Here at the Gripe Line I do a lot of work behind the scenes helping readers resolve problems with high-tech companies. When a solution proves instructive or noteworthy, I often report the results of those efforts. Sometimes, though, I can only shake my head at the insane, cruel, or thick-headed moves companies pull in the name of customer service, as relayed by the Gripe Line faithful.
Little can be done in most of these situations, but it can be instructive to share the ridiculous outcomes that result because someone decided to be intractable when a little sympathy or common sense will do. I've received several of these stories lately. Here are a couple I found particularly illuminating.
The contract that extends after death
"About eight years ago, my mother passed away," Gripe Line reader Jack writes. "My sister was the executor of her will; my father the inheritor. They found a certificate of deposit of my mother's that had matured. So my sister, who by now had done this a number of times, went to the bank to cash it."
As Jack explains, his sister brought the benefactor (her father) along with a copy of the will, her mother's death certificate, and her father's ID -- everything that should be necessary.
"The teller looked over all the papers and then declared that if my mother wanted to cash her CD, she had to come in herself to sign for it," Jack writes.
Jack's sister patiently explained to the teller, "That's her death certificate you are holding."
This logic had no effect on the teller, who brought the head teller over for a second opinion.
"Nothing did any good," says Jack. "Both of them insisted that my mother had to come in to sign the documents."
It was eventually straightened out, but Jack suggested that a video camera would have been great in this instance -- the absurdity of the interaction would have been a hit on YouTube.
The loyalty-based contract with trust-sapping fine print
Gripe Line reader Dan recently learned the hard way that it's possible to be blindsided by what appears to be a good deal for loyal customers, having signed a "price lock contract" with Time Warner Cable that -- upon closer scrutiny -- caused him to lose faith in the company.
"In this contract, TWC agreed not to raise my rate for two years, and I agreed to not cancel without a penalty," Dan says. "Last month I received a notice letter that the term is up, and I would be renewed for just a few dollars a month more."