I contacted the Internet sales department at Bernardi Honda in Natick, Massachusetts because I wanted to check on the status of my car in the service department, and none of the phones in the dealership were working for whatever reason.
So I submitted an email via the Bernardi Honda website, and got a "personal thank you email" from Harvey which I pasted below:
I wanted to personally thank you for requesting information on a new Honda from Bernardi Honda Natick.
This is an auto-response to confirm that we have received your request.
Harvey Rappaport from my Internet Sales Team will contact you very soon to answer all your questions
and make you feel comfortable about doing business with Bernardi Honda. They can be reached directly
at: (774) .....
Almost 40% of Bernardi Honda's customers choose to research their next Honda this way.
You are able to
learn about models, new features and special discounts for being an Internet Customer.
If there is anything I can do to help with your decision on a new Honda please contact me directly at any time.
Internet Sales Manager
What is broken about this message is that it states that its intent is to "personally thank me" but then later in the message it informs me that the message is an auto-response.
Personal... auto-response... those two things don't go to together.
Harvey then goes on to talk about himself in the third person, informing me that Harvey will contact me soon.
Actually, Harvey never called me, nor did anyone from the service department. Instead, a woman who was at a very loud call center called me to ask me some survey questions.
[Note: I removed the actual phone number of the dealership. -mh]
Broken: Chicago Transit Authority customer assistant panel
Jay Born submits a picture taken in Chicago, Illinois:
This customer assistant panel has no working button. (Spotted on the Chicago Transit Authority subway transfer tunnel between the red and blue lines.) What does this say about how much the Chicago Transit Authority cares about their customers?
Broken: (Updated, not AS broken): Home Depot receipt and "customer agreement"
This is the receipt I got from the Home Depot on 23rd Street in Manhattan this past weekend. (I've blacked out my order number. )
Note two bizarre parts of the receipt:
1. "RATE US ONLINE 10-GOOD & 1-BAD SEE BELOW"
See what below? Rate you online where? Maybe this is a way to avoid "1" ratings: just don't make the survey accessible.
2. "CUSTOMER HAS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO READ AND ACCEPTS THE TERMS OF THE ABOVE CUSTOMER AGREEMENT"
Here I see that I'm agreeing to "customer agreement #156326." But I don't know what that agreement says, or how to get it, and the cashier on this busy checkout line wasn't about to go print one out for me.
So - I can't rate them poorly on the agreement they won't show me, because they won't tell me where the survey is. Great.
I sure hope the agreement doesn't say something nasty, because I signed the receipt.
- - -
Update: It turns out the customer agreement was inside a separate document stapled to a transaction receipt unattached to the first. While the receipt I had to sign was confusing, to be fair, the agreement and survey it referenced were available somewhere in what I was handed. This isn't as broken as I thought, and I apologize for the confusion. -mh
This is an excerpt of the agreement, which doesn't start until after the first page of the stapled packet.
This is an excerpt of the second receipt stapled to the packet. This is what they meant by "seeing below" for the survey.
Finally, thanks to TIB reader Brian for clarifying:
That number corresponds to a special order customer agreement paper that you must have purchased. It is a bigger piece of paper with a bar code on the bottom that designates that you did a Will-Call or Special Order. It is the government of each state that requires this EULA on the Customer Agreement, NOT Home Depot. It doesn't say much except to protect Home Depot from customers who try to jilt HD in certain installation situations. Just letting you know, you have a paper somewhere for S/O or Will call that has that number at the top and that is the "agreement".
Home Depot claims you won't have to deal with subcontractors, but they do use subcontractors. When something goes wrong, and consumers complain, Home Depot avoids or ignores their repeated phone calls and letters.
I've heard of customer-hostile banks (and have experienced them myself), but this Bank of America story takes the cake.
Matthew Shinnick dropped by a Bank of America branch in San Francisco to make sure a check he was about to deposit wasn't fraudulent. The teller found that the check was fraudulent and told the manager, who then had Shinnick thrown in jail.
Are you getting this right? The customer who wanted to make sure he wasn't about to draw on a fraudulent check, got thrown in jail by Bank of America.
The teller contacted the business and was informed that no check had been
written to Shinnick for $2,000 or any other amount. She immediately passed the
check to the branch manager.
