Readers responded in droves to a column we ran recently about the pervasiveness of lousy customer service. Most of the readers had their own tales of a descent into consumer hell. I saved those stories and waited to relay some of them until I had another saga of my own to share. After having been thoroughly pissed off by The Charlotte Observer's circulation people, I'm ready, so here we go.
Let's start with some of your stories.
Randy L. of Matthews wrote to tell us about his experience buying "a very expensive new door" from a big box hardware store: "The guy they sent over to install it looked like he'd woke up drunk two hours before he came to my house. The door he brought looked bad, with unevenly applied finish; he misaligned the door, installed the lock upside down, and then misaligned the storm door, too. I called the store repeatedly before I found someone to take me seriously. Then, it took over a month for them to send somebody else to install a new set of doors, which still aren't right, but I'm sick of dealing with them, so to hell with it."
A number of you wrote about bad experiences with digital phones, including Melinda J. of Charlotte who told us, "The phones suck, the connections suck, now my answering machine has to be reset almost every day or else callers hear a loud beeping noise. The company sent techs out, the problems seem solved for a day or so, and then it's back to the same old bad connections, or getting cut off for no reason, etc. They say they've done all they can do, so I say goodbye and good riddance to digital phones."
Billy P. took his car in to "a chain store garage" on a Monday for a new fuel pump. "They told me I needed a new timing belt," says Billy, "so I said OK. On Tuesday they told me they had to order a part, it would be a couple of days. Now I'm getting worried. On Friday, they told me they had ordered the wrong part and it would be the next week before they finished with my car. Now I'm pissed. Long story short, after 10 days, I finally get my car back, and there's a big gash in the passenger side door! They agreed to pay for the bodywork on the door, but I have to take it to the body shop myself. All I wanted was a new fuel pump, not a pile of goddamn headaches."
"I bought a new dress at a big time, beaucoup-bucks SouthPark store," says Jennifer S. of Charlotte. "When I took the dress home, I noticed the hem wasn't sewn properly. They didn't want to exchange the dress, they wanted to 'fix the hem,' so I said fine. When I picked up the dress (four days later!), I took it home and nothing had been done to the dress -- same dress, same crappy hem. When I took it back again for a refund, I had to speak to a manager, explain everything, and finally, after over an hour, got the refund. The level of service, and the lack of concern, made it seem like I was shopping at Wal-Mart or something."
Our favorite e-mail was about abusive, less- than-brilliant airport security people, from a reader who asked us to not report his name, "because I fly a lot."
"I have had tweezers confiscated, a couple of bulletin board push pins taken," says Mr. X. "I've been pulled over more than once for a nice little 'extra' search for no apparent reason -- once the guy came damned close to grabbing my balls. I'm sick of being talked down to by these morons, of always being asked the same three stupid questions, taking off my shoes and watch, futzing around with my change, and generally being treated like cattle by losers who'd be lucky to get a job clerking at a Circle K. At least I don't have body piercings, so I won't wind up like the woman in L.A. who had to remove her nipple rings with pliers before the idiots would let her fly."
My own story? After going back through your gripes, mine doesn't seem so grave, nonetheless the Observer tried to charge my credit card, without my permission, for a subscription renewal. At first I wondered how they'd gotten my card number, but VP of circulation Jim Lamm reminded me that I had given it to them earlier while renewing my sub. Which still doesn't excuse them trying to place a charge on my card without my permission, for which Lamm apologized. The worst part of the experience, interestingly enough, was having to listen to Lamm's condescending, corporate-weasel tone of voice as he took obvious pleasure in reminding me of my previous card transactions and "delinquencies." Note to Observer publisher: You might want to get someone else to handle customer satisfaction calls for your circulation department -- at the very least, someone who doesn't make you feel like slapping him.
Send your own customer service gripes -- please try to keep them under 100 words -- to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy shopping!