Customer Service

Credit Card Scam?

I realize that I complain a lot sometimes.  But what irks me is lousy customer service (in case you haven’t noticed!) especially when it is because of just bad, or dishonest practices.  I woke up early thinking about this, so obviously it really annoys me and, here I am writing about it.

Happily, I live in Canada, where the banking system has been and continues to be stable, since we have a fairly robust set of laws that hopefully won’t allow our banks to do overly corrupt and hair-brained things like make bad mortgage loans to people who can’t afford them, thereby causing a financial meltdown.

This doesn’t mean of course that banks in Canada don’t do incredibly stupid things, like falling for fraud schemes that are so completely transparent that a 5 year old could have determined that fraud was occurring (this happened to us recently). This caused such a big problem that our lost faith in the competence of the bank’s employees will result in us moving to another financial institution in the near future.

The other week I went into my local major Canadian financial institution branch (this is a different bank than the one mentioned above re: fraud) to do a basic cash withdrawal.  A few weeks later I received a visa card in the mail from said bank.  I could not figure out for the life of me how I got the card, and of course, it made me a little bit paranoid that I received a credit card for which I didn’t apply.

I phoned the institution’s customer service to cancel the card which wasn’t a problem (unlike trying to lose Comcast cable service in the USA, which was like trying to lose an arm).  I also asked the agent how it was that I came to receive a credit card for which I didn’t request, and I was told that I “applied” for the card when I visited my local branch.  I never even mentioned the word ‘credit’ while dealing with tellers at this particular branch.

My feeling is that this is a two-part problem.  The employee who decided to facilitate the false credit application was first and foremost dishonest.  The reason she was dishonest though is probably because the bank expects its employees to meet unattainable sales targets, and this particular employee felt she needed to prop up her sales numbers by sending me a credit card.  I just cancel it, no harm no foul, and either way this employee gets her ‘sale’.

The problem with this dishonest practice is that people like me receive a credit card and worry that there is some kind of identity theft at worst, or, at best, end up annoyed and inconvenienced by having to cancel a product that was forced.  What if I was an elderly customer whose family member was stealing money?  A shiny new credit card would make online shopping easy, for example.

Since I sometimes feel like a little powerless consumer up against big bad corporations in a world where no one seems to give a crap about ethics or customer service, the least I can do is write about it here!


Have a Comcastic Day!

In light of the nightmarish experience Ryan Block had in trying to disconnect his service with Comcast, today I had the pleasure of spending over one hour on the phone with Comcast, only to move my internet service.   That’s it, simple.  Move my service to another address.  Yep, that’s right.  It took well over one hour to do this.

The employee taking care of my account was not a very good communicator, in that when I was in the middle of giving him my information, he would say “yep” and cut me off so he couldn’t hear me, this way I had the pleasure of repeating myself several times.   This happened until I finally asked him to please stop talking and listen when I was speaking. I was put on hold for outlandishly long periods of time — I will give the employee the benefit of the doubt in perhaps there were ‘issues’ with Comcast’s computer system, but it seemed strange that when I was put on hold twice, there was just radio silence on the other end. I would estimate I was on hold for 10 minutes at a time, until I said “hello?”  to check if someone was actually still there.

The employee didn’t grasp right away that I didn’t want to sign up for a bundle with cable TV, as twice I explained that I did not have a television, and therefore paying for that service would be completely pointless.   So I then said, “No, I do not want a bundle”, after which he finally understood that no meant no.  He later confirmed that I was signing up for cable internet only, told me what the fee was, stating that there was a promotion for a smaller bill than we currently have.  This I find confusing, given that every time we move, the price of cable internet goes up and down for some reason.  Depends on Comcast’s mood, I guess? I’m not complaining that the employee did this, and hopefully he is saving me money so in that case it is appreciated, but I just don’t understand how the price fluctuates constantly.  Anyway.

