CUSTOMER SERVICE BLUES….Cathy Seipp has an entertaining rant against Verizon up at her site. After her cell phone stopped working, they made her visit the local Verizon store, which offered her a “free upgrade” costing $139.76:

I also asked her to put all the old contacts from the old phone onto the new one. They can easily do this for you at Verizon, but they’ll never offer, you always have to ask. I didn’t even know it was a possibility, in fact, until I went in once with Maia and she knew to make them do it.

“No…they don’t tell us never to offer,” the sales rep said when I asked if this unhelpfulness is something they learn in special Verizon training seminars, “but we never do. I guess we should.”

The icing on the cake is that, because I was so exhausted, I did not realize until I got home that the sales rep had sold me a ridiculous accessory pack (leather case, assorted other crap) that I did not ask for. No wonder the bill seemed high. All I’d said, repeatedly, was please just give a new phone, with insurance, so I could get out of there. But for some reason she took “insurance” to mean “accessory pack.”

Hey, between this, her fondness of public service announcments, and her annoyance at private health insurance, we’ll turn her into a liberal yet!

Of course, what makes this triply or quadruply annoying is that we all know that companies like Verizon can be paragons of efficiency when they have the motivation of actually selling you something. Marian and I switched to Verizon about a year ago, and it was the most amazingly painless purchase I’ve made in a long time. They had a nice phone on sale for next to nothing, so we bought two of them. The guy at the counter did the setup and made sure everything worked. The batteries came fully charged. They switched our old numbers to the new phones in about 30 seconds. The entire operation took about 20 minutes and we were chatting away on our phones a minute later.

Needless to say, this efficiency disappears instantly if you aren’t buying something. The worst offender on this score (to my knowledge, anyway) is Fry’s Electronics: their customer service for returns isn’t bad out of laziness or bad management, it’s deliberately bad because they want to discourage people from returning things. So screw ’em. Their prices aren’t all that great anyway. I do all my shopping at Micro Center, and I do it there solely because they’ve always been decent and efficient at processing my rare returns.

Of course, the problem in the cell phone world is that there’s no one to turn to. They all suck. Or do they? Is there any cell phone company that gets consensus praise from people who have tried to resolve problems? (I’m actually happy with Verizon, for example, but I’ve never had any problems. That doesn’t count.) Commenters?