midnight_jester’s unsolicited advice column

August 28, 2006

Dealing with the new Big Brother…

We in the free world (which should be renamed as i can’t remember the last thing I got for free) are plagued by increasing incompetence when dealing with companies. With said companies offering local wages more usually associated a life enslaved or working for McDonald’s on the fryer to their support staff I can’t see the situation improving anytime soon.

Mweb, my dear, kind, old computer-illiterate mother’s internet service provider decided, in the spirit of good service, to cut off her connection after two months because she had paid them for a year up front rather than monthly. By behaving in such a reckless and inhumane manner my mother had thrown the company completely off-track. All were in a quandry. All were at sea. All were suffering from a great many painful cliches with the net result that they wanted to exact revenge and, in due course, threats were made.

The kind usual request came through. All the documentation that she had faxed through to them before had to be collected together again, 2 months later, and re-faxed. Although this is just annoying, rather than hugely time consuming anyone who knows anything about crap service knows that if it happens now it is going to happen again. Next month. And the month after. And the one after that. Gradually wearing her down until she is a gibberging mass of gelatin, raw emotion and 100% real wool.

The only solution, and it works, is to make it their problem. It’s simple. The documentation was sent, they connected her once they had received it. So they have it somewhere. They must get off their collective arses and find it. Initially they will refuse. They, after all, have the power. They can cut you off. So what to do? It is’nt difficult, especially with companies that have policies in place where the staff only give you service once they have received the documentaion.

Send them a letter, with all relevant dates (especially if there has been previous incompetence), explaining that the information that they require is with your accountant/ lawyers/ trustees/ trained gorilla “steve” and it will take a day to get it all together again. Ask them to please check their files one last time but say you are perfectly happy to get the information together for them again but would expect to be reimbursed for the days work. Give them a fee, R(x). Make it reasonable based on your income. I generally put down 25% of my monthly salary and don’t go over R3700 (this is a consultation fee, not a full time job, after all).

Make sure that the email is sent to the head of the appropriate department and CC in anyone else who you have had contact with. Ask them to email you again if they need you to perform this task for their department. If they do it will be a contract and you send them the bill on the front page of the fax. Then (an I have not had to yet) sue them in small claims court (up to R3700). They will settle rather than have to send a director along to small claims court (lawyers are not allowed to represent there).

If they don’t and cut you off it will be ureasonable denial of service and you will be due compensation, again go to small claims court. It’s also a good idea to keep a log of the mount of time you spend on the phone with them and the time you spend writing letters.

Always remain polite. Always stay charming. The person you are talking to is seldom the person who made the mistake, just another underpaid, overworked person who hates their job working for a crap company that doen’t really give a shit about them or, for that matter, you.

I have used this successfully (so far) with Eskom, Telkom, Mweb and Nedbank.

jester out.

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