"I saw him talking on the phone and staring at me," Shinnick said. "A few
minutes later, four SFPD officers came into the bank. They didn't say a thing.
They just kicked my legs apart and handcuffed me behind my back."
The police report for Shinnick's arrest says he was taken into custody
"for the safety of the bank employees as well as the bank customers."
Shinnick spent several hours in jail, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, before his father posted $4,500 bail. All told Shinnick spent $14,000 to clear his record. Bank of America refused to reimburse him.
I received an email from the Denver Public Library notifying me that a
book was 10 days overdue. At .25 cents a day, I now owe $2.50 in
Why is the notice sent so long after the fact? Clearly the
focus of the system is to extract fines and not the return of their
material. The Colorado Springs Library sends out an email notice the
day *before* books are overdue.
Can anyone add a similar experience with
their local library so I can convince mine to improve their system?
In another example of the system's poor design, the system notifies you
when a hold you placed has been filled but doesn't bother to tell you
what it is that is available.
I guess you are supposed to remember all the
holds you placed and then guess which one was filled.
Here in New York there's a chain of stores, PC Richard, that sells appliances and electronics. My one experience with them wasn't very good - see this column - and that seems to be consistent with what I've heard from friends and colleagues. But that's not the point of this post.
Instead, I'd like to point out what I saw when I walked by the store recently: the slogan that is repeatedly printed on about a dozen awnings outside the store. Each one reads...
Richard IS reliable
...with "is" underlined for emphasis.
The slogan comes across as defensive. "We are reliable, we are we are, you've gotta believe us!" they seem to be saying.
David Pogue had a bad experience at the photocopy-chain Kinko's. From Kinks at Kinko's:
I copied the Photoshop document from my laptop onto a flash drive and handed it to him. “It’s a Mac? We can’t print that,” he said.
The woman in the back had been listening in. “Felix, if it’s a JPEG, it’ll print,” she told him. Bless you, dearie, I thought.
With much eye-rolling and sighing, he approached the PC, turned his back to me and started working.
As he left, Pogue writes, "I couldn’t help but wonder what the guy’s problem was. In three different ways, he’d looked for reasons to *turn down* business."
I no longer use Kinko's because of similar experiences I've had in the past, and I know friends and coworkers who feel the same way. My question: if Kinko's employees consistently deliver such a bad customer experience - actively looking for ways to refuse customers - how does the company stay in business?
My wife and I wanted to travel to Chicago from Seattle with our new daughter. I visited Expedia, picked the dates I wanted, chose Alaska as the carrier I wanted to use, and then selected my departure flight, Alaska flight 28.
After I selected my departure flight, I selected my return flight, Alaska flight 23.
After I picked my return flight, Alaska 23, this screen showed up: "Flights Cannot Be Ticketed Together."
I didn't understand why the flights I selected couldn't be ticketed together. The two flights I selected were operated by the same airline. Both were Alaska Airlines flights, which I even confirmed on Alaskaair.com.
So, I called Expedia's customer service line.
Second thing broken: I ended spending half an hour on the phone.
Third thing broken: when the agent offered to sell me these tickets, I was told "the price just changed," the tickets were now $50 more than they were on Expedia's website. When I asked to talk to a supervisor, he said the same thing. He also mentioned, (in passing), that the reason for the "Flights Cannot be Ticketed Together" error message was because we were trying to buy a seat for my infant daughter, along with our tickets.
Does "Flights Cannot be Ticketed Together" give any clue that the infant ticket is preventing us from buying our tickets together?
Does the error message urge you to call customer service?
Expedia's customer service agent basically said I could buy tickets from them or from someone else. They also said they couldn't sell me tickets for the price on the website because "the price is not confirmed until you purchase the tickets."
I asked the supervisor, "What about the fact that Expedia's own website wouldn't sell me the tickets?" The supervisor's response to my question was, "Not my problem."
My opinion of Expedia during this experience went from highly favorable to probably never doing business with them again.
My phone calls on my Cingular service have been breaking up and dropping out.
When I went to the Cingular site to tell them, it suggested: "For faster service, we can best help you with this question over the phone." And then it told me to call them on my Cingular phone... which is dropping calls.
