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Commentary by Carl Kanowsky Esq.
| Friday, Nov 23, 2012

Carl Kanowsky, Esq.

Sometimes my clients do exactly the wrong thing to infuriate their customers. They’ll put up a big fight over $75, or they won’t apologize when they’ve done something wrong.

On the other hand, some of my clients have an innate sense of how to keep their customers happy, returning for more business, and offering them glowing recommendations to other potential customers.

I always counsel my clients before we begin any kind of battle: “Are you sure it’s worth it? Which would you rather do, send some money to your customer or spend more with me?”

Yes, there are some fights worth the battle.  But eventually, most cases settle before they go to trial.  So chose your wars carefully, and be aware of their unintended impact.

I’ve had the pleasure and the annoyance of being on both sides of this type of confrontation recently.

Our Cuisinart coffee maker stopped working. Clearly, the wife had abused our home kitchen device to point where it rebelled. So I wrapped it up and took it back to Bed, Bath & Beyond (or “3B”), where we had bought it two years earlier.  I no longer had my receipt.

I walked up to the customer service counter and laid down the deceased pot.  I explained what had happened and waited for the service rep’s response.  She could have said, “Well, since you don’t have the receipt, we can’t help you.”  Instead, she showed me where the new models were displayed and instructed me to select a replacement.  I did that and brought it back to her.  She gave me current value credit for my failed Cuisinart, without deduction for age.

I left, a very satisfied customer.  Terry and I will be returning frequently to 3B because of how well they treat us.

On the flip side, the Kanowsky household has enjoyed DirecTV for more than four years.  We spend way too much money for our channels. Thankfully, we’ve had few problems.  But we ran into problems when I recorded one of the Kings’ Stanley Cup playoff games.  When we got home from the Boys & Girls Club Auction, I was set to enjoy the Kings’ second victory on their way to the Cup.

But everything was on the fritz.  We’d experienced similar problems a few days earlier.  DirecTV guided us over the phone on how to repair their equipment.  However, my efforts only worked for a few days.

So I called their customer service department.  They suggested I take the same steps I had taken earlier in the week.  I told them I had tried those steps without success.  I requested that they send out a technician to handle the problem.  They agreed and were about the schedule the visit.  I asked, just being cautious, “There’s no charge for this, right?”  The reply: “Oh, yes, there is.”

The rep explained that since I had spent only about $6,000 with them over the past four years, I had failed to pay them an additional $6 per month to cover their equipment.  She told me it would be another $50 to have someone come out.

I asked to speak to her supervisor.  I explained to the supervisor what had transpired.  The best she could offer was to cut the service call cost to $25.  When I explained that Time Warner did not charge for such repairs, her response was that I could have gotten the same protection by paying an additional $72 per year.

I asked if she wanted to lose a customer who faithfully sent in over $100 every month, over a $25 dispute.  She said her hands were tied. She said they had remotely tested my receiver and it was functioning properly. If that had not been the case, the service call would have been free. I told her the other receivers in the house worked, but not this one. She insisted I would have to pay the $25.  I asked to speak to her supervisor.

I went through the same routine with this third DirecTV rep. She divined that I had lost my patience, so she got to the point. If I would agree to the $6 monthly protection for one year, she would credit me $10 each month and make the call no-charge. Finally, someone more interested in customer service than making a point. By the way, the repairman came out and said that my receiver was shot.

The lesson is that companies sometimes ask for their own headaches. A policy like DirecTV’s leads to people filing class-action lawsuits, which, of course, cost the company a great deal more than $25. Pick your battles carefully.

 

Carl Kanowsky is an attorney in Santa Clarita. He can be reached at cjk@kanowskylaw.com. Visit him online at www.kanowskylaw.com.

 

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