In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: customer service Page 2 of 12

I’m alarmed…at the force of their ineptitude

I’m having a go-around with my mom’s alarm company. They offer a $25 referral bonus, and she made such a referral in July. Six months and three calls later, they still somehow haven’t managed to deliver their end of the deal. Since my providing the details to the customer service representative got me no where last time, I wasn’t about to do it again. Rather, I hunted down their last annual report so I could direct my disappointment directly to the CEO. I doubt he’ll even see the letter, but maybe it’ll end up shaking the right tree.

I omitted my mother’s name and one other detail from this on-line reproduction to protect her privacy.

[my address]

December 9, 2014

Anthony Pizzonia
Chief Executive Officer
Alarmforce Industries Inc.
675 Garyray Drive
Toronto, Ontario
M9L 1R2

Mr. Pizzonia,

I’m writing you on behalf of my mother who has been a loyal Alarmforce customer for 26 years. My message is one of concern. Specifically, something is very wrong at your company as the level of customer service has declined for some years now.

The latest incident is a referral my mother made for your Alarmcare service. She recommended it to an acquaintance, who then used my mother’s phone to call Alarmforce and sign up her mother on the spot. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I believe it was in July. I didn’t make a note of it because I hadn’t expected that your company would fail to make good on the referral bonus even six months later.

My mother called in August and the rep told her that the referral credit can take up to three months to work through your system so she would see it reflected in her October charge. It wasn’t. I called in and was very surprised to learn that there was no record of the referral. I had to have my mom contact her friend for her friend’s mother’s name and address. With that information, I called your company a few days later and they took it all down. Despite this, the credit didn’t appear. Again.

Yesterday I called, and I was disappointed to hear that there is no record of the referral or any of our calls about it. The rep was very nice with me, but I had already been through this process once, only to apparently have the entire conversation ignored. I wasn’t about to provide all the information again and hope for the best. It didn’t work the last time so why would I expect a different outcome?

So here I am writing to you, wondering what is going on at Alarmforce. I’m not chasing after your company for something to which we are not entitled. On the contrary, you offered a referral bonus to get business. Now that she’s steered business your way, your organization is enjoying the income, and falling all over themselves to avoid fulfilling your promise. And all the while, Alarmforce makes damned sure the customers pay their bills!

This is all of particular concern because this is a health alarm. If my mother finds herself in distress and presses the button, will she we contacted immediately? Will your representative contact help in a timely manner? The same kind of screw-up in a different department can have dire health consequences, and that’s precisely what we’re paying to avoid.

I have my doubts, given that Alarmforce can’t keep its own promises. Your singular focus seems to be the company books. If your organization is no longer up to the task, please just say so. We’d prefer not to pay for an ultimately false sense of security.



My brother expressed amazement that I’d go to all this trouble for $25. It stopped being about the $25 a long time ago. It’s a mix of my making sure they aren’t enriched by their own ineptitude, my taking great pleasure in putting the URL of this post at the bottom of the letter I mail them, and my making it clear that it’s not okay to treat my mother so shabbily.


Alarmforce replied.

Crashplan, no longer


After three or four years as a customer, I cancelled my subscription to your online backup service yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, you offered a 50% discount to loyal family plan members who renew, and to single computer customers who upgrade to the family plan. I tweeted and asked if you had any deal to loyal single computer subscribers. Your response to me was to try to get me to upgrade to a family plan. Specifically, you wrote,

You don’t have parents, siblings or cousins with computers? #cheapholidaygifts

That isn’t what I asked, and I also note that including cousins seems to extend the family plan beyond what you allow. Regardless, when I replied that the single computer subscription fit my needs and I wasn’t interested in expanding it, you didn’t think me worth a reply.

In the nearly two weeks between that exchange and the end of the promotion, I saw many tweets referring to a 50%-off subscription rate to existing customers. At least 75% of them made no mention of this deal being limited to the family plan. Perhaps you expanded the offer? I wrote to ask. No reply. This happened three times. Never a reply.

Then late last night I checked again, and your Black Friday sale kicked in. Both plans discounted, but for new customers only.

I get the hint. You want single computer subscribers to upgrade to the family plan, and you want new customers. Raving for two weeks about a 50%-off renewal is great, but if you usually fail to mention that it applies to only a subset of your customers, you’re going out of your way to annoy those to whom is doesn’t apply.

While these other two issues aren’t directly related to my cancelling, they definitely made it easier:

1. Your service is great in that it offers support Windows, OS X, and Linux, but doing this by using a common Java codebase is less than ideal. Backup software using a gigabyte of RAM is ridiculous. I’m glad to have that RAM back!

