A quick little rant about service

I am really tired of bad service online and off.

This site’s comments and the forum get hit by all kinds of annoying spam. I use askimet on the site itself which makes sure none of the spam ever makes it to where the readers can see it, and the forum is set so that only registered users can post and I have to manually validate users, but it’s still irritating.

I don’t like having to go through and sort through spam filters to make sure nothing that isn’t spam got caught, I don’t like the fact that the jackasses who do this stuff are trying to make money through a website that I pay for.

I generally contact the hosting companies for website addresses that are spammed and the ISPs of the ip addresses from which the spam messages come. I send them a nice little note saying “such and such from your service is spamming my site with the below qouted message and links from ip address XXX at such and such a time, please look into this matter and notify me of any actions you have taken to prevent any reoccurence of this.” but not only do most of these services (hello Comcast, hello GoDaddy!) never even bother to respond, but I keep on getting the exact same spam crap from the exact same ip spamming for the exact same websites. I send messages updating them on this several times and still no action.

I know Godaddy is supposed to have some draconian policy regarding spam where they lock spammers accounts and charge them insane amounts of money, but even if that’s true, it seems the exception rather than the rule. Comcast on the other hand, does not seem to do anything, and the autogenerated reply you received when contacting their (absolute shit) support even borders on unfriendly, essentially tell you they have no responsibility to deal with complaints and you will not receive a response.

This seems to be about par for the course for most online services, support etc.

As such I would just like to take a moment to point out a couple of services who have shown excellent customer support responses.

Technorati – I was having a problem with this site not being indexed and asked them if they could help, within 3 days everything was working again, I received a very nice email explaining it and an apology for the delay. This coming from a free service.

Lycos Tripod – First off, let me say I don’t really care for free Webhosts because of the gigantic and often instrusive ads they place (hello geocities, with your annoying little pop-ups) and because the vast majority of sites hosted on them are absolute crap (no guarantees about the quality of this site implied in that statement) because often people who aren’t willing to pay for hosting aren’t really interested in building a decent site.

However, I ran into a jackass who had signed up for the forums here listing a website on Tripod as his homepage, the website contained a hidden Iframe which tried to install and run several trojans taking advantage of active X security holes (good thing I don’t use IE). I reported the site and within 1 day had received a very nice message saying that the site had been taken down for violation of their TOS, thank you for letting them know, and sorry for any inconvenience. I was impressed so I wrote them a quick “thanks for your quick response!” message and then I actually received a reply to that:

You’re welcome. If we can help further, please let us know.


Lycos Network Abuse

Holy crap! That was probably the most polite exchange I have ever had on the internet, and this coming from a company whose service I don’t actually use, and who essentially gain nothing from responding to my complaint. That is very, very classy service and I’m a little disappointed that I am so surprised and unused to receiving that level of service/politeness/basic human decency from services provided by native English speakers. Seriously, Lycos bosses, I don’t know what Jeremy’s last name is or anything, but find him and give him a bonus, and pat yourselves on the back for having the good sense to employ him and train him to respond in that manner, and for you excellent (and actually observed) complaint response policies. I am impressed.

Now, the reason I have that caveat up there about “native English speakers” is because I live in Japan. I am American, born and raised on the very, very rude east coast (Philadelphia), and growing up I was a rude little bastard too and when I lived in the states I was more or less used to bad service, I even expected it. Awful complaints departments, clerks that hound you at stores (hello you electronics monkeys at best comp circuit buy city usa!) etc.

Then I came to Japan. In Japan the service industry quality level is slipping in recent years, but it is still a damn site better than the U.S. Here the customer really is always right and the stores are generally happy to have your patronage. They greet you when you enter the store, they thank you when you pay, and they greet you when you leave. They answer questions without acting like you are asking them to chop off a leg, they aren’t pushy about trying to sell you add-ons, components, similar items etc.

After living here for 7 years I am usually shocked by the level (lack) of service when I go back home for a visit. After being so used to how things are here I was caught a bit unaware when a register monkey at the McDonalds in the Chicago airport said “yeah, whatdya want” when it was finally my turn to order. The restaurant manager and several other employees and customers were within hearing range and no one so much as blinked. Is this really normal back home anymore? “whatdya want”? I am a customer, I want to order some food, and pay money for it, of which a portion essentially becomes your salary. I replied to her “I’m sorry, do you mean, ‘may I help you’?”, I wasn’t snooty about it, I didn’t say it in a horrendously sarcastic manner or anything. I do understand that saying anything at all is terribly taboo in the states anymore, and that by saying anything at all I broke the unspoken rule of accepting being treated like garbage by people who are supposed to be attempting to get you to spend your money at their workplace, but I was fresh off the plane and having a bit of reverse culture shock between this register girl and the ever so (un) helpful ticket agents and airport security.

In case you’re wondering, her response was, “yeah, whateva!”.

Nevermind the fact that I had entirely forgotten that McDonald’s isn’t actually people food back home (it’s not only edible in Japan, it even tastes good) and ended up with a wonderfully upset stomach for the 2 hour flight back to Philly.

Japan isn’t perfect obviously, but the level of customer service here is generally amazing. In most jobs here talking back to a customer, even when the customer is blatantly wrong/abusive is unheard of, and would get most people shit-canned immediately. The customers in Japan are terrible. They are rude and at best usually pretend that staff at stores, restaurants etc. don’t exist, or treat them like slaves/servants, barely acknowledging their existence and blowing up at the slightest problem or inconvenience. My wife works in the service industry here, and I am generally unhappy with how she tends to mostly ignore restaurant staff, even though she has to put up with crap from unreasonable customers all day long herself. Saying thank you to someone in the service industry here is kind of rare for the natives, and unfortunately I think it is rare back home too.

In short, service personnel, I know it’s hard to be excited about flipping burgers or whatever other job you do, I know that (especially in the U.S.) the pay probably sucks, but showing a little bit of respect to your customers is a good thing, and honestly it should be a job requirement. As much as you dislike your job, you obviously want the money it pays so I don’t think that this is too much to ask, and the odds are if you treat your customers well, and maybe even (gasp) be friendly to them, you will find that the percentage of customers who act like an asshole to you tends drop as well.

Customers, although I am ranting about lack of quality in the service industry, I know that the jobs in that industry are some of the lowest-paid, most stressful and least appreciated around. Cut the people a bit of slack and have a little patience with them.

Overall this whole meandering long-winded post boils down to the fact that everybody needs to get rid of the idea that they are entitled to whatever they want and that they are too good for their particular station in life. We all are where we are, and as much as we’d all like to change it (I’d be plenty happy to swap jobs with Bill Gates), the odds are we are all going to be stuck there for awhile, so let’s try and not be anymore assholish to each other than is absolutely necessary. It’s a goddamn lesson that was taught in kindergarten, but seriously, a little bit of “please” and “thank you” can go a long way.

Okay, so this ended up being not so little or quick.

What about all of you? Any companies whose service you thought was particularly good or bad? Let everybody know in the comments

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