While my own Verizon horror story did work out in the end (replacement phone received, $US500 penalty avoided, woohoo), not many people have a globe-spanning soapbox like Gizmodo upon which to kvetch. Here are 10 of the most stupendously terrible cases of customer service Giz US readers have had to endure. Let us know your Aussie tales in the comments.
It should be noted, however, that despite the litany of monumental screw-jobs described below, nearly all of these companies eventually did do right by our readers — in some cases going far and above just fixing the initial issue. So if you're getting the short end of the customer service stick, don't lose hope; just keep escalating until you talk to someone who can — and does — actually help.
When the Six Hour Trip to the Verizon Store Is the High Point
Letter written a few weeks ago to Regional President Patrick Devlin:
I am unfortunately contacting you to seek redress for the rude, dismissive and unhelpful service at the Verizon Wireless store located at 2239 Broadway, NY NY, and in particular on the part of Mr. Jose Cabrera, Manager Nancy (last name unknown), and Manager Edwin Gonzalez. In short, my fiance and I were forced to visit the store 4 times to resolve our issue and on one occasion we were forced to wait in the store for 6 hours.
On October 5, 2013, my fiance and I were customers attempting to start a family plan and to get new phones. We were helped by Jose Cabrera, who sold us new phones on an EDGE plan. Jose told us to return when we received the phones and that they would then be put on a family plan together.
We returned on October 23, having received our phones. At that time we were told that we could not create the account, despite having been told the exact opposite a few weeks prior. We were told that the issue would be worked out and that we would be contacted with a solution.
On October 28, Mr. Cabrera called to tell me he had a solution and that we should return to the store. He said he would be in all week. We returned to the store on October 30. We were told that the issue could not be resolved because only Mr. Cabrera had the solution. He did not place any notes in our customer file, nor did he tell anyone else the solution. Even the manager, Edwin Gonzalez, could not resolve it. We were told to return when Mr. Cabrera was in, because he would not allow anyone else to work on our account.
We returned once again on November 2, 2013. We came in at 1130 am and met with Mr. Cabrera, who told us the process would take 2 hours. Mr. Cabrera deactivated the phones we were using and began the process of resolving the issue. This took until 530 pm, 6 hours later. During this time, with our phones deactivated, we could not leave the store or go about our lives. We were stuck waiting in the store for 6 hours.
Furthermore, we were forced to buy our phones again, costing us over $US400. Staff refused to credit us for these phones, for our 6 hour ordeal or for the many times we were forced to visit the store to resolve the problem. When we complained about this, acting manager Nancy (last name unknown) at first actively avoided us. She was then rude, saying that nothing could be done without Manager Edwin Gonzalez, who was not present but who had said prior (and subsequent) to this that she was authorised to credit our account. When I was finally able to contact Mr. Gonzalez this morning, he refused anything more than a small, nominal credit to our account.
Mr. Devlin, I request that you please credit our account for the full cost of our phones, due to the inordinate delay and ridiculous 6 hour ordeal we had to endure. No one who is not an employee should be forced to sit in a store for 6 hours. Furthermore, I request that you reevaluate the sales and managerial staff at this store.
Customer Service Is Here to Kiss Your Arse, Not Fix Your Problem
Been a card holder for 8 years. Made a decimal point mistake when making a payment from my iPhone. Thousands of dollar payment instead of hundreds. Naturally the payment gets returned. I discovered the error before AmEx even knew about it. I notified my bank and I notified AmEx. Both were VERY understanding and told me not to worry. AmEx went so far as to say that they would cover an overdraft charges I was hit with and that since this was my first blemish with them that it wouldn't negatively impact me in anyway.
Fast forward to a few days later, I get a call from the wife saying that she can't use the card...I check the account, no suspension notices or anything. I call AmEx up and I'm put through to their returned payments department. I end up on the phone with a very unsympathetic rep who basically accuses me of trying to defraud them so that I can make illegal purchases. When I inform that I had contacted AmEx a few days before to notify THEM of the mistake I had made he told me if that was the case then I should have stopped the payment. I explained to him that the customer service rep I spoke with never suggested that because everything would work it's way through the system and that my account wouldn't be negatively effected. His response..."that's what customer service does. They tell you what you want to hear."
WTF? Well, I ask him if they can lift the hold because it's on another card and shouldn't effect my whole account. No. Is there anything I can do?
"Do you have the funds available for that payment?" I don't. "Then no. Your account is suspended until everything clears or we get a stop payment from your bank."