This customer service person didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t want to have my service moved right away, not until next week.  I had to specify this; otherwise he assumed that the changes would take place immediately.  Furthermore, he tried to impose sending me a new modem, and the $10 charge along with it.  I did not ask for a new modem.  I wanted to move the one I have, and had to be very specific about this, otherwise, I would have gotten a 2nd modem.  The last time I phoned Comcast to move my service, this wasn’t even an issue, so I’m not exactly sure why I was being told that I would be receiving a new modem this time.

At the end of the call, I asked this person for his name and employee number.  Conveniently, he told me he couldn’t ‘remember’ his three-character long employee number.  I then had to wait another 3 or 4 minutes for him to ‘look it up’.

I was then transferred to billing.  I explained that for 3 months I hadn’t received a bill and that  I did not recall asking to be signed up for paperless billing.   I was told that if there was an e-mail address associated with the account, that paperless (“ecobilling”, Comcast likes to call it) would be automatic.  This was news to me.

I have nothing against paperless billing, but it would have been nice if last time while speaking with a Comcast rep, I was told that ecobilling was automatic (i.e., someone actually requested my consent for paperless billing…which of course, never happened). It would have also been nice if, after having ‘signed up’ for ecobilling, that I actually received e-mail telling me I had a bill. But I did not receive any e-mails, for like, two or three months.

The billing person of course could not just wipe off the late charges immediately that accumulated since I didn’t get any bills. She had to ‘put in a request’ to wipe them off the account and this process, if approved, will take 1-3 days to be applied to my account.  So if it isn’t approved, I will have to call back, because, somehow it’s my responsibility to make sure that Comcast doesn’t mess up the billing.  I may potentially get to waste another hour of my life.  Let’s see.

What’s great is, like a person with a record of misdemeanors, now that I was “late” to pay, if a screw-up happens again in the future, I’m sure it’s less likely that I won’t get charges wiped off my account because then it will look like I don’t pay my bills on time.  It’s convenient that Comcast has a monopoly on high-speed internet where I live.

On another note, I sent a complaint about the lousy service I experienced with American Airlines and its inconsistent customer compensation policies due to last-minute cancelled flights, to the US Department of Transportation.  Good luck to me.

Maybe I can become a full-time complainer, kind of like an obsessive, pain in the ass Ralph Nader.

Ralph, I bet you aren't happy with Comcast either.  Just guessin'. (from

Ralph! I bet you wouldn’t be happy with Comcast either? Just guessin’. (from







American Airlines Part 2

So it’s been one week since I contacted American Airlines via e-mail to complain about the fact that their staff told me to sleep at O’Hare Airport when my flight was cancelled.

Today I attempted to call a 1-800 customer relations number to speak to a real person.  I looked online to find out that one can only make reservations with a real person, but cannot complain to one (this can only be done in writing – this fact was confirmed by the reservation agent I spoke to over the phone).

I asked the agent how long I might expect to wait to receive a response to my complaint from American Airlines, and was told that the response time when submitting electronically is typically 3 days or so, assuming that the situation wasn’t too ‘complex’.  The complex complaints apparently can take up to 2 months.  As I said, I’ve now been waiting 7 days and I would argue that my case is not complex.

This is a scary trend it appears – some airlines, including Air Canada for example, will accept customer complaints only in writing. On one hand, I can see how receiving complaints in writing could help the airlines to deal with complaints more efficiently, and would eliminate staff having to be on the receiving end of verbal abuse from angry customers.

On the other hand, this writing/e-mail only system really helps the airline staff to get away with providing lousy service as I imagine that many people would find it easier to speak over the phone to complain.  If it’s more difficult to complain, less people will do it.  Not to mention the fact that this type of system is about as faceless and kafkaesque as it can get.  How exactly can I negotiate a settlement if I can’t speak to a person?  Not very easily of course.  This way, the airline can ultimately decide when and how it wants to settle, because I doubt that someone would really want to go to the trouble of replying to the airline’s settlement offer via e-mail a second, third or fourth time.

If the airline provided generally good service in the first place, then it should see fewer complaints, right?

In the meantime I’ll keep posting about this – let’s see when and how American Airlines responds to what I would consider a reasonable request for a refund for the hotel and transportation to and from the airport.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks airlines act in a kafkaesque manner! (from

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks airlines act in a kafkaesque manner!




