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

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

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until about 2002. At which point everyone decided to save money by (A) “automating” customer service (B) eliminating service entirely, or (C) shipping it overseas to be handled by people who barely speak English and don’t know anything about the products. That was when you and me, the customers — we who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services — became unimportant.

That 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 possible.
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.

My personal un-favorites include:

  1. Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching.
  2. Calls that display a caller ID as a familiar phone number, but which they’ve hacked. Sometimes, it’s your OWN number. Why would you answer that?
  3. Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of cancer research, who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.
  4. “Surveys” that are scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.
  5. “Discount cards” which are just another way to collect your personal information so their company can sell it. You may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.
  6. Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t remember the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on forever. Worse, you have to listen to the whole 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 a year ago, sometimes even longer. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.


Many companies 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 used to have 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. And no one has a real landline anymore — they are all cable lines.

If your entire life is online, it’s over when your power goes out, which is why I have real things — like books and magazines — I can use even by candlelight. Imagine that! AND I have DVDs that play when the cable is out! Whoo hoo!

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.

Death cust serv

Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers (one of whom is the owner and the other, one of his kids) are probably chatting 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.

There are still some good services out there. Blue Cross has one of them, by the way … and ironically, so does both Social Security and Medicare. If you bump into any others, be sure to tell them how wonderful they are. Maybe it will become contagious.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.


  1. Great blog post. Hitting all the nails. I can’t stand automated voice systems.
    I found the way around the circuitous voice menus is to press Zero. I had call Fidelity to ask about my savings plan. My eyesight is poor and I have trouble following menus.

    Got tired of the menus and pressed Zero. Got a Human.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sometimes, you have to press zero five or six times … and sometimes, they trick you and they want you to press 4 or 7 or something. And sometimes, there IS no one at the other end. I really hate how many companies no longer offer phone numbers at ALL.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I feel the same way. Tired of pressing millions of digits or the human is located on the other side of the earth! Going to the company’s website is often more confusing.
        So far the Zero strategy has worked but one never knows what insanity will be next.


        1. Credit companies and a lot of companies that sell clothing — like Land’s End, for example — have a sneaky alternate number and Coldwater Creek doesn’t have ANY telephone number anymore. None. You can email them or not, but no direct contact. And the electric company — National Grid is awful. There must be 20 numbers and announcements you need to go through to get human. On the other hand, you call Medicare or Social Security and you get a person instantly AND they know what they are talking about.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Good to know that Medicare and Social security have humans.
            I believe Sears owns Lands End so you could make returns. However these companies need to stop inconveniencing their customers.


          2. quite by accident I found the way “in” to our insurance company. The list of “press one for this and press 2 for that” also includes a “press — for billing.” So I hit that one. A real person lives at “billing” and she will patch you through to the place you want to go. “Oh,” I say, innocently, “I am SO sorry, I must have hit the wrong number. Im actually looking for claims.” “No problem”, she says, “let me patch you through.”.

            heh heh heh.
            Told a friend, and she tried it on her call to Big Corporations and said it worked like a charm.

            But I’ll remember the zero. Nice to have a back up.

            My latest peeve about automated calls: you are reminded at least twice by a strangely patched together voice that your appointment is on January 18 at 2. O. Clock. You are also reminded by another autocall the night before, just as you’re setting the table for supper. Once the visit happens, the next day you get a cheery call from the office to find out how much you enjoyed the visit. Or an email wanting you to take a quick survey. Two days later, another phone call to remind you of your upcoming visit in six months…


  2. I was out to dinner this evening at a place that has just reopened after “modernizing their restaurant. I was seated; a manager took my drink order and delivered my iced tea. Another manager took my food order. Julie, my server, finally showed up to say she was sorry for the wait, and again to say my food was almost ready. I had to wait to request more iced tea and ketchup for fries. And then she laughed at me for finishing my dinner I know they servers make their money from tips, but it hurt to give her anything!


    1. I try to leave something because no one should starve who is working — but a lot of the time, you have to wonder how people who are in service professions expect to get tips if they aren’t at least NICE to their customers.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I often tip pretty generously, since the servers work just as hard to serve me as if there were 2 or 3 people. This one was tough, though — I barely even saw her! I don’t think I’ll frequent this particular place!


    2. I used to do this kind of work, and always appreciated the tips, if not the hassle that sometimes involved them. To that end I tend to tip any waitress or server as best I can. My husband doesn’t believe in tips, but, then, he never worked for $1.25 an hour before taxes, either.

      I agree, however, people who are in the service industry need to understand that those tips are not necessarily automatic.

      Why did the server laugh at you for finishing your dinner? Or did I miss something there?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The portions were reasonable this time — often, though, the portions are so big that I ask for a box and take half home. Usually I eat about half first, then ask for a box, but there are places where I get the box up front, and remove the take-home part from the plate before I begin to eat. Restaurants here seem to justify their prices by serving twice too much!


      1. I think it was just an uncertain acknowledgment that I had simply eaten my meal while she was bouncing from one table to another where people werechatting (I was alone) — she didn’t know what to say, and hadn’t realized I was there too since the managers basically did my service!


  3. And it’s an international disease. I spent so much time and money on telephone calls to England when my dad died organising stuff like cancelling his telephone and dealing with official stuff. 90% of it was just pressing the right button and waiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hate it. The only good thing is I can put the telephone on speaker so while I’m waiting through whatever stupid music they are playing, I don’t have to hold the phone. It drives me nuts. I try, these days, to do most of it by chat because I get so MAD talking that Garry’s afraid I’ll have a stroke and die with the phone in my hand. He has a point.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. As soon as I hear the recording with all of the “press 1 for this, press 2 for that…” I immediately press zero or pound. If I don’t get a live person, I hang up. I will admit, though, that if the provider’s website has a chat function, I prefer that over going through a voice option process. And at the end of the chat session I can print off a transcript of the conversation to document the promises the customer service rep made during the chat session.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. AMEN to that. Same here, I think it’s a universal problem now. Being in the English part of Canada, I find we get faster attention is we go for the French option. (That’s if there’s anyone there at all).


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