Dear Editor,

There was a time when business strived to and delivered exemplary customer service and quality products at a fair price. One of the hallmarks of this was them being friendly, helpful, going the extra mile and delivering more than they promised. They prided themselves on this. The merchant’s family worked in the business; the customers were his neighbors, church members, parents of his children’s friends, and lodge members. It became second nature for a relationship to form that lasted generations between the business and their customers. When a new family moved in the community they were quickly assimilated into this culture.

I haven’t seen any recent articles concerning Bad Service (BS), so I thought I would stir the coals. I feel BS has become rampant. Since there are many examples and shades of BS, I am going to reflect on BS delivered during phone calls, which deals mainly with medical bills for me at my age. I wonder if medical billing is exempt from price gouging laws. It’s understandable if you would rather get a colonoscopy then call their billing department. The process is a sham with their scrutable procedures and strategies based on the mindset “the patient is always wrong; if they want your opinion, they’ll tell it to you, and there’s a sucker born every minute.” Do you get appalled by their BS as they lackadaisical and indignantly responds to your questions? Those skillful in BS can automatically dodge your questions by abruptly fabricating off- the- point petty justifications. Calling them, by design, is sculptured to be as inaccessible and impractical to the customer as possible; its usage for some may invoke paralyzing fear. To the BS people, help, is a just another four-letter word.

Typical BS situation - They make a mistake and expect you to pay for it or spend hours and days straightening it out for them at your inconvenience. You call. Messages are worded with the selection choices so constrained they seem to miss the point of why anyone would call; forcing you to select useless options and listen to endless recordings having nothing to do with why you called.  If you finally do get to talk to someone, you get transferred to another line, get a message they are on another line helping someone else, you get auto transferred to their voice mail only to get a message their voice mail box is full, and you get hung up on. Their recorded messages say one thing but means something else, e.g. – “large call volume” means – they don’t have enough people to answer the phone, they are too cheap to hire more people and they don’t care how long you have to wait. Their message may include an insincere apologize for your wait (No hint of remorse in the apology) and how they valued you. The company is patronizing you; If they really cared, they would hire more people! You wouldn’t have to wait over ten minutes to talk to someone if you were valued. Pardon my French, but there is a French Proverb that says, “People count up the faults of those that keep them waiting.” Helpful hint - If you are calling on a land line, be sure to use the bathroom before you call (n/a for cell phone/portable phone users)! I wonder if anyone has gotten so stressed out by the waiting that they have had a panic attack, a stroke or heart attack. If so, business may someday be required to add this recording “if you experience a medical emergency while excessively waiting, please hang up and call 9-1-1”.

Some places force you to talk to a machine; the machine usually can’t understand you and eventually transfers you to the line to speak to an operator. Be prepared, brief and to the point. Have your account number and facts in order. Tell why you’ve called, precisely what the problem is, and what you want. Be prepared to be stonewalled with their backpedaling boilerplate responses and flawed logic, especially if they owe you a refund. If you ask a question and they give you a flimsy excuse, let it be; otherwise, they may get a second wind, for you’ve just open the door for sarcasm and snarky responses. If they really valued, you as a customer, they would strive to eliminate the unpleasantness of your experience. If there is a problem, they would fix it and make things right. Unfortunately, the prospects of you receiving a suitable outcome (sometimes referred to by them is “when hell freezes over”) are low. Do you think that BS has gone too bizarre, or is a traumatizing experience? Things get so bad you might feel a camera crew will appear any minute, and you will be told “You’ve just been punk’d”.

They have an air about themself that says if you don’t like it, what are you going to do about it.  The companies have cultivated the dreading side of business. Their approach to customer service is “if you have a problem, it not worth your trouble to fix this; if you try, you will regret it. You may decide to drive to their billing office only to see a line that is longer than any you ever seen at the Department of Motor Vehicles! You may notice how their bathrooms always are out of order, it’s their subliminal way of inhospitality letting you know there’s only one kind of business they want you to do at their place and that’s one that adds to their profits. Providing customer perks is not one of them.

Draw your line in the sand. Don’t let your experience with a company and its BS drain your energy, demoralizing, traumatizing, and victimizing you further with them delivering BS with impunity displaying a profound disrespect for their customers.

I’ve had one reoccurring problem with “The Inn of Folkston” but this is not BS; they don’t always have a room available when I want one. However, I will admit this is my fault and I should plan better.

If you are on your death bed and someone asked you what your biggest regret in life is, don’t let it be, “I put up with too much BS”. Instead take more deliberate action in dealing with BS now …persistent in the face of resistance. The real dilemma is that you use to be able to just go somewhere else, but this is harder to do now. A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step. Start your journey to eradicate Bad Service. Don’t do business with places that have BS ingrained in their culture if you have a choice.

Rodger Ellingwood

South Carolina