Do Not Pass “Go”

I worked in retail for several years about 20 years ago. The one common thing I was taught at all my jobs (crappy as they were) was, “The customer is always right.”

Not sometimes. Not only if every letter of the return policy is followed. Not only if they err on the side of the company gaining money. Always.


I’m finding these days that companies have lost that attitude. I used to be able to call a business and have reasonable conversations with intelligent human beings. People who wanted to make customers happy because they knew that a happy customer meant a returning customer. Okay, they thought. We just lost money on this transaction. But the customer is happy now! Next time she goes to spend money, we can be confident it will be with us!

Not so true these days.

Now, companies seem to be all about getting your money right this second. And if you’re not happy, so what? Either they have the corner on the market and you have no one else to turn to, or they figure they have at least some of your money, and there’s always another sucker waiting around the next turn.

What I want to know is, why? What happened? Why do companies care only about the dollar they can get now, and not the hundreds they might get in the future by keeping their customers happy?

Yes, I know. There are some companies out there like that. As much as I gripe about Walmart (too big, everything’s made in China, yada, yada), I know that if I have an issue with something I purchase, I can pretty well take it back, no questions asked. And Costco has awesome quality products and a kick-butt return policy. I’m here to tell you it’s what keeps me coming back, over and over again. There are other stores I’ve loved shopping in, until it’s time to return something, or I have a question. Then I get a run-around. Sorry, folks, I’m not a scammer. Don’t treat me as such. I will walk out that door and never come back.

And phone-based customer service? Forget it. Pressing numbers through fifteen levels of automated prompts is NOT customer service. It may make things easy on them (maybe), but not the customer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finally reached a human and been so angry just from the wait I wanted to throttle them. And then they open their mouths, and the games commence:

The “Eighty Redundant Questions” game. Why did I just enter ALL of that information after the automated prompts if you are going to turn around and ask me everything again?

The “What Phone Number Are You Calling From” game. Seriously? Every house in freaking America has Caller ID, and you don’t? Oh, btw, you are the phone company–are you really telling me you don’t know my home number?

The “I Can’t Pull Up That Account/Order/Information” game. Of course not. Why should all my info be accessible? So much easier and more efficient if I need someone from billing AND orders AND management to access different parts of my account. Especially if they are not all there in one place at one time.

The “Let Me Transfer You” game. Which we all know leads to being disconnected about half the time, and then we get sent back to “Start.”

 The “I Can’t Authorize That” game. Well, no, of course not. You are just there to read the bill for the people who can’t understand its convoluted layout. Any real authority is about seventy zillion levels above you. And, no, that person is not here today…

The “My Manager Says” game. This, for me, is usually followed by my request to speak to the manager, which is summarily refused. Or, the “manager” is really just a sub-manager-whatever who is quoting from some script that is only slightly more detailed than the customer service rep’s.

The “That Credit Will Show Up on Your Next Bill” game. If, by some miracle, you actually get someone to say they can do what you request, you still have to wait until your next bill shows up. At which time you discover what the rep said was total bull, and you have to start over.

Customer Service is a dying art. I’m doing my best to keep it alive, though, by switching from companies with poor CS to those with good CS. Yes, even if it means I pay more for something. Yes, even if it means going out of my way. Because I’ve been on both sides of the cash register, and I believe wholeheartedly that the games need to stop. These companies that care only about immediate profit and not people need to wake up. Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Another Dime of My Money. I’m tired of the games.

About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

6 comments on “Do Not Pass “Go”

  1. Sounds like my efforts to pay off and close my credit card. Those people are EVIL. The month I thought I could close my account, they slapped me with a fee and then said that because I still had a balance (from their fee) they couldn’t close my account.

    And let’s not even start on what my insurance has done to me …

    • I feel your pain, Kessie! It’s the dirty, underhanded stuff, and the double-standards that get me! If we don’t pay our bills, they can cancel us, but if they break the rules, too bad, so sad. My latest situation involves a company not complying with their own rules and then basically saying, “Well, we don’t *have* to do that.” Really??? I’m being held to a technicality, but, er, technically, the reason I goofed is *they* didn’t do what they were supposed to do *first* and now we’re past the deadline. So I’m being charged for a service I don’t actually get.

  2. Yes, Kat, that is often the case. I’ve never had problems with Wal-Mart, Publix Supermarket, or Amazon.com. All of them have rectified mistakes made.

    • Same here, for all three of those stores. A lot of people complain about Amazon monopolizing. But honestly, with the customer service I’ve gotten from them I can understand why they have been so successful. It’s not just about price and convenience. It’s about them always being helpful when I need them to be.

  3. What I find interesting is that few companies seem to have noticed that 1. Customer service improves when employees have more autonomy and 2. Employees who have more autonomy are more engaged and motivated. So one simple policy change (grant more autonomy) can produce two benefits that will improve business. So why don’t more companies do this?

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