Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bait and Sprint

Here's how the bait-and-switch game at Sprint works:

1) You order a phone plan online but have to pick the phone up at the store, even though everything else is delivered by drones within two days.
2) The woman at the store informs you that the plan isn't valid. She says "Oh-Kayyyyyyyyyy" when you ask to speak to the manager.
3) The manager corroborates the woman's story. The manager has enormous ears without earlobes.
4) You settle for an inferior plan, so as not to waste money, feeling cheap and disappointed.
5) You receive some time later your "Sprint Store eReceipt & Transaction Summary," indicating a plan totally divorced from the one you ordered and the one you discussed with the woman and manager in the store, where you received no receipt.
6) When you discover that an unambiguously bullshit insurance fee has been secretly tacked on, you fantasize of Sprinticide, or at least a class action suit.
7) You chat with "Kaycee V," an exceedingly polite and generally informed robot, who, after you rant like a crazy person online, says "I see. Thanks for telling me."
8) You post something on a blog that nobody reads and hasn't been updated in years.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Citi Circle

It's been over a year since I added a circle. You might think that I've been enjoying sterling customer service during that time, but the reality is that I was too beaten down by the world of bad customer service to waste any of the scarce time I have either not working or raising a child by complaining about things that already happened that nobody is surprised by and nobody cares about, other than me. Then I spoke to Citi Cards three different times in an hour, and my head exploded. When I cleaned up what was left of my head, I tried to remember the correct name of this site, which is five hundred letters long.

Before my marathon session with Citi today, I had a long conversation with Citi about a month ago, during which they let me know that my identification had been stolen by someone who went on a spending spree at Walgreens and Pollo Tropical. I don't know how this person got my information, but I think it's sad that he or she only spent four dollars at Pollo Tropical before being caught. The amount he or she spent suggests that he or she purchased a five-piece grilled tropical wings, which makes me even sadder. If you're going to rob me and commit a felony, you should at least get eight pieces and two sides, or eight pieces with rice and beans. He or she spent quite a bit more at Walgreens, presumably on ingredients for crystal meth.

Citi refunded me that money and sent me a new card. That should have been the end of the story, but when I logged in to see if everything was okay, I could no longer access my account. I pressed a bunch of links and entered a bunch of information into a bunch of different rectangles--I can only hope the burglar tropical wasn't watching--and sometimes it seemed like I was really getting somewhere. Ultimately, though, nothing worked, and I was forced to do what nobody wants to do: call the credit card and talk to a robot, hoping against reason that the robot will help.

The first robot assured me that I simply had to activate my card--something I'd done weeks ago--and that now that we'd spoken, everything would be fine. The robot was wrong, and I knew that it was wrong as I was hanging up, but something about the self-satisfaction in its electronic voice made me hate the robot deeply, and I could not bear to be on the phone with it a second longer. The second robot had me do all of the things I'd done before, only now there were new options because the second robot was making things happen on its end. I was grateful for the second robot's help, and had I spoken to merely two robots on this evening, there would be no post. But access to my account gave me access to the following information, which had me on the phone with a third robot in no time.


The third robot, to its credit, did not pretend this was anything but a naked scam. The third robot admitted that I should have been notified of this charge (I was not and I can assure you that nobody ever is) and did not fight me when I explained that it had to be removed. I understand that there are people (I say people because corporations are people now) who make a tremendous amount of money by sneaking fees into bills and contracts in ways that are difficult to find, even if you're vigilant. People (who are not corporations) write about this practice all the time, and nobody tries to excuse it. In the big picture, there are many more important things to care about, and I certainly should have spent the time writing this post reading a novel or talking with my wife or finishing the work that I haven't finished. But these corporation people and their abiding robots make me really, really, really mad, and I want them all to be melted and turned into solar panels that fuel lobbies designed to eradicate their existence forever. Then I want to eat a hundred grilled tropical wings.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My My My My My Verizon

Time Warner is the Nautica of phone/cable/web providers, but Verizon is working HARD to catch them.

The customer service at Verizon is so bad that while you're waiting, the automated woman repeatedly encourages you to get off the phone. I tried to follow this excellent advice, but in the online circle of hell known as My Verizon, my PIN was locked. I found this remarkable, as I never signed up for My Verizon, a place I imagine to be as pleasant as a penitentiary shower (that inaccurately provides the temperature in your metropolitan area).

