Monday, 1 October 2012

Where Has All the Good Customer Service Gone?

I'm writing this out of sheer frustration at companies in the noughties.

The thing is, before my SAHM and website geek days, I was a humble shop worker. I rose to the dizzy, yet stupidly boring heights of management before I quit to have Mini. I know how to treat customers.

It's one of the reason's I first started Family Panel, as back then I faced some pretty shocking customer service (a term I use loosely) from Three.  I have tackled them, Amazon, Tesco and British Gas, purely because I feel if more of us stood up for ourselves with companies, whether big or small, they would have to do something about weak links in their company plan.

However, it seems that no matter how many channels you use, how often you try and get results, it gets us lowly consumers precisely nowhere.

Just this month, I have had PayPal acting weird. I sell, like most of the country, my old tat via Ebay, Gumtree and other sites. Its nice to pack up the clothes we no longer need or which no longer fit, and rather than as before when I'd give them away, I can make a good few pounds to buy new. I still recycle other bits and bobs through the School's Happy Schoolbag collection bin, the stuff which I can't sell.

Recently, and without warning, PayPal started putting "Security Holds" on my account. The first time it happened, I found it annoying, as the hold was put on for 72 hours. In the end, I didn't receive my cash (you know, my cash that they charged me for having in their PayPal for a few days) for a week and a half, what with waiting for the 3 working days for the bank to process it afterwards.

This has now happened 7 TIMES! 7 times, without reason or warning, PayPal have held my cash. So, I got sick of it, and phoned.

What a waste of time (not to mention money) that was. Another call centre which uses the name "Customer services" wrongly.

I was told that, at the time, the 5 times they'd held my cash was "random", it wasn't their fault and they knew why they did it but "they did not have to tell me why". So, again, this is my money, which they take a cut of, which they are holding and they know why but wont tell me.

I tried Emailing, and got nowhere. When it happened again I rang again to be told "random".

Well, seven times later, I got bored of the "random" excuse, and let us not forget what random means, seven times is hardly what I'd call random. So, I took it further, and asked to speak to management. The third lady I spoke to promised to action a query on my account. She also had no idea why and agreed it wasn't random. 

Do you know how I found out what was wrong with PayPal? Through Facebook.

It seems I'm not the only one banging my head against a never ending cycle of useless and pointless customer agents in search of answers. PayPal know there is a fault, it's caused by an upgrade issue (reminiscent of Natwest) so why are they not telling their customer base this? After all, we all pay their wages, and no doubt our collective fees have paid for this faulty upgrade.

Why on earth did I have to learn this from Facebook? Surely the best course of action would have been to send a quick courtesy email to those involved?

Which brings me to my old chums, Three.

Now, these lot failed so much towards me as a fledgling customer, that as a result I was given my service cheaper- for life. You can see the very early incarnation of what would become Family Panel's post here.

As with all customer's though, after my 24 month contract ended in November 2011, I didn't really give two hoots about the cheaper charge, I just wanted the hell out of the association I'd had with them. I didn't even know my contract had ended at the agreed period until three- that's three, not me- turned off my Dongle. They never wrote to me, they never phoned, just switched off, so much so that I thought the Brats had broken it and emailed to find out what was up. 

I was asked if I wanted to renew the dead contract, and told I'd have to pay £25 to do so. I was also told they couldn't promise my "lower for life" charge rate would remain either. So, I said, thanks but no thanks, and went off to Virgin.

Except, when all the Natwest mental failure went on, some of my Direct Debits weren't honoured  like my home insurance, my payment to a charity.

And one to Three. For my Dongle.

You know, the Dongle which they shut off at the end of my contract in 2011.

So, I duly switched off the Direct Debit in June, as you would, and started to try to get my cash back. After all, since November 2011, Three had helped themselves to between £12 (until December 2011) and £17 (until June 2012) a month. I thought it was a simple admin error and I'd get my cash back.


Three blamed me, explaining I was meant to give 30 days notice. For a contract which had seen out its agreed period, it was a fixed term, not a rolling 30 day contract, for a dongle they turned off without notification and certainly without 30 days notice. I ended up giving up on their phone line (still as useless as it ever was in 2009 so they clearly didn't learn), and turned to Facebook.

Who told me to fill out a form and they'd get back to me.

They only thing I got back from Three was- a BILL. Threatening court action for July's £17 charge. Then one for August, this time for £36.

So, I complained via their site. Also ignored. I tried Facebook again who said they'd never received my completed form.

I have now, through the help of one of Elder's clued up mates, emailed their CEO. I've also joined an action group who hope to stage a class action lawsuit against Three. 

If you happen to be bored, go look at Three's Facebook wall- it makes for interesting reading, from disgruntled and angry, not to mention ripped off customers. I wouldn't mind, I'm no longer a customer with a valid contract and they are still trying to steal money from me.

We all need to name and shame these useless companies, and say enough is enough. In my view, legislation is badly needed, or companies like PayPal and Three go completely unregulated.

What do you think? What are your experiences of bad customer care?


  1. In August Three failed to deliver an iPad 3 plus a mobile broadband service. Having heard nothing, I cancelled by email, which they acknowledged. However, they stuck to my £99 deposit.

    After a month of increasingly angry faxed letter, online forms and emails (they make it almost impossible to email them), they finally wrote to me saying it HAD been delivered, look, someone called Murray signed for it, so I should track him/her down and get it back!

    I have no idea who this person is. There's no indication of his/her address, even. Anyway, it's not my problem - as it was never delivered to me it remains Three's problem, to which effect I wrote to them (also faxed).

    They still have my money, and as far as I can see have no intention of refunding it. They're also dunning me for payment of the broadband account, which is being used. For that to happen, Three had to have provided my login details, probably in a reminder letter with the iPad - not, of course, that they're admitting to that - they're hinting that I'm somehow involved.

    As I see it, I have no alternative but to go to court. I cancelled it, their courier misdelivered it, so not refunding my money is de facto theft (card refunds have to be made within 30 days).

    Three is a fundamentally dishonest company, with witless, massively incompetent, staff.


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