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2 Followups On Negative Customer Service Issues; eBay And AT&T

Posted by on Nov 18, 2010

I’m big on customer service. When it’s good I’ll point it out; when it’s bad, I’m also going to talk about it. I’ve had a couple of negative things occur lately, so to speak, and I’m going to talk about the aftermath of both of them; neither has ended well.

by Piez

Let’s start with the tale that I told on this blog about buying something used on eBay. The overview is that I bought something, a Palm T/X, it didn’t work right, sent it back, guy fixed that issue, something else immediately broke, I sent it back again, and then I hadn’t received anything, ever. Guy wouldn’t return either phone calls or email; very irritated. And the thing is I knew he wasn’t going to fix it, and he wouldn’t even think about just sending me a different one.

Here’s the aftermath, since I wrote that post on 10/5. I wrote the guy 2 more times and left a phone message once more; nothing. I kind of outed the guy on Facebook by mentioning his name, but I never pursued it, as I knew it wasn’t going anywhere, and my heart really wasn’t in it to go that route. Finally last week I talked to a lawyer about my options; it was a quick down and dirty thing. He said I really didn’t have any. Sure, I’d paid m money and I had a registered note saying he got it, but if I wanted to file a small claims suit against him I’d have to go to his state, which was Michigan, and for the $151 it cost me I’d lose more money than I’d get back.

Knowing that, I figured I’d write him one more time. In that letter, I threw in that I had spoken to a lawyer, which I had, and that it was recommended that I try to work it out with him, which was kind of true. That letter got a response, and the guy said he thought he’d sent it back months ago; yeah, right! He mentioned in the letter that it bothered him that I went to a lawyer. I wrote back that all I wanted was my Palm back and asked what he’d have done if he’d been in my shoes and hadn’t received his product in almost 4 months.

That didn’t get a response, but today, finally, I did get my Palm back in the mail. The alarm still doesn’t work, but everything else does, and man, I really have found that I need my database and my calendar with me, even without the alarm. That plus it can connect to the internet if need be, plus I can use it as a reader and for a host of other things; I’ll deal with it. So I have it back, but I really still can’t say it all ended well.

The next story is new to some of you, especially if you don’t read my business blog. It involves the negative process of trying to get a replacement phone from AT&T, then finding out that we had insurance where my wife could have gotten that replacement instead, and how the processes for everything were very long and convoluted. I complained that in this day and age it shouldn’t take an hour just to set up on a new plan, or, after I learned about the insurance, to put in a claim. If you want to see more of the setup, go to that link.

Here’s the follow up. My wife and I started thinking about all of this and we got irked. It cost us $50 to replace her phone after I’d been paying insurance on both her phone and my phone for more than 2 1/2 years. At $5 a pop, that’s around $300. The replacement phone they sent her looked nice, a Samsung Propel, but when I looked it up it was a 2-year old phone that they don’t make anymore; and it was refurbished! Come on, they couldn’t send her a new phone after all these years for what I’d been paying for insurance, even after spending another $50 for it? All for the privilege of not having to sign a new 2-year plan?

And that’s not all. My wife loved the look of the phone and loves the keyboard, but it’s a power hog. We thought that the phone was brand new, and it still might be, but the battery wasn’t holding a charge. So I spent another $20 to buy a new battery from a local battery company, only to see that the new battery also won’t hold the charge. That means it’s the phone; sheesh!

At this point there’s no recourse for that, so we’re stuck with it for at least a little while. I did call and cancel the insurance, and I told the guy why. I mean, if we’d just stuck with the new phone after the rebate it would have only cost $20 and it would be working great. Turns out phone insurance is a joke, and that’s irksome. Turns out you can just keep buying new phones, even if your plan isn’t completed, as long as you’re ready to sign a new one, but you can still keep whatever you had on your old plan; that’s what I have now. So, I feel like an idiot of sorts, but what can you do, right?

