Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Economy, Customer Service and the President of the United States of America

The President of the United States of America wants to give the American people money to spend to stimulate the economy.

However, I have a dilemma: I don't want to spend it on the American economy because:
  • Customer service is the worst I have seen it in years.
  • My credit card recently was used improperly by restaurant staff.
  • I can't support vendors under these circumstances.
Because of me, the economy suffers. I am a bad American.

Maybe part of it is my fault because I expect service from people who are overworked, underpaid and subject to people like me who have unreasonable expectations (i.e., service). However, I also work in a customer service-based industry and I manage, for the most part, to tell people what they need to know. (Note that I didn't say "what they want to hear," which is a different issue altogether.)

Here is my latest lament: inkjet cartridges. Yes, those little devices with weird codes that are supposed to represent a model number of said cartridge that will fit in our printers, whose model number most of us can't remember, even if we write it down and put it in our pockets.

All I needed was an inkjet cartridge, and Office Depot was made to suffer for it.

Office Depot had two different brands of cartridges, the Office Depot "generic" and the brand name cartridge. The Office Depot brand has its own model numbers, which are not printed on the cartridge packages. What is on the Office Depot brand packages is the name brand's cartridge model number. So, to purchase an Office Depot generic item, the purchaser must know the brand name cartridge model number.

Not even the salespeople at the store knew that. The department manager actually yelled at me for not asking the right question — when I asked, "How do I find Office Depot cartridge model number XYZ?"

It took three trips to the store, more than an hour of my time and David's time, as well as my own Internet research (on Office Depot's Web site) to get the information. I have very little incentive to go back to this retailer for service in the future — as in this situation, "local" does not always translate to "convenient."

If only every store was like my Borders....

That was sales. Now for the credit card part.

Last month, I paid a Great American Restaurant bill with my credit card. The restaurant posted another smaller charge the next day. It seems the total I approved, and the cashier processed, was $3 less than the actual total of the bill plus the tip. The restaurant charged the additional amount to the card without notifying me.

I contacted the restaurant's management, and they apologized and promised to never do it again with anyone. (I refused the offer of a gift card for the restaurants.)

Now, however, I fear using my credit card on any transaction, a practice that was implemented solely for its convenience. I also fear my usual method of payment: my debit card for my checking account, an even greater convenience than a credit card.

This, of course, will end my "casual" spending. Whipping out the ol' card is no longer an option, I am not about to change a lifetime of habit I inherited from my father: not a lot of coin rattling around my pockets. That probably is better for my bottom line — a month's worth of book moratorium prompted me to realize just how much I supported the economy before the President even asked. (Never to my financial detriment, of course — I do not carry a balance on my credit card unless I'm too lazy to make the full payment.)

However, this new conservative practice will not provide the purchases the President of the United States is counting on me to incur to prevent this recession. With no customer service to speak of and companies killing my use of credit and debit cards, there will be little spending in the House of Chris for a while.

I am sorry, America. I can't help this time. Maybe next recession.

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