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Is Customer Service a Corporate Conspiracy?

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As we all know, one of the greatest scourges ever perpetrated on the world is that impenetrable maze known as "customer service." Clearly, companies put us through this unspeakable hassle on purpose to discourage troubled consumers from bothering them.

Verizon wants you to buy a phone, they just don't want to fix it. Dell wants to sell you a computer, they just don't want to deal with your problems. Blue Cross wants to sell you a policy, they just don't want to pay for a claim.

This tactic saves them money because they're hoping you'll get too frustrated to continue, which means they won't have to pay for sending you new parts or explaining a billing dispute or helping you navigate their byzantine website.

I'm not a conspiracy buff, but the fact that all companies do this makes me wonder if this whole senseless rigmarole is actually an insidious corporate plot against consumers. It sure ain't that hard to buy something from them over the phone.

It's ingenious really. If you can locate the customer service number, you'll end up spending hours hearing an automated list of choices which will not include the one option you actually want, which is to speak to a human being.

Then, the recorded voice lists 15 choices, instructing you to press the number that applies to you. You may not be sure which number is the right one, so you listen to all the choices again. Then you forget which number to press.

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Frustrated, you'll push one of the buttons even though it's the wrong one and now you've automatically cancelled your credit card, disconnected your cable, or ordered a pizza from Domino's.

More irritating is when you accidentally get disconnected towards the end of your query and have to start the whole miserable process all over again.

Now, you're livid so you throw your phone across the room. It hits the wall and smashes into a thousand pieces which, although satisfying for a few minutes, means you have to call Verizon customer service again to get the phone fixed.

If, by some miracle, you actually are connected to a human being, it'll probably be someone in India with an incomprehensible accent, arobotic script and the name, "Todd." You'll spend half an hour getting him to repeat everything fifty times. He's not to blame - he's just trying to support his family and he hasn't mastered the language.

If that isn't galling enough, ten minutes later, you'll get an email asking you to rate the customer service rep. At first, you'll angrily give him the lowest rating possible. Then you'll feel guilty that "Todd" will get fired, thus causing his children to starve because of you, and you'll change it all to an excellent rating.

Products should come with warning labels -- something along the lines of "customer service for this product may result in brain damage."

I suggest you call your Congressperson and ask him or her to introduce a bill called "The Customer Service Simplification Act." Simplification means you dial a customer service number and get a person right away.

Unfortunately, this will never happen because you'll never reach the Feds -- they use customer service too.


John Blumenthal has been a professional comedy writer for 25 years. A former associate editor and columnist at Playboy Magazine (following a short stint at Esquire), he's written 8 books and 2 produced movies. His films include "Short Time," (major (more...)

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Myclients were customer service executives anxious... by Jason Paz on Monday, Dec 28, 2009 at 3:56:56 AM
corporate customer service means precisely that. I... by John Sanchez Jr. on Monday, Dec 28, 2009 at 10:01:06 AM
To understand why these non-services are so appall... by Roy Madron on Monday, Dec 28, 2009 at 4:35:51 PM
With firms selling electronics and mechanics to th... by Steve Windisch (jibbguy) on Monday, Dec 28, 2009 at 4:39:11 PM