I had a call on my mobile phone from a lady claiming to be from Orange, my mobile phone service provider here in the UK, who told me that my contract was about to expire. She then asked me for my password. Alarm bells instantly went off in my head, so I told her (truthfully as it happens) that I didn't know my password. Then, she asked for my postcode instead.
At this point I was pretty sure this was a social engineering attack, so I started to quiz her about why she needed the information. She said it was for a "security check." I told her I was uncomfortable giving out personal information to a cold caller over the phone. Then, she told me that it was nothing to worry about because it was all covered by "the data protection act."
I said that I would rather conduct my business in an Orange shop, and she told me that she would have to put a mark on my record that indicated I had failed a security check. I interpreted this as a threat, which convinced me that the call was an attempted con. I asked for her name and ended the call.
I e-mailed Orange customer support via their website with details of the call and the number it came from. I then received their reply - and it turns out that the call was really from Orange!
Banks and other online services have learned to repeatedly tell their customers that they will never contact them and ask for their account information like a password. Orange are leaving themselves wide open to social engineering attacks. This incredible lack of attention to basic security has given me serious second thoughts about trusting them with my business at all.
I received an Audi owner e-mail with the following news item, which I found to be incredibly amusing:
They have been called "faux problems" — a term used to describe customer problems that aren't really problems, but are actually part of the car's design. Examples include red lights in the doors that continue flashing (to show the alarm system is armed and operative) and the sound system that automatically adjusts the volume at various speeds to compensate for driving noise.
As an assist for new owners, Audi includes a list of frequently-cited "faux problems" and explanations in the owner welcome kit. This helps reduce unnecessary calls to the dealer and adds to the driving experience. So if you're a new owner and you think you may have a problem with your Audi, check the owner privileges portfolio that came with your welcome kit. It may be not be a problem at all.
I guess Audi has given up on designing these features and instead chalks it up to owner ignorance. I would have expected them to tell me something along the lines of, "Here are some common misunderstandings, and we're working to eliminate them."
Their examples can be addressed with design changes, even just by providing visual or audible feedback to the driver. Sad to see that Audi's approach to design problems is so broken.
The company said the new logo was designed to look three-dimensional, "representing the expanding breadth and depth of services that the new AT&T family of companies provides to customers."
Lowercase type was chosen for "at&t" in the logo "because it projects a more welcoming and accessible image," the company said.
Not necessarily broken, but I always wonder whether all the money that goes into re-branding a huge company is worth it (as opposed to, say, improving the basic service level for customers... why does my cell phone's connection frequently die in the middle of Manhattan, for example?).
I'm also not sure I like the all-lowercase logo, since if every huge soulless corporation does that, then what does it really represent?
Underhill explains that long ago Woolworths had a policy that required salesclerks to greet customers within five seconds of crossing the threshold of the store.
"It was a huge blunder. Everybody was clustered at the front of the store ready to pounce on the customer," he says. "And we know that at cosmetic counters, if a customer is greeted within the first minute it drives them away."
Two notable points from David Pogue's New York Times article "10 Ways to Please Us, the Customers", which elaborates on how companies can easily improve on things from product design to how manuals are written:
V. Thou shalt not participate in rebate rip-offs. We admit it: we, the people, are cheapskates. You know and we know that we ruthlessly compare prices. We'll buy the cheaper gizmo almost every time.
But what do you do? You exploit our love of saving money by offering your delicious electronics for crazy-low prices - "after rebate."
So we buy your thing, cut out the barcode, fill out the form and staple the original store receipt. We handwrite the rebate center's address on the envelope, mail it away and wait.
And a few weeks later, you know what we get? A stress headache.
We've already sent away our only copy of the documentation and you didn't provide a phone number, so we're just stuck. You've got our money and you know there's nothing we can do about it.
But in this particular religion, there's a special circle of hell reserved for rebate cheats.
VIII. Thou shalt not prevent "zeroing out" of thy phone-mail maze. When we do finally get you on the phone, we can tolerate a voice-mail system that routes our calls. But when we get frustrated or lost in the labyrinth - "Press 2 for sales, press 3 for service. ..." - we should be allowed to press the zero key to escape and talk to a live human being.
