Lowe’s – a Case Study in Lousy Corporate Customer Service

Let me just come right out and say it, I’m absolutely sick of these massive, faceless corporations treating their customers like cattle.

And the worst of the worst is trying to get any kind of customer support from these behemoths. You know the drill, you dial a number, wade through a convoluted phone tree, only to wind up in some unnamed country halfway around the world talking to someone who is only empowered to read from a script, and not actually offer you any real assistance.

Lousy corporate customer service is one of those things I truly despise, but it’s taken a hideous experience with Lowe’s to really push me over the edge. We recently bought a new washer and dryer. We wanted something reliable, efficient, affordable, and as a bonus, made in the USA. So we chose Whirlpool.

The units were installed in early January, and at first they were great. But about three weeks in, we discovered the washer had a slow leak under one of the corners. It was under warranty and it looked like such a minor issue, so we figured getting it fixed would be a piece of cake. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened next:

  1. Call Lowe’s to schedule service appointment. First service appointment is a no-show.
  2. Call Lowe’s to schedule another service appointment, hopefully with a company that will actually show up. Someone comes out this time, determines the rubber seal around the door is the source of leak, orders replacement.
  3. Same person comes back, replaces seal, discovers leak is actually coming from somewhere else and will require another visit. After he leaves we discover the washer door no longer closes easily AND the washer now makes a rhythmic banging sound when it’s spinning. Whatever this guy did, we can’t use the washer now without fear of causing some REAL damage.
  4. Call Lowe’s again, complain about the lousy “repair” job and ask for a replacement. According to the ironclad terms dictated by Whirlpool, they can only authorize that after one more service visit.
  5. The new company is a no-show.

We are now waiting for Whirlpool to “review” this case to determine if it “qualifies” for a replacement machine. Which of course takes 48 hours.

We’ve gone so far off the rails in this country that this completely normal way for a corporation to treat its customers. The bottom line and Wall Street are the only things that matter.

While dealing with Lowe’s, at no point did I ever feel like I was speaking to someone who had any kind of authority to make anything right. They were stuck running through a script that had a single plot. And because the corporation doesn’t empower anyone to actually do anything not in that script, they have no way to handle a machine that was rendered inoperable by one of their own authorized technicians. They don’t have a way to handle service appointments that are no-shows (nor do they seem to have a procedure for booking appointments only with companies committed to showing up).

I’d like to see any of us individuals try and keep a track record like this. Showing up half the time, breaking stuff the other half. We’d all be out of work. 

Contrast this with a company like Nordstrom. They are one of the few major corporations out there that really understands customer service. I once had a problem with an online order, and within minutes of calling to complain about it I was transferred to their corporate office in Seattle. There were no phone trees, no condescending hold messages trying to sell me on how great they are, no jumping through pointless hoops with a customer service robot because of a stupid script. Nordstrom gets it.

Lowe’s doesn’t get it. Whirlpool doesn’t get it. And almost every other corporation out there doesn’t get it either.

PS. after ranting on twitter, the Lowe’s twitter account reached out to me, which I appreciate. But after emailing them with this story, they never bothered to even acknowledge receiving it. This makes their Twitter customer support seem like as big a sham as their regular support channels. Hideous.

My Kindle Singles Year

This Indie Author’s Experience Getting Accepted into the Amazon Kindle Singles Store

Lately I’ve been reading a few articles posted on the web from people questioning just how committed the Amazon Kindle Singles store is to independent authors. True, if you look at the list of best sellers, it’s dominated by some very heavy hitters. But, they also keep an eye out for new voices, and I’m testament to that. A little over a year ago, my first-ever ebook, Awaken Your Perfect Self: How to Become Better Than Everybody Else, was selected to be a part of the Kindle Singles store.

