by David Berky
I just got off
the phone with a credit card account company. I was
closing a merchant account that I no longer used. A
simple transaction, or so I thought.
After waiting on hold for a couple of minutes (I love
the on hold dialog that says "your call is important
to us and will be answered in the order received" -
I always say to myself, and sometimes out loud, "your
call is important to us, but not important enough to
staff enough operators to actually answer it in a reasonable
time"), I told the operator that I would like to close
I was then promptly transferred to another line and
waited another couple of minutes on hold. I then repeated
my request to operator number 2, who then asked me for
my merchant account number, business name, address,
position in the company and why I wanted to close the
I quickly answered all the questions and was then transferred
to ANOTHER operator. After waiting on hold again for
several minutes, I went through the same process with
operator 3 as I went through with operator 2.
Then operator 3 asked my why I wanted to close my account.
I answered that I no longer use the account and have
no need for it. Operator 3 asked if there was anything
in the company's service that I was displeased with
or would like changed. I answered that there wasn't
(although I was thinking about mentioning their perpetual-hold
phone system and the number of people I had to talk
with to get my account closed).
Operator 3 seemed determined to try every tactic to
keep my business, as any good company should. But it
quickly became obvious to her that I just didn't need
the account. I wasn't dissatisfied with their service,
I just did not have a need for it anymore.
I was then given instructions to compose the letter/fax
that is required to close my account (apparently verifying
my account information three times was not enough of
a security check, I needed to send in a letter as well).
Up to this point I had been speaking to a very friendly
I was then informed that the closing date of my account
(that should also be included in my letter) was five
months later. I asked why I had to wait five months
and was patronizingly informed that my "revolving" contract
was for 6 months at a time and the next expiration was
five months from now.
If I canceled my account earlier I would have to pay
a "$300 early termination fee". So I had to pay $150
in monthly fees to avoid the $300 fee. The tone of the
operator's voice made me feel like she was steeling
herself for a heated argument with an enraged customer.
I simply said "un-huh" and nothing more. She then asked
if I needed anything else, I said "no" and the call
By then I was a bit amused at the Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde display I had just witnessed from this customer
support operator and the company in general.
First (as mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll) they try their best
to keep me as a customer, fix any problems I may have
had, promise better service in the future, lower my
rates and wash my car (well, it seemed to be heading
in that direction). It really seemed to me that they
wanted to stay in my good graces and not part company
with any bad blood between us.
Then (Mr. Hyde appears) they whacked me with my choice
of a $300 fine or a forced 5 months of extra unneeded
service. First make sure there is no bad blood, then
come up with a stupid reason for creating some in a
relationship that had had no problems up to this point.
Now what am I going to remember about the three years
of service that they gave me? That I had no problems
with them, that everything went smoothly? No. If asked,
I am going to tell the story of how they tried to screw
me when I needed to cancel my account.
So much for good publicity. What was the point of their
trying to preserve our relationship if they were just
going to poison it at the end anyway?
It seems that as long as I was a current customer the
priority was to keep me happy, but when I become a former
customer it is open season on my wallet (I still have
to be a customer for 5 more months - so the first part
is somewhat conditional).
Well, I hope they enjoy the extra $150 they extorted
from me because I am going to do my best to give them
$150 of negative word-of-mouth.
© Simple Joe, Inc.
David Berky is president of Simple
Joe, Inc. a marketing company that sells simple software
under the brand name of Simple Joe. One of Simple Joe's
best selling products is Simple
Joe's Money Tools - a collection of 14 personal finance
and investment calculators. This article may be
freely distributed so long as the copyright, author's
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