Monday, December 31, 2007

"I'll Take Crappy Customer Service for $100, Alex"

Apple and Directv...

"What are two companies that have as poor customer service as Blockbuster?"

Frequent readers of this blog know that I've picked on Blockbuster more than a few times for the ways in which it has failed again and again to parlay whatever advantages its service has over Netflix into a decent alternative to the Red & White.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I got a holiday letter from Blockbuster saying they were raising the price of their Total Access option an additional $10...about a 30% increase.

I was happy to get an Ipod this winter and happier still to receive a $15 gift card for Itunes this Christmas. The only problem was that when I scratched off to reveal the code and enter it at Itunes to redeem my gift I got a message saying my card had not been "activated." They told me to take it up with whoever sold me the card. Since it was a gift (hence, you know, the term "Gift" card) and I had no way of knowing where it was sold, I contacted Apple's customer service via their hard to find link. Their response? Fax them a copy of the card along with a copy of the sales receipt. (This after I told them I didn't know where it was bought because, you know it was a "Gift" card.)

I understand Apple doesn't want Target or Wal-Mart or Best Buy or Kroger or whoever to rip them off in some way and that these cards may be easy to steal, hence making activation important. But I find it hard to believe in a computer world where my grocery store can send me specialized coupons based on the fact that I charged Pop-Tarts seven months ago, my car dealer can e-mail me about how many miles its been since my last oil change, and my video store can tell me which shipping center Felicity season four, disc one was sent three years ago when I ordered it that Apple has no way of knowing where a serial number was distributed to and whether or not, based on the bar code, it was purchased. They just don't want to do the leg work of checking...they want me to do it. Or they figure enough people won't want to embarrass the "gift" card giver and just eat it. If you are going to market "gift" cards aggressively, then you should reasonably foresee that people will want you to resolve problems they have with YOUR product. The Itunes brand is the name on the card, not Target, Best Buy, etc. Problems with the cards will be a mark on the Itunes brand and image.

I recently decided to downgrade my Directv membership to just one room. I hadn't used the one in the office much, and it kept losing signal. When I contacted Directv, they said I needed to return the receiver or face up to $490 in charges. No problem. Where to return it? Well wait until I receive a "recovery kit" in the mail and then follow the instructions. A week later and I still had no recovery kit. I e-mailed Directv customer service and requested it again. Then I started getting the collection calls. Why hadn't I returned my receiver? They would charge me up to $490 if I didn't do so.

As an aside..I hate automated reminders. Calls generated by computer with no humans at the other end. Blockbuster does these too. Another of my pet peeves is when you are in line at a store (okay, usually Blockbuster) and the person on the phone gets priority over the customer in line. You know...if they are always on the phone, why are all my calls automated?

Anyways, I finaally got the recovery kit and sent it back to Directv via Fedex. According to the tracking number, it was received 12/26/2007 and signed for. Home free, right?

No, not really. On 12/28, I get another automated call from Directv threatening me with a $490 charge if I don't return my receiver. Then the kicker.

"If you have already returned your 1; if..."

What???? So two days after they signed for it, they send me an automated message saying, in essence, "we don't know if you returned it or not, but if you didn't we'll charge you for it."

Postscript--Apple sent me one of those e-mail surveys generated by a "visit" to customer know, "was your problem resolved?" (no) "were you satisfied with your service?" (hell no). What I love is they don't ask "how can we do better?" Instead it is, "please outline the steps you took to try to resolve this problem before contacting customer service?"

Oh...and for the record...I gave the gift card back to the giver who will go back to the store for a refund. She said she might give me a card for Amazon instead.

Way to go, Apple. Within 1 month you took a guy who was thrilled to get his first Ipod and turned him into a guy whose first thought was "where can I get content for it someplace else."

1 comment:

T.C. Truffin said...


Adding to the list:

A major complaint folks have had ever since the inception of iTunes is that there's no way to re-download a song if the file gets corrupted or lost or your harddrive dies etc.

We've had one experience downloading an album where one song--of course the main tune of the album we really wanted--didn't download. Help from Apple: 0.

Sooo, I sympathize with your desire to find other sources for content. I mainly use iTunes for podcasts (no cost, so worries) and to organize the songs I import from CD's (any problems I can just re-import).