It was May 2012, and I had just completed my first short book and published it to Amazon.com. At the same time, I decided to try to submit it to the Kindle Singles store, knowing that the odds of being selected were mathematically very slim. However, about three days later, I received an email telling me that they wanted to add it, and sure enough, by the end of that week it was live. At the time, David Blum, the editor of the Kindle Singles store, told me that it would be a big deal, a life-changing kind of thing, and he was right on the money about that. The book ended up selling over 10,000 copies, and peaked just inside the Top 100 bestseller list for Kindle ebooks. For a first-time published author, it could not have been a better experience. I had to pinch myself more times than I could count (especially when it surpassed Stephen King on the best-seller list!) in the months after it was published.

Let me just say, getting into the Kindle Singles store is hard, not just for an independent author, but for any author, and as it has grown in popularity it’s only getting harder. My followup book, The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter, wasn’t accepted this time around. And granted, they may even be growing so fast that they’re now struggling to keep up with submissions.

After submitting The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter, I followed up with an email that referenced my first book (the one that’s in the Kindle Singles store and has sold over 10,000 copies!) only to get a form rejection letter a few weeks later for that book – so it’s true they must be having trouble keeping up with the growth curve.

Nonetheless, any independent writer out there should consider the Amazon Kindle Singles store. It’s tough to get accepted (and getting tougher all the time), but they’re definitely looking for new voices.

Introducing my new book…The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter

I’m really thrilled to be announcing that my new ebook The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter is now for sale on Amazon. I wrote this novella with summer in mind – a short, breezy, fun read and I hope you all enjoy it.

The-Road-to-Hell_225-360The followup to Awaken Your Perfect Self: How to Become Better than Everybody Else teams the recently-paroled narrator from the first book with ace cat detective Sam Touba as they hunt high and low for the elusive self-perfection “guru” Jim Hoenfhmfjn. Part road trip, part detective send-up, The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter is an absurdist journey that begins behind a dumpster in a seedy Los Angeles parking lot and finds its way to Las Vegas, with several cats and Hoenfhmfjn “life lessons” sprinkled in between.

 

 

Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

I’ve been waiting for the right inspiration to begin updating this site again, and found it in this video from Rebuild the Dream:

Let me start of by saying that I spent my teen years in Fort McMurray, where all this tar sand comes from, and I can vouch for just how dirty the oil extraction process is. Removing oil from the ground requires a lot of energy and resources. It pollutes the air and creates ponds of highly toxic water, and the final product requires yet more processing to become fuel.

Does this mean we should shut down the tar sands? It would be hypocritical to say we should. Our world revolves around oil – not just to power our cars – and until we change that, we are going to need more sources of it. And given the options, it makes sense to get our oil from a stable source like Canada.

But, we need to treat this source of oil with extra caution, and because of that I see no reason at all why it makes any sense to build the Keystone XL pipeline:

Energy independence for the US? No – this pipeline sends the tar sand oil to a processing/shipping port. In other words, it’s for other markets in other countries. The communities with this pipeline in their back yard will shoulder the risk so that multinational companies can make profits selling this stuff to other countries.

Jobs and money for American workers and companies? As this video points out, the number of jobs this produces is negligible and pales in comparison to the environmental risks involved in having this massively long pipeline crossing the country.

If this oil were going to be used to help the United States wean itself off overseas oil, I would be more inclined to support it. If it were going to improve the economy in the United States, I would be more inclined to support it. But to take on the risk of an oil spill in one of several states this thing will go through? To support the bottomline of some multinational megacorp?

Look at the track record in recent history, along the Gulf Coast, in Arkansas, and in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Terrible spills compounded by inept corporate responses, designed to try to cover up the issue with PR and news blackouts more than to actually clean the mess they caused. We’ve had enough oil disasters. No to Keystone XL.

 

Introducing my new book…Awaken Your Perfect Self: How to Become Better than Everybody Else

Earlier this month, my ebook Awaken Your Perfect Self: How to Become Better than Everybody Else was added to the Kindle Singles store. It’s been such a whirlwind that I’m just getting around to updating this blog a little bit. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Awaken Your Perfect SelfBased on a series of interviews with self-perfection guru Jim Hoenfhmfjn (pronounced “Hinfmfn”), this short story introduces the reader to Jim’s philosophies in 15 easy-to-digest life lessons.

