I’m afraid you’re going to have to bear with me while I rant.
There is a cliché which suggests that, when faced with unsatisfactory customer service; whether it’s rude waiters, incompetent engineers, brainwashed telesales operators or obstructive and intractable bureaucrats, the English consumer tends to capitulate under the weight of generations of ingrained politeness and good manners, irrespective of the odds of their complaint being successful.
This may surprise you, (although I somehow doubt it) but I have never been one to conform to that stereotype.
I’ve had Samsung smartphones on contract ever since they first came out a few years ago and I’ve always been very happy with them, but last year I bought Rhonda a basic pay as you go model because her American contract phone isn’t compatible for use in the UK.
It cost £30.
The phone worked fine for about six months, until the first operating system update automatically downloaded one day, then it just ceased to function.
It wouldn’t turn on, we couldn’t charge it and to all intents and purposes, it was completely dead.
Naturally I took it back to the store where I bought it, but was told that, because it was still under the manufacturer’s warrantee, I would need to return it to Samsung for repair.
So I rang their customer service line and arranged to send it back to them.
A week later the phone was back and working fine again, although they neglected to return the proof of purchase receipt that I had enclosed, (at their insistence) showing that it was still well within the warrantee period.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and Rhonda tries to charge her phone.
Same fault, exactly.
So I ring Samsung and inform them that I want a replacement, since this is obviously a specific problem with this particular model of phone, only to be told that they aren’t authorised to give replacements but would be happy for us to return it again, for them to repair.
I explained (I thought, with considerable restraint) that I wasn’t overly thrilled at the idea of having to send the bloody thing back to be fixed every two months, especially since the warrantee would eventually expire and leave us with a useless phone.
To which the cheerfully relaxed bloke on the other end of the line replied;
“Oh well, if it keeps going wrong, then obviously we will look at replacing it.”
Oh Samsung, you are spoiling us with your concern, I’m honoured that you would even dream of inconveniencing yourselves so much on our behalf.
Not wishing to give them any excuse to wriggle out of their obligations, when the packaging arrived to send them the phone, I rang them again to let them know I no longer had proof of purchase, (due to their inability to keep track of a piece of paper) so could they please check their records to confirm the warrantee date?
They told me not to worry, it would still be covered, just return it as before.
Which I did, last week.
At this point I should reiterate that; at no point had anyone from Samsung contacted me and the phone had not left the house or been damaged in any way.
Rhonda’s phone was delivered back to us by courier, just before she left for work yesterday evening, meaning that she didn’t open the package until this morning.
Here is the letter that accompanied it…
“…we recently contacted you with a quote………you have told us you would prefer not to pay…….returning your device un-repaired.”
You have to be fucking kidding!
So I took the letter to work with me and stewed for an hour until their “customer care line” (ha fucking ha) opened and I finally managed to speak to someone.
The gist of the conversation was as follows:
Me – Hello, I’d like to know why it is that you’ve sent me a letter concerning my phone repair that appears not to contain a single accurate piece of information.
Them – I’m sorry sir, do you have a reference number on that letter?
Me – I do, although I have no way of knowing whether or not that is also a figment of someone’s imagination.
Them – Ah, I think I see the problem sir, we don’t seem to have an e-mail address for you.
Me – Oh, how stupid of me, I didn’t realise I was only supposed to get fiction by e-mail, I suppose I should be grateful you took the trouble to lie to me by post.
Them – No sir, what I meant was, we would have contacted you before returning your device, but we had no e-mail address.
Me – What? So, because you didn’t have my e-mail, you just made something up and posted it to me, how the hell does that make sense?
Them (obviously confused) – I’m not sure what you mean sir.
Me – At no point have you contacted me, in fact, I called you.
Them – Ah, I think I understand, that was a generic letter we sent you sir, because we couldn’t contact you by e-mail.
Me (through gritted teeth) – But there is no damage to the phone that would void the warrantee, it’s an identical fault to the last time we returned it.
Them (suddenly cheerful) – Oh no sir, our engineers say there is liquid damage to the device’s charging port, and that isn’t covered by the warrantee…
Me – Oh no you don’t! I know for sure that there is no damage to that phone, it doesn’t even leave the house, my wife only uses it for emergencies.
Them – Well I can only go on what the engineers tell me sir, if you hang on, I’ll find out what the quote was.
Me – Oh yes, the quote you claim to have sent me, the one you say I declined, despite never having got it. Go on then, surprise me.
Them – The quote for that repair is £96 sir.
Me – Hahaha, you can’t be serious, I only paid £30 for it, brand new.
Them – (smugly) I can only pass on what the engineers tell me sir, that’s the quote they have placed on the repair. I can e-mail you a photo of the liquid damage, if you like?
Me – But you don’t have my e-mail, do you? Tell me, do many people take you up on your offer to pay three times the cost of a new phone for a repair that should be free?
Them – I couldn’t possibly say sir, that’s not my department.
Them (I imagine) – Hello?…hello..? Ah, another satisfied customer.
If you work for the service department of a company like Samsung and you’re reading this, tell me; do they employ people whose job it is to sit there with a syringe, injecting water into electronic devices for the sole purpose of voiding their responsibilities, because if so, they’re doing a great job.