What’s actually annoying about bad customer service?

Jane Galt posts her thoughts on Sony Vaio customer service.  I bought a Sony Vaio a few months ago, at the recommendation of a friend.  Fortunately [it now seems] it arrived at the Best Buy with a broken drive and I never had the chance to lay my hands on it.  It was only last week that they gave me my money back.   Best Buy wouldn’t give me the computer, and Sony wouldn’t accept the damage claim from Best Buy rather than from the customer.

I see two especially frustrating elements in bad customer service.  First, the reward/pleasure centers of the brain are already turned on, anticipating that a longstanding problem — lack of a computer — was going to be solved.  The resulting disappointment is especially acute, much worse than before you try to fix the problem.

Second, we don’t like the tension of not knowing when the problem will be solved, or when being put on hold will end.  Going to the dentist with certainty stresses me less than some chance I might have to go.

I try to manage the former problem by not getting excited until the product has been working for at least a day.  That means I remain a bit emotionally flat in some spheres of commercial life and I don’t go out shopping enough or with enough gusto.  I try to manage the second problem by mentally capitalizing the worst case customer service outcome I can imagine.  That means when something goes wrong I toss in the towel too quickly.  Sometimes I just buy a new item rather than solving the problem with the old one, or working to get a refund.

On this matter, Natasha believes I am crazy, yet I persist in my ways.


I'm not an economist, so I am not aware of the proper economic jargon, but I place a high value on my time, so I will pay extra to avoid hassle. My girlfriend thinks I am crazy, for instance, to shop at the closer grocery store which is also about 30% more expensive, but that means I don't have to spend an extra hour each time driving.

If I were poor, I'd make the choice for the other store. As I am not poor any longer, I prefer that hour be my own, to use for something else.

At the DMV, etc., I wish there were queue that you could pay, say, $50 to join that guaranteed service in five minutes or less. If so, I'd get in this line every time.

What's puzzling to me is non-poor people who will waste hours of their time to save a few dollars. Reminds of something someone once said about Linux (best I can recall): "Linux is free only if your time is worth nothing."

I imagine Sony and Best Buy interface quite often. However, in cases such as these, why do they always behave as though they've never met? You'd think that if you're in the business to make laptops and sell them, you'd have a procedural plan for such a run-of-the-mill scenario.

I'm led to believe that most innovation is spawned from within an organization/industry, rather than by outsiders (rogue inventors). As a result, I'm intrigued by the inability of capitalist stewards such as these to navigate such familiar territory (failed hardware exchange by a third-party retailer)- or at least draw up a better map of the unknown.

Am I wrong to value adaptability so highly- or rather, assume it is understood by economic actors?

Linux is free as in freedom and free speech. The extra time it may take me to figure out how to do something in GNU/Linux is worth it if software freedom is worth something to me.

This reminds me of when I went to see Transformers on Thursday. The theater had a digital projector. At about 15 minutes in, the projector glitched and stopped playing the movie to the packed house.

My immediate response was to get up and go get a refund, then come back another day. Unfortunately, the other members of my party first decided to wait 5 minutes to see if it came back on. No. Then the manager comes out and says it will take 20 minutes to fix. Again I reiterate that it is better to get refunds now and not wait, but I am overruled by the other members of the party.

After twenty minutes they cancel the movie and everyone gets into a huge line for refunds. To avoid the long line, I finally convince people to just leave and come back another day, despite the manager telling us that we can't get refunds unless we stand in line. The next day we go back and get a bunch of free tickets with no wait (but not a cash refund).

The lesson: if you ever have any problems while watching a movie, just immediately get up and go get your refund. There is a huge cost of not knowing when or if the movie will get fixed, and standing in line waiting for service. It's always better to cut your losses early.

I had even worse problems with Sony's customer support last year. Here's my story in a nutshell:

Over the year I owned my S260, I had a total of six motherboards put in it, three LCD screens, two hard drives, and two DVD players placed in it. The issues I had with Sony have literally cost me hundreds of hours, including some precious moments with friends during my last days in Orlando. They also affected my grades during school last year. If I put a dollar value on this time, it is far more than the computer is worth.

Read my detailed account here:

Remove the frontal lobe, there will be nothing actually annoying about bad customer service.

Hey jb, you can also go to ebay to find Dell parts. Since they made so many laptops and some of the series have interchangeable parts, made it a viable way for some broke college kid to sell the perfectly good LCD assembly, the optical drive, the casing etc. after the motherboard or the hard drive failed. Yes, these parts can be installed by a monkey, Blademonkey, to be exact :D. Dell is good about this because a lot of the issues that cannot be solved by their scripted trouble shooting scenarios tends to be hardware related. Easier to replace the hardware than to attempt further trouble shooting or have the laptop sent back to their authorized service centers. This takes care of a huge chunk of these technical issues, my guesstimate is around 75 to 80%.

That's why they are so nice about it, I suspect that it keeps the cost down in some way.

Bad customer services aren't always the company's fault. They may have some great guidelines on how to treat complaints from customers, but at a local level they might not be applied.easy saver

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