Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Discontinuous Past 1

Decided to publish some old writing from the past 5 years; properly saying goodbye to the past, 1&2 are articles, whilst 3 is a selection of poetry

Of Warranties and Salespeople
A recent skirmish with salespeople and warranties have triggered unhappy memories . It all starts off very innocuously; you walk into , say , an electrical appliance store . Smiling salespeople greet you, heap you with recommendations, promotional pamphlets and credit/ hire purchase schemes. You finally make the purchase after endless reassurances regarding the quality of the item you’ve purchased. You’re happy, they’re happy and you return home with your purchase. If the product works well, all is well. If not, your nightmare has begun.

As anyone who’s ever called a customer service hotline will know, there are certain facts about such hotlines:
1 It’s a misnomer, it should really read crabby service hotline. Apparently, the recruitment criteria for such jobs is the surliest of attitudes and knowledge of the most irritating byline :’Sorry m’am, I don’t know the technicalities of the subject, could we call you back ?’ Even more critical is the survival tactic of passing the call to the next most dormant department, the most adept could have you speaking to almost all the departments in the company before the end of day. Equally misleading is the concept of after-sales service, what after-sales service?! After sales is like the after life, some believe it exists, few have any experience of it.

2 The customer service phoneline is located in some desert in some unknown region of this earth where people rarely turn up for work and answering the phone is an even greater rarity

3 The designers of phone systems were paid to discourage customers from calling. Imagine, after calling an impossibly long phone number and finally connecting , you are then directed by a voice to press ‘one if you are inquiring about xxx, two if you’re inquiring about kkk........... nine if you want to speak to our operator or zero if you want the instructions repeated.’ Let’s face it, you’ve probably forgotten numbers 1 to 8, which only aggravates the situation. After surviving 3 rounds of that, you are finally in the queue to speak to the operator , behind a thousand other people and incidentally you’re charged by the service provider for each minute of waiting for service. All that plus ignoring the sapid music playing in the background. Elevator muzak is the most common , followed by classical music and pop music. Whoever said music is soothing never heard the constant replaying of what may best be termed phone muzak. Friends swear that ‘Greensleeves’ is the most traumatic composition they could hear after their skirmish with a helpline, a personal favourite is Joan Jett and the Blackheart’s "I hate myself for loving you’ though the lyrics should be altered to "I hate myself for buying you"

Assuming you get through all of that, you still have to face the barrage of questions by the customer service operators regarding your purchased items mostly regarding technical specifications they aren’t even clear about and endless serial numbers. Worst of all they refer you to some obscure condition in paragraph 2, subsection3, line6 which invalidates your claim and ask you "Don’t you read the warranty conditions?" Has anyone read warranties lately? They, like all terms and conditions, are getting increasingly legalistic and lengthy, theoretically they could rival the tax code some day. That is of course an exaggeration but user-friendliness is obviously not a consideration.

If after all of that you still persist on a refund, you are usually curtly referred to some salesperson you’re required to meet/ contact. And that is the most character-building exercise you could ever endure, after all, you’re merely made to feel ashamed and cheap for demanding your money back. The transformation is amazing, the smiling salespeople are transformed to the most indifferent and unfriendly people on earth. One really wonders if " Jekyll and Hyde" was actually a satirical reference to the profession. Hmm, a study on the schizophrenic effects of the sales profession should be commissioned considering the widespread victims.

Doesn’t this just make you wonder just what is wrong with industry these days? Ok, one doesn’t expect the manufacturers to make products that last forever unlike the days of our parents , who are forever reminiscing about the good old days where products really lasted. After all, if everything lasted for ages, no one would buy anything for ages and that would seriously hurt business and the economy in general. But a reasonable working life can be expected, right? However, if warranty lifespans are any indicators , the reasonable assumption of the lifespan of most products is that of 2 or 3 years. Forget arguments of fashion trends and technological obsolescence as the many millions of non-millionaires in the world would tell you, the thousands of dollars spent for products should be worth every dollar and should last for longer than a miserable 2 or 3 years.
If products last longer than the warranty period, at least extend warranty periods to half the lifespan. Industry people would probably laugh at this as everyone knows the longer the warranty period, the greater the chances of warranty claims which translates to higher costs for the company and may affect revenue recognition policies . Obviously, no industry honcho is ever going to hear of such customer complaints or take them seriously despite the fact that it’s the collective expenditure of the unknown millions like that keep them high on the Forbes list and cushy in their wealthy lives. In the meantime, the author merely prays that the expensive purchases will last longer than the warranties and be spared the hassles of after sales service.