I love conflict. If it doesn't exist, I'll create it. I think Timothy and John will attest to that.
And I hope you note the order there – Timothy has now vaulted into the lead!
But this isn't about insignificant people, this is about real companies screwing wonderful customers – like me!
I've mentioned that I have dialup Internet service, and that it was quite inexpensive – 6 bucks a month. I haven't said it was Frys, but now I am. I just wish it could have been under better circumstances. See, I've been a Frys ISP subscriber for a long time – years. They had my card on file, so billing was automatic.
And therein lies the problem. I only found out today that my card had expired last August. I'd gotten a new one, but Frys didn't have the new expiration date. Again, I found that out – today – the hard way – a way I wouldn't wish on anyone else but Timothy and John, especially because neither would have a clue how to deal with it, but I digress…
Over the past few months, I'd experienced some relatively short service outages. They were concerning because Frys doesn't have a customer service 800 number, which is understandable considering that they are the cheapest service I've found. But that only works for all parties concerned when service is good and stable. Because during an outage, you can't send an email to their "24 hour live customer service," you have to wait until service is restored.
That means you have no idea what caused the outage, or how long it might last, and as I said, lately they have been something other than rare.
Yesterday's was the worst. I couldn't dial in for an hour and a half, and I finally decided I'd had it. My new Dell came with six months of free dialup from AOL, so I signed up. Sounds simple so far, right?
Then let's backtrack a bit.
When I couldn't connect to Frys, I first tried to bide my time and do other things, but finally, I really needed to get online. That's just how much you mean to me. And when I decided to permanently hang up on Frys, I didn't contact AOL. I first tried to sign up with Earthlink which also offered six months free courtesy of Dell. But try as I might, I couldn't get connected., so I called…
India, as it turns out, and another very nice Indian informed me that the offer had expired, but that he could give me another terrific offer. Do Indians understand 'bait and switch," I wondered?
It turns out, they do… "free" had become "14.95 with 'high speed" access." That's this crummy thing dialups offer that's supposed to speed up your surfing "up to five times." All it really does is "speed up" your costs. I thanked "Paul" for his time and set up AOL, which, of course, took "up to five times" longer to establish than I'd expected.
And when I finally signed on, the "updates" started. After a bit I got a popup that said they were ready to install and that I should "click here to begin." I did… they didn't. I got a notice – "Update failed." Who cares, leave me alone, From the time I first failed to dial in with Frys to the time the update failed over three hours had just flown by.
I wasn't planning to use AOL's proprietary junk anyway. Unfortunately, AOL was planning just the opposite. I still haven't been able to dial in without their software, but that's a minor nuisance for the moment.
And minor nuisances just won't do, so here's a bigger one…
I'd sent Frys an email directing them to terminate my service forthwith, explaining why in great, and advising that I would consider using them again in the future – when they got their service problems worked out – approximately the same time as my AOL free trial timed out. But in the earliest morning hours today, I found I could still dial in.
That left me thinking that they might try to bill me for a longer period, so I called my card company which advised me that I could dispute the charge (something I already knew. In fact, the amount would be so small that they would probably just write it off, and that's something I didn't want since it meant Frys would still get paid). Then the nice lady asked for the company's name, and I told her.
"Ooooh," she exclaimed.
I expected a story about long and bad experiences with them, but what I got by way of explanation was very different.
I was informed that Frys hadn't charged me since August, and it was at this moment… from her… that I'd learned my card had expired back then.
How would you have reacted? From experience with these sorts of things, I was astounded. A company is not getting paid, they don't attempt to notify you, and it's you who finally has to terminate THEM?
So apparently I was six months in arrears, and frankly, I hadn't noticed. I mean, a six dollar monthly billing is not something even I am acutely aware of, much less be aware of the fact that it wasn't there. If you'd asked me on which of my cards I'd provided to Frys I couldn't have told you. I had to get that info off my – Frys profile page, and even then, I didn't pay attention to the expiration date.
Six months is a mere $36.00, and coincidentally, Frys had caused me thirty six dollars worth of nuisance the previous day, so we were even. Especially after I'd had to write Frys a second email detailing why I was canceling since I'd gotten no response to the first and no termination of service.
Something or somebody was fried at Frys, I surmised.
Here's what I sent before contacting my card company:
I wrote yesterday to request that you terminate my service effective immediately, but I just found that I can still connect. The reason for my request to end service was that I was dissatisfied with recent outages and the inability to contact you regarding status. I just noticed that you claim to offer 24 hour support, so your failure to acknowledge my first email and to disconnect my service adds further nuisance to the already very large nuisance you caused me in first trying to gain access for an hour and a half, and then finding and setting up new service which resulted in an entire afternoon being disrupted unnecessarily.
