WTF Happened to Customer Service?


In just this week, Erin and I have experienced some insanely terrible episodes of customer “service”. I just have to rant about them.

AT&T: You’re No Cingular.

So, when word came out that the iPhone would only be provided by AT&T, I thought, “that’s fine… I’m already a Cingular customer and I’m happy with them.” I’ve been with Cingular for years and never had an issue. Never. In like, six years. Enter AT&T. I finally got my first iPhone bill and it was all effed up. It was about twice as much as it should have been. I called.

After waiting on “hold” for 20 minutes with no music at all, I finally figured… hey wait… I’m not on hold. I’ve been hung up on. Apparently, there was no way for the rep to get back to me to apologize for this. Especially since the only piece of information I gave them before being hung up on was my effing phone number.

So, I finally get someone (I’m convinced it is the same woman that hung up on me) and it gets even worse. Why do I have roaming charges when I’m on a national plan? Well, sir… you called from Maine. Yes, I did. But, sir, you don’t have international roaming on your plan.

I was silent for a full ten seconds.

OMGWTF? Maine is in our freakin’ country. I tell her “that’s two hours from my house. It’s in our country.” She fixes that for about a half hour, telling me “it’ll just be a minute” once every five minutes.
She tells me I am charged for my wife’s line because, well, I had two lines on the plan. But, I tell her, the reason I called them three weeks ago was to cancel that line so I could use this plan just for work. But you had the second line still, that’s why you were charged for it. But I didn’t use it, so I’m not going to pay for it. But you did use it. Look at you’re freakin’ paperwork. I called myself last week for one minute because I couldn’t believe it when we happened to turn on my wife’s phone and it still worked.

She passed me off to another person finally. The really nice person that it’s hard to get mad at. The nice grandma that they give all pissed off customers to. You can’t get mad at her. Well, she tried to make it better… she was gonna send me a Razr for my wife’s line (turns out it really makes sense to keep the second line, but I ain’t payin’ for that last month that I didn’t know I had it). Turns out that the Razr she was “giving” me is $19.95 (well, $69.95 with a rebate). Oh, and an $18 activation charge. I freak again. She finally says that she’ll waive the activation charge and it’ll only cost me $19.95 for this far superior phone. Fine, I say.

I was on the phone with AT&T for 93 minutes. Good thing I didn’t call from the iPhone. My minutes would be toast.

My wife’s new phone arrived a couple days ago. No rebate inside, but there is a bill for $70. Eff you, AT&T. I get to call you again.

Fisher Price + Toys ‘R Us = Sunnuva…

Last year, we got Ella the Little People Garage from Fisher Price. It was supposed to be for Christmas, but she got so much that we saved it. When we opened it up, it was missing the biggest piece. The freakin’ elevator. Like, when you look at the picture on the box, this is the piece that takes up a third of the picture.

We take it back to Toys ‘R Us. Oh, we don’t take returns anymore.


Sir, you have to call Fisher Price and deal with them. Are you kidding me? So I call. The woman was very nice and helpful. BUT, the toy is no longer made and they don’t have the part. So, they’ll send me a voucher to send it back for a refund. But, elevator or not, Ella loves the thing. So, we’ll keep it anyway… just have half a toy.

Oh, and later that day Fisher Price announces that a million toys are being recalled because of lead paint. Good thing I called that morning. I would have been on the phone 94 minutes this time.

Um, that’s not my insurance company

The hospital sends us a bill for $1300 because Blue Cross refused to cover Nolan’s birth.

Of course they didn’t. That’s not our insurance company. Yaaaay, more hold time dealing with this mess.

Oh please, let me pay the interest first

So, the mortgage company takes the extra money that we send them and applies it to interest instead of principal. WhyTF do you think we’re sending extra money? So we can speed up the process of being screwed? No, we want you to take it off the principal so we are screwed less, thank you.

How do you like hockey pucks

We’re tired. Cooking sucks. So, we ordered from the local 99s. Erin got a burger (since she is not consuming milk products right now, that’s pretty much the only thing on the menu she can get). When she asks for medium well, the send her a bloody mess. So, she ordered well done this time. I’m serious—it was a hockey puck. I think it even had the NHL logo on it. I’m not sure, because they burned it off.

