Saturday, August 9, 2014

Soooo Tired of Corporate Dickwaddery

I'm not sure if y'all have noticed or not, but I haven't been around on the interwebs as much as usual. This is because my telephone and DSL service went out AGAIN and I was completely without service for about 4 days.

To make a long gruesome story short, the phone lines in my neighborhood are the original lead lines strung in the 1950's and since this is the barrio, the telephone company has no intention of upgrading them any time soon.

This means that I lose service every few months and have to put up with slow internet (2.5 megs on a good day) and lots of static on the phone line. Anyhow, after dealing with these problems for years, I finally decided to switch providers.

This was not a move that I was terrible excited about, because the only other option in my area is the cable company, and they have a TERRIBLE reputation for customer service - which they have been living up to in the few days since I signed up.

Basically, they quoted me an introductory offer of one price, but are charging me almost double. And there are intermittent problems with the voice quality... which they say is a problem with the lines - AGAIN? Doesn't anybody believe in maintaining their equipment these days? Of course, they can't fix an intermittent problem, it has to be constant... yadda, yadda, yadda.

I dunno. Perhaps my expectations are just too high, but it just seems like in the year 2014 I ought to be able to get functioning telephone service.

I mean, back in the 1970's and 80's we never EVER had any problems with the telephone, and if you did, they treated it like an emergency instead of shuffling you around the globe several times to various "help" centers... where they never seem to be able to solve the problem, but are really anxious to tell you about the exciting new offers and services they have.

It's not just the telecom industry either. These days I feel like ANYTHING that has a major corporation attached to it is a deadly quagmire.

My blu-ray player died a few weeks ago, so I bought a highly rated new one... it lasted about a week before it died completely. Seriously? One week?

This is why I hate to buy things. You think that you can just throw money at a problem and it will be all better, but it seldom if ever works that way. Generally speaking, buying something is just like signing up for a whole new set of problems.

And speaking of signing up, I signed up for health insurance through Obamacare - and I assure you that I am utterly grateful for the new law and the protections it affords a self-employed person like myself. But dealing with the whole thing has been a complete and utter nightmare!

I kept the same health care company that I had before, because I love my doctor and I've never had any problems with them.

But apparently they decided to outsource the billing for all of the Obamacare patients and it's been a total disaster!

The billing company has NO clue what they're doing, and every month there is some problem or another with my premium bills, that required endless hours of sitting on hold (on my poorly functioning telephone)....

Is this just me? Seriously, I just can't escape the feeling that our entire society is rotting from the inside out.

It's like we've turned over the reigns for everything to corporate America - and the only thing they care about is their short term profitability and what it does to their stock prices.

Meanwhile, all the products and services they are supposedly offering are basically just a complete and total sham - a useless pile of barely functioning stuff propped up be ever fancier marketing schemes.

I dunno... it all just makes me want to back up 10 yards and punt (apologies to any international readers who don't get my American football references).

But even if I seriously wanted to drop out of society, I'm not sure you really can these days. As my post on the solar storm apocalypse illustrated, we're all pretty interdependent, like it or not.

I guess the only solution is to continue on the path I'm on... that is to limit my interactions with the corporate scumballs to the minimum necessary.

But it just seems like our society can't continue on this path forever. I mean as some point these proverbial chickens have to come home to roost.

In the meantime, I think I'm gonna go mend some clothes. Soooo much more satisfying than spending money for the privilege of being treated like a pile of crap.

So how about you? Am I the only one with these sorts of frustrations? Does anybody else out there see this stuff as the beginning of the end for this society of ours?


  1. I certainly have similar frustrations, but I don't see them as the beginning and ending of society. Sometimes things work well and sometimes they need improvement. You're having a string of bad service. It goes in cycles. Things will improve. I promise.

    Onto internet service--we had it through the cable company and for whatever reason there were only eight of us at the end of the street that were on the same main box/line. We had a lot of intermittent problems. However, since there were only eight of us, we were always at the bottom of the priority list to get fixed. So if any neighborhood with more people had an outage, they got fixed first. We changed companies and have much better service, however every time it rains we have static on our phone line. They fixed it once, but the problem returned. I can still hear what I need, so I live with it instead of trying to coordinate with a repairman.

    As far as insurance is concerned, all I know is that it is a very complicated situation normally and Obama care is one of the most complicated pieces of legislation that was ever passed.That may be why it was contracted out. All I can say, is good luck. I have spent the last week dealing with insurance and Medicare trying to help my mother with several issues. This is another frustrating situation requiring a lot of time, but I will say that everyone I have interacted with has been polite and helpful.

