newest entry 2002-01-15 9:45 a.m.

This is a little story about the use of anger and the search for enlightened capitalism.

Back in September, Monkey got me a subscription to a certain humor weekly as an anniversary present. He didn't realize that said humor weekly would soon be available for free on the streets of New York City, but it was still a really thoughtful, fun present and I enjoyed the idea of it.

I continued to enjoy the idea of it, because the reality of it never quite got off the ground. The subscription was a disaster. We only received about one out of every six issues, and those issues were delivered about 4-6 weeks late.

Monkey e-mailed their sub dept. to let them know, and they were pretty unhelpful. A few weeks later, he e-mailed again to let them know that we still weren't getting our newspaper. They did nothing to rectify the situation, and they were curt and dismissive.

Finally, he asked them for a refund, and they refused. The best they came up with, when pressed, was to tack on a few extra issues to extend the subscription, which, given the nature of the complaint, makes no sense whatsoever. A few extra imaginary issues to add to the numinous subscription?

I was frustrated with their completely unhelpful attitude and useless customer service, so I did something I've never done before: contacted the Better Business Bureau.

It's not like me to go tattle on someone--I like to resolve things peaceably and respectfully. But I felt like this was a matter beyond just wanting to get our money back--I felt like it was the principle of the thing. The newspaper's refund policy is unfair, and their customer service is really bad. Why should I pay for a newspaper that never comes, and why should I--the customer--be in the position of begging for a refund?

In very neutral terms I told the BBB what happened, and they took care of the problem immediately. I got a polite e-mail from the humor weekly's subscription manager, saying that in matters of subscription problems, the solution is to send the paper via first class mail. But that option wasn't available to New York subscribers yet, so they'd refund our money.

Terrific! Mission accomplished. Harmony, peace, resolution...

Until yesterday, when the BBB sent me a copy of the subscription manager's written response to their investigation. It was very different, in both content and tone, from the polite and conciliatory e-mail he'd sent me weeks before.

First, there was no mention of the via-first-class option. Then, he claims that I was "obviously lying" because I was "upset that I was paying for something that I could have gotten for free"... that he resents having to "cave in" in to the consumer, and what a disgrace it is that the we live in a society in which "the government feels the need to hold the hand of the consumer and personal responsibility for ones [sic] actions is disappearing." He also claims to have contacted my local post office to investigate the matter and they turned up nothing amiss.

Personal responsibility! As if being insultingly defensive when challenged, calling someone a liar with no proof, and presenting two very different versions of the truth is being "personally responsible."

As if I would go to the trouble to lie and contact the Better Business Bureau just so I could get $40.00 back.

As for the post office investigation--I have no idea what to make of that. If they wanted to they could have asked my mailman if he remembers delivering this newspaper week after week, and the answer would be "no."

I think what upset me the most--aside from being told that I was lying!--was that I was trying to get to the truth, while the newspaper was only trying to defend themselves, using any slanderous and dishonest means to accomplish that.

I was outwardly upset, and I was angry, and I used the energy of that anger to write back to the subscription manager...but through this whole unfortunate episode, I felt inwardly calm. I didn't let it eat me up inside.

It was a big lesson in using the energy of anger in a respectful and non-destructive way. I didn't "go off" on the guy, I just stated my feelings and opinion clearly. I can let this whole thing go, knowing that I did the best I could.

The other lesson was that the BBB are excellent at what they do! I seriously doubt that I would call them in again, but I was impressed with their performance.

Unlike the sub. manager, I believe that the consumer does need to be protected. And poor customer service is my biggest non-venal pet peeve, because I know that good customer service is easy, healthy, and nourishing for all concerned. If we have to live in a capitalist society, why not adapt that society to a higher ideal, using the avenues already in place?

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