If you have designed a phone system to ignore desperate zero presses, then you're showing your fear. And we, the customers who pay for your whole operation, may wonder why you're trying to hide from us.
I sent an email to Norton Anti-Virus asking if they could answer a question and answer it simply. I'm not a computer expert and expressly asked them to write back in English, not 'computerese.' Their answer describing POP3, HTTP, Heuristic and Script-Blocking Technologies is below.
That, to me, is 'computerese.' This is broken.
Susan Dombrow's email to Norton:
Would Norton Anti-Virus 2005 fully protect me if I use AOL, Gmail and Yahoo mail to send and receive email?
Please answer this question in English and not computerese.
Thank you for contacting Symantec Online Customer Service.
Susan, I understand your concerns regarding this issue.
Please note that the Email Protection feature of Norton AntiVirus works by monitoring traffic on the ports used by the POP3 email protocol. All data that enters or leaves your computer through these ports is stopped and scanned before being passed onto its destination. HTTP email services, such as those offered by America OnLine, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, do not use the POP3 ports, and cannot be scanned by Email Protection.
If you use an HTTP email service, you will still be protected. Norton AntiVirus provides multiple layers of protection; Email Protection is just one of those layers....
These pictures of show some Continental customer reps at their lost luggage claim office chatting among themselves, while the line of weary travelers, wondering where their luggage was, stretched out the door. Five reps present, five empty stations.
When I started taking pictures, one rep called for someone to go get security and told me it was illegal to take photos. Needless to say, security never showed up; my claim was finally proccessed half an hour later, since I was second in line.
The attached picture shows the vacuum cleaner at a car jet-wash in Pacifica, California, USA.
The sign says, "For Your Convenience This Machine Accepts Dollar Coins Only".
Given that dollar coins are not in wide circulation, this is absolutely not convenient for any customer. It's only convenient for the owner of the jet-wash, who forces customers to change bills into (too many) dollar coins which you can use virtually nowhere else but which you can of course use on a subsequent visit.
I wonder if the owner really thinks that people will read the sign and think, "wow, that's great, so convenient!" or whether he/she is just really saying "who cares, just pay me".
The carriers might promote flat-rate phone plans for, say, $49.99 a month, but once the many indecipherable fees are larded into a bill, a customer may actually pay $10, $20 or more a month.
"The proliferation of these charges is happening because the carriers are playing a shell game, plain and simple," said Thomas Allibone, an independent auditor and a former member of the consumer advisory committee at the Federal Communications Commission. "They'd rather weather a customer's complaint because they are making $20 or more in surcharges."
For her part, a Verizon spokersperson said that "all customers and potential customers to talk to our reps to understand our plans and charges."
Here's an idea - why not be more upfront with customers, so they don't have to call?
On American’s Web site, a ticket to Chicago costs approximately $200 including airport taxes. Yet, if I were to use one of these vouchers to fly to Chicago, I would be required to pay income tax on $2200. This could amount to approximately $1000 out of my pocket in taxes for a ticket worth $200.
Dmitry Nekrasovski points out a marketing communications company called McMillan that has the following get-lost message on its website for those rebellious users that don't use the latest version of Flash:
"We've detected that you simply aren't flashy enough to view this site. Please download the latest version of Flash so that you too can view the site that has changed the lives of millions of people forever."
Funny thing is, the company's slogan is... "McMillan listens."
I was recently living and working in Israel. About four years ago, I went to BusinessWeek's Web site and registered in order to gain access to its content.
Unfortunately, BusinessWeek didn't just want to get my name and e-mail address; they wanted to get all of my contact information. One of the mandatory fields in their registration form asked for the state in which I live, in a text field (rather than a pull-down list).
Hoping that some human would read the addresses that were entered, I used the limited space to indicate that Israel doesn't have any subdivisions such as states or provinces.
Little did I know that my registration information would be handled by a computer, and that it would be used to send me (paper) solicitations to subscribe to BusinessWeek.
Every six months or so, I am asked if I want to subscribe to the magazine. As you can see from the scanned form that I have enclosed, my little address correction from oh-so-many years ago has remained undetected in their computer system.
