YOU should pay ME – 9 Companies That Don’t Get It


I have been having a hell of a time canceling my old web hosting with Burstband. It's been a few months now and I've called, emailed, filled out online forms, and I have never reached a live person or received confirmation that my account was shut down, and I still get charged. I finally had to file a dispute through my credit card company. It's $8.99/month, so they owe me at least $26.97. I got to thinking about it, and I realized they really should pay me for the two hours of my life I have wasted trying to cancel the damn thing. I usually charge $80/hr for consulting so the total comes to $186.97.

The experience brought to mind other companies that have aggravated me recently, and I thought about Peter Drucker. Drucker said that purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer. What follows is a list of 9 companies that aren't creating customers, they are creating enemies. Instead of me paying them for their product or service, they should be paying me for putting up with them. That kind of cash flow isn't a good business model, but now that Andy Fastow is out of a job maybe he can work with these folks and help them show some profits.

If you work for one of these companies, please let your management know how they are treating their customers.

  • Burstband – For reasons explained above.
  • BankCard Services – For telling me in one phone call that I could dispute a charge over the phone once they were open on Monday, then telling me when I called back that I would have to mail something in. Mixed messages to customers is not good business.
  • Every rental car company except Hertz – Because every time I go and I decline the extra insurance, I get tired of being lectured about what a bad choice that is. Making customers feel stupid is not good business.
  • Discover Card – I joined in 1997 when I was in college because it was the only credit card Sam's Club would take. Now they send me something in the mail several times a week and usually call me once every 4-6 months to see if I want a Discover Card. Somebody didn't sync up some databases.
  • The Courier Journal – It doesn't suck, it's just uninteresting- unless you like a business section that reprints WSJ articles that you have already read. I stay subscribed because Mrs. Businesspundit loves the coupons.
  • Insight Media – Insight upgraded some hardware that led to unplanned Internet outages of up to 7 days for tons of local subscribers. To my knowledge, the only response they have issued so far is that they are sorry and are figuring out what to do. Business 101 would say that if you don't provide a service you said you would provide, customers should receive a credit. I think Insight's plan is to make excuses that they are working on that until we forgive and forget.
  • Verizon Wireless, for being sure that my cell phone bill stays so complicated that I just pay it and don't ask questions, and for being sure not to offer plans that allow for an apples to apples comparison to other wireless providers.
  • Ford – The local Ford plant has a separate parking lot for employees that don't drive Fords. Note to Ford – treating your employees like outcasts is not a morale booster (although I wouldn't be surprised if there was a management book entitled "Ostracizification: Using Attrition To Improve Employee Performance). If your own employees won't use your product, perhaps that is the first clue that something is wrong. It doesn't affect me personally, but I still do not like it.
  • Technorati – It's the blog search casino. You never know if you are going to get a hit or a busy signal, but it sure makes the wait exciting.

So at this rate, I think soon I will probably quit my job and just have companies pay me for the pain I go through to do business with them. Then they can book my lifetime estimated revenue this quarter, offload the future payments they will owe me to some special purpose entity, and watch their stock shoot through the roof as earnings go up and up while everyone ignores the fact that they haven't made any real money. And to think I went to business school because I thought commerce makes the world a better place.

Feel free to add entries in the comments if there are companies that you deal with that should be paying you. Or if you write your own blog post about it, shoot me an email so I'm sure to see it.

I feel much better now.

(I found that cool picture above at PayMe Design)

  • Sprint, which I had previously considered reasonably well-managed (as phone companies go.) Yesterday, I was in a hurry to get a number from PCS directory assistance, and it wouldn’t provide the number without making me first listen to a commercial for having the number sent via text messaging.

  • David G

    business-punt-this; I love it.
    Adding to the list;
    Nextel & Sprint – for 5 hours downtime yesterday due to a “server that went down”, during which time we missed the critical calls from our RE broker & lost the deal on the home we were trying to buy.

  • Bill

    Did you place a stop payment on your account for the amount? There might be a charge for this service, but it might be cheaper in time and money to just automatically bounce their charges back to them.