The guy was completely unsympathetic and unwilling to work with me. I realise it was my fault, but mistakes do happen. I'm ready to tear up my AmEx, but I decide to try one more thing. I call the bank, issue a stop payment, and then call AmEx one more time. I get another return payments rep. However this time...she is willing to listen. It was like night and day.
I explain the situation to her. She is immediately understanding. She looks at my account, puts me on hold, then comes back on and says that her supervisor has authorised my card to be reactivated. I'm shocked..and happy. I speak with her supervisor, thank him and sing her praises. He looks over the call record and gets the name of the rep whom I spoke with before. He tells me that he's going to "speak" with him. Either way...it's a shame that a company's reputation can be made or broken with a single person. In this case it was a happy ending. I hope the first customer service rep I spoke with...finds coal in his stocking and reindeer scat on his roof, car, and all over his yard.
"3 Grand for a 2 Grand Laptop that Should Have Cost Me 1500"
HP - oh the ways. Brief as possible story.
I'm shopping around for a new laptop, and I stumble upon a massive coupon from techbargains...something crazy like 500 bucks off any laptop 2k or more. So I go for it - order a top of the line 17" beast running (this will give you an idea of timeframe) that newfangled vista 64 bit OS. I knew there would be some growing pains with 64 bit when I ordered it, but hell, if you're going to do it, go big, amirite?
So I get the laptop and, for a start, the a-holes charge me the full amount, without taking off the 500 bucks. I call and try being nice, then a little less nice, and finally wigging out (I felt bad for the poor Cust service person, who clearly just couldn't help, but also wouldn't transfer me to a manager). Get to manager - am assured I will receive credit for the 500 off by the time the laptop ships (supposedly 3-5 days). At the time I didn't have credit cards, so this was a debit card payment, and htat 500 bucks missing hurt.
Fast forward 5 days - no laptop shipment notification. Call again - told there was a delay but it would ship in 3-5 days and they still had the 500 buck refund in queue.
Fast forward 3 days. Receive shipping notification. Also receive notice that my bank account has just had 500 dollars WITHDRAWN from the account - so I'm now out around 3 grand for a 2 grand laptop that should have cost me 1500.
I call them again, quietly and calmly ask for a manager. Manager comes to phone and I fucking explode all over him. I go absolutely berserk. I make up stories about missing mortgage payments. I stop about 1/2 step shy of threatening to eat his mother. Manager assures me he's found the error and a refund will be processed in 24-48 hours.
2 days go by and 500 dollars is refunded.
Call again, flip out again, repeat above - 2 days later I have the additional 500 back.
However, the nightmare has really just begun.
I finally unbox the laptop (having been unwilling to even open it until the financial situation was straight), spend an hour or so removing bloatware and all the other crap they loaded it down with so I could see what the thing could really do. Putting aside vista sucking, the laptop itself wasn't bad - heavy as a mofo, but ran nicely. Go to install my network printer (an HP mind you), and I just cannot get it to work. Now this is early days for 64 bit OSs, and honestly I didn't know enough to think "hey maybe there's no network driver for it"...so I get on HP online chat.
Spend 2 hours trying to install printer - fail
Call the next day, another hour - fail
Online chat one more time for another 2 hour marathon - fail.
Call again one more time - this time with the goddamn microsoft KB open in front of me that says there is no 64 bit driver for printer X. Flip out all over again over the fact that I've wasted that many hours of my life and that somehow HP didn't know that the printer THEY make was not compatible with the laptop THEY FRIGGIN MAKE.
Verizon's Inbound Warehouse Must Be Full of Empty Return Boxes
I had an iPhone 4 that for some reason the 3g stopped working on. I called customer service and had a replacement sent to me. The day it arrived I got the replacement running, erased all of the data of the old phone, and packed the old phone up and sent it back to Verizon. At the end of the month my bill had a charge for $US650 for not returning the old phone. I called and complained multiple times stating that I did in fact send it back. I was told multiple times that customer service would try and locate the phone I returned, and give me a call back. I never got a single call back. I continued calling and complaining. One customer service rep said she opened up the picture that they take when the box gets back to Verizon and the box was empty. After explaining there was a phone in the box that I returned and I would have to be an idiot to send back an empty box, I was told the same song and dance that they would try and locate the phone. After about a month and a half, after already being charged $US650, I called again and was finally told the device was located and I would be credited on my account. Thanks Verizon...
