Monday, July 20, 2015

Phone Performance Art

You may recall this incident.  It was obviously pretty extreme.

But my own experience just now cancelling my Wall Street Journal subscription wasn't much different.  I called to cancel, and of course it's a bad sign that you have to call.  It would be easier and faster, and cheaper for them, actually, if you could cancel on the web site.  So the only possible explanation is that they think that they can harass and intimidate you into not cancelling.  The people on the phone are hired thugs.

Knowing this, I was ready. Still, it took a little more than 21 minutes to get the job done.  I won't go through the entire conversation, but it went like this (several times):
WSJ Thug:  "Can you tell my why you want to cancel your subscription?"

Me:  "Absolutely not."

WSJT:  ... (clearly has been trained that silence is power)

Me:  ...(has known for a long time silence is power)

WSJT:  "But we want to make sure we provide the best service we can to our customers.  We want to know how we could do better."

Me:  "That makes sense.  Tell you what, give me your fax number.  I have a contract [rattle piece of paper near phone, audibly] for consumer service consulting.  $175 per hour, four hour minimum, payable in advance.  As soon as I get your check or money order, I'll be happy to answer your questions for up to 4 hours."

WSJT: ...(not sure what to do, because this is not on his script).

Me:  "Or you can let me talk to your supervisor, right now.  Just forward this call to your supervisor."

WSJT: ....

Me:  "Or, you can cancel my subscription."

WSJT:  "I can't cancel your subscription.  I need to ask why you want to cancel."

Me:  "And I'm happy to answer that question.  But I told you I need a check for $700 first."

WSJT:  "Why would we pay you?"

Me:  "Why would I provide your free customer service consulting?  Do YOU work for free, pumpkin?"

WSJT: ...

[We went through this exchange, almost verbatim, just repeating things word for word, three times. Finally...]

WSJT:  "Okay, I'll cancel the subscription.  But what if I offer you the lowest rate, $16.00 per month?"

Me:  "Are you going to cancel my subscription?"

WSJT:  "That's up to you, sir.  I'm offering you the lowest rate!"

Me:  "No, it's not up to me.  I asked you to cancel the subscription 20 minutes ago, and you have been harrassing me and refusing to do what I want.  So, it's clearly up to you, not me."

WSJT: ...

Me:  "Tell  you what.  I'll offer you a discount.  Just $150 per hour, three hour minimum.  So you can send me a check for $450, and I'll answer your questions.  Otherwise, please put me through to your supervisor."

WSJT: "Well, the reason we aren't going to send you a check isn't the cost.  We don't want to do that at all."

Me:  "And that's exactly how I feel about your newspaper.  Why would a discount change my mind?  Would you please cancel my subscription?"


He finally did.  Remarkable.  I wish I had thought to record it.  The aggressive thuggery is really out of place at a newspaper that presents itself as professional.  I will certainly never subscribe to any WSJ products again.


LoneSnark said...

It is indeed performance art, and you went off script. If you had only stayed on script, you could have cancelled your prescription and moved on. The script exists to sort the various callers into groups. Think of it like you were talking your way down a flow chart, only you with your off-script behavior kept resetting the chart and going back to start.

Unknown said...
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Pat said...

My move in this situation with a company who sent the wrong e-book was to be silent when they're silent like you did and then say "I WANT A REFUND," as soon as they spoke. This would result in silence from both of us again. We went through this process a few times but they relented.

Bastiat's Ghost said...


ColoComment said...

I cancelled my WSJ subscription ~4-5 years ago when it wanted to raise my print/dig. rate to something like $450/yr. Not too long thereafter I got a WSJ solicitation to give a gift subscription at a reduced rate. So, I gave one to my dog. Apparently WSJ doesn't, or didn't at that time, doublecheck delivery addresses.
Murphy D. [LN] enjoyed his subscription no end, and generously shared it with me, until WSJ started raising his rates. When I called (on his behalf) to ask why they were going up, WSJ said that each year after the first gift rate year, the rate went up until it hit full price.
So Murphy let his subscription lapse. He still gets periodic reminders that WSJ misses him & would like him to re-subscribe at some great reduced rate (if you read the finer print, it's only for the first 3 months - then the rate goes back up to the regular rate.)
Neither of us is interested in re-subscribing, as we both think (well, one of us thinks) the quality of the WSJ (except for op/ed pages) has markedly decreased since Murdoch took over. We also have found that we can look at the online edition, copy and Google a headline, and get access to those articles that interest us.
PS: hint. Do NOT let WSJ automatically renew the subscription. WSJ will continue to deliver/link to the paper for a while after expiration. At least that was my experience.