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The Sound of Ideas

Bad Customer Service - by design?

Posted Monday, May 24, 2010

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For years, some industries have made an art of alienating their customers. Sometimes it’s part of explicit corporate policy, other times customer service is a casualty of cost-cutting or misunderstandings on both sides of the counter. In any case, consumer complaints have been growing recently, leaving many feeling so frustrated they give up seeking a resolution. Monday morning at 9, Plain Dealer Consumer Columnist Sheryl Harris talks with the state Attorney General and others about which industries draw the most customer complaints, why it's all so frustrating and why it seems to be getting worse.


Economy, Regional Economy/Business - Analysis and Trends, Regional Economy/Business - News, Government/Politics


Richard Cordray Attorney General, State of Ohio
Sue McConnell senior vice-president, Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland
Lisa Fortini-Campbell lecturer, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Additional Information

The top consumer complaints from 2009 lists from the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.

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rick 9:04 AM 5/24/10

While we’ve all had frustrating experiences with customer service, especially on the telephone, I think it is important to point out that some companies do an excellent job.  I would point to my experiences with a local company, Moen, as an example of first rate customer service.  I bought a product with a lifetime warranty form them about 8 years ago.  I’ve since called them 3 times over the years for assistance with repairs and replacement of parts.  They have a system that calls you back when a representative is available so you’re not left hanging on the line.  I gave them my product and purchase information the first time and for subsequent calls they quickly accessed that information as well as a history of previous contacts with the company.  Their representatives have been very knowledgeable about their products and will actually stay on the line to walk you step-by-step through your repair, giving helpful hints along the way.  I don’t know how it could be done better.

Valerie Grant 9:30 AM 5/24/10

Thanks so much for this show! I know there was somewhere I could go with complaints, but had no idea where to go.
I recently just wanted a phone connected to my existing service with Verizon.  They tried to force me in to a new contract and into buying a new phone.  When I said no they threatened me with $200 fine, and when I said a wouldn’t pay it the salesman told me they’d impact my credit rating. This is ridiculous!
Now, thanks to you, I have the magic words and know how to handle this sort of extreme problem.

Pam Peters 9:44 AM 5/24/10

We contracted to have our whole interior of a house we just purchased painted. No where in the contract did it state that the man we were dealing with was subcontracting the work out. The painters were really bad and the damages to our home were extensive. We were holding out $10,000 of the total $30,000 and while I was out of town on business the wife of the owner called my husband at work, said she had spoken with me and that I had OK’d the final payment which my husband immediately sent. I had never spoken to her. We have damage to Pella windows that can not be fixed but must be replaced. They dumped a gallon of paint in our den onto new carpet. That is just a bit of what they did. It was a nightmare.
There was fraud involved also. Our contract named a specific paint and they used a 3rd tier contractors paint at a much lower cost to them. We have invoices. I contacted the BBB and was also referred to the Atty Genl Ofc in Columbus. All I got was a letter to the contractor and a letter from the Atty Genl’s Ofc saying they couldn’t really help me.
I then was immediately sued by the painter because I had contacted the BBB and the Atty Genl’s Ofc. and his attorney felt that the claims we made were untrue and I was personally causing harm to his business. He then filed bankruptcy and is now put there painting under a different company name and we are left with over $26,000 which we can not afford to fix the extremely bad paint job.
Our only remedy was to sue and we have spent over $7,000 to date trying to get him to at the very least return our money. Our trial has been postponed and postponed, the first judge has retired and we have been to 2 meetings trying to come to some agreement. The lawyers are the winners and there is no way the consumer can get satisfaction.
Also what does the Atty Genl and the BBB do about customers that want to bully retail shops. I also own a store and after 5 months a customer came back in with an item, spoke with my staff and was very upset when she was told that she had 30 days to return the item and that she was 4 months beyond that date, she became belligerent and nasty to my staff. She was given my name and asked if she wanted me to contact her and she told my staff no. Our return policy is at the register and printed on the receipt. Then I get a contact from the BBB which is now on my record. Why doesn’t the BBB stand up for the businesses and tell the consumer that being nice and contacting the owner may get you more than just trying to bully your way around and then sending an insulting letter to the BBB which stated things that were not true about my business. I know you can’t please everyone but the BBB needs to ask some of the complainers if they are following the rules of return. In this economy we absolutely have to follow our return policy. If you can’t use it get it back or at the very least if you are ill and can’t come in CALL the store and talk with them and work something out.

steve thomas 9:52 AM 5/24/10

Good Morning
I was a manager where we were graded on a returns/up sell ratio. there was no concern about customer/staff relationship or product quality.


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