    I hope you have time for a bike ride today with Catman. Hopefully, that will put you in a better mood even if it's only for a little while. I'm going for a walk with my sister and her dog before I go to work. I'm hoping that helps my attitude because I really don't want to go to work today. But such is life.

    1. I do tend to take things a tad bet too seriously, don't I? You know, I don't think the voice quality thing would bother me quite so much if it weren't for the fact that since CatMan and I don't live together, we spend several hours per day on the telephone, so a good quality phone connection is pretty important to me.

      And he did me one better than a bike ride. He came over for dinner and a movie, and even managed to diagnose the problem with the blu-ray player with his electrical engineering wizardry (the A/C adapter is bad.) So hopefully it will be an easy fix. And getting to spend the day with him makes any crummy situation feel worlds better!

  2. Welcome back!

    I have also felt negative thoughts about big companies. Of course we expect problems with monopolies and oligopolies (internet providers, insurance providers) because they don't have to care about our feedback. But I also feel like other big companies are very careful to share with us only the need-to-know things about what we buy; and the companies that are willing to go way too far in the horrible direction on the things we don't see (like the "support" on your sand castle picture) are the ones that make a profit and stay in business.

    But you have brought up two *additional* issues here. One is your blue ray player that was highly rated and broke anyway. Ratings systems are a great way for us to see at least the durability and usability parts of what's behind the scenes for something we buy, but even that didn't work for you this time. I hope you returned it or made an exchange. I do feel like companies are seeing testing their products as a waste of money when they can make us do it for free. I can accept doing it for free, but they better make it easy for me to make an exchange.

    The other issue I see is multi-tier service. You have worse internet service because you are in a low-income neighborhood and it might also be the case that you are getting worse insurance service because Obamacare users are lower status (though I like live and learn's explanation better). And why do rich people get better service? I think it's because they complain more. So we could do that.

    So, besides focusing on smaller companies (which I also am inclined to do), you can also make yourself heard and/or refuse to accept bad service quietly. Complain to the company and ask for compensation. (My boyfriend can generally get a small refund when service has been unavailable, even for just a few hours. "I paid for 24-hour service and I did not have it.") Write letters to companies (actually complaining and thanking letters). Complain elsewhere as well (at review sites, to Congressmen?). This is time consuming and no fun (for most people anyway), though satisfying when it leads to victories. You can also sign petitions asking for competition, labelling, etc.

    And you can also try doing without something that only comes from horrible companies. But I LOVE internet! There is no substitute--though perhaps it's possible to get it only elsewhere such as libraries and coffee shops. And getting rich enough to self-insure is worse than dealing with insurance! (At least for health insurance.)

    1. I'm with you about the internet - it would be pretty hard for me to give it up, especially since it's how I make my living.

      But you are totally correct about the low income neighborhood thing. When the internet finally came back on (albeit sporadically) I was catching up on news and saw an article about how the phone company here is turning Denver into a "gig city" with gigabit service already available in certain neighborhoods.

      Don't get me wrong, I think it's fantastic that fiber optic connections will be available, but it really burns me that while they can't scrape together a few bucks to replace the lines and provide reliable basic service here in the barrio, they were busy laying mile after mile of fiber to bring super ultra fast service to the wealthy sections of town. Grrrr.

      That actually did inspire me to write a letter to a local reporter as well as my city council representative. In truth I think it will be a cold day in Hades before they will be convinced to invest in this neighborhood. And what really bothers me about that (my own personal situation aside) is that this sort of attitude pretty much ensures that neighborhoods like this don't have much chance of improving. It's where the poor people live, so nobody wants to invest in infrastructure or services... so nobody wants to move here because there are no services available - it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Anyhow, I suppose that's a rant for another day.

