Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Shaft

There have been several episodes in my life where I felt that I had been shafted as a consumer (I am talking to you Pontiac) but it seems that the past month is destined to become legendary.

First, I was informed by my bank (via letter and graph-intensive brochure) that I would now be charged a monthly fee for using my check card. As with all unnecessary bank-initiated account changes, I was informed that the fee was essential for them to continue providing the quality level of service that I had come to expect. 

I quickly called and assured them that what I had come to expect was not paying for using my check card. Using the “I have been a customer for 12 years” line, I was certain that I would be exempt from such a preposterous fee. Confident in my unassailable logic and unquestionable loyalty to the bank, I had no doubt that I would be issued an apology and given a private tour of the vault. I was informed that the only way to avoid the fee was to pay for my checking account or keep a minimum $250,000 balance in all my accounts. I informed her that it would a lot easier to keep $250,000 in my account if they would stop taking my money. I had forgotten, of course, that with access to my back account she could call my bluff on the quarter-million balance thing since I was verifiably-poor. Long story short, I will miss that $4 each month.

Next, my wife and I stopped to have lunch at Lamberts CafĂ© in Missouri. For those of you that do not know, Lamberts is famous for throwing rolls to the customers and has been featured on the Travel Channel and USA Today. What they should be famous for is their aversion to accepting anything but cash money. Between the two of us, we ran up an almost $30 check and they would not take my card. I was instructed that they had an onsite ATM “for my convenience” which convenienced me out of a $3 courtesy fee.

As I was standing at the ATM, I watched a kid beside me pump several one dollar bills into a machine where you attempt to win an iPad by maneuvering a mechanical arm. The arm had a clipping mechanism at the end of it and the objective was to cut the cord that held the iPad. The cutting surface was probably made of felt and the dust on the iPad box indicated that the vending machine had not lost a round since it was installed. I shook my head and thought “what a sucker” until I later realized that we had both been screwed out of $3 but at least he got to play a game in the process.

In this day and age the only multi-state businesses that insist on cash should be illegal narcotics rings. If I am purchasing infants on the black market I can understand, but I should be able to swipe my $4-per-month debit card to cover some fried okra and a chopped steak.    
Finally, I received a heartfelt letter from the co-founder of Netflix apologizing that he had not fully explained how badly I was getting shafted. This was welcome news since I was under the impression that I was simply looking at a 70% monthly fee increase in order to maintain the same level of service I had grown accustomed to. Thankfully, he took the time to explain that the company had also gone out of its way to make my shafting as inconvenient as possible by making me go to two separate websites to perform the same tasks I could previously accomplish on one site. While the one-two combination of less convenience for more money is impressive, I feel that Netflix should just go for the customer service trifecta. I have a few ideas:

  • Instead of mailing you a disc, they could simply give you the address of the last person they rented it to and you could drive to their home to retrieve it yourself.
  • Paramount features would only be available during Ramadan.
  • They could install a coin slot on my Roku box that allowed me to purchase films in five minute intervals.
  • Each month, one lucky subscriber would receive weaponized anthrax in their DVD envelope instead of the movie they requested.
  • They could replace the series finale of popular television shows with Nazi propaganda films.
  • They could replace their DVD library with laser-discs and have you cover all return postage.
  • The soundtrack of romantic comedies could be replaced with a recording of Don Imus screaming racial slurs.
  • On even days they could implement the “que-switcharoo” where they replace all the items in your list with those of a registered sex offender.
  • Every time you request an R-rated film, a letter will be sent to your pastor.
  • One-in-three Disney DVD’s mailed out will actually be the unrated director’s cut of Reservoir Dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Translation of Netflix apology - "I am sorry I ripped you off" !


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