  • I admire you for even TRYING to cancel your hosting account. I’d like to cancel one of mine but haven’t bothered for fear of the time it’ll waste. It’s almost worth eating the $90.00 (or whatever it was) to save the hours of heartache and frustration. Companies like Burstband (and many others) feed on that; they figure you won’t bother canceling/asking for support/etc. cause of the hassle factor. Lame…

  • J

    Amen on Hertz – they cost more, but it’s worth it. I used Thrifty last week, and the girl at the counter actually told me I would have to document WHERE I bought gas at the end of the rental if I didn’t purchase the fuel option. They were swamped when I turned it in and didn’t have the opportunity to ask; I’m assume was a bluff, but who knows?

    Let’s add Circuit City to the list. Note to technology retailers: most home technology purchasing decisions are made by men.
    Unsolicited “assistance” is one of the most corrosively annoying things a man can experience. I don’t know which consultant you hired thought making the staff relentlessly harass customers was a good idea, but fire them. Now.
    That goes for all other retailers with a largely male customer base too.

  • Alexb

    Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Any large bank seems to think of their customers as jackasses. I divested myself of these guys long ago and found salvation in a local credit union but I still hear stories from friends getting screwed by absurd fees, abysmal customer service, and laughable interest rates. The attitude seems to be, “We have a lot of ATMs and some of your money so now we own you.” Good banks and credit unions make money off of investing portions of the money lent to them by customers. The business model is old and it works. The new model of making money by screwing your customers needs to be taught to every young person opening an account and maybe these jokers will get the picture and go out of business.

  • Mike

    Dish Network — they’ve been spelling my wife’s name wrong on our billing statement for over 5 years. We’ve tried to correct it on a number of occasions.

  • Jay

    Ironically, I was thinking recently that it’s been almost 22 years since Hertz angered me, yet I still have them firmly in my mind in the “only if there is no other option” position should I have to rent a car. Almost half my life ago and still a grudge. How sad is that.

  • Dell – when my laptop’s internal modem quit they promised to replace it under warranty. Simple fix, just mail the new modem chip and I install it myself. Problem was it didn’t arrive as promised, and I had to leave on an extended trip overseas. Ok, they said, they will send it to me overseas when it finally comes in. Never arrived. Then they said they cannot “provide service” to me in that foreign country so they would not keep their promise to send it to me. I had to go buy an external modem. I’ll never buy from Dell again.

  • Kate

    United Airlines – Their system of claiming free flight vouchers is more convoluted than rocket science, and when you call to straighten things out, the customer service rep probably won’t speak English.

  • Bill

    Take em to small claims court, you don’t need an attorney and you can even call to court the CEO of the corporation. The business will have to respond.

  • Nix

    AOL. I hate AOL so much. Sure, they screwed me 11 years ago, but they haven’t changed one bit; they are still a deplorable company. In 1995, back when i was still new to computers, i tried out their “free” minutes disks they choke up the mail with. It was only 100 minutes or so, but i decided i didn’t like it and called to cancel before the minutes were up. “Sure we’ll cancel you, no problem” was what i was told. They didn’t cancel anything. After getting the next bill, i tried again. And again. And after 5 more times, each call getting progressively more frustrating, i tried to have my bank reject the charges. My bank claimed that they were unable to reject that sort of charge! So just anybody can take money from your account it seems. By this point AOL was charging an overdrawn account, which was incurring 2 bounce charges and a fee of non-payment from AOL every single month. The bank wouldn’t let me close the account unless i paid it off, which was over $200 and AOL wouldn’t stop billing me by the time i gave up. The account finally went to collections and was closed. I have a friend that works at AOL. He says that if you call and try to cancel your account, they automatically send you to the “Save” department, where they are paid an extra $5 an hour to nag you into keeping your account. I don’t even feel comfortable using AOL subsidiary corporations, which considering how big they grew to be, is quite a problem any more.

  • Nice picture. I agree that The attitude seems to be, “We have a lot of ATMs and some of your money so now we own you.” Good banks and credit unions make money off of investing portions of the money lent to them by customers.

  • Rob, you’re right about these companies that don’t know how to treat their customers, I’m particularly angry on Verizon Wireless, for havin such a poor customer service department, and lousy plans. Sometimes I wonder how I got stuck with Verizon.

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