May 8th, 2009

Customer Service

The Good

I have three customer service stories to write up, so I'm starting with the good one.

Okay, background: Flar is on Medicare because he is a kidney patient -- home dialysis is an automatic qualifier. We didn't find out it had started last year until they were billing for third quarter, so we had this big bill to pay off just as finances were getting awful. We finally caught up when I got to pay bills after the Really Big Deal™ funded a few weeks ago. That check was mailed on April 1, and I figured I would pay the bill for the second quarter in May, a month late.

We got two letters in the mail, one dated April 1, telling us coverage was terminated due to non payment, and then the next day we got a second notice billing for the second quarter.

First I called Matt's social worker at the dialysis clinic. She recommended to ignore the termination letter and pay the bill. She also gave me a phone number to call to inquire about payment by phone. It was for social security, and they also told me to go ahead and pay the bill, but gave me a direct Medicare number to inquire about payment by phone.

So here's the Good:

(Once I got through the irritating "Voice Recognition" voice menu to speak to a real person,) I told the story of the two letters to the woman who handled my call. I told her that I wanted verification that I could just pay the bill, but that if I could ask for the moon, I'd like to pay our bill monthly automatically from our checking account. Well, she gave me the moon. Yes, I can pay the current bill. And she would mail me the application form for direct payment, and the way it would work was that we would continue to be direct billed, but eventually the bills would be statements and include the phrase "This is not a bill" on them, and then we would know we were successfully enrolled.

I was frustrated by the voice recognition menu because it kept reacting to background noises in the house: barking dogs, etc. But I was really pleased by the conversation. She was not merely polite, but friendly and very helpful.

So sometimes you can ask for the moon, and even get it. :)
Customer Service

The not so Bad

Okay, so the next bit is about Apple. Which means I talked to Apple Care, which means that at least I had bright, friendly, helpful people trying to help me.

The only problem is that currently, they don't have the ability to help me with my problem. :(

The earbuds I use with my iPhone are Apple's In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic. Technically, they are only supported for various iPods. They work great with my laptop and my phone, although the phone doesn't support the volume controls on the remote.

The problem I have is a usage problem common to in-ear silicone headphones: I've lost one of the silicone ear-tips. They come with three sets, one pair in each of three sizes. Obviously, I've lost one of the pair that is the best fit for me. I'm currently using a different size for one ear, and actually that one has torn, but it's still usable. When the first tip got lost, I also lost the mesh cap to which it was attached. Two replacement mesh caps are provided, so I'm not screwed.


To my horror, I find that Apple makes no provision for buying replacement ear-tips or mesh caps! Which means that as time goes on, if I lose more tips I'll be wearing less and less suitable sizes, and I'm essentially three tips and one cap away from total loss of utility.

Heh. I got two, count-em two, warranty replacements on my vibes headsets because they kept having cable failure at the stress points. I switch to Apple because of their near magical durability/flexibility of their cabling, and I face the real possibility of losing utility of the headset to replacement part loss rather than actual product failure. Sigh.

If I ask you to help me find a silicone ear-tip that's popped off, perhaps you'll understand the urgency of my request. ;)

FWIW, I'm not the only person to have complained of this. The best the Apple Care tech could do for me was send me a URL for a site that sells urethane tips that fit the headphone. I've used urethane tip headsets before, and I prefer the silicone, but at least there's some relief.

Apple sent me a follow-up "Please take this survey about your customer service experience." I replied with high marks for the person, but dissatisfaction with the answer.

Maybe they'll start selling replacement parts before I have to turn to third-party foam.
Customer Service

The Ugly

Or, Why We Don't Have a Service Policy on our new washer/dryer.

The driest facts:

We wrote a check for $2,693.98 on April 11 to a company called ADI. For this price, we were to receive an LG washer/dryer pair, installation - including repair to the outside vent cover - and a five year service contract. We were given an installation date of April 17, and told that home installations are done in the afternoon.

I have a lovely LG pair fully installed except for the outside vent cover, a refund of $34.06 for installation costs, a refund check for $208 in the mail, and no service plan. ADI has put me on their no-future-sales list and their service company, Prather Services, has put me on their no service calls list.

A little flushing out of the details:

I got no call to tell me that my installation would be delayed. When I called them on April 17 in the early afternoon to get an ETA, they told me "The truck is still in Nashville, we should be able to bring it out on Monday." At that time, the salesman offered to refund my installation fee so that I could use a laundromat to wash clothes in advance of my roadtrip -- I wouldn't have time if I waited until Monday.

When I called them (still no call to inform me!) on Monday, they said that the pair was not on the truck when it arrived: LG had back-ordered it. I didn't complain too much, since the installation fee refund would cover up to three trips to the laundromat and it sounded like the back order wouldn't stretch out that long.

The washer/dryer were delivered on April 27. At that time, they did not fix the outside vent cover, or connect the dryer venting to the side. They put a temporary hose on the dryer and said they would arrange a service call to complete the installation.

After receiving no call, I called ADI on April 29 to schedule the service call.

A serviceman came out on April 30, declared he did not do anything outside the home, that he needed to order a part to change the venting, and left without touching the equipment.

On May 5, Prather Services called to tell me a serviceman would come out the next day from 12-2.

On May 6, the serviceman came, told me that the part would be $85 and that I had to pay him directly. I called ADI to get the salesman to waive the charge, since I had been promised a compete installation, and he agreed. Meanwhile, the serviceman had left the house to make his own phone call, and I had to call him back in to work.

His story and mine disagree. He says I yelled and screamed and waved a finger in his face. I say he left the house at least three times to make phone calls, and at one point left his phone open while he was working, claiming I was being hostile and this was no big deal. I asked him whether he thought $85 was no big deal, but "that wasn't what he meant." He refused to do the work, and the company sent another technician out to finish the job.

In the process, I was on the phone with the ADI, with Prather Services, with employees, manager and finally the owner. They decided they had "wasted too much time on" me, and decided they no longer wanted to service any appliances in my home, even though it was my understanding that I had bought a service plan for five years with THEM. Mind you, the only paperwork I had was a one page receipt that I got at the time of the check, and the service plan paperwork was supposed to come in the mail within SIX weeks.

Matt wrote them a complaint letter, in lots more detail than I've the patience to write here, used words like "deceptive trade practices" etc, and they replied to this letter by saying they would refund out $208.

I found out today that Best Buy can only sell their Black Tie practice on merchandise they've sold, no exceptions. I also found out that if I were to go back to ADI and demand a full return and refund, I'd be starting totally from scratch: LG is apparently in the middle of a model number changeover. Best Buy currently has outstanding orders for more machines of the models I'd bought that they'll be able to fill, and they've discontinued the models from sales. The newer models won't be available until the end of the month.

We never had a service policy on our old washer/dryer, so we're going to keep what we've got, and hope for the best with regard to future maintenance needs.

But I am completely fed up with ADI and Prather, and as Mom says, I'm just as well rid of them.

And yes, these are the names of the companies involved, because I'd just as soon anyone I care about be forewarned before voluntarily getting involved with them.