Tuesday, February 18, 2003

your call is very important to us

This familiar line is followed by the finest muzak on the planet every time you attempt to get in touch with Customer Service[sic] about them screwing up. It's nice how they are oh-so prompt when you are the one who goofed, but have a strong defense system when it's their turn to own up.

Thank you for calling ... we'll be with you shortly

To put it mildly, I have been in negotiations with a utility company about a refund cheque they owed me for a service I terminated a long while ago. It all started with me discovering the catch in the system: your account is credited with the balance, and you actually have to call them them up and tell them that you would like a cheque instead of an account credit (especially if the account makes no sense any more). After that they decide to send you a cheque. This is a multistage process where each stage can fail arbitrarily and there is no notion of atomicity (peopl working with databases will get my drift here). This means that department A sends a cheque request to department B while checking off a flag in the system to the effect that your credit has been refunded. Department B screws up but department A never finds out. Meanwhile, seasons change, your patience grows thin and it's time to give them a call again (also a good time to check out the muzak top 10). It's the same drill. And since you've had a great time dealing with utility companies, you know (you just know) that they are going to screw up again. And again. And this in the US of A, much touted as the place to be (especially among Indians who cite the efficiency of utility services as a good reason to be here). Pah!

Let me take you down to another cesspool of customer service. This time it's the insurance company (and that's something everyone in the US of A must deal with). The atomicity paradox goes into play yet again and now I find out I wasn't covered for a certain period (despite all signs of the contrary) of time (read: months). This should make a lot of Americans go into shock and collapse. When they finally discover that Employee X (even they don't know who!) did not actually process my form, they call me back (nice touch there, confuse the oponent) to let me know I'm finally covered -- here comes the twist -- even in the past. Now time travel is scientifically impossible, but the insurance companies seem to have their own working version of it, right there in their offices. They are effectively going to (a) deny me benefits for the months I wasn't covered (no surprise there) and (b) bill me for those months (claiming that I was covered during that period, by simply putting an appropriate start date on the insurance card). Nice. Of course the representative is kind enough to let me know that I must promptly send them a letter requesting a new start date and thus prevent any back-billing. This I do at once (astounding myself with my efficiency). Now, a month later, I call back to find out what the happened, and I am told that they never received a letter. Clearly, my address and mailing protocol works only when (a) I have bills to pay (b) I get junk mail. Kafka-esque. Sadly.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.