American Airlines and One O’Hare-y Experience

I was scheduled to fly out of Chicago the other night, having caught a connecting flight into Chicago which was delayed due to poor weather.  In fact, most flights were grounded from Chicago O’Hare and given that it is an extremely busy airport, any delays completely mess up the arrival and departure schedules.  That is a given.

While I was in the air coming into O’Hare (yes, I know that rhymes), American Airlines had delayed, then cancelled my connection out.  No problem.  There was bad weather and flight safety is paramount.  The next challenge is, did American Airlines help me to deal with the fact that I was stranded in Chicago until late the next morning?

The answer is no.

I arrived in Chicago at about midnight and looked at the departure schedule to discover the flight cancellation.  I went to talk to an American Airlines agent, who said she could not guarantee me a spot on the earlier flight out the next day, which was fine, so I told her to put me on the later flight with a guaranteed spot.  Not a problem.  Then I asked what the policy was for hotels, where should I stay overnight, etc.

“American Airlines will compensate you for half of your hotel stay,” said the agent.  I said, “You’re kidding me?”.

Okay, I get it.  Bad weather is an act of God.  No one can control it.  But only half?  Not even for the taxi?  Nothing?

But, the problem was that American Airlines didn’t want to even help me to find a hotel.  They just didn’t care.  I had to ask the agent questions about where to go in an unfamiliar city, which is a major hub of American Airlines, so my expectation was that as a company, they would have some kind of familiarity with Chicago; enough to help me find an overnight accommodation without me having to ask a thousand questions.

The agent’s response was to pass me a Travelliance “Discount Coupon” which had almost no information on it except to call a 1-800 number to book some random hotel.  So I went away, much to the agent’s satisfaction I am sure, to call the number.  When I phoned the number, I heard an automated message that said “Sorry, all hotels are booked”.  Sorry, piss off and spend the night in the airport.

I went back to see the American Airlines agents to see what else I could do.  This time another agent looked at me and said “Well you can go to blablablla area and pick up a blanket and pillow”.  That’s right, sleep in the airport, he said.  Keep in mind there was NO ONE ELSE standing at the counter.  Just me.  He didn’t care to help me at all, to find a hotel, or even to tell me where the hell the supposed airport sleeping area was.  I mean, he knows Chicago well, so I guess I should too.

So disgusted, I went away to call my partner.  LUCKILY, at midnight, there was someone I could phone to help.  I guess American Airlines assumed I would have someone to call for help.  It was amazing how easily my partner could find me a hotel.  It could have been just as easy for the airline to do the same, but they refused.

On a related side note, Chicago O’Hare is still living in the dark ages of internet access.  One can only receive 20 minutes of free wifi service, after which, customers have to pay for it.  Are you kidding me?  One of the busiest American airports needs to CHARGE people for internet?  That is a shame.  For that reason I won’t ever transfer through Chicago again.

American Airlines must have also assumed that I had access to the internet as well, so I could easily find a hotel.

When I got outside, there was a mile long line up for a taxi.  I have to say for a bunch of tired travellers, everyone was very orderly in waiting for their taxis, and the line moved quickly.  So after a $50 cab ride, I arrived at the hotel.  Lots of other people had the same idea so, there was also a line up at the hotel.  The hotel folks were very quick and friendly sorting out rooms for everyone, unlike American Airlines staff, given they were rammed with people at 1:00 am.

Unfortunately, after hearing the stories of the other folks in the hotel lobby, there seemed to be a major problem with taxis in Chicago.  People were charged various amounts for the same taxi ride.  Some people were given a coupon for a free taxi ride from their airline to be transported to a hotel, but the taxi drivers would not accept the coupons and were threatening to phone the police if their customers did not pay for their cab rides.

So Chicago O’Hare, I recommend you better organize your taxi transportation, and while you’re at it, get with the times and provide customers the convenience of free wifi internet service.

American Airlines, your customer service sucked, and I recommend you provide customers with the minimum standard of service.  If not, there is always the option to rebrand as “Shitty Airlines”.  One thing I can guarantee though is that I won’t be taking American Airlines, or Shitty Airlines, ever again.