2. The Twitter campaign you ran over the summer was a disaster. You have 30,000 followers who are interested in Crashplan news and updates, and you saddled them with tweets like this:

Oh, jeez. The Wolf King just showed up. And he’s wearing that I‑wanna-get-back-together face. ‑MadMaxine #FutureWithoutBackup

You build a following, and then rather than offer what they came for, you tweet this kind of thing? I’ve never seen so many complaints, and for good reason. I wrote, asking if you had a feed for only Crashplan news and you told me I was already following it. When I suggested that this ‘campaign’ was ill-conceived, you explained that more like it could be coming.

I wondered how clueless could you be. I’m through wondering. You seem to have trouble understanding how to treat paying customers.

If you offer something, and repeatedly snatch it away, and then ignore me when I ask about it, I get the impression you aren’t terribly interested in my being a paying customer.

Message received, Crashplan.

Logo © 2014 Code 42 Software, Inc.

Business blunders III

Dear businesses, don’t make me work to become a customer. Seems obvious, but my experience indicates otherwise.

I’m always on the lookout for a sale on Coca-Cola. A supermarket called Fresh Co. has a flyer out that advertises just such a sale. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? No, not so much.

My mom commented, “Fresh Co.? I don’t know where that place is.” I thought it would be simple enough to find out. Newspaper flyers typically list the store locations and small-print at the bottom of the back page. Flipping to the back page, imagine my surprise when they boast, “87 Fresh Co. stores now open in Ontario,” and then follow with the locations, “See for store details.” I don’t think so, Fresh Co.

Even worse, I always look for any limitation on quantities. Fresh Co. tells me, “We reserve the right to limit quantities.” That’s it. So I may go and discover they’ll only let me buy three. That’s plenty for some people, but not everyone.

If you’re going to try to get me into your store, and then not even tell me where they are, I’m not going to go hunting for the information. I’ll just go elsewhere. I understand they’re trying to save money by using the same flyer in multiple markets, but when your saving money requires me to do extra work, your ad failed. Enjoy your savings, but I’m not buying anything from you. Happy?

If you think I’m the one missing out, think again. Sobeys has Coke on sale as well, and for the same price.

So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. In wanting to make sure things are as I expect, I had a look at the Sobeys flyer to make sure it does indeed list store locations. But it doesn’t! I do think the point stands however, as the larger incumbent companies are better known. In this case, I already know where the Sobeys is. Still, they risk losing potential customers, but it’s less a risk for Sobeys than for Fresh Co.

It doesn’t end there. In searching their respective websites for the logos I’ve included here, and to properly assign trademarks where they belong, I check the ‘Legal’ links. The legal page on the Fresh Co. site begins, “This Website is owned and provided by Sobeys Inc.”

I’m still not going to Fresh Co. and in fact, I’m even a little bit less likely to go to Sobeys, but I don’t think this will tip the balance. I’ll still buy the Coke, and likely nothing else.

Fresh Co., Sobeys, and the graphics shown above, are likely trademarks of Sobeys Capital Incorporated. I’m not exactly sure because both web pages state, “The content shown on the Website is protected by copyright, trademark and other laws” but they give no specifics on what terms are trademarks. 

Oh Bell, why do we expect anything from you?

I had a very unfortunate experience last week when I contacted Bell Canada with a very simple request. This is the message I sent to escalate the problem with their customer relations department:

I’m writing because of an unfortunate experience I had when I called your office. My Father passed away and we’re contacting the utilities to have the accounts changed to my Mother’s name. I was told that the only way Bell could do this is with a driver’s licence number or a social insurance number. My Mother has no driver’s licence, and a social insurance number is such overkill for this purpose that Service Canada states that one’s SIN should only be provided when it is legally required, and they further strongly discourage private-sector organizations for asking for it when it is not legally necessary. Further, I feel your corporate attitude toward the privacy of customer data is a joke, and more reason I would not offer up my Mom’s SIN to Bell in particular.

Your rep told me that she could not make the change without the number. I didn’t yell or argue as I know the fault isn’t hers. It’s policy laid down by Bell. Consequently, the account remains in my father’s name.

I find it absolutely abhorrent that you’d ask for information as sensitive as one’s social insurance number exactly when someone is left vulnerable by the death of a spouse. I recall with amusement how you describe your commitment to customers, “Simply put, that’s our mission: To delight you with the products, services and customer support that we provide to you every day,” and I’m flabbergasted that you have the nerve to suggest you care about customers and the service you want to provide them.