Here are the steps of Columbia University's main library on April 6, 2005. Shouldn't an Ivy League school, in the middle of the school year, look a little different?
Clearly there was an event on the steps earlier in the day - it's unclear whether it was Columbia students or not who attended and left all the trash. It was strange, though, to see the students lounging around on the steps, in the middle of it all.
Final thought: remember that the ultimate beneficiaries of city garbage are sewer rats, which breed easily thanks to such "donations."
Update April 23: Thanks to the Columbia Spectator news staff for pointing me to their April 11 editorial on the incident. Turns out the garbage was left after the senior class's "annual drinkathon."
When getting cookies from a cookie shop, and the person behind the counter uses a piece of tissue paper to pick up the cookies and place them in a bag. I always wonder why that person places the piece of tissue paper in the bag with the cookies.
Isn't the tissue paper used for my protection against their germs? If the tissue paper that has been used for this purpose is placed in the bag with the cookies, which I am going to eat, why bother using the tissue paper at all?
I normally do NOT rent movies from Blockbuster Video, but in this case I was given a $5 rental card. So, I said "what the heck, it's free."
I wanted to rent "Collateral." While reading the synopsis on the display box on the wall, I was stoked to see that it was the two-volume collector's edition. So, I grab the box that has the CDs behind the display box. This box too says 2 disc set. I get home, only one disc. No bonus disc. When I go back to the store to return it, the following conversation ensues:
Me (to manager): There was only one disc in this box. There was supposed to be two.
Manager: No, it's all on one disc.
Me: No, the bonus features are on disc 2.
Manager: Oh, if you want the bonus disc, you have ask for it.
Me: What? How am I supposed to know that? The box I went home with stated this was a 2 disc set. Is it posted anywhere that you have to ask for the bonus disc?
Manager: No, we don't post that.
Me: Well that stinks. I was looking forward to the bonus features. Manager: Well, there's nothing really interesting on the bonus disc for this movie anyway.
Me: Isn't that a matter of opinion?
Manager: No, seriously, I think there's only director's commentary. No deleted scenes or alternate endings. You can go check the box.
Me: I did check the box before renting it. I like the director's commentary.
(Manager gives weird look. Totally indifferent.)
Me: I think I should get a credit for a free future rental. This was a terrible experience.
So, I'm finishing up my taxes on TurboTax and am getting ready to mail in the little card to get my rebate for e-filing my return ($14.95) when I notice that instead of mailing it in, I can go to this website and get my rebate online.
So I do so, fill out all the forms and finally get to the last page where it says "Print this out and mail it in..."
So... it's an online rebate - but you have to mail the results of using that online site in via ordinary, everyday, snail-mail...
...just like the rebate card that came with the TurboTax CD...
Someone doesn't grasp the concept of "online" very well here.
Oh! And while the IRS (held up as the gold-standard of confusion and inefficiency in many circles) can get a multi-hundred dollar rebate back to me in 7-10 days, a $14.95 rebate takes 8-10 weeks!
So you call XYZ Co's customer service line. You get through the 9-level menu tree, and it's on-hold time. "Your call is very important to us. Please hold, and you call will be answered by the next available operator."
The music starts playing. Kenny G. Luckily, your mind quickly tunes that out, much like my nose used to when I worked on a garbage truck. You get on with your work while you wait, headset in place, speaker on, or phone cradled on your shoulder.
30 seconds pass, and there's silence followed by a voice. You snap to attention, losing track of your work. "Your call is very important to us..." Ack. Now back to Kenny G. Begin to regain focus on your work.
"You call is very important to us..."
This repeats so many times that when a *real* person finally picks up, it takes a second to realize you should pay attention now.
This is broken in so many ways. Why on *earth* do they do this? Leave the music on, that's enough to let us know you're still there. If you want to interrupt me to tell me what my expected response time is, great -- then shut up unless that prediction changes. Otherwise, you're making my wait seem much, much longer than it actually is, by depriving me of any meaningful way to pass the time, and forcing me to maintain low-level attention with no reward.
I visited www.citibank.com to register my spanking new Citi AAdvantange Business Card. I selected "Credit Cards" from the pulldown menu, arrived at the card home page, and clicked "Register".