If the gave this to someone in the restaurant, the person would freak. They save this “service” for take out customers who can only swear and yell from the comfort of their own homes.

Just stir the damn thing

So, just tonight was literally the last straw. Erin wanted a Strawberry Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts. So, I go. While I’m there, I grab one of those new iced teas. I decide to get it sweetened. While I’m there, I’m actually reading the sign to employees that says “stir them with a spoon, don’t shake them”… I’m impressed.

Then I take a big ol’ swig of mine. I think I got diabetes on the spot. Apparently, you squirt in the “sweetener” (whatever it actually is) and pour the tea on top. No stirring happened. After these first two godawful sips, I had an unsweetened iced tea. I literally got all the sweetener in a sip. It nearly killed me.

So, this all happened in the last week. What’s going on? Is it me?

Update: How could I forget? Just the other night when I went to get Erin her Coolatta, they told me they needed to freeze them. They asked me to wait out front. Fifteen minutes later, I went back through the drive through line.

Yeap, they forgot about me.


  1. On August 7th, 2007 at 2:31 am Anthony said:

    Dude, I can tell you were really ticked when you wrote this! I’ve been there.

    The huge retail and restaurant chains have completely left customer service out of the mix. I think they figure if they come to a town and run all the local “mom and pop” competitors out of business with lower prices, you’ll have no choice but to continue doing business with them whether they provide service or not. Unfortunately, they’ve been successful doing so.

    And I’ve been down a very similar road with AT&T myself. You’re lucky you got to talk to someone who speaks English

  2. On August 7th, 2007 at 6:50 am Paul P said:

    Well, one note about your mortgage, when we got our mortgage we asked about paying more and where it would go… ‘Of course if you pay more it can be applied to the principle, just make sure you note that in the memo area on the check.” But the guy said it so nicely you didn’t think ‘Oh yeah, so they don’t do the default thing; screw us.’

    Heck, being in the support business I can tell you it is fairly difficult to find somebody technically competent who is also “user friendly”. Even if you do, eventually all the calls and how stupid management can be (usually management decides to change something that generates even more calls) really wears on them till eventually they are not friendly at all.

  3. On August 7th, 2007 at 7:59 am Adam Darowski said:

    Yeah, the thing about the mortgage is that we pay extra on the principle very often. It’s not like it was this new development. *sigh*

  4. On August 7th, 2007 at 8:14 am Mark said:


    Great post! I feel for you. Couple thoughts:

    1) I believe there is a pendulum swing to all this, and how much further it will go in the one direction of cheapening service, before it comes back, I can’t say. I see signs of some companies “getting it”, while many of their competitors aren’t watching, and continue to plod along – eventually they too will wake up.

    2) While many companies are still going down the cost cutting / outsourcing (in so many ways) road, where traditional call center support means only frustration, they are investing in new ideas. One of those new ideas is social media – they are tuning in to people waging war on their reputations in blogs and forums. Of course you know this. Why not test out AT&T and work on some more specific blog posts, and counter post in various places to drive yourself up the list. They may spend more to “fix” your situation in that venue than they will by empowering “grandma” on the front lines in the call center?

    3) I’m afraid we, American’s are bringing much of this on ourselves. While you may not do these things, I’ll just generalize for convenience. We tend to buy at “Wal Mart” and by that, I mean that we shop for the best price on something, expect wherever we buy it, to provide great service. Sure, based on what profit margin? Suppliers that have cut cost in manufacturing and development, are shipping things that don’t last or are missing parts – not deliberately, but because there is nobody left to make sure they don’t. The certaintity of shipped revenue trumps the possibility of disasterous failure rates in the field everyone time. Manufacturers don’t want to eat the returns, so they are tightening the returns caps on the distributors – and the distributors (Toys R Us) sure don’t want to take the hit, so they stop you at the front door and say to call the manufacturer. The manufacturer, doesn’t want to keep dead inventory, and wants to move onto making next years hot item, be it tickle me elmo, or whatever people will line up for. They, have outsourced customer service, and have no parts to send you. Why? Because everyone wants more for less. Wall Street demands growth – so companies that are in mature markets, cut expense, one of the only certain short term levers they have. Why, so their stock will continue to go up, their execs can make more, and hopefully the employees can get a salary bump or keep their jobs. In turn, those employees buy products, and they want more products for less money. We all want more for less. The more we buy, the more growth their is, and everything keeps on going round. This cyclic expansion comes at a cost, I think we are selling out the service underpinings to enable us to sell more of what people want for less.

