When It Comes To Service, Definitely Think Local

Posted by: David Kiley on January 2, 2008

A week amidst the holidays turned out to be a week of consumer hell, and a reinforcement of why we should do all we can to patronize local businesses in our communities that know about service.

It started when I found the used car I had been hunting for, a BMW 325xiT with manual transmission. It’s a rare car as far as getting awd in a wagon with a stick. The one I found was in Framingham Mass. I booked a flight to get the car on US Airways. Turns out I mis-booked on Orbitz.com. I called to re-book a day later, fully expecting that I would have to pay a $100.00 or $125.00 change fee. Though I find this fee to be insidious and unfair, I was resigned to pay it. What I was not prepared for was the extra hubris on the part of USA. The flight I booked was cheaper than my original flight by about $50.00. USA, Orbitz told me, does not apply the difference to the change-fee, requiring me to pay the higher original price plus the change fee for the cheaper flight. It’s a joke. The airlines are drunk with power because of the way fare and route structures are set up. This is the sort of usury-style purchase rule and arbitrary consumer screwing practice that should be in the screen of the next Congress. But let’s not hold our breath.

Next up. Verizon. While I was in Mass., I lost my Treo. I went to a Verizon Wireless store to see about a replacement. Here was the process. I was insured. But instead of Verizon replacing my phone, I had to wait for a third-party to send me a replacement phone to my home address. I was driving back over two days to Michigan, and didn’t want to be without a phone. The solution was that I pay for a cheap Samsung phone, which I could return to a Verizon store in Michigan. This was the best solution? Instead of having phones on site that they could give to replace my lost phone, I buy a new phone and return it a week later? To be resold as new? Yipes. Genius.

And as long as I was in need of a new phone, I decided to look at Blackberry, as I was frustrated that I couldn’t use a Treo overseas on Verizon’s service. But no Blackberry at Verizon, I was told, comes with a camera? How is this possible, I thought. So…I can’t get a Treo through Verizon that works overseas, and I can’t get a Blackberry with a camera. Can the number of Verizon customers who want an international smart-phone with a camera be that small? Again…Verizon…Idiots.

The answer seems to be to switch to AT&T cellular in March when my contract is up, and upgrade my phone. Great going Verizon!

Now, as for local businesses. I was shopping for a new snowblower over the break. At Sears, whose customer service has been going downhill faster than an Olympic skier, wanted to sell me a Craftsman snowblower in a box that I’d have to assemble. The local seller in Ann Arbor I chose sold me an Ariens snowblower, assembled with oil and gas in it, and the check-out person filled out my warranty card before I left the store. If it needs servicing, I can take it back to the store. At Sears, as I found out with a washing machine that went bad in less than two years, it would take a series of appointments perhaps spread out over three to four weeks.

Another local business in Ann Arbor, Zingerman’s, is so good at customer handling that they have spawned a business called ZingTrain, which are customer service training sessions attended by other businesses. Apparently, though, Verizon, Sears and US Air haven’t sent anyone.

My takeaway: Think Local! Buy Local! And write your Congressman to take up the fight against airline abuse of consumers.

Reader Comments

Bruce "Rick" Humphrey

January 10, 2008 1:04 AM

OMFG, that is so unreal!
I read your post and just KNEW that you were from New England! Gee, I wonder how that wonderkind found its way into my head.

From Kiley: I was born in NJ and live in MI.

Post a comment

 

About

News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!