Service of Stupidity

February 16th, 2013

Categories: Customer Service, Newspapers, Stupidity

David Reich writes a blog “my 2 cents,” musings on marketing, media, public relations….and life. He founded Reich Communications, a NYC-based PR and marketing company years ago. I have been lucky to work on projects with him. He rarely complains.

When he asked to share this experience, I knew we’d want to read about it because his nose for news is perfect pitch [an apt reference as he also loves jazz].

David wrote:

I get The Wall Street Journal delivered to my office every day.

I, frankly, don’t remember how much I pay for the subscription or when it expires. I recall that when I ordered it, it was a good deal, maybe something like $9.95/mo. But it’s just not one of those things I normally give much thought to.

I had a call this morning from The Journal offering me “their best deal” of $29.95/mo and I’d get two months free. So that comes to about what I seem to recall I’ve been paying per month, although maybe not such a great deal after three months.

At that moment, I didn’t remember what I’ve been paying. So I asked the nice man on the phone how much I’m now paying. He said he didn’t have that information.

I then asked him when my subscription expires. He said he didn’t have that information.

He then asked to confirm my address, and he gave me the address that I moved away from two months ago. I gave him my new address and also told him I’ve been getting the paper here at the new place since we moved. He had no information on the new address.

I then asked him how he expected me to make a purchase decision without key information that he should have – like how much I’ve been paying and how much longer my subscription is paid. He started to tell me I could call the Journal’s subscription number – 1-800 something.

But we didn’t get that far, because I politely told the guy I didn’t have time to call to get information about my account that he should have when he called me. The call wasted about four minutes of my valuable time, and it also wasted the time of the person who’s getting paid at the Journal’s call center.

Customer service? No, more like service of stupidity.

You’ve got to scratch your head, but think of all the companies that plunk staffers on the phone who have no clue beyond the script they’re given and/or are not prepped with sufficient backup information to do their jobs properly. Can you share such instances?

9 Responses to “Service of Stupidity”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    What made you sure a Wall Street Journal rep on the other end of the line? Could be someone making an innocent sounding call to get information — name, address, phone and credit card number for starters. Best policy, when there is an unsolicited bargain, is to hang up. Better yet, assuming caller ID, is not to pick up the phone.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a shame that we must think this way but you make a point that didn’t occur to me. Because David was sufficiently annoyed he stopped the flow of information at giving his new office address.

    it’s best to be cautious.

  3. DManzaluni Said:

    Yeah, I have got an example: Every single debt collection agency trying to collect some non-existent debt they have bought but which hasnt got the faintest idea what the debt they are collecting is for!

  4. Jean P. Said:

    I find David’s story typical for our mechanized age.

    It was not the Wall Street Journal’s salesman’s job to know anything about the customer to whom he was making his pitch. No doubt, from the paper’s prior experience, it knew that the incremental increase in subscription sales would not justify the additional cost it would have to absorb should it have attempted to train its sales force properly or permit it to do even minimal research about potential subscribers such as David.

    His story reminds me of when, not that long ago, I worked for a bank, which issued credit cards. The man in charge of issuing the cards told me that based upon extensive experience with deadbeats who didn’t pay their monthly bills, the bank had found it made very little difference whether the applicants for cards had good credit scores or not. The bank’s ultimate credit card collection experience was not that different across its customer base. Some cardholders paid and some didn’t, and the percentages of those who did and didn’t were highly predictable as a group, but surprisingly, had relatively little to do with the perceived creditworthiness of its individual customers.

    In almost no time, he was able to increase significantly the profitability of the whole credit card operation by drastically cutting back the time and money the bank was spending on checking the credit of applicants for cards. Of course, nobody told the bank’s customers.

    Mr. Kafka would have been amused.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Now that is scary, especially as there are so many identical names mixed in with identity theft and the haphazard work of database input staff. Gee whiz. Another concern to add to our plates.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Jean P,

    At least the bank situation didn’t annoy customers because they didn’t know what was going on. The newspaper wasted David’s time while simultaneously making everyone–paper and man on the phone–look bad.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Here’s another example of sending someone out with incomplete information.

    I got to the office before anyone else this morning. At the door waiting to get in was a delivery man from a local deli with bags of breakfast for “Beatice” on the 11th floor. I don’t know any Beatrice so I asked for the name of the company. Delivery man didn’t know. He called the deli. The order-taker didn’t know. Nor did either have the phone number of the person who ordered the food.

    I went down in the elevator with the delivery man as I was off to a meeting and pointed him toward the lobby reception staff. I know the deli–very good food and quite pricey–and am surprised that they handle orders so inefficiently.

  8. Jean P. Said:

    Jeanne, with all due respect:

    The collapse of the economy over the past five years was triggered in no small part by the irresponsible, sloppy lending such as I describe, which became common in larger “too big to fail” banks more interested in making a fast buck than in safeguarding their shareholders’ deposits as was their fiduciary duty. This cost tax payers billions if not trillions. And the bankers got to keep their bonuses.


  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I stand corrected.

    And as you point out, millions paid–depositors, tax payers, investors, those on fixed incomes, others un or underemployed and we haven’t stopped paying. Meanwhile, the bankers are reveling in their bonuses. Are we chumps or what?

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