The Customer is Always Wrong

by Larry Teren

You remember that old adage “the customer is always right”?  Forget about it.  Today, the customer has little leverage and must bargain for whatever battle he or she wins against perceived injustice. Take these three examples:

1. Ma gets her medicines at a pharmacy linked to a national department chain store. We won’t name names- we’ll just call it the Red Bullseye. She goes to the store to pick up some odds and ends and then walks over to the pharmacy desk to pick up her medicine. As usual, she puts her Red Bullseye credit card into the chip reader to pay for it. The card reader is not accepting her input. The clerk says that it has been rejected. She subsequently pays with a different card.

Once home, she calls Red Bullseye to find out why her car isn’t working. It has not expired and she always pays her bills. They tell her that her card is on hold or frozen without little of an explanation that would make sense. She calls me to advise of the situation as I am her financial power of attorney. We’ll also point out that she had mentioned a week or so earlier that she had not received the monthly credit card statement within the expected time. I logged into the Red Bullseye website and printed out her statement as well as an envelope and told her to pay the bill this way as who knows what happened to the mail.

The next day I go over to ma’s house and in her presence I call the company’s customer service line and luckily get someone for whom English is a first language. We explain the problem and she apologizes stating that the card had been put on hold because the statement that they had mailed out had been returned to them. However, once Ma called the previous day they took it off hold and she could use her card again.

I asked why the onus was on her to contact them. Shouldn’t they have contacted her to make her aware that the mail had been returned? After all, how would she have known? And then she would not have had to go through both the frustration and embarrassment of having her card rejected. They had no answer.

There was also another issue with them regarding acknowledging her payment using the envelope I had printed up. It did not show up online as of the 13th of the month considering  it was due the 14th even though she had mailed it on the 7th. They had no answer and kept quiet when I suggested that maybe they treated payments that did not come in their normal envelopes with the same respect. The customer service clerk suggested that Ma pay the minimum amount required immediately to avoid a late payment fee and that there was still three days to go on the last day before a finance charge would be issued for the full payment due. So she paid the minimum due electronically by giving the lady her bank account information.

As for that check which had not yet shown up- I checked online the next day and saw that it indeed had been received on the 12th of the month but it was not posted to her account until the 14th, which confirmed (at least to me) that they treat payments received not using their official return envelopes a little more cavalierly than they should.

The real issue, though, was the indifference to communicating with the customer in this day of concern for identity theft that a statement somehow was returned back to them. Shame, shame.

2. Ma goes to Hartford Connecticut to visit a daughter. She flies the Friendly Skies. You can surmise the airline. Going there everything is fine. She is treated royally from the moment I drop her off at the airport and offer a gratuity to the curbside skycap to make sure she gets a wheelchair and taken to her departing gate.

Coming home is a different story. When she arrives back at the airport terminal to deplane, someone comes and gets her off the plane puts her in a wheelchair and says that she has to go help out at another gate. She is assured that someone will shortly come to get her and take her to the baggage claim area.

Thirty minutes go by and Ma is sitting like the poster model for whatever at the gate waiting for someone to come. No one does. She uses her cell phone to call my sister who has been circling the airport with her husband wondering what the delay is. My sister gets out of the car, runs up to the gate after having to go through security. By this time Ma has been waiting an hour. My sister takes her to the complaint department for the Friendly Skies. No heartfelt apologies. They want to give her a $100 coupon towards her next flight- as if she is a frequent flyer. My sister insists on a $200 coupon and that it be transferable. They agree- again no apologies.

3. I use my local suburban library weekly, mostly to pick up books I’ve reserved from other suburbs in a sharing database. I can put a hold on books over the weekend and expect to see that they are ready for pickup at my library usually by Wednesday. It used to be by Tuesday but some genius decided to add a day by putting a middle man clearing house into play.

Two weeks ago the library announced on their website that the parking lot would be closed from Saturday through Monday while it was repaved but that business would be as usual. I also knew that if someone says Monday, they really mean Tuesday but that it didn’t matter because the library would still be open. They also mentioned on Sunday that any of the scheduled special events would still be on and one should park on the street.

I placed my usual two book order. On Tuesday I saw that they had a status of shipped meaning that the libraries from which they were at had picked them and sent them to mine. I figured the status would change to Pick Up on Wednesday.

Uh-uh. Status on Wednesday was still Shipped. The same on Thursday. I went to the library, admittedly looking for a fight. I told them that they deliberately put a hold on receiving books in the share system because the parking lot was being repaved. Yet, it was okay for patrons to walk however far from wherever they parked on the street into the building without any concern for their safety. Admittedly, I accused them of stupidity. Of course, no apology for inconveniencing those that pay property taxes that go the library and pay their salaries.

Why? Because the customer is never right.

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