The large bill seems to have come about because of a considerable misunderstanding. Before he was posted to Afghanistan in July, Rivera spoke with AT&T, who, he says, told him that for an additional $4.95 a month he could make international calls to his wife. What Rivera was not told, he says, is that AT&T would charge him $5 a minute for every call and around 50 cents for every text. However, as the phone bill grew, no one at AT&T allegedly contacted Rivera to advise him of the vastly escalating charges.
His commanding officer at Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan, Capt. Evan Brainerd, is deeply frustrated by what he describes as AT&T’s “unethical, unprofessional and inflexible” attitude.
“Despite being put on hold for sometimes two hours at a time, they were unable to get any kind of explanation or answers from AT&T. At one point, AT&T’s automated customer service sent a vague e-mail that said ‘the problem had been resolved.’”
Sgt. Malcolm McCallum, Rivera’s immediate supervisor, has also attempted to intercede with AT&T. He says he has spent hours on the phone with them, mostly, he says, on hold. “We have initiated multiple formal complaints with AT&T, none of which have gotten any attention. One request to lower the bill to $9,000, still a huge sum for a young PFC in the Army, was denied without any response or explanation.”
Brainerd is appalled that AT&T does not appear to have a warning system when accounts behave as Rivera’s did. He wonders not only why warnings weren’t sent, but why the account wasn’t frozen.
in a letter to AT&T:
“I have been disgusted by the way our soldiers have been treated, and largely ignored by AT&T’s customer service throughout our efforts to resolve this problem. I am certainly not claiming that our soldier, PFC Rivera, is blameless and should not pay to a certain extent for his phone usage. However, $16,000 (every penny that this soldier and his family can hope to save during the course of this 1 year deployment) is a gross injustice.”
Dutch comedian declares war on customer service desks
(“My fingers are itching… death to all customer service departments and impenetrable multinationals. Time for a fun revolution… I’m up for it.”)
Customer service here is so bad that Dutch comedian and columnist Youp van ‘t Hek decided to dedicate his column in NRC newspaper (Dutch) to exposing bad customer service after his own son battled a mobile phone provider for months to no avail. His own experience seems to be that these corporations only respond to public humiliation by celebreties and the fear of being exposed rather than actually provide ‘customer service’.
In late October Van ‘t Hek twittered about his son’s broken mobile phone woes and went on a talk show the same day to tell his tale. After appearing on TV and naming and shaming the mobile phone provider logo and all, the problem was taken care of faster than the speed of light. In other words, if you’re famous and bitch on Twitter to your 45,000 followers and then on TV, you’ll get ‘service’, a word that is used in English in Dutch as there is no equivalent.
Any customer service that involves ringing up a call centre usually costs you money per minute (it should be free!), takes a long time and makes people angry because they get promised things which don’t happen (like receiving a modem for your cable Internet) and having to call back and repeat your story again to someone else who’ll tell you you’ve already received it. Many a foreigner nicknames this type of situation ‘it’s not possible’, (‘dat kan niet’) or in proper English, ‘we can’t do that for you’.
Another example of service gone mad in Van ‘t Hek’s column involved a man getting fined repeatedly for paying his cable Internet bill late while not being a customer of the company in question. He keeps calling to explain he’s not a customer and never was, they keep saying they’ll stop the bills and the bills keep coming — it’s been months. Basically, he’s not in the system, but obviously he is because he keeps getting letters. The call centre employees keep asking for his customer number to be able to track the situation, but he doesn’t have one.
If you read Dutch, read the original newspaper column of Van ‘t Hek and his son’s problem.
Dutch language video of comedian Van ‘t Hek and Dutch politicians about “Helpdesk Hell” and the introduction of his one time only magazine HELP which contains stories and complaints of thousands of consumers http://www.videowired.com/watch/?id=555343901