I can also assure you that it’s not a pleasant thing to have Bell reminder my mother of her deceased husband every month when your bill arrives with his name on it, as it seems that this will continue to happen as long as she remains a Bell customer. Those memories should be hers to recall when she wants to … not for you to thrust upon her.

My parents came from a time when one was loyal to a business and in turn, the business was loyal it customers. I know that time has long past, but until this point, my Mom has told me that she would not switch her home phone service from Bell. Period. Like I said, “Until this point.” Your rep told me multiple times that changing the account holder or opening a new account required one of the two previously mentioned pieces of identification. The fact that she has had the same phone number with Bell for more than fifty years, and she’s being treated no differently than a new customer, has opened her eyes to this unfortunate change in business practices in general, and of Bell’s in particular.

Now that she realizes how your customers mean nothing to you beyond the money for which you can bill them, I’m beginning to research other home phone providers. It’s high-time too, as the first company I looked at seems to be significantly cheaper even including the discount I have to call you every six months to receive.

I expressed my displeasure on Twitter and the responses have been lacking. The first asked for the account information so they could provide information. The second offered to put me in touch with someone. Neither stated plainly that they would fix the problem, and without an assurance that we can fix this, I don’t need information or someone to talk to. It would be great if you could take ownership of the problem, you know?

I tell you what … if you insist on fumbling with what you call customer service to try to keep my mother as a customer, feel free to call … but don’t waste our time unless you’re going to live up to the commitment that you claim is more than just talk. Further, call me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx this week and save my Mother the reminder of this unfortunate incident. Call her with a pitch at the number associated with the account, and I can assure you that her decades-long time as your customer will end very quickly. Just so we understand each other, if you think $5 off for six months will delight me, save yourself the ‘effort’ and don’t call.

I expect nothing from them. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they didn’t call at all despite the conformation e‑mail message promising to contact me within 24 hours. Frankly, I shouldn’t even be nothing with them now that Mom’s on board with changing providers. Maybe I just want to see them fail. They certainly will fail because home phone service through our cable company is nearly $20 cheaper, every month. There’s no way Bell will meet that. We’ll see.

I did my best to search for an e‑mail address I could use for the above message. The downside is that I failed to find one. The upside is that I found how to escalate the problem rather than just sending it to same department that already stonewalled me. I much prefer to use e‑mail messages as I have a copy with the date and time. My concern was that the message might not even fit. Happily that wasn’t an issue. The web form allows 4000 characters, only 66 of which I didn’t use!

I told Mom we’d leave this in Bell’s lap this week and if all goes as we expect, I’ll be in touch with the cable company on Monday.

Need insurance?

What do you look for in an insurance company? I’m sure there are many answers to that question, but if you’re looking for an insurer that will screw you over, and then go far out of their way to screw you over again when called to task, I think I know a company you might consider.

Andres Carrasco, a 76-year-old retired bus driver living in the Los Angeles area took legal action against Adriana’s Insurance. That’s bad, but it’s worse than you think. According to the Los Angeles Times:

The settlement was the result of a 2012 lawsuit in which Carrasco alleged that an employee at the company assaulted him when he tried to buy insurance, his attorney said.

See what I mean?

AP photo by Antonio Gallo, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

The insurance company settled the case and owed Carrasco $21,000 by July 25. The insurance company certainly did pay. You can see Carrasco with some of the settlement on the photo to the right. Yes, the insurance company paid $21,000 in coins, including pennies. Adriana’s Insurance staff delivered 16 – 18 five-gallon pails filled with coins to his attorney’s office after they brought the ‘payment’ to Carrasco’s home and he refused to accept it.


It boggles my mind. Companies will certainly see customers who are absolute assholes. I’m sure it happens all the time, but customers really have no reputation to protect. They can simply go elsewhere. Companies, however, certainly do have reputations that takes years to establish and are easily damaged. You can bet this story will make its way around the Internet and people will pay attention. Those looking for new insurance certainly will, and even those who know how reticent insurers are to let go of any money have a first class example of one company that will even try to fuck you once they know they have to give you money.

No matter what this guy did, the company should not act so childish. This is doubly so when all he did was suffer an assault at the hands of one of their sales people.

Now of course we only have his side of the story, and everything I’ve said above is predicated on his story being the unvarnished truth. According to their report, the Los Angeles Times reporter contacted Adriana’s Insurance for comment, but they did not call her back. On a lark, I sent the company an e‑mail message asking for their side of it. If they reply, you can read about it here.

I just can’t help but feel Adriana’s Insurance is going to get an education on what happens when you really screw over a customer and social media finds out about it.

Information and photo from The Los Angeles Times with additional info from The Telegraph. Hat tip to Boing Boing.

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