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“We Value Your Business”: Reaching a person at a company that doesn’t want to be reached

As we saw in yesterday’s encounter with Qwest, many companies—often those with a vested interest in customer service—do not want to deal with the unwashed masses with whom they are forced to do business. They make it as difficult as possible to reach a human being, because they don’t care about their customers and do not wish to waste time speaking with them.

There are several avenues to get their attention.

You can often get through to a live human by calling a phone number listed at Get Human. This useful site lists telephone numbers and strategies for getting past the punch-a-button maze.

Failing this, try googling the company’s name + “corporate headquarters.” This often will bring up a snail-mail address and a viable telephone number; sometimes a working e-mail also will appear. Invest in a stamp to send your comments or complaint by snail-mail. This was how I got an address for Steve Jobs, during the late, great MobileMe fiasco. I printed out my post, “An Open Letter to Steve Jobs,” and mailed it to Cupertino. Interestingly, an underling in Apple’s corporate offices telephoned me –several times! –to discuss the matter. Didn’t succeed in fixing things, but at least he pretended he cared, which was comforting.

Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA

A search for Qwest’s corporate headquarters gives us this intelligence:

1801 California St.
Denver, CO 80202
For general inquiries: (303) 992-1400
or (800) 899-7780
Fax: (303) 896-8515
Customer Service

Investor Relations
(800) 567-7296

Qworst’s customer disservice link takes you to another infinite loop, wherein you have to register and reveal private information before you can wander through an off-putting maze in your attempt to get some help. However, in a past experience I learned you can reach a high-ranking P.R. officer by contacting investor relations. So, that’s where I sent a link to yesterday’s rant about the company’s execrable DSL customer service.

When you believe you’ve been treated unethically or actually cheated, think about what regulatory agencies and trade groups govern the offending corporation. For example, banks and credit unions are regulated by a national banking commission. Insurance companies are to some degree regulated by state agencies. The U.S. Attorney General is interested in frauds and scams that cross state lines. The state attorneys general in your own state and the state where the company is based also may be helpful. Even if they can do nothing, management in general does not enjoy receiving a telephoned or written inquiry from an attorney general’s office; often a simple notice from a regulatory or law enforcement agency will spur a response to your issue.

Also consider contacting companies whose employees have to do business with a wide variety of vendors. Your complaint probably isn’t the first; if you get in touch with agencies or companies serve as intermediaries, you may find a way through the maze.Your credit-card issuer, for example, may have a telephone number that will reach a person at the problem company.

It takes ingenuity and persistence to get past the ramparts erected by megacorporations, which are specifically designed to repel all comers. But keep at it: if you can’t get through, try to enlist the aid of an agency that can.

Back again…temporarily?

What’s more annoying than a punch-a-button phone maze? A robot that answers the phone!

Qwest’s DSL connection went down around 8:00 this morning, just before I left for work. After dinner tonight, I called the Philippines in hopes of finding a tech who could figure out how to fix it.

Make that “I tried to call the Philippines.” All of Qworst’s online tech help appears to be based in Manila. But you can’t get to them without trudging past a robot gatekeeper animated with a peculiarly infuriating smug voice. By the time I reached the first live human — get this: after the oily robot actually cooed “hold on while I make a note of that”!!! — I was so enraged I could barely speak.

So now I have this Filipina techie on the phone and she’s asking me how the DSL contraption is acting. Following what is clearly a canned routine, carefully enunciating a script, she guides me through a number of little tests: disconnect and reconnect this, that, and the other. These require me to climb on top of the desk and fiddle with the gadget, because I can’t pick the gadget up easily because the cords, which are too short to start with,are snugly tucked in along the back of the desk to keep all that junk off the floor. Many of the connections are invisible to me, even with my head upside down and jammed up tight against the wall. But none of these experiments work, anyway.

Next she gets me down on the floor, upside down under the desk. “Unplug the telephone line from the wall socket and plug it back in,” she says.


Not surprisingly, this strategy disconnects me from the Philippines.

I call back and get the same enraging robot. By now I’m so angry I’m choking and so the robot doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say, possibly because some of it isn’t printable. I slam the phone down and dial “0.” Applying a superhuman effort, I stay polite long enough to ask the operator if she could please connect me to a human being. “Sure,” she says: and connects me right back to the same effing robot!!!!!

By the time the robot ran me through another 8 or 10 minutes of the same enraging hoops (asking questions that the live human would soon repeat, again), I was so furious I found it extremely difficult to be courteous to the poor wretch who finally picked up the phone.

He now starts to repeat the same series of instructions, word for word, that his compatriot so recently fed into my ear. I explain that I’ve already done those things and none of them worked. I also explain that unplugging the telephone from the wall causes the phone to disconnect. He, being smarter than the average bear, says, “Well…do you have another cordless phone in the house?’

Uhhmm, yeah. Duh!

“Go get it,” he says.

So now we disconnect the phone line from the wall socket and reconnect it, to no avail. DSL is still nonfunctional.

He concludes the unit is broken and says Qworst will send a new modem, which is to arrive on Friday. Once this wonder gets here, I have three weeks to return the old one or be charged a hundred bucks for it. I express my appreciation for this charming demand and the graceful terms in which it is couched. I also suggest to him that if he is earning less than $20 an hour, he is being underpaid and he and his workers should unionize and demand a decent wage.

He says he’ll make a note of that.