    I think eventually this will change. I think we are heading toward a services economy, and when service becomes the product, the focus will change.

    The kind of work that you are doing in a small company, may well be the counter current. I hope you, and other’s in your position may help be the champions of change.

    Thanks again for the great post, and oportunity to join the discussion.

  5. On August 7th, 2007 at 8:19 am jharr said:

    There’s been a fundamental shift in what motivates people to provide customers with great service. Businesses have come to some conclusion that it’s not cost-effective to hire/pay/train workers to provide great service, as such the only remedy is for consumers to join together and do something. Thaa hasn’t happened, we’re all too tired, too sore, too busy to fight – so we just take it. Until there’s a unifying force to combat this – we just go into every customer exchange apprehensive and defensive that the joker behind the counter is going to suck at their job and as a result your day will be toast.

  6. On August 7th, 2007 at 8:22 am crawlspace|media » Blog Archive » Adam Has Hard a Rough Week said:

    [...] Adam Darowski has had a terrible week dealing with customer service, send him some positive thoughts before he ends up hurting someone. PS – don’t let him go to the post office, we all know that won’t end well. add to | digg this | blogs [...]

  7. On August 7th, 2007 at 8:30 am Adam Dziki said:

    Your mortgage quarrel reminds me of something that Circuit City did to me recently (with the help of Chase).

    I got a new TV in January because it was bonus time, Christmas, and my birthday. I go to CC, and they have 0% financing for 2 years on stuff when you sign up and use their Chase card. Seems fine enough. I figure I can stretch $1900 over 19 months and barely mind. Well, the part that they don’t tell you is that any payments you send in come first and foremost for your 0% financing purchase, and not any of your following charges. So it rolls to about April, and I’m wondering why there’s finance charges… oh yeah, because I’m not paying for my purchases that HAVE an APR attached to them, how foolish of me. I called their support, asked if there was a way to specify how much went to pay off the different purchases, and they said no.

    So long story short, I no longer use that card, the TV is paid off, and CC can go screw.

  8. On August 7th, 2007 at 10:25 am Adam Darowski said:

    So, basically what we need is a revolution… the consumers all need to band together and demand better service. Of course, all of these customer service folks are also consumers, so obviously they don’t care to treat others how they would like to be treated. Perhaps that’s the fundamental issue here. Just a general lack of respect.

    Man, I sound like I’m in my 50s.

    I even considered not buying products anymore. Then five minutes later, I got hungry. Oh, and needed to get dressed. Oh, and needed to drive somewhere.


  9. On August 7th, 2007 at 7:40 pm Chili said:

    Watch out for the free phone scam. Sprint did this to me once. When I got the free phone, it renewed my contract with an additional month charge for the line.

  10. On August 7th, 2007 at 7:41 pm Chili said:

    *** monthly charge for the 2nd line ***

  11. On August 7th, 2007 at 9:59 pm Adam Darowski said:

    Thanks Chili… I just started the contract with the iPhone, so that’s not an issue. But you never know… I was on the phone with AT&T for another half hour today. We’ll see if things get fixed…

  12. On August 8th, 2007 at 1:26 pm Ed Zbinski said:

    You know it’s funny, one of the biggest corporations in America today (well a part of it at least) has got it right. I worked down at the Walt Disney World Resort one summer, and the number one thing they taught you was: people don’t come back for the rides, or because it’s in Florida, people come back to Disney World because of the atmosphere, and the way they’re treated by it’s cast members (employees). Being a cast member, customer service was our #1 priority, and you ran into some damn cranky people down there, but they’ll come back because of the way they were treated by everyone that worked there. You’d think other companies would take a cue.