Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Why doesn't this company want my business?

I was reading a post on Consumerist and came across a comment from one of their registered members about an unfair cellphone policy that resulted in a loss of business for the company. The short of the story was that he had 2 lines, moved one line, and could not retain his other line with them. He was being cut off and charged an early termination fee. This was their "policy", though it was not even in his contract. He will never do business with them again. They didn't care.

Am I surprised? No...there is a good reason why I believe companies, utility companies in particular, are too large and cannot be trusted.

  • 1) When I call SBC, I am not talking to SBC. I am not talking to anyone who gives a rats behind about the company, whether I am retained as a customer, or their ultimate health as an organization. I am speaking with some guy getting paid low wages who only cares about his own job.

    "Retention" is only important to him if he has a quota or gets some kind of immediate reward or bonus. If he gets neither, or he has already maxed out his rewards for the pay period, he does not care if you cancel or not. The company could be losing a good customer for life - it doesn't matter, because you really never talk to anyone in the company that cares.

  • 2) Their contracts are a joke. Do you think it matters what is in your contract when you sign up for a cellphone? The only reason the contract exists is to empower the provider. Further, they can break, add, or change the contract at any time with no penalty. They can charge you whatever they want, for whatever reason, or cancel you...or provide lousy service. Even if something is not stated in your contract, they can do it.

    Why? Because your only recourse is a lengthy legal process that they know 99% of their customers are not going to deal with. Thanks to new popular arbitration clauses, even the 1% of them that do will only win 5% of the time. If your cell provider charged you an extra $50 for some reason and refused to refund it, what would you do?

    Take them to court? The filing fees alone would exceed the balance. Would you not pay it? Then it will go on your credit report - and a collector isn't going to care what your contract says, they will just go back to the company for verbal verification.

  • 3) There is no liability. What can you do if some CSR doesn't hit the right button? Will the next CSR listen to you? Will they believe you, or will they think you are yet another customer calling in trying to pull a fast one? If it isn't on their little computer screens, it doesn't exist. You are at the whim of the CSR and their supervisors. See #1.

Companies have too much power over consumers, and we have too little resources to fight them. Indeed, for just about any dispute it comes down to whether you want to fight it on principle - because it will probably cost you more in the battle than to just relent and pay them.

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