Learn how to put yourself before others, take instead of give, and stop being a follower and become a leader. Propel your life forward and achieve ultimate success – start perfecting yourself today!


Occupy Building Momentum in 2012

Let’s start the new year off on a positive note. Sure, our government is bought and paid for, our law enforcement seems more intent on stifling dissent than arresting those who hijacked our economy wholesale, and the country is slowly turning more and more into a police state. But there are some glimmers of hope out there, and I credit the Occupy movement with helping to turn things around….

1. NDAA

The Bad: While everyone was getting ready to celebrate the new year, President Obama signed into law new provisions that allow for Americans to be detained indefinitely.
Glimmer of Hope: Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a law to repeal these provisions. It’s called the Due Process Guarantee Act, and as the name cleverly implies, it restores due process for all Americans. It’s still completely shameful that we need a law to restore something that the Constitution and American tradition upholds.

There’s a petition circulating to persuade senators to support this. Sign it!

2. Citizens United

The Bad: This is the Supreme Court ruling that essentially said Corporations are People. It allows corporations to fully participate financially in elections, and means that if you thought the flow of corporate money into politics was bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Glimmer of Hope: The cities of Los Angeles and New York both voted to declare that corporations are not people, and the State of Montana’s Supreme Court has also said that corporations are not people. Furthermore, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ted Deutch both are working to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to declare that corporations are not people.

There’s a petition on Senator Sanders’ site that needs the support of as many of us as possible. Sign it.

3. Big Corporations vs Consumers 

The Bad: Well, apart from the fact that large corporations control a disproportionate amount of the GDP of this country, that companies are increasingly listening to their shareholders first, and customers second (or third, or fourth…), AND that thanks to the repeal of Glass-Seagall (I could go on about this one, but it can wait for another post), the large financial institutions went on a gambling binge with our money, lost, got a sweetheart deal from us taxpayers to save them, then headed straight back to the casino to start all over again….
Glimmer of Hope: Bank of America became the first large bank to announce a $5/month debit card fee. However, thanks to the incredible, coordinated outcry from customers, including a massive exodus of consumer accounts to credit unions, Bank of America backed down, and other large banks publicy announced they were abandoning plans to do the same. Last month, Verizon Wireless announced plans to charge a fee for manually processed electronic bill payments. The outcry was swift and furious, and they also backed down.

It’s clear that since Occupy Wall Street protests began in September, the spotlight is shining more and more on the criminal business practices of the financial industry, the increasing wealth gap in this country, and the way our government and large corporations are listening to each other but ignoring the electorate.

The road ahead is difficult, but I’m feeling more and more confident that this movement is going to gain more traction across the country, and have a greater and greater effect on national discourse. Here’s to 2012…

Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Yet another reason why our government seems to be totally out of step with the realities of the 99% living across America today:

House of Representatives Income Breakdown

If it seems like our Congress is catering to the whims of the 1%, it’s because they have more in common with them than they do with us. Take a quick read at The Daily Whatthe collective net worth of our federal lawmakers jumped 25% in TWO YEARS. What recession?

It’s yet another example of how broken and corrupted our system of government is, that you need to be in the wealthiest income percentiles to get elected to office.

And it makes an even stronger case for reforms such as the Saving American Democracy constitutional amendment.

City Giving Occupy LA Protesters “Opportunity” to Learn About Free Speech

As reported in the LA Times:

Many Occupy L.A. protesters arrested during demonstrations in recent months are being offered a unique chance to avoid court trials: pay $355 to a private company for a lesson in free speech.

The irony is so thick you could cut it with a chainsaw. At a time when our governments are working overtime to figure out new ways to curtail First Amendments rights as much as possible, and at a time when corporations are running more and more of our lives, the city decides to outsource their justice with a free speech class?

Free speech, protest, and civil disobedience are integral parts of American history. Without them, there would have been no civil rights movement, no end to segregation, no right for women to vote, and in fact, no independence from Britain!

Occupiers deserve a huge thank you from all parts of society, for standing up (finally) to the gross imbalance and corruption in our political system.