After several unsuccessful attempts to register, a phone agent with a convincing American accent told me I could not register my card there because, silly me, it's business card, not a consumer card. Seems that www.business.citicards.com is the place I had to go.
What lousy design! There should be only a single registration process, but if you're going to have two -- at least tell people!
The customer should be able register any card anywhere. Presumably Citi has separate consumer and business card departments, so the systems were built in silos and can't cooperate. The phone agent said he gets calls on this all the time.
Paul Schreiber forwards us this note from PayPal (emphasis added at bottom is mine):
> Less Confusion, More Convenience in One Email
> Dear Paul Schreiber,
> We're writing to let you know that after January 19, 2005, PayPal
> will no longer send a Winning Buyer Notification email to your
> eBay buyers. Instead, eBay's End of Auction email will be enhanced
> to include all the information buyers require.
> Today, many buyers receive two emails at the end of an auction or
> transaction - eBay's End of Auction and PayPal's Winning Buyer
> Notification. PayPal and eBay are eliminating the duplicity.
> Now your buyers will receive just one email with all the
> information they need including transaction details, payment
> information, custom messaging, and more.
Paul writes, "I think they mean they are eliminating the *duplication*... hahaha!"
My friend Elaine works in Marketing and buys a ton of stuff for the company on her American Express card. This gives her reward points, which recently have been matched up with other rewards programs at various conversion rates.
She wanted to find out how many American Express Rewards points she could convert into Starwood Points, & tried to use the (rather backwards) points calculator. The calculator returned an error, asking her to only use multiples of 333. If she somehow knew multiples of 333, why would she even need the calculator? This is so totally broken.
I just purchased an IConcepts Optical Mouse. The package says it comes with a "limited lifetime warranty". However, inside the package, it seems IConcepts defines "limited lifetime" as "two years". See attached scan of warranty details.
I am insured by Health Partners through my employer. I tried to use Health Partners new, and highly advertised, online appointment scheduler to set up an appointment with a dermatologist. I did not limit my request with days or times thinking this would result in a larger listing of appointments to choose from. Attached is the response I got.
Four and a half months before there is a single opening? Their best solution is for me to see my primary doctor, a general practitioner? This is from the SAME health care provider that touts "Same day appointments" in their radio and print advertising!
Not broken, just amusing: I took this photo a few weeks ago in Norwich, UK at Primark, a discount clothing retailer. My husband wondered whether the corporate headquarters would allow employees to provide the type of services suggested by the display?
Dan Patterson sends a screenshot of the Web page he got when he requested to unsubscribe from a mailing list. The page reads, "Last offer before you go: Free Sample of Essential Mineral Drink!" Dan writes:
Photo caption - "Oh, alright. I just told you I wanted to stop receiving your email communication, but you convinced me - keep me on your list."
"Most customers' complaints revolved around the absence of a hospitable welcome, the unacceptable wait for an order to be taken (or for the drink to arrive), the near-impossibility of attracting a waiter's attention, staff's ignorance of the products they were selling, and poor hygiene."
...Other than that, the customer experience was great!
What is the article talking about? Cafes in France.
Ordering from Dell is broken. Here's a recent conversation:
Me (on the phone with Dell Computer): I want to order a Dimension 2400 system I see on your website, but I can't figure out how much it will cost without a monitor.
Dell Phone Woman (DPW): One second, sir, let me look that up for you...Oh, first I need to set up a customer account.
Me: Just to get a price?
DPW: Yes sir. Can I have your name? (I answer) Address? (I answer). Thank you. Let me look up that info for you...
DPW: Oh, here it is. That would come to $840.
Me: The Dimension 2400?
Me: Without the monitor?
Me: But here on your website, it costs $449, WITH the monitor.
DPW: That's right, sir.
Me: So, you are going to charge me twice as much to not send me the monitor?
DPW: Yes, sir.
Me: Doesn't that sound just a little goofy to you?
DPW: Yes, sir, but that's the way it is.
Me: (as I hang up the phone, hysterically laughing...) Thanks.
So, not only did I waste my time in some Fellini like zone where less stuff costs more, I'll probably wind up getting Dell catalogs for the rest of my living years since they got my name and address. Off to the Apple Store.....
