Yes, I believe they think we are this dumb


Some ten years ago, I was reading an article about a local bank, and how considerations were being debated about fees that might be charged to customers for going inside the bank branches and conducting transactions with a teller.

The basic advantage was being able to reduce the workforce by encouraging the use of ATMs. Staff… to name just a few things… take sick days, take breaks, work only a portion of each day, and receive benefits. ATMs work around the clock with a bit of maintenance… theoretically no sick days, no breaks, have a 24-hour work day, and no benefits.

As everyone today knows, the plan never really happened. Instead, the ATMs caught on because people don’t always like dealing with people. And instead of charging fees for dealing with a person, these days we get charged amazing fees for using the ATMs. Transaction fees. Foreign bank fees. “This ATM charges fees above what your bank charges do you still want to continue?” fees. How crazy is all of this stuff? How about this crazy… I went to Australia and used an ATM four times. I was charged, in total, $4. $1 per transaction. One-dollar for each use! I challenge anyone, without leaving the country, to find an ATM that isn’t for their regular bank and be charged nothing over one dollar.

A few years ago, my wife and I bought a house. About ten months after moving in, we received material explaining a way to refinance. It looked good enough that we called. We stayed on the line to answer questions and were told a representative would call within two days. As promised, we received a call from a person that took ten minutes to explain that since we hadn’t been in the house for a year, we didn’t qualify. However, they did have some other programs we might be interested in. We weren’t.

Couldn’t the person that collected the information have told us this? Wasn’t ten months less than a year when we spoke with that first person? And we really didn’t contact the company to initiate this. They originally contacted us. By mail. Their letter didn’t say a year of residency was a requirement.

Ah, but it didn’t say it wasn’t either. And in this mass marketing, mass mailing, shotgun-style approach to business that takes place everywhere today, none of our interests really matter. I call it tele-mailing… send out as many mailings as possible, get as many call backs as possible, and hopefully a few will work out. Haven’t been there a year? So what, we’ll ask other questions, keep them on the line, and offer other things they never would have called us about.

Just like a telemarketing call, you still wind up with the inconvenience of spending time on the phone that could be better used doing, well, any-thing else. How many credit card offers a month are you getting? It’s a numbers game, create options by getting responses.

A few months ago I wrote an article about companies and how their customer service skills are slipping. I questioned if they were even paying attention to some of the things that happened. Which in a strange way, sends us back to Australia...

About two months ago Tigg and I were finishing up plans for a trip to Sydney and Cairns. We wanted to have some control on the exchange rate that didn’t involve guesswork with what was happening to our checking account, so I called one of my credit card companies. I asked about raising my limit or a balance transfer option. I deliberately called one that had recently sent me some information on doing exactly this with my account.

I was denied.

Since they had raised my limit within the last six months, they said I wasn’t eligible for another review. Their raising of my limit back then wasn’t because of anything done on my part, they just did it and sent me a “congratulations, after reviewing our records of your history with us” letter. In fact, they didn’t even raise it significantly. I mentioned the offer recently mailed to me. They said they had no record of it, and since those were normally limited time offers, it likely was no longer an option.

Fine. Tigg and I sorted everything out, went on our vacation, had a great time, and had no problems with other arrangements we made.

Guess what was at home when we got back? Of course. A package from this same company announcing a limited time offer for me to add an account because of the great history of my first account with them.

I find it amazing when businesses issue statements saying they can’t believe how tired people are of tele-marketing, tele-mail and all sorts of other offers and contact. The reason is not that hard to figure out.

About a week after we moved into the house, I was out front installing a new mail box. It was beautiful. Decal numbers on both sides and a few dozen screws holding it in place. Two days later there was a hook attached to it. I didn’t put it there. There is a local paper, with a little news but mostly sent with advertising. I think they put it there. And I haven’t take it down. In part, because I picture the person delivering it driving around with a plastic bag full of screws and hooks, waiting to put another one right back up. Still, I am constantly tempted to remove it.

In Australia I saw these signs on the mail box that said “no junk mail.” Evidently they just eliminate it that way. A “look, I don’t want it so please don’t even bothering leaving it” statement. Not bad. Seems to me that I have heard about people doing this in the United States, but I haven’t had the time to ask yet and probably wouldn’t do it any way if I could. I might miss something important.

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