Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Opinionated and Unrepentant

I have a few pet peeves. Okay, maybe more than a few. Okay, maybe a whole lot. I’m opinionated, I hope in a nice, respectful, able to listen and understand way. I don’t believe in violent protest, I’m a pacifist. But at the same time, I’m not prepared to just sit back and let others determine what is right or good for me. Resistance, as the filmmaker, Costas Gravas once said, is a good thing.

Customer service or rather the lack of customer service is one of my pet peeves. And by customer service I don’t mean just the service you get in a store or the line up for the gondola or the coffee bar, but also the service we get from our politicians and leaders, which of late seems fraught with half-truths, power hording and scandal. And I’m being generous in my assessment. 

I come from that generation that expects good customer service, demands it, and kicks up a fuss when we don’t get it. Or at least I used to think I did. I’m not so sure anymore. You see, I think customer service at all levels (government, private sector, mom and pop shops) is declining in Canada and, worse yet, I just don’t think anyone (with the exception of a few protesting students in Quebec) cares. 

Living in a resort town as I do, the customer service is pretty good, although I always think the larger employers could do more to train the mostly younger staff who work here. This is usually their first job anywhere. The training and mentoring these young people get in this first experience will set the tone for all future employment.  Getting them off on the right foot is essential, but more often than not our larger employers don’t invest in this transient workforce so bad habits are reinforced and carried forward. I find this practice short sighted and shameful. Other countries will eat our lunch as our productivity continues to decrease, but this is a topic for another blog. I need to focus (that’s the problem with being opinionated. You have something to say about a whole lot of things). 

Once in a while I’m forced to go somewhere else for some sort of service. Sometimes a Sears (although I’ve been boycotting them for the past five years because of poor service), a Sleep Country, the government, TELUS, and most recently Visa. I have been dealing with Visa since Christmas over a disputed charge on my card. When I first reported it in late December and cancelled my card, I was told they would investigate it and get back to me. They told me it could take 60 to 90 days. I called them twice in January. The person on the other end of the line was polite, but basically said they hadn’t reviewed my complaint. They suggested I pay the disputed charge. I asked what would happen if I didn’t. I wasn’t interested in paying them any interest either since I don’t believe in paying interest to banks (again, a topic for another blog and one of my other pet peeves. Does it ever end?). They said that an interest charge would be incurred, but they would reverse this if the disputed visa charge were reversed.

I called Visa again in early February, mid February and then in late February. Finally, I spoke to someone who referred the case to his supervisor. He did suggest I pay the charge because it would be easier. I asked him whom it would be easier for. Visa or me? He didn’t respond. I also asked him what motivation Visa would have to look into the matter if I paid the charge. I mean it had been two months and they hadn’t bothered to investigate. He referred me to his supervisor. 

The charges were eventually reversed, but then I was told I would have to pay the $13 in interest. Again, I protested and again I was put off to a few other people until someone reversed the interest charges as well.  It took a great deal of time and effort on my part, following up when my calls were not returned (which apparently they don’t do, but their message says they will). For me, I was right, they were wrong and I wasn’t going to give up until I won.  I know, I know, such aggressive behaviour.

This is a small example and I relate it here because I think many organizations (public and private) expect if they put up enough roadblocks, make processes difficult, engage in that double-speak and just stonewall, then the customer or the citizen will eventually give up.  But when we give up, we do so at our peril. Take a look below to see just a few areas where it’s obvious the customer/citizen is no longer in charge. These issues also speak to the lack of corporate/government values or rather shows us where their values have been placed (i.e., money vs. people), but again that’s a discussion for another blog:

  • On February 28th, many Canadian banks posted record profits and yet insist they have to increase their fees;

  • Any of Harper’s omnibus bills that are so packed with changes and consequent impacts we have yet to examine or understand them. They are pushed through just because he can and because we allow it; 

  •The employment insurance rules to apparently root out alleged abuses (incentives to catch people who cheat. Really?);

  •The F-35 scandal;

  •The BC Liberals and the ethnic vote controversy;

  •The tainted meat problems in Alberta;

  • The increase in fees for telephone, cable, and Internet services.

I could go on. And really, I will, because I believe one person can make a difference. And if I believe this, you can imagine what I think might happen if we all worked together to make businesses and governments accountable to us. We the people have the power to make a difference. If we get poor service or dishonest governments, it’s because we’ve allowed it to happen. In the end, you get what you’re prepared to put up with.

I know we’re all busy, but voicing our concerns, making phone calls, calling out those who do wrong, and making people do their jobs is the only way we make things change. So yes, you can complain, but nothing works better than peaceful protest and walking away with your business or support and giving it to someone who will deliver what it is you expect.

One last point on this (as if I ever have a last point), there are so many countries in the world where their citizens don’t enjoy the freedoms we do. And yet, they protest and band together to have their voices heard, sometimes under penalty of incarceration or death. We who are lucky enough to live in Canada should not be complacent about our freedoms before they too are taken away while we doze in naïve, misguided bliss.



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