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Opinion column: Customer service not what it used to be

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23rd, 2013

I think weíve all heard the merits of shopping local. Supporting area businessmen and women and keeping dollars moving through the Goshen County economy is probably good enough reason for most.

But maybe itís just because Iím occasionally a glass-half-empty guy, but my main motivation for staying local Ė which I plan to do more and more often Ė is because customer service in your average store is dead.

The days of the ďcustomer is always right,Ē ďserve them with a smileĒ or even just standing by a product are long gone.

While I feel like I could write a book on this now obvious point, Iíll go ahead and stick to only a couple examples.

Letís start with the HP laptop that now has a permanent place under my bed. Iím sure Hewlett Packard was once a decent company, but I personally will never buy another HP product after my experience with the companyís customer service.

A few years ago, I needed to replace my old laptop. I didnít have it a week before some keys fell off the keyboard. That shouldíve been my first clue, but Iím apparently a slow learner. And, for a while, that paid off, because a year went by without many other hiccups Ö until it didnít turn on anymore.

I called the company. This was the first problem. First, good luck understanding the spoken words of who youíre talking two. Second, I guarantee youíll have to explain your situation seven times before youíre in the ďright department.Ē

So, of course, my 12-and-a-half-month-old computer had a 12-month warranty. The customer service representative told me there was nothing I couldíve done to prevent the computer from frying. It was a part failure due to the company producing a defective part. But, to get it fixed, Iíd pay as much as the computer was worth, and that was assuredly the cheapest I could get it done (they control the parts, so they have them cheapest).

The computer has collected dust the last year and a half at this point.

Now on to the latest bane of my existence, DirecTV. As a sidenote, Iím really not a big TV watcher, but Iím a huge sports fan. This means I must have a select few stations: ESPN, NBC, FOX, CBS, ABC. Seems simple? But, by some baffling, logic-defying rules, Goshen County is apparently ineligible for the latter four channels I listed. Three of them I got for the fair price of $2.50 per channel per month (the fair part was sarcasm).

But, again, for some reason, CBS said no. Now, I donít want to blame DirecTV for something that might be CBSís fault, but the fact Iím on the phone with them for hours at a time to get a clear answer IS its fault. The fact the company wonít cover the extra monthly charge for a station I was originally guaranteed is also its fault.

Needless to say, I havenít had half the available football games for much of the season now Ö or the upcoming Super Bowl. Can I go somewhere else to see the games? Yes. Do I? Yes. Is that the point? No.

Aside from idle ranting about the death of customer service in big box stores, Iíd like to point out weíve got a unique opportunity in Wyoming.

Here, mostly free from malls and WalMarts, weíve still got thriving small businesses, where real people we know greet us with a smile and help answer our questions. We donít have to talk to any ďautomated voice messagingĒ systems to get some help or be frustrated by half-hour hold times.

I canít be the only one frustrated with our nationís customer service, and if youíve been burned by the big box stores nationwide, try a place right here in Goshen County next time you need something. Even if the product eventually goes bad, youíll probably get a clear explanation in solid English from a nice person, which is more than most stores offer.

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