It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.

outofserviceThat was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.

The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”

Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.


Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.


Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.

“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.

“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.

Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.


Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.

If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.

Death cust serv

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.


Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.


Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.

AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.

L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.

To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.

Categories: Bureacracy, Customer Service, Government, Personal

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. I totally agree with your post. I have an unlisted number to stop all the cold calling. I also have an old fashioned phone (?) should the power go off and an old fashioned phone book. I absolutely hate dealing with people when I can’t understand them so hang up. I am not wasting my time when they don’t know what you are talking about. 😀


  2. Our TV/internet cable company has excellent customer service – after the obligatory 10 minute hold.


  3. I so agree. I spent time on the phone with At&T last week- they are good. The endless prompts when calling someone drive me insane. By the time I do get through I usually need to be handled by the “escalation” department because I am so livid I am screaming.


    • It turns a simple bit of business into a long, agonizing process … and winds up with a lot of angry customers that quite probably wouldn’t have been angry had someone just answered the phone in the first place. Apparently good will is no longer a valued commodity.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Customer service impressed me a lot when I arrived in the US. It still does in comparison to many other countries, but you’ve got a point that the quality has declined. And as much as I would rather do business with brick-and-mortar Amazon has definitey understood what customers want. A quick, easy, satisfaying transaction.


    • It is difficult to imagine how much worse it could be, short of “not at all.” And a lot of companies are striving for “not at all” as their best case scenario. I always thought service was part of the process of making a good product, but apparently I was deluded.


  5. First World Problems…I wonder how customers in, say, Bangladesh feel about these important issues.


  6. I do so agree. I hate those automated phone things. Thankfully the government departments I occasionally have to call can be circumvented by just ignoring all the options, that gets you an actual person and most are delightful to deal with.
    My Job Search Provider, a private company used to be great. If I needed to contact them I called the local office and immediately got a person usually the exact one I wanted to talk to. Now they have put in a new system with the dreaded press 1 for this and 2 for that. A simple matter that could have been resolved in five minutes becomes three phone calls although to her credit my case manager did send me a text to let me know she’d received my message and everything was fine. I suppose I should be happy I’m still talking to people in the actual office not a call centre.


    • The cost of these automated systems is supposed to save money over having “live people” answering phones. But in the end, almost everyone still wants to talk to a live person anyway, but by the time they get there they are pissed off, frustrated, and have lost all their good humor around the third “press this button” option. I doubt it saves any money at all and in the long run, it definitely costs a lot of good will and probably, customers. Not counting monopolies, of course, with whom we are apparently just stuck.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I got so sick of mandatory customer service surveys working at Intel. Service from any department always sucked and nothing ever came of filling out surveys.

    I recently ordered a $5.95 drawing pad from, one of my favorite online places to shop. I have a Prime account that ships everything in 2 days for free whether it’s a $5,000 item or a $5 purchase. They rejected my debit card without an explanation, the same debit car I had used for a $15 art supply item just an hour earlier. I have $1,000 in my checking account to cover the debit card. I was forced to switch to the actual checking account to get them to ship that small item. It just wasn’t 6worth the hassle to call customer service over a $6 item.


    • It’s always worth calling Amazon. They resolve problems instantly, apologize profusely, and do their best to make things right. There was probably a glitch. You should give them a chance.


      • I did. I mentioned the credit union being down for maintenance probably contributed to the glitch. I’ve been with Amazon for many years and have always had supremely great service. The same can be said of B&H Camera & Video in New York.


        • Yes, this time of year, credit card servers go down. Sometimes !! HORRORS !! they stay down for quite a while, which this time of year is more than merely inconvenient. Almost TRAGIC. Fortunately, other than food, my shopping is DONE. My money was done before the shopping, so this is a very good thing.


          • My shopping for others was done before the snaffu with my debit card. The gift I paid for with that card was my Christmas gift from me to me. It was a simple 9″x12″ drawing pad of paper. It’s in the mail and should be here tomorrow. Look for artwork originals from me in the future.


  8. They seem to have us trained too to accept our inferiority as customers in face of their expertise… when in fact the customer is the one choosing to use their services and choosing to pay for them too.


    • And moreover, more than half the time, I know more about the product than their “experts” do. They hire cheap, don’t train people, and every time I ask a question, the answer is “wait a minute, let me check that out, do you mind if I put you on hold?” Yes, I mind if you put me on hold. How come you can’t answer even the simplest question? Adobe is particularly fond of offering a new product or program, then having customer service reps who have never heard of the product or service. And these are EXPENSIVE services and products. Hundreds of dollars. Computer companies and camera companies too … no usable manuals and customer service people who know nothing (except for what they know which is wrong!) … Ooof!!


  9. This is one of the reasons I love the company I work for – 99% of customer phone calls are answered by an actual human (in our office, not abroad) within 2 rings.
    My bank is also great. The have no branches, it’s online/phone only. Last time I phoned them a person answered so fast I got confused and nearly forgot what I was phoning about (I usually expect at least a 10 minute wait when I phone someone, time to gather my thoughts!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good service tends to shock me, too. Amazon, you send a message to “call me immediately” and before you have time to lift your fingers from your keyboard, your phone is ringing — it’s a live person! Our bank isn’t bad … if you call the branch and not the corporate headquarters. But computer companies like Dell? Cable companies (all of them)? The electric company? Our town HAS no one to answer the phone. There’s a person there four hours a week. The rest of the week, there is literally no one there, not EVEN an answering machine. The perils of small town living, I suppose. The only places where there’s a person on duty are the cops and the fire department. I suppose I should be grateful for small favors.


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