The big, stupid companies strike yet again


If you’ve been here more than two or three times, you know about my hatred of the big companies… at least when they do stupid things.

I am a big believer that Dilbert is funny, and that it resonates with people for a reason… because it’s far too true. When the big companies do something smart and efficient, I leave it alone for the most part. Unless it’s something incredible, they should be trying to make things better and easier. For business, doing things well is one way to make sure you don’t go out of business.

But when they do something dumb… which is unfortunately often… sometimes I am just left amazed. And here they go again…

Tigg said we needed checks. Like most married men, my wallet is usually empty. No cash. And I couldn’t tell you where the checks are, much less whether or not we are running out. But we needed them, she ordered them, and she thought I’d like to know so I could watch for any arrival of checks.

They arrived.

They were wrong.

They had our old address on them. Tigg called to let them know about the error on her order.

One of the most amazing things to me about big companies doing dumb things is that usually, on the other end of the phone is a person that actually explains to you the company policy or actions that led to the mistake. They do this in a way that demonstrates without a doubt that they are completely oblivious to the fact that what they are explaining makes absolutely no sense at all to the situation at hand.

Here is the conversation she had, as best as I can reconstruct it (I only heard her end and was filled in on what the woman on the other side said later):

“There’s a mistake on my order of checks. It uses the wrong address.”

Well ma’am, we used the address we had on record.

“Umm… on record?”

Yes, from a previous order.

“A previous order?”

Yes, in 2000. Since the bank account information matched the information from the previous order, that information was used.

“But on my order form I clearly wrote out our current address. Our address has changed since 2000. We don’t live in the same house as we did then, and the checks I have been using don’t have that address on them.”

Because you are an existing customer of ours, they wouldn’t have used that order slip.

“Pardon me?”

That offer with the form you filled out was only for new customers. Since you have ordered from us before, you wouldn’t be eligible for that offer. So, in completing the order, they used the account information on record.

“I don’t understand why they would do that.”

Well, you aren’t a new customer, so they didn’t use that order.

“No. If they didn’t fill that order, then why did I receive checks?”

They set up a charge for you. I’m showing that you still owe us a balance of $36.00 for these checks. If you would like to pay that now, I’d be happy to take your credit card information.

“What? Hold on. There’s a mistake on these checks. You’re telling me that they processed this order, which according to you isn’t a valid order, using my old information, which I told you is wrong and never asked to have used. In fact, I didn’t ask to have it used. Is that correct?”

Ma’am, the bank information I’m showing is still accurate.

“Ok, but the address on the checks is wrong. You’re telling me that you didn’t accept my order, processed it anyway, got it wrong on your end, and want me to pay for the mistakes. I didn’t tell you to use my old address. At all. In fact, the checks arrived at this house, using the correct address for the delivery. I’m looking at the package as we speak. You only used the old address on the checks. You sent it to the correct address, my current address. I don’t understand why you would change my order, increase the bill, use the wrong address, and all without contacting me.”

The conversation went on for a few more minutes… yes… a few more minutes.

In the world of flow chart simplification, this one is lovely. The company managed to consider the train of yes-no responses, follow both instead of selecting one, and screw up the next step in amazingly stupid ways.

Consider that last part. Tigg was right. The package was sent to our current address. So, the company literally had to pick and choose which information they took from the form the representative claimed they didn’t use. The explanation literally flows that: (1) they never used the order form they received because it wasn’t one we should have used, (2) completed an order based on the receipt of that form that they never used, (3) updated the mailing address for delivery using information from that form that was the wrong form to use, and (4) left the old address on the checks because the form wasn’t the proper one to use.


Who is applying any quality control here? (Although, from their end, it is an interesting story. They received an order and knew where to send the bill. “I’m sorry ma’am, what problem?” (Yeah, yeah. My words.))

But that might not be the really funny part.

Until Tigg gets the money back for this order (she moved up the chain to a supervisor, refused to pay the extra amount to get a new shipment of checks properly printed, and instead requested a full refund for the order that they didn’t accept but still messed up that she can’t use), she has them off to the side. I happened to see the box. Guess what it says on one of the flaps? Here is it…

“We listened to you.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the early days of the In My Backpack web site, I was trying several different ways to present material.

My journal entries were referred to as “A Momentary Lapse…” for a period of time, which eventually transitioned to “Are you chewing gum?” for a bit. Eventually, after a few restarts, modifications, and relaunches, the Now Playing area took over.

One of occasional segments—appearing perhaps ten times a year or so—was called Random Thoughts, which I described as…

Too long for “A Momentary Lapse…”… Not enough for a full article… Need to get them off my “ideas to work on” list…

This essay was originally created and presented as a Random Thoughts entry. I’m bringing it back as a From the Backpack offering because I’m curious about the content and the effort. But, worth noting, it may still seem a bit incomplete, needing more development, and may or may not have gone through some additional edits and re-writes beyond my usual finds when searching the archives.


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