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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Your Time--Part 2

I did finally get off the phone with Direct TV. Here’s the final part of what I wrote while on hold or talking to them.  And they did solve the problems to my satisfaction. But it sure took a long time--It felt like I had enough time to write "War and Peace" instead of just two blog posts.

But don’t think this is just Direct TV. Many large companies seem to engage in this kind of practice: find ways to rip off their customers. They just call it revenue-generating strategies.

In the course of a month of bill-paying, I inevitably find one or more inappropriate, or what I call “rip-off” charges, in bank statements and/or bills. For example, our bank recently charged us a fee because the bank failed to recognize our checking account as "associated” with our saving account.

First, I don’t understand why any bank should charge us for holding our money and paying virtually no interest—unless you count .03% interest as real money these days. After a long phone call, the bank admitted its mistake and agreed to take off the charge. 

My health savings bank recently charged me $15 after I paid online a doctor’s bill who had happened to double-bill me.  The doctor was good enough to send the overpayment back to my health saving bank before I even realized I had overpaid. But that bank charged me $15 to essentially tear up their check. Another long phone call and the charge was removed as a “one-time courtesy”.

By the way, as I write this, I’m still on the phone with Direct TV. At least I found something to do--write--while waiting. Two service reps in different departments have now agreed with me that there is no logical explanation for the additional charges on my Direct TV bill. I'm at 1 hour and 5 minutes and still trying to get the bill corrected.

Customers are no longer right. Instead we are suspect. And if we hope to be treated fairly we need to spend hours explaining and repeating the explanation in the effort to get merchants, banks and other companies to fix their mistakes. If I catch the "mistakes", that always are in the favor of the biller, I eventually get the amounts credited back.

But I have to wonder how many customers do not catch the mistakes? And how many people don’t have time to spend hours on the phone with all the companies that add these kinds of extra charges? Those customers who can't or don’t spend the time checking their bills and making the phone calls to get them corrected are the ones who are ripped off. And the businesses are unjustly profiting from those rip-offs.

I could compile a long list of large corporations that treat their customers this way. Most of the billing mistakes or rips-offs are $50 or less, not worth suing them or reporting them to the Better Business Bureau or some consumer advocate.

If you are willing to spend the time you usually can get the company to correct the problem. The companies may have calculated most people won’t spend their time the way I have this morning. 

I'm now at 1 hour, 12 minutes. The service rep agrees this is an error but her system does not allow her to change it. I suggested she just give me a credit for the overcharge. And she says OK.

Let’s see--I’ll get my $11 back after spending 72 minutes of my time. Of course, the $11 was mine to begin with. So I will wrap up this phone call--and wonder why I did not become a class action lawyer. I guess it has to do with most of these companies have added arbitration clauses to their adhesion contracts with customers. That means you and I can’t sue them because of the "boilerplate" legal terms they put in the so-called agreements with their customers.

For the rest of the day I hope to spend my time on something more productive and fun.  And I wish you the same. But don’t forget to check your bills before paying them

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