Customer Service

Customer Service?
Customer Service

Customer Service?

Concerning the frustrations arising from online customer service

I am retired now, but for some reason, I am busier than ever. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to get everything that I scheduled for a day done. I have set aside time each day for exercise and learning JavaScript every day with the rest of the day set aside for appointments and writing. It seems I have a lot more health-related appointments than I had during my working years. I also spend time attending online events and reading, but these tasks are usually regulated to the evening and sometimes suspended if I am tired.

What is eating up a lot of time and causing increasing stress these days is the incompetence that is rampant in customer service. I am not necessarily referring to the call centers, which have their own set of language and product knowledge problems. These problems usually work out or the time and effort wasted are minimal. No, it's the problems with online feedback forms and associated customer-service software that drive me into a 'someone must die for this' rage. I have wasted days on some of these issues.

Many companies hide the numbers for support services. They don't want the expense and trouble of actually speaking to their customers. Instead, I must deal with 'buggy' software and forms that seem to go nowhere.

The most recent calamities involved the Cracker Barrel online feedback form and The New Yorker's online subscription management. I placed an order online for pickup at Cracker Barrel in Findlay. After ordering two meals as a guest, a message appeared encouraging me to 'make ordering easier' by opening an account and logging in. I exited to the 'open an account' page, fully expecting to be able to continue to order the third meal. After I created the account and logged in, I noticed that the little bag icon did not have the usual number indicating how many items had been ordered. So, I proceeded to repeat ordering the first two meals and adding mine. When I got ready to check out, I noticed there were now five meals on the order; my wife's and my son's were duplicated. I removed the duplicates and proceeded to checkout. The three meals were listed, the correct price for each was indicated and the correct total was given. I checked out with a credit card thinking everything was as it should be. All I had to do now is drive there and have my son go in and pick it up.

I waited in the car for several minutes before going in to check on things. My son told me it wasn't ready yet, so we did what the Cracker Barrel model is designed to do by browsing the gift shop area. Honestly, who pays the prices for these items? When we checked up front again we noticed a bag in the 'to-go orders' area. The cashier informed us that it was our order. I immediately noticed and remarked to my son that it looked too small for three meals. When we got to the car we checked and sure enough, there was only my meal in the bag. When we went back in to retrieve the other two meals, we were shown the order they had received and there was only one meal listed and my card had only been charged for one meal. No harm, no foul right. The reasonable thing to do would be to order the other two meals and wait in the car or store until they were ready. After having several bad experiences with DoorDash and GrubHub over the previous year, I was not in the mood for reason. I believe I said I was 'sick of this stuff—I didn't say stuff—and I would never come to this friggin'—I didn't say friggin'—place again.

Upon arriving home, the first thing my wife took note of was that I had received the meal I wanted. I had calmed down a bit, realizing the people I had berated were not the party at fault, so I offered my meal to any taker. Since I had ordered the lowest calorie options, there were no takers. It was Burger King for my wife and son—at least that went without a hitch.

After 'mass consumption' was over, I went to my computer and went to the Cracker Barrel site—after all, I was a registered member now. I went to contact us and received an email from Cracker Barrel asking about my experience. I clicked on the "Leave Feedback" link and received a 'we cannot find that site wait 30 minutes and try again or contact 'support'—with a link. These are the guys at which I could really get pissed off, unlike restaurant workers, who barely get paid enough to care, these were coders and web designers, who are usually paid well. I was never sure what was so special about 30 minutes but after 2 hours I decided that waiting was not going to change anything.

I used the URL from the error message to get in touch with the service that handled the Cracker Barrel account. I clicked on "support" and it took me to a page to enter my information and the nature of the problem. At last, I was getting somewhere. I filled in the relevant information and waited for a reply. I guess I felt that an "" address looked more authoritative than a Gmail one because that is what I gave them. I received an acknowledgment from the service contractor The next day, I received a request for the original email from Cracker Barrel. Since Outlook does not have a 'forward as attachment' function, used that function in Gmail, copied the resulting attachment, and attached it to my reply on Outlook. I received 6 more such requests over the next two days and responded to each the same way—there was never any acknowledgment that they received any of these emails. When I finally replied with "What the hell do you want?", I received a reply that the link was not visible in the attachment and he or she needed the actual email sent as a reply. There is no way to do this of which I am aware so, I forwarded the email from my Gmail account to my Outlook account and then to the support address.

I did not receive a reply. Putting aside the mystery of how they could not know where their own links led, I printed the CB email as a pdf and sent that as a reply. Links still work in a pdf. For two days, the only reply I received was a notice that my inquiry had been closed. I opened a new inquiry. I said my problem was due to the incompetence of their entire customer feedback operation and that all people associated with it should not only be fired but put on a 'blacklist' so that nobody would make the mistake of hiring them again. I received a concerned reply that if I gave a full account of my experience, it would be reported to the proper manager. I did not and will not reply. I am exhausted and I think that is the goal of new customer service management. Screw the customer around enough that he gives up. The only losers are the customers, in this case, both Cracker Barrel—I am more forgiving than my wife, who is holding me to my promise to never visit Cracker Barrel again—and me.

If you thought this was an isolated incident, think again. I ran into another 'damned if do/go screw yourself' situation while all of this was ongoing. I purchased a subscription to The New Yorker last October, which I changed to a digital subscription in June. I stopped receiving the print copy the following week. I received an email in July reminding me that my subscription was set to expire and would be auto-renewed. Usually, I put a reminder on my calendar but failed to do so this time. Since I used PayPal, it was not hard to cancel the auto-renew at any time. I have been busy and I am old, so I forgot all about it until I received an email that my subscription was renewed and my credit card was charged. That would have been fine if I hadn't told my wife I was going to cancel some subscriptions since I don't have time to read them all—I have digital subscriptions to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Mother Jones, along with numerous eBooks that have yet to be read.

The experience with The New Yorker was nowhere near the hassle I had with In Moment—"Named a Leader in Customer Feedback Management." My chief complaint has to do with the logic built into their subscription management. I first went to PayPal to cancel the auto-renew function. Of course, this would do nothing for a charge that had already been made. I figured my best option would be to manage my account at I opened my account and chose 'manage subscriptions.' A window opened asking me to log in again, so I entered my user name and password. Immediately a message in red letters appeared, "this is registered as a digital account"—'No shit, digital Sherlock"—and access to that part of my account was denied.

I decided to call the support number instead. Like most other commercial phones I got a recorded response instead of a human. The first prompt was for my account number which I didn't have. The message also included helpful information on how to find my account number, either on the address label—nope, I got rid of those two months ago—or from the 'manage my subscription' section of my account app—been there, done that, didn't work. Unlike Cracker Barrel, The New Yorker does not use a third party to handle customer service. I was able to use the 'contact us' link to receive an email response from a human who actually cared about the product and the issue was resolved by the following day.

Therein, lies the problem with customer service in our age. Instead of dealing with someone with familiarity and enthusiasm for the product, we are sent to distant call centers, buggy third-party apps, or online programs designed by those who don't give a shit. Modern businesses—see, revenge of the bean counters—consider customer service a cost center and seek methods to cut those costs. The problem with accountants is they only know numbers. Quality and customer satisfaction are just not that important to them. In the meantime, we either become increasingly frustrated or learn to accept whatever crap we are dealt.

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Bruce Workman

Bruce Workman

Bruce is a retired rubber chemist. He is the former publisher, editor and head writer for the county Democratic Party newsletter.

He is currenty a freelance writer, and a political activist. Bruce likes to read, research, write, design this website, and fish.

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