And It Only Took 15 Techs and a Senior Vice President to Fix
I've got an AT&T horror story but it isn't wireless — it's U-verse.
We wanted to switch from AT&T DSL to AT&T U-verse. I signed-up on-line, got an appointment, and waited for the installer. Installer shows up and disconnects the DSL and then installs the U-verse but once it's all in place and wired he says he isn't seeing good signal coming into the house. Must be a problem on the telephone pole and he's only an inside man and has nothing to do with pole problems. He calls for an outside tech to troubleshoot the drop from the pole. Miraculously, this tech comes within a few hours but doesn't see any problem with the drop. Problem must be in the house, he says, and off he goes, saying that an inside tech will have to return. Inside tech does return only to say that outside guy must be crazy because he's got zero signal coming into the house. Inside and outside guys arrange to meet at the house at the same time and they finally get things working. They both leave and about 3-hours later everything is dead. Phone, TV, and Internet, all dead.
We call customer service and they schedule a tech for the next day. Next day comes and the whole inside/outside guy things starts all over again. But again they get it working only to have it die again a few hours later.
This literally went on for 2-weeks. I stopped counting at the 15th service tech.
Long before this point I'd asked them to get rid of the U-verse and put the DSL back but they insisted that the law forbids them from doing this. Something about how there's a federal law that actually limits the time-frame where service can be transferred in order to combat Telephone Slamming.
In desperation I finally contacted my local TV channel's consumer affairs advocate, not really expecting that it would accomplish anything, but like I said, I was desperate.
I never did hear back from them but they must have contacted AT&T on my behalf . My wife had been talking with a level-3 AT&T tech on her cell phone when her battery died. She went to charge it and a little while later her cell phone rang and it was someone from AT&T. She asked them if they were a level-3 tech because she didn't want to waste any more time with anyone lower than a level-3 tech. The guy on the phone answered, "Lady..... you are so above level-3 right now." It was an AT&T vice president and he said that he was our sole point of contact from that point on.
We got his personal phone numbers and he managed to put all the people together to finally get the damn thing working within 2 more days. We never had to call or talk to anyone but him. He also arranged a HEFTY discount which would last for the life of the service. We had one more problem about a year later and he was still our point of contact. He came to the house himself to supervise his techs.
AT&T did right by us in the end but it was hell getting there. To this day, my wife hates AT&T with a passion and I never miss an opportunity to bash the U-verse service.
Four Transfers and a Phone Call to Nowhere
My story for this week is ADT. Had a security system installed 4 months ago. During the installation, I was supposed to get a thermal sensor for the kitchen. The tech that game to do the installation didn't have the right hardware, said he'd be back next week to put in that sensor. 4 months later? Nothing (admittedly my fault for waiting this long to do anything about it, but work's been hell). So I go online to LiveChat ADT today. I've had good luck with LiveChat with AT&T, Samsung, LG, and several others in the past, so decided to go there. LiveChat's advice? Call this number. I call the number, 20 mins on hold, takes my name, phone number , and address. Says he can't view the order. Transfer to department 2. Takes my name, phone number, and address. Can't view the order. Transfer to department 3. takes my name, phone number, and address. Says he needs to transfer me to the installation contractor. Phone rings and rings and rings. No pickup. No voicemail. I'm back to square one, except 4 more people now know enough about me to open a credit card. Great.
Yes, You Bought the Phone. No, You Can't Have It
So here's my story. Nexus 4 is released to T-Mobile. Day of release I go to the store to purchase one. No go, all sold out. Stock was incredibly limited locally. I give up for the day. I go in two days later, with a relative who needed a new phone as well. My relative picks up their new phone and the rep charges me for a phone that will be delivered to the store and I'll have it within three days. I walk out happy knowing I'll have my shiny new N4 soon.
4 days go by and I'm still without a phone, I am somewhat bugged by this but figure they may just not have gotten it yet. Day 5 comes around and I go in to the store asking what's the situation on my phone. Same rep as before. She explains that they now have phones in stock and since they got them before mine showed up they cancelled my order. I'm a little annoyed I wasn't called to be informed of this but I think "fuck it, new phone right now". She then continues on telling me that they won't debit my card for a month the funds they already charged me. My new phone money will not be returned to me for a month. I am obviously pissed about that and get into it with her explaining that makes no sense. I walk out pissed.
I call T-Mobile and get told the same thing on the phone. Basically "tough shit". I get even more pissed off and get drunk. I end up getting online later that day and going on a partial rant about my day and what's happened so far.