I say, “Here’s how you spell it: h-u-e-l-g-a. That’s v-i-v-a l-a h-u-e-l-g-a! Then, so infuriated am I at the maddening robotic hoops and the barely competent customer service, I remark that after three interactions with Qworst’s smug robot, I’m beginning to understand what motivates people to wrap themselves in explosives and blow up corporate headquarters.

So, I expect the next post you read from this blog will come to you from Cuba.

All this notwithstanding, the DSL mysteriously came back online, which explains why this last post is reaching you from Arizona.

How hard is it to have a human being pick up the phone? And what makes the executives of a faceless corporation think a) that anyone on the planet wants to be run in circles by a smug-sounding robot voice, or b) that even one of its customers is so stupid as to believe “your business is important to us” when they can’t spring for the subminimum wage required to have a nice citizen of the Philippines answer the G.D. phone?

Tomorrow, assuming I’m not riding a black helicopter to Guantanamo Bay,I intend to find out what’s involved in switching to Cox. Can I even get a cable internet connection without having to sign up for cable television that I’ll never watch? If so, can I get out of Qworst’s nonservice? We shall see.

Celebrate America: Shop Local

Did you realize that for every two jobs a huge national retailer brings to your town, three jobs are lost? Yes. As local businesses, unable to compete with WalMarts and Home Depots and Applebees, close down, more jobs are lost than gained.

Have you ever noticed that megaretailers raise their bargain prices once most of the local competition has been driven out of business? Check prices at your nearest surviving Ace Hardware (you’ll have to drive a ways to find it)-you may be surprised to find Home Depot’s prices are actually higher on many products.

A study of the effect of chain stores on the economy of Andersonville, a suburb of Chicago, showed that for every $100 in consumer spending with a locally owned firm, $68 remained in the Chicago economy, but only $43 remained from $100 spent in a chain store. The same study showed that 70% of residents preferred to shop in local stores and 80% preferred shopping in traditional urban business districts to big boxes. Nationwide, experience has shown that chain stores drain tax revenues through ill-considered subsidies, leave shopping areas blighted, and actively work to drive local companies out of business. Meanwhile, the carbon cost of pointlessly hauling food and other goods around the world continues to skyrocket. And as we know, we no longer can trust that our food is safe, nor our pet food, nor our children’s toys…

It is past time to fight back.

Stalking the Local Merchant

I was pleased to find a fight-back weapon here in my state: a coalition of businesses has come into being to foster local commerce and to encourage people to shop locally. The retail landscape here has become so homogenized it’s hard to find local stores. Most of our wonderful independent bookstores were hounded out of business years ago, people mysteriously developed a penchant for taste-alike restaurants, our fine local hardware shops closed their doors within months of Home Depot’s arrival, and now Phoenix, like every other major American city, looks just like every other major American city. Cookie-cutter commerce has brought us cookie-cutter cities full of cookie-cutter people. And so, it is excellent to come across an organization that will tell you where to find local shopping.

So far, I haven’t located a national clearinghouse or umbrella organization for such groups, but a little googling suggests they’re all over the country. As you might expect, smaller municipalities, recognizing that chain stores threaten their job base and the very character of their towns, are resisting vigorously. Taylor, Texas, for example, has a lively shop-local movement; there’s one in central Illinois and another in Cape Cod.

But larger cities are also starting to join battle: Salt Lake City’s Vest Pocket Business Coalition complements Utah’s statewide organization. New Orleans urges citizens to patronize local businesses, and Brooklyn has an active shop-local movement.

No doubt there are many more. Visits to just these few websites will show you the endless good reasons to buy on the local economy as much as you can, and most of them list locally owned businesses. Try googling “shop local” and the name of your city or state.

The Costs, the Benefits

Does shopping local cost more? Possibly, since megacorporations have no qualms about undercutting local competition-at least until the competition is gone. But we’ve already seen what abandoning our local economies for huge box stores has done to the quality of life in our cities: we have lost what makes our towns our towns, as every city in America has come to look alike. We’ve lost jobs and wages. We’ve lost nearby shopping and quality neighborhoods. As the cost of fuel has risen, the cost of flying and trucking food from far-away megasuppliers is making the most ordinary food items unaffordable. And now, in the era of globalization ushered in by vast corporate interests and their political allies, we are enjoying unsafe food and toys, engineered obsolescence of big-ticket items, less and less choice and variety in the products offered to us, longer drives to fewer stores…to say nothing of carefully orchestrated corporate invasion of our privacy.

Penny wise and pound foolish, with a vengeance! Some things are worth paying for. One of those things is our way of life.

I for one intend to start shopping local whenever I can reasonably do so. I hope you’ll all join me at your local merchants’ stores.
It’s simply good for America.

2 Comments left on iWeb site:


Excellent article!We just discovered our local Ace Hardware, and it’s less than three miles away!Husband and I both enjoyed browsing their shelves, and the prices were sometimes lower, sometimes higher, and sometimes the same as the Big Boxes.The customer service blew the Big Boxes away…

I much prefer the local farmers market to the big grocery stores, even though they are pseudo-local.Local, neighborhood restaurants are often sooo much betterthan the chains.I think people like to eat at chains so they know what to expect.Levels of cleanliness and quality are assumed to be good.

Sometimes I have to choose price, but when they are comparable I’m going to make the effort to shop locally whenever possible.


I agree!This is a great article and highlights the most important reason to shop local and support American businesses … because it keeps jobs, and our money, in the States where it belongs.