I entered my Verizon Account Number so many times I know it better than my birthday. There's a neat little wrinkle on the automated call center where every time you enter your Verizon Account Number, it asks for the number again. It's like "Waiting for Godot," if Godot were a PIN number (spoiler alert: the PIN never shows up).

You might wonder what I was trying to do. I was trying to pay them. My failing bank was bought by a somewhat more solvent bank, and all my direct deposit information changed. Changing this information elsewhere runs from easy (T-Mobile) to mildly annoying (Long Island Power). At Verizon, I would describe the process as suicide inducing.

The third human being I spoke to--I spoke to many robots, all of which were bad listeners that constantly asked me to repeat myself--was willing to take my money. Indeed, she seemed indignant when I suggested she might not be able to do something as challenging as enter a routing and account number. Neither of us mentioned the elephant in the room called My Verizon. Let us never speak of this dark place again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembrance of Time Warner Past

You can check out of Time Warner any time you want, but you can never leave.

I terminated my account on June 11, but here I am on the phone the penultimate day of August, disputing an $85.90 charge. What am I being charged for nearly three months after discontinuing service? According to the bill, there is an $80 "adjustment charge," as well as nebulous fees and taxes. But what is being adjusted? Let's see how many guesses I can come up with while holding:

1) Time Warner's dignity
2) My faith in other people
3) My patience for corporate deception
4) The validity of contracts
5) The meaning of "say hello to simplicity" (Time Warner's motto)

After 39 minutes, I'm still waiting. Any other guesses?

UPDATE: None of the above. In Time Warner, the word "adjustment" refers to the logic-bending "price lock" covered previously. Secondary definition: "whatever the hell we want." Where is my Time Warner-English dictionary? Get on this, Google Translate!

Important question: has Time Warner surpassed Nautica as the single most incompetent corporation in the Customer Service Circle of Hell? There's probably a way to create a poll.

Time Warner's solution: wave an additional fee, not on the bill. I read to them the following transcript, Time Warner formed sentences that didn't make sense, and I hung up the phone and felt sadness.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

They Call It Hotlanta Because It Is in Hell

The last two times I’ve flown, I’ve spent an unscheduled night in a city unrelated to my destination. My first impression of Atlanta was that a disproportionate number of people there wear shirts with unintelligible mottoes like “If you are giving one hundred percent, give ten percent more!” or “I look like I care but I don’t.” My theory is that these shirts are designed for the Rapture, so the Divine has clear instructions on whom to take, and who can stay.

Of course, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to conduct this sociological experiment had my Airtran flight not landed fifteen minutes after my connecting flight departed. A wise man once told me that it’s important to fly early, so you can take a later flight if your scheduled one is delayed. Unfortunately, on Airtran, the noon flight is the last of the day.

When the delay first snuck onto the screen, I scuttled to a checkout counter, where a woman informed me that the weather was not Airtran’s fault (indisputable) and, accordingly, Airtran had no responsibility to get me to my destination that day (disputable). Time: 11:00 a.m. Post-wedding hangover: violent to very violent. When I asked if there was anyone else I might speak to, she told me I could wait for her manager, a man whose plan was to first avoid me, then avoid eye contact, and ultimately intimate that I was lucky to be speaking to him at all. But I did not feel lucky.

Still, I might have made my connection had Airtran not spent so much time ushering people onto the plane who did not, in fact, have seats. Or, more accurately, people who had the same seat. The man next to me, for example, had the same seat as another man. They were both large men and had never met each other and, as progressive as San Francisco is, it seemed unlikely they would share a seat for five hours. Nevertheless, they were better off than my wife, who did not actually have a seat. Instead, she had a hole where a seat was supposed to be (see above). The first flight attendant greeted my wife’s request for a seat as though this was wholly unreasonable, but the second flight attendant helpfully ripped a cushion off someone else’s seat.

In Hotlanta, a kind but painfully slow man confirmed that the next flight left in the morning, but not before a little comedy routine with the other kind but slow people at the counter. This is how the routine went: my program won’t refresh, and we can’t make reservations—wait, just kidding, the program doesn’t have a refresh function! This routine was so funny, he called in his boss to get in on the joke, who agreed that suggesting the program could refresh was outrageous. Then there was some light banter about how cold the fan was. Then he told me he couldn’t offer a hotel on account of the weather—airtight Airtran logic—but he could give me a phone number, where I could talk to somebody who would give me a reduced rate.

