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Monday 25 April 2005

The Customer Obstacle Course


At the checkout counter the clerk asked for my phone number. “Why?” I said. I hate this new wrinkle. I just hate it. I hate the fact that I can’t buy a frickin’ candy bar without a procedure that rivals a mortgage application. I’m always interested in the rationale they give.

“We need the phone number before we can let the merchandise leave the store,” the clerk said. Practiced response, right out of the employee handbook. Fine. Let me say no, and let the burly boys tackle me as I try to leave with my paid merchandise. Sir! I need an area code sir! Then she said “This DVD player has a two or a four year extended warranty. Which one would you like today?”

This isn’t upselling; this is deceit. “Which one” doesn’t include the option of “neither,” of course. And then she offered me a free 8-week subscription to a magazine, so they could have my address as well as my phone number. Jaysus! Let me buy the fargin’ thing and let me go! You want a stool sample too? Here!

I have no idea if Best Buy knows, or cares, but every annoying check-out interchange reminds me anew: buy online. If I hadn’t needed the DVD player that night to review some family movies I’d just cut (want to get them done now, since I’m wiping the drive to install Tiger nice and fresh next Friday) I would have ordered online. Not because I think my privacy is held in greater honor -– they have my address, too -– but because it’s just less of a pain in the arse. As it stands, you end your Best Buy transaction by saying NO, NO, and NO. They might consider ways to let people leave with the word “yes” fresh on their lips.

They might, but they won’t. And the worst part is, these people seem to be personally offended and mystified when you won’t give up the information.

I used to be a lot more cooperative about the ‘free’ magazine subscriptions, in particular. Who doesn’t want something for free? Sure, I’ll get more junk mail, but — free magazines!!!1

The trouble is, when you try to cancel these ‘free’ subscriptions before they turn into paid subscriptions, you find that it’s impossible to communicate with these people: so I’m unwilling to even let them give me something for free.

Eventually, clueless marketing and branding and customer disservice people will have pissed off everyone in the country. When we’re all cynical and paranoid, they won’t be able to hawk their wares at all.

Posted by tino at 11:12 25.04.05
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Hey Tino This is Jen, you met me at the waffle house with Terry like a year ago (Sadly I am no longer at the waffle house, I’m a massage therapist.) Anyways I just wanted to let you know that I love your website, and I visit all the time, AND I bookmarked it, so I wouldn’t have the hassel of typing it in. Anyways I’m considering purchasing some merchandise…(unless you are all sold out, I’ll understand.) I know Terry has been wanting a license plate frame, So, I’ll try to talk him into it. Anyways, I hope you read this… I love your site… and if you need a massage let me know. Thanks! _Jen

Posted by: Jen at May 7, 2005 07:24 PM