People like Carmen Trutanich should be ashamed of themselves for this patronizing, insulting behavior. If they spent half as much of their resources fighting against the true criminal actions going on in our midst, we wouldn’t need Occupiers in the first place.

Politicians Play, We Pay

This video illustrates better than words ever can just how completely broken our government is:

Any legislation that might actually help stabilize our economy gets gummed up by endless bickering and grandstanding, just like with the debt ceiling debacle, just like with the threatened government shutdown last year, and on, and on, and on.

In the meantime, legislation that tramples on the US Consititution, such as the provisions in the NDAA, get bipartisan support.

The part that really makes me angry, is how all of this is being played like a game. Both sides continue to try to one-up each other, to take us all closer and closer to the brink in some insane game of chicken, with talking heads in the media acting as ESPN commentators cheering them all on.

Meanwhile, our lives out here in the real world are on the line.

Truly disgusting.

Time for Left & Right to Unite Against Corporate & Government Corruption

It’s time for Americans across the entire political spectrum – left and right – to turn off the talk radio, ignore all the “talking points”, and embrace the core ideals of the Occupiers.

After talking with some Occupy LA protesters one afternoon and reading about the movement online, I began to realize that when you look past the fringe elements, a few common demands begin to take shape: for a return to accountability in government, for corporations to serve their communities as well as their shareholders, and for an end to corruption in our public and private institutions.

These are not the radical demands of hippie freeloaders; this is a common-sense rallying cry for all Americans, liberal and conservative. Our government is broken. Corporations are increasingly focusing on their bottom line at the expense of their customers and the society that supports them. This is not a fight to destroy capitalism – it is a fight to save it.

A recent survey reported that most Occupy sympathizers blame corporations for our current mess, while most of those who do not identify with the movement blame the government. There really is no difference in these points of view. They are flip sides of the same coin, with a common root cause between them. This is why it is so important to ignore media voices that try to drive a wedge between the left and right for the sake of ratings. They are trying to distract us, and despite what they would have us believe, we all want the same thing: a government that is responsive to its citizens. We are Americans, first and foremost, and our country was founded of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is our duty to stand up for our country and demand something better of our institutions.

I am not advocating that everyone should throw away their political beliefs. Each side has different ideas about how to address the problems facing our country, and this healthy exchange of ideas is exactly what makes our democracy so vibrant. But right now we can unite behind a common cause, which is to end the paralysis in our politics, and demand accountability from politicians and corporations to the people they serve.

The Occupy movement embodies a classic conservative principle of individualism: the responsibility each of us has to create a better life for ourselves and our community. I have come to see that the movement is not about demanding handouts. It is about ending handouts to our country’s least-deserving, the so-called 1%. Do not confuse this with a redistribution of wealth. This is about leveling the playing field so our free market system can begin to work again.

Americans, left- or right-wing, need to ask themselves if they are happy with the status quo. If they are unhappy with the free pass our financial institutions have gotten after bringing the global economy to the brink of destruction, if they are unhappy with the record levels of unemployment, and most of all, if they are unhappy with how our politicians have become incapable of doing anything substantial to fix this mess, then they need to support what the Occupy movement is fighting for. They are giving a voice to all our grievances.

Perhaps the greatest gift these occupations have given us is the sense that individuals can still effect change. Ultimately, you may not agree with everything they are saying, but there is no denying that they truly are fighting for all of us and for our country. And through their sheer force of will and dedication, they have become a powerful symbol of what individuals can accomplish together.

Supporting Occupy does not mean giving up bathing and joining a drum circle. It means becoming involved in the political process. It means forcing our politicians (Republican and Democrat) to stop listening to their donors and start listening to mainstream Americans again. It means demanding that CEOs stop seeing their customers as nothing more than dollar signs. Simply put, this movement is about putting citizens back into the driver’s seat.

And if we can make our system start to function again and get our government to listen to people instead of dollars, we can then begin to have a proper, adult debate between liberals and conservatives about the areas in which we disagree, and move forward and prosper again.