While the lack of communication is not surprising since you once even changed an access number here without sending any notice, and had I not had the alternate number set up at the time, it would likely have caused a problem every bit as serious as the one you caused me yesterday. You should seriously consider making an effort to communicate better, and to act more quickly on customer inquiries. I won't write you again about this, but I am notifying my card carrier not to honor any request for payment. And while I had intended to possibly re-sign again at some future point, this is becoming more unpleasant by the hour. If you can't honor this simple request, I won't risk a repeat later.
Thank you for your consideration and your immediate attention.
Then the fun began.
I received the following email this this morning:
You have a balance on the account of $41.93
Please send a check to Frys ISP 600 east brokaw Rd San jose ca 95112
I have closed the account. The charge for your sevice was declined by your
bank for invaled experation date . That is why your service was put on
hold . an e-mail was sent to you last month asking you to update us .
I'd received no such email, and here I learn that my account was "put on hold?" Then why was it back last night/early AM? it's crazy, I tell ya! And what's this $41,93? That's seven months they hadn't billed me?!? Well, I wrote back To "Arthur" –
I did not receive any email that I'm aware of, but in talking to my card company this morning, they informed me that you hadn't charged my account in some time. That only made me angry since it was through no fault of mine that you didn't get paid, it was due to your lax procedures.
Did my emails yesterday sound like someone who knew there was a problem? I would have gladly paid any balance owing – yesterday. But you caused me great nuisance and anxiety as I've explained, and when it looked like the "outage" would be extensive, I felt that enough was enough.
And if I had been cut off for non-payment, why did I not stay cut off? Since you took so long, why did you not send multiple emails? And especially one BEFORE there was a problem? Your sloppiness cost me, and it was all so unnecessary. I suggest you write off the balance as a lesson learned and resolve to conduct affairs in a more businesslike manner. Then I might avail myself of your services at some future time, but if you feel you have no responsibility for this debacle, then we're at an impasse. Just having to write a third explanation has caused further nuisance.
And Arthur wrote back to me…
Are you going to send a check to cover your usage of our service?
If not, I will pass your account to our collections service.
Oh boy, no wonder Camelot collapsed.
But by now I realized there might be a story and that I might impart something useful on a reader, So I felt it only right that I respond to Arthur's threat. I was already wondering if Arthur might not be Timothy??? So I went into TimTone mode…
Amazing. You've learned nothing from all the effort I've expended in trying to help you improve your business and yourself? Because such effort sure does nothin' for me.. I can only imagine what a mess you must be running there.
After I sent the last email, it dawned on me – was he saying that these service outages were unique and targeted at me – his way of sending a message? One that only by the biggest stroke of luck might have been correctly received? Because if so, it seems that an email would have been a lot less work, gotten better results, and avoided the now exponentially increasing animosity. Not to mention my distaste for anything Frys.
Well, thanks for the memories, Arthur. You've given me a subject to blog about, so I'm further in your debt. Please add a nickel to your collection referral.
I only wish we'd gotten to know each other better. Then I might have understood where you're coming from. Like, like how you could be that thick-headed as to be completely oblivious to the one-way game you were playing, and the nuisance you were causing, and the wrongly directed effort you were expending, and all in vain…
And you might have appreciated where I'm coming from – like I never got to mention that I'm a former collections manager… and I intend to forward
this to Frys management for their consideration and to solicit comment for my blog.
That comment wasn't long in coming, and it was closer than I'd thought…
This is Frys managment
and its good that you understand the collection process.
So I take it that you will not be sending the check to pay for the service ?
I'm nothing if not unpredictable, so I saw Arthur's last chance and I raised him…
If you are Frys management, then Frys has way bigger problems than I'd thought, and far bigger than you represent which is, itself, considerable.
You better hope that Frys doesn't have large layoffs, because good luck finding another company that will accommodate the likes of you…
I'll be billing you for my counseling
It's now been a while, and I haven't heard anymore from Arthur, so you might think I'm satisfied with the outcome, but I'm not. I would have much preferred that Arthur had gotten some small understanding of how Frys had not only caused the problem, had played a ridiculous game, and had now greatly exacerbated the problem by his intransigence. Had he been apologetic and volunteered to write off the balance as a goodwill gesture, you'd be reading something entirely different – I'd be praising Frys and speaking highly of this little man who would be king.
Instead, I'm now recalling the bad experiences I've had with Frys, both the ISP and its electronics superstore parent, and I realize that far from customer service being their strong point, it looks like something they not only have little knowledge of, but utterly no concern about. And the worst part is that in six months, I'll have to pay a lot more for Internet service because no one else is close to Frys anymore…
But then I'll have had a year of service at no cost to me, so even if I have to pay double, it'll be more than two years before the cost exceeds what I was paying to Frys, and by then, hopefully either broadband will be more reasonable or I'll be dead.
And it just occurred to me… Frys offers the first month of service free to new customers… and I've got a wife, so the math is better than I first thought!