time I’ve spent trying to remedy their self-serving fraud.

Grrrrr. . .

7 Responses to ““customer service” iii”

  1. January 16, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    And they wonder why people go off the deep end?!

  2. 2 Melissa
    January 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    These kinds of things can not and should not be handled over the phone. Figure out how much you are owed and bring all your receipts and the card in question and go to the store. If possible, go early on a weekday morning when the customer service desk isn’t busy. Start by asking to speak to a manager. They won’t let you, but you should at least try. Don’t leave until they correct the issue. It may take an hour, and you’ll probably explain the problem to at least 3 people, but it’s better to have the “right person” come to you than to be transfered.

  3. January 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Hate to say it, but I’ve had SUCH bad luck with Target recently. I feel like they do not care about individual customers, but only about profit as a whole. And the “policies” in place these days make customer service so impersonal. It seems that hardly anyone can ever actually solve my problem at Target. After pulling teeth and practically having an emotional breakdown, I get handed a $3 coupon “for my patience”. $3??? Why not $5? I was almost so offended that I didn’t want to take the coupon. How cheap is Target anyway? With all the double-charging and over-charging of customers they do,they can afford a $5 patience coupon.

  4. January 17, 2011 at 12:09 am

    I wasn’t laughing when I read this, honestly, but I had a wry sense of humor about it. Why? I’ve had exactly this experience so many times with the customer service department of so many companies that I knew intimately what you were going through. That department was closed? Didn’t even make me blink. I thought, of course it was.

    It took me 2 months to get a replacement for a Sony hand-held recorder I’d bought that stopped working properly (within a year, so it was covered by the warrantly). TWO MONTHS. And that was only because I called repeatedly and nudged everyone along, because as soon as it was being ‘handled’ by someone, I’d wait for weeks, call, and find out the process was stalled yet again. TWO MONTHS.

    You have more patience than I have. I eventually end up screaming at someone, who helpfully hangs up, then eventually I get put through to a manager because at that point I’m speaking through gritted teeth, saying, “Someone just hung up on me.” This usually elicits sympathy and being forwarded to a manager — after waiting on hold for :15.

    I sympathize, but have come to understand that customer service in this country is simply a joke any more. None of the people you talk to up front have the authority to do anything of real value. Managers are never available (they are always, in my experience, “in a meeting”). You never get put through to the correct department. If you are, very often the call gets cut off. It happens so often and with so many companies that I can’t blame Target, or Comcast, or my bank, or whatever. They are ALL run this way.

    I think taking it in in person is your best bet, as Melissa suggested. Good luck.

  5. January 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    This problem is not exclusive to the U.S.A. It’s everywhere where there’s big business, chain stores, multi-nationals, etc.
    I won’t tell you the process I’ve been going through in Rule Britannia to resolve a misleading sales process for my internet service. I could cut and paste the letter of complaint but I don;t think you need to read it.

    My suggestion? Cut up the Target card and shop elsewhere. Maybe you’ll lose your 5% discount but you’ll also shed a ton of frustration and find the 5% is saved through less money spent to make yourself feel better.

  6. January 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Target used to be known for their customer service. Something’s changed, and it disappoints me greatly.

    Also, why should I have to give up MY precious time to drive somewhere inconveniently located so that they can correct THEIR mistakes? Time IS money, especially in my “business,” and this kind of time-suck really triggers a lot of resentment.

    • January 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      I know how you feel. It’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it? I don’t remember that Target was known for its customer service! Wish I had, although if I had known that then the change would have made me feel resentful, too.

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