Monday, April 23, 2012

The Phone Replacement

We were standing in line at the Post Office (it seems a lot of my customer encounters happen there) when I had the pleasure of overhearing a woman who was shipping out a broken cell phone.  She was nice enough to the postal worker, but listening to her tell the story about her precious phone made me slightly crazy.  Slightly.

She put her box on the counter and said, "I need to send this phone back to Phone Company X because they won't send me a new one until I do."

"Ok," the postal woman said as she put the box on her scale.

"It's ridiculous!" the customer continued.  "Have you ever heard of that?"


The postal worker didn't really answer at first.  She just gave a sympathetic look and started typing.  "Would you like to insure this?" she asked.

"Yes," the customer nodded.

"How much insurance?"

"Four hundred and fifteen.  That's not what I paid, but that's what it's worth.  I got a deal on mine."

Thanks for sharing.  We're all impressed.  Me, especially.

But now, the other workers behind the counter become a bit more talkative as they discuss cell phone contracts.  Eventually, the woman resumes her whining about sending her cell phone back.

"I just don't understand it.  Why do I have to send my phone back before they give me a replacement?  I mean, my phone is my work!  I can't function without it!"

I admit that I have a bit of technology of my own that I use daily in my writing.  But I realize that no technology is perfect, accidents happen, and we need to be prepared in the event that a piece or even all of that technology fails.  If you have put your entire life into one piece of equipment with the assumptions that it will always be there for you, you are just begging for disaster.

Regarding the requirement that the old phone be sent back first, I can tell you that this has been warranty policy for MOST electronics products for decades.  I realize that some people think that companies should take the customer's word at face value, but if you've learned nothing else from retail ramblings, you should know by know that customers have demolished their own trustworthiness.

The phone company doesn't know if you're actually going to send the phone back.  For all they know, you could be scamming them for a new one so you can sell it on ebay.  Or perhaps you plan to "jailbreak" it so you can use it on another service.  Or maybe the damage done to your old phone was your fault therefore not covered under warranty.  There are far too many people looking to take advantage of customer-friendly companies (more than the average person assumes) for businesses to be able to act in good faith.  So if you feel a company's policies and practices are unfair, thank your fellow customers for that.

Don't get me wrong - I realize just as much as the next guy that there are a lot of morally reprehensible business practices out there.  But the current ME ME ME generation of customer has forced many companies to resort to measures that, in an honest society, might not be necessary.

Take the MPAA's constant efforts to get Congress to pass freedom-killing anti-piracy legislation, for example.  The MPAA is reaching FAR beyond the boundaries of their authority (since when were they made members of Congress, anyway?) in the name of battling piracy.  And while their methods are completely unacceptable and unconstitutional, if people weren't out there pirating music, movies, games, etc., the MPAA wouldn't have a single leg to stand on.  The ME generation says, "I want it, so I'm taking it," and then flips when companies retaliate.

Again, just to be clear, I'm not supporting the MPAA.  I blacked-out my site when the internet stood against SOPA and will continue to stand against anything that infringes on our freedoms.  I'm simply saying that if customers were a bit more honest and less selfish, perhaps businesses would be willing to trust them more.

Back to today's story, the woman said one last thing before paying her bill and leaving.  IT nearly made me laugh.

"I'm not even upset."

Yeah, we can tell.

"I just feel bad for Phone Company X because they're hurting themselves, ya know?"

Are you kidding me?  First off, you're complaining to the POST OFFICE about your cell phone replacement, and you want them to believe you're not upset?

And second, how long have you worked for Phone Company X?  You must be an employee, because that's the only way you could know whether or not their replacement policies hurt them.  You are in no position to make that call unless you know their supply costs, shipping costs, repair costs, the costs of any deals they may or may not have with outside service centers, how much they pay versus how much warranty sales cover, and any number of other figures.

People just don't get it.  All they care about is the fact that they're upset, and that's it.  It just furthers my belief that the phrase "The customer is always right" has absolutely destroyed humanity by promoting selfishness, arrogance, and above all else, greed.

It's a sad time we live in.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/23/2012:  If another shopper looking at something you want to look at, wait patiently for your turn.  If you start trying to wedge your way in front of me, I'm going to stand there as long as it takes for you to go away out of nothing more than spite.  You're not the only shopper in the store, so don't act like you are.