ON HOLD: My Least Favorite Companies
Companies that make you identify yourself — sometimes three or four ways — before dispensing public information. Me: “Hi, I just want to know what hours your branch in Washington Heights closes.” Bank representative: “I’ll be happy to help you. Could you please tell me your mother’s maiden name . . .”
Companies whose “phone tree” asks you to input all kinds of data (16-digit account number, nine-digit social security number, 10-digit home phone number) only to tell you, when you’re done, that the office is closed.
Companies that make you listen to long advertisements while you’re waiting for a representative. If I’m already a customer, I shouldn’t have to listen to another sales pitch. Ever.
Worse: Companies that intentionally keep you on the phone long enough to play an advertisement. The last time I called to activate a Visa card, the recording said: “While we’re activating your card, we’d like to tell you about ____.” Cue long advertisement. When it was over, the recording said, “Thank you. Your card has now been activated.” I don’t believe that the computer really needed all that time to activate my card.
Companies that mail you what they claim is important account information — they often put the words “Important Account Information” on the envelope — when what you’ll really find inside is just another advertisement.
Companies whose “phone tree” offers every option except the one you called about. Last year, American Express asked me to call 800-525-3355 by December 22 if I wanted to receive a paper copy of my year-end summary of charges. When I called, none of the countless “phone tree” options mentioned year-end summaries. I had to guess and press, and guess and press, all the time knowing that if I guessed or pressed wrong, I’d be out of luck.
Companies that make you input all kinds of information in order to direct your call, then transfer you to a person who begins by asking you for the same information. Shouldn’t the data you entered already be on the representative’s screen?
Companies that provide services you never asked for (and I don’t mean free ones). On June 24, I received a letter from Verizon, my wireless carrier, listing the optional services I had ordered. One of them was insurance, at $4.99 a month. But I know I had declined the coverage. How, I wonder, did the company decide to sign me up? Was it hoping I wouldn’t notice — or wouldn’t take the time to object? Either way — they win!
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