  3. I don't see poor customer service as a beginning of the end scenario, but it IS highly frustrating. I see the customer relations issue as being an outgrowth of our internet-dependent world--in some cases, with typical-to-resolve problems, it's really more convenient to "press 3 if you are experiencing a problem with ... ". However, some problems need actual human interaction and I'm not sure that corporations are staffing appropriate numbers of people (due to cost) ... if they are, and I mean no disrespect by this, but some companies outsource their staff overseas and while most of these persons have been polite to me, there has definitely been a language barrier to overcome when dealing with the problem ... I suppose it gets down to money--it's cheaper to automatize things whenever possible or to ship the work to poorly paid workers overseas. Perhaps, too, we as a culture are becoming distanced from knowing how to respond in a socially positive manner when it is required. We are so used to online customer relations that we haven't had a chance to practice those skills. This is purely conjecture on my part, but just as I believe it is easier to be nasty to other people on the internet, due to both anonymity and being unable to "read" another's facial expressions/tone of voice, I think it might be easier to brush aside an individual customer's concerns for similar reasons. And when people DO complain, they aren't always doing it in a grown-up manner, but are instead being ugly online. I dunno. All I can do is resolve to treat others with kindness, helpfulness, and dignity, and to thank others when they do the same for me.

    1. I think you're on to something with the whole knowing how to talk to them thing. But I think it's more complicated that having nice manners - there seems to be a hierarchical nature to these customer service departments that is pretty much designed to shut down most requests for help before they ever get to someone who has the knowledge and/or authority to solve the problem. I'm learning that it requires some skill and experience to navigate these systems.

      I had to go to the doctor the other day, and while I was waiting for some lab results I decided to wander over to the "customer care" counter (I have an HMO) on the off chance that they could help me with the premium billing issue. There was a very nice man there, so I told him my sad story of woe and he got on the phone with the insurance exchange.

      It was like watching a master at work! Seriously, he knew all the secret code words to get out of the infinite loop of "not our problem" and finally get some movement on the situation. FYI "how do we escalate to the next level?" seemed to be the key phrase. In less than 20 minutes he was able to make WAY more progress than I had in several months of phone calls!

      I tried to learn from that experience when I contacted the cable company about the bill - and even though the person I "chatted" with was clueless and not helpful, I managed to use the double secret "escalate" phrase to get her to "create a ticket" for the higher ups to look at. And the next day I got a phone call apologizing for the mixup and saying that they'd fix the problem and credit my account for the difference.

      Perhaps there is light at the end of this tunnel after all, and all I really needed was the right vocabulary!

    2. I agree with you about the hierarchical nature of customer service. I am fortunate in that our health insurance is BCBS federal plan and they, like your customer care person, know how to work the system. I'm convinced that insurance providers count on people NOT fighting their bills to make money--which really irritates me--a truly sick person doesn't have the energy to participate in the fight, so unless someone helps them, they are stuck!

      My parents have had problems with their electrical service this past year--they are in their 80s and dealing with this stuff is just hard for them. They lost power last November for 3 days ... December for 8 days (bad ice storm, but still!) ... and two other times for at least 24 hours at a time. I encouraged my mom to call the company and ask for a credit to their account. I had to coach her NOT to push a number on her keypad but to wait for a real person (who still gave her the runaround--"Oh, I see you've ONLY lost power 4 times in the past year ...")--so it seems like the elderly and poor are targeted since they don't know how to demand service.

    3. I'm writing down that phrase "How do we escalate this to the next level?"

      I agree about insurance companies making money on people not fighting their bills. On the other hand--you can sic them on hospitals and doctors that are overcharging you. Mwahaha!

    4. Well guys, I did find another way to at least get some traction on this sort of thing. I wrote to my city council representative, who is a bit of a rabble rouser, especially when he's got some evidence that his constituents aren't getting a fair shake. Anyhow, he contacted the phone company as well as the government oversight committee. Holy Moly! This, of course, all happened after I switched providers to the cable company. Perhaps I shouldn't have waited 5 years before raising a stink!

      I still don't think they're gonna replace the lines in this neighborhood, but I've received 2 phone calls and one email from the phone company all very apologetic and eager to repair their public image. Very, very interesting...

    5. Wow. Yes, interesting!

  4. Sooo frustrating and irritating! My husband is awesome at talking to customer service people and getting what he wants so he handles all those phone calls for us. I ought to make him a nice dinner or something to thank him!

    1. Ha! Apparently he knows how to speak customer service, which, as I noted in my comment above, seems to be an important skill in these situations.

      Anyhow, a nice dinner for you husband is always a good idea - whether you have something specific to thank him for or not! :-)

  5. I absolutely agree with you. I see corporate CEO and executive salaries as the major issue. That draws dollars away from quality and care and puts it in the pocket of a greedy gazillionaire. I am loath to spend money on services that don't live up to the hype. And I HATE the cable company!!!