So, nothing else on eBay that I can see, and I’m going to have to think about my association with AT&T after 15 years when I’m ready for a new phone and a new plan, since I figure the next time around I’m probably going to have to get a new plan anyway. Kicking and dragging into the new technology; thy name is Mitch!

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Hi Mitch

What terrible customer service!!! Seems to be they want to take your money but if anything goes wrong they don’t want to know. I would definitely change my phone company if they treated me like that! Hope you get that sorted; sooner rather than later.

Patricia Perth Australia

November 18th, 2010 | 11:23 AM

Pat, it’s amazing what happens in this day and age with customer service, especially from large companies that don’t seem to care. But it doesn’t behoove smaller providers to mess up all that often either. Buyer beware.

November 18th, 2010 | 1:52 PM

I’ve learned the hard way to question every warranty, lifetime guarantee, and insurance offer. Many products with guarantees require you to pay to ship the item to them for repair — and pay to have it sent back to you. Meanwhile, you don’t have product to use and either have to buy a replacement or go without. Depending on the item, it could cost more for the shipping than the thing originally cost to buy. When I’m sending a package at the post office and they ask me if I want insurance, I say “No thanks.” The word insurance sounds comforting, but try to make a claim and calculate how much time you’re going to spend getting reimbursed. Very often it won’t be worth it (but you may not figure that out until you’re in the middle of it).

Sorry for your troubles, Mitch, but I’m glad you post about it. We all need to be reminded that sometimes a good deal is just a good deal of frustration.

November 18th, 2010 | 2:19 PM

For sure Charles. The phone thing was irritating because it was more about my wife than me, although truthfully, turns out if I wasn’t there she wouldn’t have been allowed to do anything, and that’s not right either.

November 18th, 2010 | 2:25 PM

I think large companies that maintain a certain monopole are most likely to treat their customers bad. I think it’s because the overall mentality of the company (if you do not agree go somewhere else).

November 18th, 2010 | 2:27 PM

I’m with you on that one, Alex. I mean, one cable system in my city means prices go up, and the alternative isn’t all that great either.

November 18th, 2010 | 2:29 PM

It is unfortunate that most customer service sucks. I feel that one of the measure of business sucess is based upon how well we can take care of our client/customer base. Our society seems to accept medoiocore service (at best) from most suppliers and that is unacceptable to me. When is enough is enough? If businesses want our loyalty and attention, they need to do a better job.

Rachel Lavern
Personal Transformation, Enlightenment and Development

November 18th, 2010 | 2:35 PM

Rachel, I write about it often on my other blog and in my business newsletter. Customer service is falling apart across the country, as employees can’t get engaged in their processes. To their credit, all the AT&T people on the phone have been nice, but the company processes don’t overcome how nice their people are. And that’s a shame.

November 18th, 2010 | 3:06 PM

I had a similar situation to the one you had with your Palm T/X. I purchased a DVD through a website and haven’t gotten anything in the mail yet.

And I ordered this DVD back in late September. I sent emails and called the number they gave me to reach them and I haven’t got a reply back yet.

I purchased it with my Wells Fargo card and the customer service rep told me I can file a claim on the order and resolve the situation that way.

The thing is, the DVD only cost me ten bucks and I have been procrastinating with filing a claim and getting my ten dollars back. Sad to see I’m not the only one dealing with this type of mess.

November 18th, 2010 | 3:45 PM

Yeah, that’s how they get us sometimes, with those low prices that make it seem like a lot of work to try to recover it. I hope you get it, though.

November 18th, 2010 | 8:35 PM


I remember when I was upgrading my phone at Verizon – they told me the Env L3 (or whatever it is) is free for me. Yay!
Then they tried to hit me with a $10/month increase on my billing.

I refused. They said, the phone is capable of more, so we have to charge for those services.

I responded, I don’t *use* those services and no, I will not pay.

End result? After half an hour, they said, Okay, we’ll make you a Legacy Customer and you can have the phone without the increase.

Felt mighty buff after that, I’ll tell you….

