Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why our economy is failing

Our economy is tanking, and consumers are paying the price in time, frustration, and money. Aside from the mortgage crisis and the high price of oil, here's why:

Poor customer service!!!!!

On the phone: How frustrating are customer service phone lines...where, if you have enough graduate degrees to figure out how to get to a live person, you still have to press or say a zillion commands the overly soothing voice won't understand?

And if you get an actual human, unfortunately chances are you won't be able to understand him or her very well.

The newest wrinkle: fake friendliness, which they think makes them seem like they care but actually wastes more time. In recent dealings with a credit card company, cheeryisms like, "How are you doing today?" made the call twice as long.

In store: how rare is it to want help, and actually find someone who knows the products? Even at Nordstrom, which prides itself on customer item I wanted had to be shipped from another store. I received a different item, with another shopper's receipt. Couldn't get the box picked up for weeks. The actual item I ordered never surfaced, despite numerous calls to and "I'm sorrys" from an assistant manager.

For many Chicagoans, one word exemplifies the problem: Macy's.
There are still people protesting the changeover from Marshall Field's...a recent news story told of a man who bought one Macy's share so he could attend the shareholder meeting. Learn more: here.

One bright note: at a recent trip to Ulta, an employee was helpful and knowledgeable about the benefits of various flatirons. She seems to be the exception to the rule.

In home: A Certain Cable Company. Need I say more? Last summer, a neighbor and I each spent hours on the phone to resolve very frustrating, persistent service outages (particularly so because I work at home and couldn't send files when I wanted to) and scheduling repair visits. And because they don't have dedicated service reps, often I had to re-explain the whole situation. I couldn't get them to show up when they said they would or at all. I think he got them to show up once, but then the required follow up visit to our building never happened.
I complained and got them to let me pay 1/2 for 6 months...then fortunately my building changed to a different provider.

In general:

--Almost every time I shop, no matter when I go: long checkout lines at most stores.

--What's on the shelf: How many times do you go to a drug or grocery store and the product you want isn't there...because it's out of stock Do you have the patience/time to track down an employee and see if they have what you want? I don't. More and more, it seems groceries are carrying fewer national brands and filling aisles with their own products.

The frustration of shopping these days often outweighs the enjoyment of acquiring and using new products. You'd think retailers would want us to shop more...what can be done?

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