Hello, Shitty Airlines? from

Hello, Shitty Airlines, can I help you take your order please?



I am a Bullshit Girl, Living in a Bullshit World

We survive in an economy that is built on bullshit.  I think about real estate agents.  Bullshitters.  What do they actually do?  Nothing.  I renovated my bathroom and broke my back doing it, so remind me again why these people think they are justified in taking 2.5% of the total sale price of my home?  Just because the agent put a bouquet of flowers out, which someone else arranged?  Sure.  I enjoyed the lousy bottle of wine you sent me as a thank you for the thousands you skimmed off the top.  I made sure to chill it first.

I won’t mention politicians, because they are just old-fashioned bullshitters.  I’m talking about modern age, à la mode bullshitters.  The Economist magazine, in the article “On bullshit jobs” cites an essay written by David Graeber, an anthropologist, who discusses work in the modern economy.  I was so inspired by this article and my recent experience that I thought I would blog about it.

Next on my list of big time bullshitters are employment recruiters.

In my recent experience, a recruiter called me to tell me that the company I applied to was looking for someone like me, and then said I didn’t have the experience the company was looking for, all in the same sentence.  It’s like he said to me, “we are desperate for people!  But you need to beg for this job because you need to justify your skills to me even though I don’t understand anything about what it is that you’ve outlined your resume…now beg…and get down and give me 20!”.  I thought, this person must have Borderline Personality Disorder.  Not only did this recruiter put me off immediately with his pathetic social skills, but he wasn’t even capable of communicating with me throughout the recruiting process.

I had to, in fact, be the one to actually ask him where my second interview was going to be located, and with which company representatives I would be interviewing.  I guess he just assumed I would somehow instinctively know these details, after flying halfway across the country to an unfamiliar city.  In fact, when I arrived to the office that day, I found out I was in the wrong office for the interview and that I had to go to the other office, because the recruiter gave me the wrong address information.

About a month later, following the interview, the recruiter still didn’t get in touch with me to let me know what was happening in the hiring process.  I had to ask him.  His only job — to send e-mails or make phone calls; to be a go-between for the company and its prospective employees, was done poorly.  He doesn’t actually have to have any specialist skills whatsoever and even then, he was still incapable of doing his bullshit job properly.   Even if I’m given a job offer, do I want to work there?  Not really.

By the way, what is a management consultant anyway?  Just what is that?  What about pyramid schemers?

More or less though, companies exist as gigantic pyramid schemes anyway. I’ve devised a test: print your company organization chart.  Draw lines around all the names listed on the company’s organizational chart.  Ask yourself:  Did I make a triangle shape?  Then ask, is my name even on the org chart or am I such an unworthy tiny minion that my name is not even published?  In this case, it’s what I like to call a super-duper pyramid where you are so insignificant that you are actually extra-pyramidal.

There are lousy, incompetent people in every profession you can think of.  Don’t assume because one is a lawyer (likely bullshitter), doctor (potential quack), or senior university professor (possible PhD student slave driver with no recognizable research skills) that competence comes with the title.  I think the majority of professionals are trying to do the right thing, but it is better to be skeptical and allow a professional to earn your trust and money.  I’m not fooled by letters after a name.  I knew a guy in university who, from what I heard from multiple people, lied and cheated his entire way through university and I believe now he is a practicing medical doctor.

But now, we have a whole slew of ill-qualified bullshitters, with little knowledge or skills, making a buck in the bullshit economy.  Yet, we are so limited as a society that we don’t fund, I don’t know, say,  important scientific research, since all the money is being used up by the bullshitters doing their bullshit work.

There is hope, though.  I have coped in this world by honing my bullshit radar.  You could do the same.  The better you get, the more bullshit ‘blips’ you’ll get on your screen, so you’ll be prepared for the bullshit that is fired your direction.  This way, you can say, “Do not bullshit a bullshitter” with confidence.  Then you can sell your house yourself and find your own (I won’t say it) job, maybe even start your own (I won’t say it again) company.