November 19th, 2010 | 5:19 AM

Barb, I just didn’t have the opportunity to really gripe about anything. Actually, the first phone they said they were going to send her my wife didn’t like, so I put her on the phone to debate the woman, who said she’d send a different phone instead. Never had any idea it was a 2-year old discontinued phone, but my wife had felt, at least initially, that she’d gotten what she wanted. That’s the sneaky stuff that large companies pull that stun the rest of us.

November 19th, 2010 | 10:21 AM

i’m sorry for your bad experiences, it’s really frustrating when such a thing happens. I’ve heard about phone insurance, but i don’t see this as a necessity. Regarding ebay, i’m not buying anything from them. Amazon yes, ebay NO!

November 19th, 2010 | 6:32 AM

Mia, I’m definitely going to be way more circumspect with things such as this. I don’t want to say “never” to eBay, but I’m not going to put up with what’s just happened anymore. I will definitely ask for a full refund instead of trying to get something fixed.

November 19th, 2010 | 10:25 AM

Ewww….At & T!

I have a Blackberry and have very few problems. I can’t get a connection in the trailer at camp, but can outside. That’s about the worst of MY issues.

Now my better half ,Ron has BIG TIME issues….Keep in mind that we are on the same plan, live in the same house, yadda, yadda….

He has been through at least 5 phones and he keeps missing calls! When people call they will get something like “This phone is not accepting calls at this time”.

Happens on average a couple of times a day and he has lost business because of this issue!

Ron is a diesel mechanic on call 24/7- when he misses a call, he misses making money AND the company may cross him off their list next time they have a breakdown!

This has been going on for months- maybe a year?

Ron purchased the first 3 replacement phones himself- cheap ones. So we figured it’s the cheap phones, so he went a little better each time…No good.

Finally, At & T replaces his phone with some super-tough phone. Should do the trick- NOT!

So Ron’s boss get’s him a Verizon phone….working great so far…

Ron calls AT & T last night AGAIN about the problem.

They ask if he’s on the cell phone now…..he says, “Yes, on the Verizon phone that my boss gave me! It works great!”

The lady doesn’t see the humor in that and ignores that comment. She says the same thing they say the other 25 times he’s called… bad phone, bad geographical area…

He explains that he is standing right near me and I’m talking on MY cell with no problem.

She gets down to business…

She does whatever and then tries to call him back on the cell. Every-time, she goes through the same spiel….”This is so and so from At & T, you are a valued customer, blah,blah”.

He just heard this same spiel 3 times in the last 5 minutes!

Next step, we cancel his At & T service (keep mine) and demand a credit to our bill.

Sorry this is so lengthy, but we are at the end of our rope….

November 19th, 2010 | 7:33 AM

Carolee, at some point I might end up having to come to grips with my loyalty issues and actually start full research on cell phone companies. I hate hearing your story, but I’m not surprised by it and I thank you for sharing it with us. As a sidebar, my phone service won’t work in Wegmans, yet there are lots of people who are able to talk on their phones while in Wegmans, so it’s obvious that they’re not on AT&T.

November 19th, 2010 | 10:24 AM

Customer service is HUUUUUUUUGGGGGGEEEEE! You live in upstate NY, you know what I’m referring to! Sorry you had to go through all that. SOmetimes as customers we really get screwed. I try to have the best customer service I can in my biz. Thanks for the reminder of that need!

November 19th, 2010 | 9:28 AM

Actually I live in “central” New York, Susan! 🙂 But I know what you mean, and yes, customer service really needs to be a much bigger deal than it seems many people know. I’ve been made to feel really bad in large retail stores and made to feel insignificant in smaller ones as well. I always say the customer isn’t always right, but they are still the customer, and deserve to be treated at least that well.

November 19th, 2010 | 10:30 AM

Just for the record, we’re still having issues….

November 22nd, 2010 | 7:55 AM

Honestly, I have mixed feelings buying or selling on eBay. Long time ago, I have lost very expensive watch around so called Nigerian scam. For buying nearly the same, laptop with broken screen.

November 22nd, 2010 | 8:53 AM