Customer Service

User-hostile technology and phone trees (RL153)

John proposes for businesses to hire a "normal squad", a group of people who do the final testing, but are kept totally in the dark about the product and how it is made. They will be there to advocate for the busy and confused person. For 90% of the things John interacts with during the day, he just wants to get it over with and wants them to be as simple as possible. On the contrary, all current products seem to be designed with all kinds of annoyances, like for example a microwave that will scroll "Enjoy your meal" when it is done or an ATM that is trying to start a conversation.

The nicest thing that these designers could do is to make those things invisible and not assert themselves. Nobody goes to the ATM machine because they look forward to it, but they just want to get done with it. Every multi-function printer that John has bought during the last years - many more than he probably should have needed to buy - is a loss leader pyramide scheme, made to sell overpriced cartridges. Half the printers John bought were necessary because he threw their predecessor out of a window. Just entering the WiFi password with an up-and-down-arrow and not being able to see what you already entered! What are people going to do anyways when they know your printer password? Print stuff out all day?

Unfriendly repair fees, "free" estimates (RL293)

One time John took a thing into an amp repair shop in Seattle, they looked at it for 3 hours and couldn’t get it working, but they still wanted a bench fee of $300. John responded that he hated them and that he was not coming back. Maybe he doesn’t understand capitalism or working, but this it is not how you make a friend!

One time Merlin had someone come out and look at the furnace in their rented house. The guy was there for maybe 2 minutes and his free estimate was that they needed a new furnace. It was not really in Merlin's purview, but "Thank you for the free estimate!" The next thing they got was a hand-typed letter, threatening them with a lawsuit if they didn’t pay them for the free estimate visit. This is not how you make a friend!

Merlin flying United (RL293)

In June of 2018 Merlin was flying United over the weekend. He didn’t book that flight himself and his family had deliberately not flown United in maybe 10 years for all the reasons that John understands (see TYFC). It is America at its worst! Every single piece of dealing with that company is terrible, starting with the website all the way down to the delays, the lack of care, their own flight being late and now you are going to miss your flight, down to the fucking app that you have to use because they don’t have TVs in the seats anymore and you have to watch your movie on your own device. Merlin paid $100 in WiFi for 3 different devices so that his daughter could update her United app and watch Peter Rabbit. He was fuming! You also can’t paste anything into the fields, but you have to type it all in manually.

They were in one of those little jump-jets and got two seats on one side and one on the other. Of course all those fucking animals with their carry-on luggage who didn’t want to pay the $25 to check their bag were right there. They all had to be gate-checked and that took time. They had 36 minutes to make a 30 minute flight, but their bags were all jammed up in front and couldn’t find a place. There was no port in the storm, they had to wait, and when they finally got to their destination they stopped in the middle of the field and had to wait for a bus. Of course the bus couldn’t leave until everybody with their fucking green-tag checked luggage got their luggage. Their connecting flight was taking off in 11 minutes, were they going to hold that for them? They didn’t know, otherwise they were going to get them another one.

All airlines are awful, none of them want to make a friend and none of them care, but United takes it that extra step and they really want you to feel that you deserve unenjoyment. It is not just like with Delta who feels they are better than you, but running their business is a burden on United and you are just some blood-sucking leech, some fucking traveler sitting in their fucking seat on their fucking plane wanting to watch a movie with your daughter. "Sorry! We are here for your safety!"

John flying United (RL293)

One time John went on Moisés Chiullan’s podcast called Thank you for calling (see TYFC) with the only purpose to get a panel of people together to talk shit about United. John had a truly epic story from when he was going to fly to Hawaii with his daughter and there was no customer service at all. When he finally found someone from United, there was a line of 200 people trying to talk to them. There was a very small window to get everybody out of there and they had surprised everyone at the gate that the plane needed maintenance. "Shouldn’t you have maintenance on a schedule?" - ”Sir, there is nothing we can do about it!”, but there was something they could do about it, which is to put their planes into a routine maintenance schedule and have other planes available. Either the plane broke, which would be their fault, or something else, which would also be their fault!

The larger pattern is always: "Isn’t there a way they could have anticipated this?" John tried to demand satisfaction but what ended up happening was that they didn’t get to Hawaii until the following day and he had a very short amount of time he could spend with his family there. He was going to miss the last couple of days of the vacation anyway because he had to go to San Francisco from Hawaii, but then they also lost a whole day to regularly scheduled maintenance because they couldn’t put John's family on a flight with a competing airline because reasons. They called it Force Majeure like it was not their fault! If you say ”We really need to get home!”, they will tell you ”Everybody needs to get home!” - ”Yes, that is your job! I am not anybody special, but we all need to get home!”

John getting help on the phone (RL294)

In June 2018 John had been trying to talk to Anthem and he finally got through to Lainey who was super-helpful. For months John tried to find a helpful person and there had been some who seemed helpful, but a lot of people were just willing to transfer him to somebody else. Finally! Lainey wasn’t in charge, but somebody was passing the buck to her, a buck that had been passed all over and if you would test it, you would find Cocaine on it. It had been in the potty with people, they passed it and it finally got to Lainey and she figured it out.

Her email was a generic youradvocate at company dot com, but John kept emailing with her on that address and she kept replying. Merlin wondered if it was always the same Lainey, but John is his father’s son: He is always a little flirtatious (see RW68) and it feels like she was replying as a unified person rather than a community of people. John likes to think that there really was a person there and it was not like that Microsoft bot that turned racist in 16 hours.

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