Friday, June 29, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Complaint X 3

by Peggy Robin

I know I complain a lot. Now I’m complaining about how my complaints are handled. In other words, my original complaints have just generated still more complaints -- kind of like a self-replicating virus. And about as untreatable. Here are my latest three examples.

Incident #1:  I call the New York Times circulation number (the national toll-free number, not our local distributor) to complain that I didn’t get a paper this morning. Instead of using the automated voice-mail (“Press one for a missed paper, press two for a damaged or wet paper…”), I press 0 to speak to a live person.  I want to impress upon someone that my delivery problems go well beyond today’s missing copy. For the past several weeks, actually months, the paper has ended up in the bushes, out in the street, in the flowerbed, about as often as it has appeared in the location of my preference, the front porch.

The customer service rep is very nice and sincerely apologetic. She seems confident that she can bring about some improvement in the delivery.  And so the next morning, I am pleased to open the front door and find the paper squarely on the doormat. I am, however, not pleased to hear the phone ring later that morning and listen to a robo-call from the New York Times, asking for feedback on the delivery service. “Press one if your issue was resolved to your satisfaction, press two if your issue remains unresolved….”  Hey, New York Times, it’s only been ONE day. How can I tell if my “issue” is resolved with a single day’s good delivery? And even if on-the-doormat service becomes the norm, what makes you think I want to report this to you via robo-call? I hate robo-calls so much, I try to make it a policy to stop doing business with any company, politician, or organization that employs this intrusive method of marketing. I make an exception only for my dentist, who robo-calls me to remind me of appointments. I can’t, however, cut off my New York Times subscription just to register my irriation at the robo-call; I’m too addicted to the paper, and yes, I do mean the physical version, not the virtual, online replicant I can get on my iPad. I just wish I could call back the 800 number, reconnect with that nice lady who promised me better service, and tell her that yes, the first day after my call was fine, and that I’ll call back if problems reappear.  But I know if I do call back, I’ll end up speaking to someone else, who will note my complaint about the robo-call, which will doubtless generate a robo-call the next day to ask me to “press one if my issue was resolved.”

Incident #2: I am at a pharmacy in Maryland, picking up prescriptions for my mother. I have previously complained to the pharmacist that she’s been given prescriptions with a childproof cap, which she finds aboslutely impossible to open. (Actually, I have yet to meet an adult who hasn’t had some kind of difficulty with those childproof caps, which are really much more than childproof -- more like human-proof.) The pharmacist duly made a note in her records to be sure that all future prescriptions would be topped off with easy-open caps. So I check the order before leaving, just to be sure. Yes, the cap twists off in a single motion. I present the medication to her with confidence, and she opens the bottle easily, to take her first dose. Then I notice that she has left the cap off after she swallowed the pill, and trying to be helpful, I promptly put it back on -- not realizing that this type of pill-bottlecap is reversible: There’s a right side and a wrong side. If you put it back on right, it remains a twist-off cap. If you put in on upside-down, as I have just done, it becomes a standard childproof cap. So I have just rendered my mother’s much-needed medication inaccessible without knowing it. Fortunately, she caught the error, and I quickly reverse the cap. Okay, not so quickly, because I am not good at the press-down-while-turning motion you need to produce to unlock a childproof cap. After a couple of attempts, I do succeed.

What I want to know is, who came up with the reversible cap, that can inadvertantly turn a twist-off cap back into a childproof cap? What’s the point of that? If you certify to the pharmacist that there are no small children in a household, (and in this case, even the grandchildren are grown up), why can’t you get all your medications in a simple pull-off cap? I would go back to the pharmacist and complain, but I’m in no hurry to stand in another line and wait to speak to someone about something that, in the end, irritated me a lot more than it did my mother.

Incident #3: For the past several years I’ve been a loyal consumer of a particular brand of eggs, Davidson’s Safest Choice, which are pasteurized in the shell, guaranteed to be free of salmonella. I used to get them at Harris-Teeter, but I guess there were not enough customers, and Harris-Teeter stopped carrying them. Then, about a month ago, I get an email from Davidson’s (I’m not exactly sure how the company got my email address, but I suppose at some point I must have provided it in order to get coupons for freebies) alerting me to the loss of Harris-Teeter as a retailer.  I should emphasize at this point that my complaint is not against Harris-Teeter. I love Harris-Teeter, which has great organic produce like Whole Foods, with the prices and variety of a Safeway, plus underground parking like the Van Ness Giant-- and you don’t even need to remember to get your ticket stamped. My complaint is about the way Davidson has asked me to complain. The email suggests that I lobby Harris-Teeter to bring back Davidson’s eggs, but then there’s no link to an online petition; there’s not even an email address for anyone at Harris Teeter to petition. This is not a good marketing strategy. I would be more than happy to let the executives at Harris-Teeter know that I want to keep buying this brand of eggs from them, but they ought to help me out a little here. Sure, I can Google it myself, but how many of their customers do they think will go to the trouble?

As it turns out, I put off doing anything about my egg complaint, and in this instance, I have no follow-up complaint on the complaint to report. In today’s mail I find a postcard from Harris-Teeter saying they have decided to bring back Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs, and here’s a coupon for a free dozen, good until July 31. I can’t give Davidson’s any credit for the good result, but I do like to end my complaints columns on a positive note, so I’ll close with “Hooray for Harris Teeter!”


Still Life with Robin is published on Fridays on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and All Life Is Local.

1 comment:

  1. Three days after my newspaper delivery complaint, two days after the improved paper delivery, the morning paper is back out in the street. But after all the storm damage, with so many out of power, and so many streets blocked off, I feel lucky that it was delivered at all.