More Institutional Ineptitude

My partner works at a very highly regarded educational institution in the US.  As he is not a US citizen, he needed to have his foreign work permit in place from customs first before we could move.  We had never gone through this process with US Customs before and as such there were a lot of administrative aspects to deal with which took up a lot of time.  When I think about those who go through the process of immigrating to a new country – I can appreciate how difficult this must be.  So, I realize I am lucky to be a citizen of a democratic country with a stable legal/economic system and that I have never been forced to leave my country under duress like so many others.

That said, I wonder how we function sometimes, when considering how my federal government mishandled my unemployment claim for example (see earlier posts starting here).  I am now questioning the abilities of the government and education system employees in the US, where we are currently residing.

Prior to starting work, no one representing human resources (HR) of the subject educational institution was familiar with my partner’s type of work visa.  Luckily, since he does research for a living, he was able to explain this to HR, even though he is not an expert in immigration law.

Following this, my partner had already begun working when HR decided to mention that it was critical to obtain a social security number (SSN) card right away and that this card must be presented to HR in order for him to be paid on time.

It’s been about two months since he began work and he never got his SSN card in the mail.  When he tried to call the Social Security Administration (SSA) 1-800 number to determine whether he was actually assigned a SSN, the line was busy.  Then he tried another time.  Busy again.  Typical pattern: you pay your taxes, but no one is available to help you with your problem.

The other day my partner went to the SSA office to talk to a live person.  He took a number and waited 3 (yes, THREE) hours to talk to someone.  During this time, he thought it was unusual that people who came in after him were being served first.  When he asked the armed SSA guard why this was, he was told that he should sit down and wait to be called.  Instead, he took another number and miraculously, he was called upon 30 minutes later.  When finally granted the privilege to speak to an SSA employee, he asked her to make a minor administrative change and requested she determine whether he had been assigned a SSN.  She just didn’t feel like doing those things that day, so he had to ask her twice to do her job.  He was obviously exasperated, but no one in their right mind would risk becoming too indignant with the employees with the presence of guards carrying conspicuous weaponry, so the employees may practice  insolent idleness through intimidation (a little fun with alliteration).

Now, even though my partner has explained repeatedly to HR in person that he has not yet received his SSN card and has put this fact in writing to HR several times, he continues to receive e-mails from his employer threatening to not pay him, and now,  e-mails which kindly explain that his employment will be terminated should he not present the card that he has not yet received from the SSA.  Is your mind spinning in circles yet?  Yep, ours too.

Accountability and competence is lacking everywhere in the public institutions of our democracies – from government employees and those employed at reputable educational institutions .  I’m not even bothering to mention politicians here.  How aren’t people completely fed up with this? We deserve the highest standards for respect, accessibility, accountability and customer service for the government services for which we are all legally required to pay.  Anything less defrauds the public, but this is exactly how we operate.

Anyway, if he doesn’t get his SSN card it looks like we’ll just go back home.  Oh well.  It’s why we’re screwed.

George said it:

Unemployment Update – Part 3

After another week of no one calling me from the unemployment benefits office, I am happy to say that I made a complaint last week regarding the exceptionally poor service I received from my government with respect to unemployment insurance.  I sent a detailed complaint by filling out a web form on the government website, so I wasn’t sure if my complaint would end up lost somewhere in internet purgatory. I was pleasantly surprised that someone from the unemployment complaints department actually called me back, a few hours after I had written the complaint and pressed the ‘send’ button.

A few days later, I received a call from a unemployment representative, who was extremely nice to me.  After almost four (that’s right, four) months of waiting, I finally received my unemployment benefits in full, thank you very much.

Now I will actually be able to focus on finding the right job in the meantime and, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do when I go back to school.  And I know it could be much worse for me, with some European countries approaching the 27% mark for unemployment, I am probably in a much better position than many other people living within wealthier countries.

See?  I’m not a “glass is half empty” person all the time.  I didn’t end my blog post by writing, “it’s why I am screwed” this time, even though I was royally screwed by having to wait four months to get my unemployment payments.  Perhaps in this case it’s more like, “it’s why I was screwed”.