Not even five minutes after posting about all this on Google+ does T-Mobile leave me a comment on my post. They ask for the exact store number, rep I spoke with and so on and so forth. I tell them. Get a reply back within a minute telling me to go into the store the next morning (since it's about 10 PM at this point) and that there will be a phone literally with my name on the box waiting for me and they are sincerely sorry about the entire situation and everything both reps told me was not even remotely in line with policy. Especially the "wait a month to get your money back" stuff. My mind at this point is blown, but wary.
Next morning I go to work and on my lunch break duck over to the store. Sure enough. Nexus 4 with a note apologizing for the inconvenience is there waiting for me. I walked out a happy customer.
EA's Evil Empire Won't Ever Let You Quit
Worst customer service I've received: EA/Bioware for the MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. I had been playing the game for a few months but was bored. I went to the account management website to cancel. I log in and it shows I have no active subscriptions, but I know my debit card is getting charged. So they're charging me for the game but I can't cancel.
I call tech support for help. And thus a two month ordeal started, where I had to call back once a week and the folks at tech support would listen to me explain the problem, get really confused, say they will call back, and never call back. They kept refunding the monthly $US15 charge, which was nice, but they would not/could not fix the problem about why I was being charged in the first place.
I ended up giving up on phone support entirely and wrote a detailed email to their tech support with the line "Can you please help get this information to someone who has the power and motivation to help me?" in big bold letters. That worked. They fixed my problem the next day and gave me 30 days of free game time (which I never used: I vow to never play Star Wars: ToR again!)
The best customer service I have received: Microsoft. I know! Right? They're that big evil company. But I had a great experience. My Xbox live account was compromised somehow and a person in Brazil used someone else's credit card to buy a bunch of credits in FIFA. Before calling them, my expectations were extremely low. But they fixed everything and gave me 400 free Xbox live credits ($5). And everyone was very nice and chipper.
Desktop Docking Station Not Included, Even If We Said It Was
I purchased a Dell Latitude 10 tablet bundle with Windows 8 Pro on it, it included the fancy dock charging stand. Tablet arrives no problem, but no dock, called Customer Service, had to endure 20 minutes on hold, then explain to the rep that the shipment was incomplete. Was transferred to sales, who tried to sell me a dock, I explained that it was supposed to be included in the original shipment and even pointed out on the invoice that the dock was part of the bundle. Finally after one more transfer to the "escalated" customer service rep I got the dock ordered. So fine and dandy, everything works great, used it all the time. Then a few months later Microsoft pushed out the update for Win 8, it was even listed as a update in the Dell software included on the tablet, so I installed it and went on my merry way. THEN in October Windows 8.1 update was rolled out, but the tablet wouldn't update or even show it listed in the App Store (which is the only place available to get it). This started a series of 4 phone calls to CSR's and a period of nearly 7 hours of remote connection servicing from a tech to roll back the tablet to factory OEM release, then proceed to update close to 50 separate "hotfixes" in order for the app store to finally see the Windows 8.1 update, then that took another 2 hours to download and install. Out of all of this they had the gall to call me the next day to make sure I received "excellent customer service and support" on my issue.
Two Devices, One Function
The worst experience I had with Verizon was when my mother-in-law (who is very naive when it comes to technology) informed my wife & me that she had purchased a cheap Android Wi-Fi only tablet off the internet, and had to buy a Verizon "Jetpack" so it would have portable internet connectivity. Here is where I got angry with Verizon: her phone had the ability to serve as a hotspot. But instead of looking at her account and informing her of this, the salesperson sold her a new device thus locking her into a fresh 2 year contract.
I went with her to the same store (a Verizon corporate store) and asked why they had sold her a new device rather than simply turn on the feature that her existing phone already had. Blank stares. The manager said she could not cancel the contract on the Jetpack without any fees because it was past their return period (roughly 2 weeks IIRC).
So we cancelled that new contract, she paid the early termination fee, I sold the Jetpack for her, and she has since used the hotspot feature on her phone, saving hundreds of dollars.
Was Verizon legally obligated to refund her money? No. She bought the device and did not return it within the set time period. But the fact that the salesperson didn't even bother to check a basic feature that most smartphones have had for the last 2 years is infuriating.
So It Came Preloaded With Malware?
HP told my mother in law her brand new out of the box laptop that had never been connected to the internet had malware on it that prevented her Verizon Wireless USB modem from being installed. I think she spent a total of 6 hours with them on the phone. Still don't understand that one.
Top image: IVL