    1. Oh yes... it does seem that creating a quality product is pretty low on the list of corporate priorities these days. But even though it makes me spitting mad, as CatMan has pointed out to me many times, the real problems are our economic, legal and regulatory (or lack thereof) systems which basically require any public corporation to put the interests of their stock holders above the interests of their customers. Heavy sigh.

  6. I'm with you on the marketing (it is dangerous stuff, mostly because it is so effective). But I am usually much happier dealing with, and working for, a corporation than a mom & pop. All the stuff I like is just better from them. I love my Toyota. I like how big ag makes my produce and meat so affordable. I love working for a big corporation with its generous salary and benefits & stock programs.

    Yeah, I'm a sellout. 15 year old me would kick my ass.

    1. Well, I've never worked for a big corporation - come to think of it, neither have most of the people I'm close to, so I don't really have any experience there. Though when I see the world through my brother's eyes (he works for an enormous defense contractor) I get a glimpse of it. While I can see the attraction of the salary and benefits, I don't think I'd do well with all the rules!

      I have mixed feelings about doing business with the big guys. I'm certainly not willing to forsake them completely and forsake the pricing and convenience that they offer, but I often wonder if it's really worth the other less apparent prices that we pay for dealing with them.

  7. I'm convinced that competence in any field is rare as hell these days. I think it's worse in cities, because there are just so many people so they don't feel like they need to worry about keeping you. Of course these asshats ignore all the research that says it's far cheaper and more profitable to keep existing customers. So sorry you have to deal with that crap! And don't even get me started on planned obsolescence. That's too generous a term. The reality is--poorly made shit.

    1. I dunno... I think that so many Americans have just blindly accepted their role as consumers on the conveyor belt of cheap and crummy stuff, that there is really very little incentive for companies to do a better job.

      Oh... off topic, but in terms of the rag rug - making a square one won't really help the "it gets harder each time around" problem because the issue is really that the circumference just gets bigger each time around regardless of the shape. Of course, if you went with a completely different kind of a rug - like a woven one instead of the kind I made, I imagine you'd have at least a bit more predictability in how long each row would take.

    2. You might have a point. We tend to get what we accept. Hello, Corporate State. Ahem.

      Ok, I'm confused--if the rug is square or rectangle, all the strips are the same size. Lemme find a link...

      To me, that looks like the material for each braid would be the same size, no? I should admit I am not too good with the crafty.

    3. OK, I've confused you. The rag rug I made is not a woven or braided rug... it's a knotted rug. They call it a "toothbrush rug" because you use an old toothbrush handle as a sort of needle (I actually used a large paper clip) and you basically tie macrame knots in a spiral pattern, with each new row of knots tied into the last row. So no matter the shape, it always gets bigger because you're always working in a spiral.

      But now you've got me thinking... I wonder if you could do it in rows instead of spirals...

      Well anyway - if you do make one (of any variety) I'd love to see how it turns out!

    4. There are 4,000 ways to make these rugs. Insane!

      I'm going to finish the world's largest crocheted blanket first, and then, rug time!

  8. I can relate! A few years ago someone ran into the back of our car. Even though it was driveable, we were pretty sure it would be written off because it had a lot of panel damage. My boyfriend was using the car for work, so we didn't want to be without a car for a long time, so we called up the insurance company and asked if we would still be able to drive it if it was written off, until we could find a new car. The lady on the phone reassured us that we could.

    So we took the car in to be assessed and it turns out once a car is written off, it becomes illegal to drive it. They did let us take it home and delayed the paperwork until after the weekend, but that didn't help much.

    I spent hours on the phone to the insurance company trying to sort it out. They tried all kinds of lies like "we never said that" and "the car is unsafe to drive". I ended up having to call the assessment people to get them to talk to the insurance people to tell them the car was perfectly safe to drive. Eventually we got a hire car for four days, but I'm not sure that was worth the time and effort to get it.

    1. That just totally sucks. You know, I think I'm coming to realize that you really just can't believe what someone tells you over the phone - you need to get it in writing, because more often than not the person you're talking to doesn't really understand the rules/laws/policies.

      Back when I ran the music school we had a small staff of customer service folks who scheduled the lessons and did stuff like that, and I was often dumbfounded by some of the things they would tell customers. It was just like they made it up or something!

      So whenever I start to get really angry about this sort of thing, CatMan has to remind me that generally the person I'm dealing with is the equivalent of the battiest of all the front office folks I ever worked with. They have no power, no authority and generally no clue!


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