Here's a great example of a process that's broken. I find a piece of furniture I'd like to buy from IKEA online (which, by the way, their store says is discontinued). I *think* I've successfully purchased it from their web site. That is until I receive this e-mail. Have I really ordered this dresser or not? I have no idea.
I just signed up to access my CitiMortgage account online. When I log in, the very first page shows a list of payment options - so I click on CitiMortgage E-Billing. Guess what comes up: "This service is no longer available." Why direct customers to an option that doesn't even exist? Broken!
Update Sept 3: CitiMortgage has fixed the error by removing the E-Billing option altogether from the site.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of This Is Broken!
Thanks to Seth Godin, who gave me the idea for This Is Broken a year ago. As a thanks to him, we're celebrating Seth Godin Week on This Is Broken - all five posts this week came from Seth!
Monday through Thursday's posts took place in Trudeau Airport in Montreal on April 19, 2004.
Seth Godin writes:
TV in the airport is free. They pay for cable and for screens, but they realize that the cost of charging someone to watch it is prohibitive and sort of stupid. Yet they charge for wifi. Dumb. Why isn’t wifi as important an amenity as windows or TV?
I left my keys in the ignition of my moterscooter outside of a large office building in Denver, Colorado. A well-meaning security guard at the building took the keys off the bike and brought them inside. Fortunately, I had a spare set.
After realizing I was not coming to get my keys, the guard decided the best way to get them to me was to bring them to an Albertson's Supermarket, because my keychain had a preferred customer keytag, which read:
"IF KEYS ARE FOUND, PLEASE RETURN TO NEAREST ALBERTSON'S STORE"
I wound up going to two different Albertson's stores before I got my keys back, and in both of the stores, the "Lost and Found Box" contained 20-30 keychains.
While I am not concerned with the abuse of demographics assocated with preferred customer cards, I do find the "please return to" statement misleading, as the the store clearly does not care enough about their customers to try to return their missing property.
I should note that from time to time Alberston's does have little banners at the checkout stand reminding me that I will automatically be enterred into a drawing to win a vacation cruise, or similar prize, when I use my preferred customer card; I wonder how they plan to notify me when I win.
I tried submitting a question to the Gillette Corporation (www.gillette.com)
and received the following page while submitting my question. I guess that pretty much answers my question.
The message reads, "Thank you for your interest in The Gillette Company. Due to the volume of requests we receive for projects, we are unable to respond with any additional information other than the information found on our website."
When using the automated telephone service to temporarily stop newspaper delivery for the Philadelphia Inquirer, you are asked to enter the date to stop delivery:
"Please enter the date to stop delivery. For example, January 1st, 2001 would be entered 0-1-0-1-0-1."
The correct technique is to enter the month, then the day, and then the year, but their instructions in no way make that clear. Also, I'm not sure how many people have (intentionally) stopped papers for a day in a year further out than a year from now.
Pete Maher has written this mini-opus on his recent customer experience with Thrifty Rent-A-Car at O'Hare airport in Chicago.
Take it away, Pete.
My Experience with Thrifty Car Rental: A Customer Tragedy in Four Acts.
by Pete Maher
ACT I - THE ARRIVAL
I am glad he hath so much youth and vigor left, of which he hath not been thrifty. --Swift.
Scene I - O'Hare Airport on a cold, wet November morning.
Enter: The Customer.
After de-boarding my flight, I head immediately for the rental car counter.
No one is there.
Just a sign telling me to take the bus to the Thrifty car rental location.
I step outside, just in time for the parade -- Hertz, Hertz, Budget, National [SIGH], Hertz, Budget [SIGH], Avis, Hertz, Hertz [DEEP SIGH], Avis...Thrifty [RELIEF].
Scene II - The Bus.
Enter: The Bus Driver.
One, two, three steps onto the bus.
The Bus Driver grunts, "blue chip!"
Confused, I pause... mutter, "uhhh.. Thrifty?"
The driver scowls.
We continue on to the next terminal.
Enter: The Goth Rocker.
At the next terminal, an outwardly pleasant gentleman -- who just happens to be heavily pierced and mascara'd -- boards the bus.
Again, the driver grunts, "blue chip!"
