I intend to go on a bit of a rant with this weeks column. Maybe it’s because I overslept, or under ate. Maybe I’m just not feeling warm and fuzzy just yet surrounded by the melted mess of mud season’s beginning. Maybe I’m tired of sitting at a desk when it’s so warm outside. Maybe I just feel like ranting…
Big brother is watching. A lot of people think that their habits on the internet are private. They believe in fact, that time spent in the low light hours with a flickering screen are perhaps moments unto themselves. They are wrong. There is nothing private about the internet. I mention this, because it has been brought to my attention a number of times in recent weeks. The truth is, your ISP can look at everything that you are doing. They can tell exactly what sites you’ve visited, they can tell exactly which files you’ve downloaded, and they can even read your emails. Realistically, I doubt they care to pay all that much attention unless you are doing something that waves a red flag, such as consuming a fair amount of bandwidth.
I say a ‘fair amount’, as it should be fair, you’re paying for that bandwidth, you should be able to do with it what you will. But when they see spikes and sustained high usage, they check you out and try to figure out why you would do something so crazy as to us the internet that you’re paying for. If for some reason a portion of your bandwidth was used to download something not entirely legal, they will shut you off. If you were downloading something that was indeed legal, they often temporarily throttle your bandwidth down, effectively slowing down your service. Satellite providers are notoriously vicious in terms of throttling.
All of this is within their rights of course, it’s in the fine print. But what about when it slows down dramatically and you weren’t doing anything remotely close to illegal or using all that much bandwidth. Sadly, it’s because of our location. The local providers simply can not handle the load during holiday weeks and the busiest parts of the season. It’s not economically feasible for them to be able to. Putting in the infrastructure to handle that level of traffic is a massive expense, and one that is unlikely to occur soon. That and it’s spring, so we can expect smooth internet until the lightning comes.
So what else is bothering me this week?
Rebates. I love a good deal as much as the next guy, probably more in fact, but rebates are a sad joke. The companies that handle rebates are rarely the company you are buying the product from. The economic climate being what it is, these small-ish rebate companies often dissolve well before the absurd 10-12 weeks that it takes to process your request (read also ‘collect interest on your funds’). But the requests themselves, they are what bothers me the most. Original receipts, UPC codes that can be removed from packages but only with a surgeons skill, circling and highlighting the item on the receipt, noting the product number on the envelope, no P.O. boxes allowed even though you’re sending your request to a P.O. box. I fill out rebates all the time and am pleasantly surprised when they return with a cash-able cheque, but I certainly don’t count on it.
‘The customer is always right.’, WRONG. I can’t believe how many people use this as an excuse to be a jerk. Stop it. I have no problem ‘firing’ a bad customer, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to treat me as royalty simply because I am a customer. It’s absurd. Be nice to people. That’s it. Whether you’re the customer or the vendor. The ‘customer is always right’ attitude empowers abusive customers and can net them better treatment than the nice people. If you enter any business with any attitude other than one reflecting common decency, you deserve little more than to be shown the way back outside.
Another customer issue I would like to bring up is the ‘somewhat informed shopper’. This style of customer is why we at our store make almost no effort to be a retail outlet for anything. For a while, we were happy to offer people excellent values on computer systems. But after a spell of customers asking if they could get the same computer online or at Wal-Mart or Staples for less, and my unceremonious answer of ‘yes of course you can’, we pretty much gave up on the frustration. The margin was already minimal, but expecting a couple of guys in a small store in West Dover to beat any price anywhere is just ridiculous. These days we generally just tell you where you can get a good deal. And of course we’ll help you to set it up properly and keep it running smooth for you. Some people might need a dog to kick, but I don’t have to be that dog.
These traits can apply to customers for all sorts of businesses. And if anything, I’m just asking for a little tact and decency from the world at large. But, that should be enough for now, no need to go on ranting and sounding negative. In truth, I am feeling much better for having let some of that out. Looks like a nice day out there…