There are a few phrases that have been added to the lexicon of popular English expressions over the years that point to the exasperation that seems inherent in so much of what we deal with in modern culture. First there was the phrase – “Going postal” which originally referred to a flurry of workplace shootings that were perpetrated by postal workers. Some sociologists pointed to the dead end and non-personal environment of bureaucracies like the Postal Service as the culprit. Later the phrase found its way into common usage as a way to describe someone who is going a little crazy because they are fed up. Then came road rage and air rage- often being triggered by rude and incompetent people. I have probably been at the precipice of air rage a few times when I have had a cancelled or delayed flight and none of the airline personnel is either willing to acknowledge my frustration or to help me. But none of that compares to my newest modern life condition- Cell phone rage. I am not about to go postal or nuclear, I am about to go cellular!
About a month ago my cell phone was stolen. Sure – I was upset, but I know these things happen and I was just grateful that during the mugging, I escaped unharmed. But somehow I could deal with that personal violation. Feeling violated by someone who is ripping you off is expected. But I really didn’t expect to feel violated yet again by my cell phone company- Cingular.
I admit that I had made a mistake and hadn’t bought insurance for my phone so I realized that I was going to be on the hook for the cost of a new phone. Somehow I didn’t expect to be on the hook for the price I would have to pay nor for what happened later. About 6 months ago I upgraded my phone to a Razr- paying abotu $100.00 for the upgrade and promising to extend my contract for 2 years. No big deal. Of course I had seen Razrs cheaper at the time, but not a whole lot cheaper.
Over the course of the past 6 months as other phones became the flavors of the day- I have seen ads for Razrs plummet and even Cingular was offering them for $25.00 for a new phone with new service. So, while I didn’t expect to get a new phone for $25.00, I didn’t expect them to tell me that I would need to pay $279! I don’t think I have seen Razrs for that price since the first came out. I was angry! When I talked to the Cingular rep on the phone – I told her that I felt that I had been violated a second time- first by the mugger and second by Cingular. What was the response? Nothing. Not even an “I’m sorry you feel that way” or an “I understand but there is little I can do.” Just dead silence! If my feelings had at least been acknowledged, it would have helped; I would have left the encounter unhappy but not angry. If I had decided to pick up my marbles and go to a different carrier- I would have had to pay $175.00 so I bit the bullet but was still angry.
So- I went to the Cingular store and got my phone. I even went through the hurdles necessary to get the rebate- which included cutting out a piece of the box that included the device number so it could be sent in among the rebate application materials. I think I had to send less documentation to my alama mater, Cornell, when I was applying for college admittance. Well the phone didn’t work nearly as well as the first one so I realized that it was a defective device. I called Cingular and they told me that I could return it since it was within the 30 day period and just have it exchanged.
I asked them what I needed to bring. The rep said, “All you need to bring is the phone.” Great -that’s easy. Then I asked another question. When I bought the new defective phone I had asked them to start insuring it. I was told by the salesperson that it would now be insured. For some reason I asked the rep who I was talking to if the phone had been insured and she said no. I expressed frustration because I had asked for insurance when I bought this new defective phone. She told me that I only had until the 30 day mark to insure the phone (and I couldn’t do it through her- but only through the store where I bought it) or else they would not be able to insure it!
I guess heaven was watching over me by giving me a defective phone. If I hadn’t had any problems- I wouldn’t have known it was uninsured and I wouldn’t have been able to insure it – even if I noticed the charge wasn’t appearing on my bill- since it would be too late! Geesh!
So yesterday I merrily make my way to Cingular to bring my phone back and get it insured. I explain all this to a sales rep who looks like he is 12. He stared at me with a blank look that was more vacant than my computer screen. I don’t think anything I said registered in his techno-addled brain. I handed him the phone and he said- “Do you have the original box?” Well of course I didn’t. The rep on the phone had told me all I needed was the phone itself and I had to cut the box up in order to send part of it into Cingular for the rebate. “Well- you will need to pay a $25 re-stocking fee.”
I went cellular! I asked why I hadn’t been told that, I was angry because I was told one thing by the rep on the phone and now he was telling me something different and besides how could I bring back a box that had been cut up in order to get the rebate. My tone was not pleasant, but I didn’t intend to be pleasant. It wasn’t the lousy $25.00 it was the whole experience that had worn me down.
His response was, “Do you want me to help you or not?” I bit my tongue because I realized I didn’t have much of a choice, but I wondered to myself about how these people are trained. Whatever happened to “the customer is always right” and “I’m sorry”. Cingular wasn’t the aggrieved party here- I was. Besides what do they have to lose by acknowledging a customer’s frustration even if they can’t do anything about it?
Sadly customer service has gone the way of good manners and it has made our world less civilized. I’m surpirsed we all don’t go “cellular”!