(At this precise moment, I notice a sign above the windshield that reads something like, "Please inform driver if you are a Blue Chip Member." Ahh, a customer loyalty program... I resist breaking into a loud cackle and regain my composure.)
The man tosses a blank stare at the driver. Awkward silence for all ensues.
The driver repeats [loudly], "Blue Chip!!"
The customer finally chirps, "car... rental.. car?"
Wrong answer, man.. Wrong answer.
ACT II - THE MISSING CHARIOT
When what's lost has been found, what's to come has already been? --Dylan
Scene I - The Car Rental Place.
Enter: The Harvesters of Sorrow.
I finally arrive at the car rental place.
Short line, several people behind the counter.
We do our dealings.
She hands me the car keys, directs me to "Spot 5 in the first row" [gestures].
No description of make, model, or color. Just "Spot 5 in the first row".
I walk in the direction of the first row. Find it with ease.
Find Spot 5, no problem. Well, slight problem.. No car.
Just then, a guy in a Thrifty shirt happens to walk by.
"Excuse me," I say.
I explain to him that my car seems to have disappeared; I show him my paperwork.
He yanks the paperwork out of my hand, looks around, and quietly rattles off a six-digit number. He splish-splashes his way through the parking lot, trying to match paperwork to dashboard. Now it's raining harder than it has all morning.
After five minutes or so, the man returns with my paperwork, which is now wet and ink-stained. No, "wet and ink-stained" doesn't begin to describe the state of my paperwork. It's barely holding its form at this point. It bleeds ink. Picture the way Pat Benatar's make-up might have looked in 1982 after playing a 3-hour concert... in New Orleans... in August. That is how my paperwork looks.
I return to the rental counter and explain to the four people behind the counter that my Thrifty car is nowhere to be found. The closest employee -- who has been slouched over the counter since I arrived and whose chin is seemingly glued to his right palm, and whose right elbow is seemingly glued to the countertop -- lazily motions toward Spot 4, and says, "that's the one."
"Not according to the guy who works in the parking lot," I fire back.
Scene II - The Car.
Eventually, we find the car.
I toss my laptop bag into the backseat and climb in. No... Please tell me this isn't happening. It appears as though Phillip Morris himself was the last person to rent this car. I look skyward and give thanks that the car is not equipped with a smoke alarm. At least it has wheels and a CD Pla-, err.. at least it has wheels.
An hour-and-a-half later, I'm almost to my client site on the South Side of Chicago. The rain is starting to become a problem.
The final stretch of road leading to my destination has nearly 2 feet of standing water on it. There's no turning back at this point. I hug the center of the road and white-knuckle my way to higher ground.
ACT III - AFTER THE FLOOD
After high floods come low ebbs. --Dutch Proverb
Scene I - Parking Lot at the Client Site, After My Meetings Have Ended.
Enter: Polite Lady.
"Sir.. Excuse me, sir?"
"Yes," I say.
"I just spoke with a few of our couriers.. They say the road out is completely flooded. The water is waist high."
She points me to another exit and gives me directions to the interstate.
Scene II - Back in the Car.
I glance at my watch.
Looks like my meetings ended sooner than expected. Ooh, I might even make an earlier flight home. Getting close now.
Ok, where do I exit?
There it is: "Rental Car Returns, Next Exit"
[miniature logos of Hertz, Budget, Avis, National -- but no Thrifty]...
It's now or never... I better- It's too late.. I missed the exit.
It must be up ahead. Why wouldn't the Thrifty logo be on that sign?
David Pogue, in a recent New York Times e-mail column, talked about a broken process that I've long suspected: HMOs deliberately slowing down paperwork to encourage people not to pursue getting their reimbursements:
...she would submit the proper forms for payment to the H.M.O. After a couple of months, she'd get back -- nothing. As we learned later, H.M.O.'s have figured out that a certain percentage of doctors never follow up; for the H.M.O., that's pure profit.
Then, on November 6, David Pogue published some reader mail - several readers sent horror stories of their own.
P.S. For international readers, HMO stands for "health maintenance organization," a company that manages healthcare, and costs, for customers. In the U.S. they have a reputation for caring more about cutting costs, and making a profit, than the health of their customers.