I called the number, spoke to a human being, and hoped against reason this would work. This did not work. I walked to the busy area where shuttles arrive. The first driver with Comfort Suites painted on his van assured me that he was not going to Comfort Suites and, in retrospect, I should have taken this as a dark omen, as my wife did, who was convinced the driver had no idea where he was taking his van. I had a good feeling about the second van with Comfort Suites painted on it, even after the driver was assaulted by a man in one of those people movers that only GOB from Arrested Development uses. Alas, this driver was also not driving to Comfort Suites. At this point, I called the hotel and asked what, exactly, was painted on his driver’s van. He said, unsurprisingly, Comfort Suites. After asking each arriving driver where his van was going, I finally identified the correct van. This is what was painted on his van: Econo Lodge, Ramada Inn, Country Inn.

Comfort Suites is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s difficult to feel comfortable when you’re using every last bit of energy not to attack the man who doesn’t know what is painted on his own van, and it’s sort of a stretch to call a room a suite when it’s made entirely of bathroom tile. I don’t recommend staying there, or flying Airtran, or flying, but I do recommend Jeff and Inga, whose beautiful wedding made the trip well worth it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hell is on the Line

T-Mobile has a nifty feature where you can have your agonizing conversation with a representative emailed to you. This saves me a lot of work. If only all incompetent/malicious corporations were this user friendly.

~Jason G: Hello and welcome to [the newest ring of the Customer Service Circle of Hell]. My name is Jason and I will be glad to assist you today. First, please allow me one moment to review your question.
Me: ok
~Jason G: I understand you are asking about the $19.99 Shipping charge?
Me: correct, as well as the tax that goes with it
~Jason G: Ok. The $19.99 was for express shipping.
Me: right, that seems to be in error
Me: i had a defective part that i had replaced
Me: under warranty
Me: it took several weeks to arrive, however
Me: and i was never told i'd be charged for shipping, nor do i think i should be if it wasn't in any way my fault
~Jason G: Ok. Sorry that you were charged. We can look into see if it can be adjusted. One moment please.
Me: thanks
~Jason G: Sorry for the wait. I have requested approval from my supervisor, and what we can do is credit back half of the shipping charge.
Me: why half?
Me: i need the entire charge refunded
Me: i never authorized it
Me: and the express charge is preposterous
Me: it took three weeks
~Jason G: There are unfortunately no supporting notes in your account saying about the charge, so as a result, we can give half back.
Me: that's your clerical error, not mine
Me: i have a very clear memory of the event
Me: i'll remind you that i've been a customer for seven years
Me: this seems particularly shoddy customer service
Me: if you're not authorized to refund the entire charge, please put me in contact with someone above you who can
~Jason G: We do thank you for your loyalty with T-Mobile. As there are no supporting notes mentioning the $19.99 shipping, we can adjust half of it back.
Me: what do you think "as there are no supporting notes mentioning the $19.99 shipping" means?
Me: because to me, it means nothing
Me: surely, you can see the charge
Me: so what's at question here?
~Jason G: I can see the charge yes.
Me: i didn't agree to the charge, the charge was never mentioned to me, the charge is twice your fault (once for the bad part and once for an oversight)
Me: so in what universe would it make sense for me to pay any of it?
Me: i don't blame you, personally--obviously, you aren't responsible
Me: but i'd like to think it should be clear why i shouldn't be either
Me: it would just be paying for corporate incompetence (at best)
Me: or willful robbery (at worst)
~Jason G: In order for us to send the device, it does require a shipping cost.
Me: ok, let's break this one down:
Me: 1) you sent the device, because it was broken (your fault)
Me: 2) you never mentioned a fee to me (your fault)
Me: 3) you sent it express shipping (allegedly), and yet it took several weeks (your fault)
Me: 4) the last time something was shipped to me from t-mobile (a much larger package), it cost 7.99, and yet this somehow cost 19.99 (your fault)
Me: how about you absorb the shipping cost, as the reason for its being shipped is entirely your responsibility?
Me: the item was shipped because it broke within two weeks
Me: that's a bad product
~Jason G: Ok. One more moment please while I inquire about it.
Me: by any estimation
~Jason G: O, sorry for the wait. I have re-requested approval, and we will be able to adjust the whole amount back.
~Jason G: *Ok
Me: that's good
~Jason G: The adjustment for the shipping and handset assessory tax was r efunded.
Me: so the 19.99 plus 1.72 tax are being refunded, in other words?
Me: should i wait for a new bill then?
~Jason G: That is correct yes. The adjustments will show up on your next bill.
Me: so i should pay the full bill this month, and expect a 21.71 refund next month?
~Jason G: No. the adjustments that I just made are balance impacting, which means the amount you now owe is $70.59. Showing the adjustments were done will appear on your next bill.
Me: ok, so when i login, it says i still owe 92.30
Me: will it take a while to adjust?
Me: because my bill is withdrawn automatically
Me: and i'd like 70.59 withdrawn, not 92.30
~Jason G: It may take up to 2 hours to reflect online.
Me: ok, so i'll check back in two hours

