Barely Holding On

AS THE SAYING GOES, you get what you pay for. Does that mean a higher price equals better service and quality? When I purchase something, I assume customer service is built into the cost. But maybe I’m wrong.

One of my current life goals is to be one of those “other customers” who are currently being assisted while I’m on hold. When I call a helpline, I’m thinking my call is not that important to them. Otherwise, why would I be on hold?

I’m also not amused with the hold music. My hopes rise when there’s a slight pause, only to have those hopes dashed. I’m told I’m 65th in line—but my “call is important, please stay on the line.” I wonder if the 66th person is as important?

Sometimes, you can request a call back and get out of the queue. It’s a relief not to have a phone glued to your ear listening to music—or, worse, to ads trying to sell you more of the company’s quality product.

What is it that’s causing all the “extraordinary call volume”? I’m thinking it may be poor customer service, bad products or the business trying to cut corners. Could it be there just aren’t enough customer service reps—in Romania or India or maybe Utah?

There’s another possibility, too. Those reps working from home have put down their headsets to change a diaper or walk the dog. Yeah, I’ve heard the barking dog and the crying baby on occasion.

You can avoid all this waiting by using the company’s website—at least that’s what we’re told. But the website’s section devoted to frequently asked questions has limited value if your question isn’t one that’s frequently asked.

Then there’s the chat function. I like using chat—unless you start and discover it’s only a programmed set of responses, none of which applies to your inquiry. Frankly, I’d rather wait for the dog to be walked.

Within this world of questionable service, there are exceptions. I recently had a three-year-old beach umbrella suddenly malfunction and stop closing. I sent a note to the company through its website. The next day, I received a call from someone who sounded like he was in charge. In more detail than I could understand, he explained the problem and said he would send me a new umbrella. And he did, in four days.

About that same time, my family was working on a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle. We found upon completion that two pieces were missing. An extensive search never turned them up, so I emailed the company and again received a call. The company didn’t offer to replace the two pieces. But we could select any puzzle the company made and it would be mailed to us. We did—and the puzzle arrived three days later.

The lesson: If you’re in the market for a beach umbrella or a jigsaw puzzle, it appears possible to be that important customer who gets help. What if you’re calling about your refund from a canceled cruise? Not so much.

Read more by Richard Quinn on HumbleDollar


  1. “When I purchase something, I assume customer service is built into the cost.”

    I don’t. I appreciate when it is, but I don’t rely on it. Lessons learned.


  2. This is the very thoughts I’ve had. There is no service like before. Email you’re doctor, days for a reply. Call Walmart auto or a large store and get someone that doesn’t know a thing about the product. Children that have no idea how to listen and help you. We pump our own gas and bag our own purchases. Companies hire less people or can’t get people. Why? I grew up helping my parents. I knew after school to find a job, not stay home or apply for government help. Sorry, I’m running on.


  3. You are spot on target here. Dealing with a bank, impossible. Dealing with a smaller store or mom & pop shop, they need you. It seems like the more I spend no matter the quality, the less service I get.


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