Hell's Angels

Flying from New York City to Detroit is quick, only about an hour in the air. So you can understand how frustrated I would be when I arrived 13.5 hours late. Here's the time-line:

Flight #1: New York to Detroit (Delta): Canceled

I'm thinking, well, stuff happens. Weather, mechanical, best to be careful. Surely, they'll put me and my wife on a later flight since it's mid-afternoon. Wait, what's that? You want to send us the next day? Through Minneapolis, which is several hundred miles past Detroit? And you believe this critical information should be delivered via a robot that doesn't leave a phone number where I can ask follow-up questions? Eventually, I found a phone number and an android who would confess, when bullied, that it had lied about (minimum): 1) there being no other flights that day, and 2) their ability to place me on another airline. Eventually, we were placed on an American flight leaving 75 minutes later. It had a connection in Chicago (again, going past Detroit), but at least we'd only arrive four hours late. Why the flight was canceled remains a mystery.

Flight #2: New York to Chicago (American): Delayed

My attempt to get a meal voucher (since we're missing dinner with our friends) is dismissed with something between indifference and abject hatred. To be expected, but I'm getting a little worried because that 75 minute window between when one flight lands in Chicago and the next flight takes off for Detroit is shrinking. And the delay stretches. And now the best case scenario is that the plane lands 20 minutes after the connecting flight is scheduled to take off, and my wife is weeping on account of not being able to see her friends, and hating to fly, and having to spend the night in Chicago for no good reason.

Flight #3: Chicago to Detroit (American): Delayed

Hooray for this delay! After sprinting through O'Hare with despair in our hearts to catch a connection that had surely already left, we find that the plane is still there and the kind attendants are willing to let us board it, even though boarding is over and the doors are sealed. But wait!

Flight #3: Chicago to Detroit (American): Canceled

Two flights--on two different airlines--canceled in one day, surely this is a personal record. There is no mystery here, though. The flight was canceled for the trivial reason of not having a pilot. Hotel and meal vouchers for all, leading to this exchange:

Me: May I have a meal voucher for my wife, as well.
Attendant: This voucher is for you and your wife.
Me: $10 each?
Attendant: $10 total.

We'll dine like kings in Chicago for $5 each! We'll split a "Chicago-style" dog and bottled water--who are you to ask for more? Later, this conversation happens:

Other passenger: You can use that voucher almost anywhere in the airport.
Me (inside my exploding skull): ALMOST ANYWHERE? Thank God, it's only five hours until our next flight leaves because I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight!

Flight #4: Chicago to Detroit (American): On time

This was a relatively painless flight. They did try to move my wife across the plane but failed. We had a nice time in Michigan.

Flight #5: Detroit to New York (Delta): Lost reservation

We're not in the system. The several confirmation codes I have are meaningless. This is confirmed by the attendant behind the desk. My wife explains most of the bad things that happened, while the attendant makes phone calls and whispers things like "this is strange" and "it's just not there." But wait!

Flight #5: Detroit to New York (Delta): Delayed

We're there, after all. You only have to look capable of crying or screaming for long enough. The flight is about 30 minutes late, but by this point, the delay seems positively generous. When the very, very bumpy flight is over, there are other planes at the gate, but this scarcely matters. We're home, and our hatred of domestic air travel cemented.

Final Stats!

Actual flights: 5
Delayed flights: 3 (remarkable since we only booked 2 flights)
Canceled flights: 2
Lost reservations: 1