Two little experiences from today that have me wondering if companies actually care about me as a customer:
So Beth and I just bought a new house a couple weeks ago. Of course, all the construction was SUPPOSED to be done before we moved in, but the builder has a policy that gives them seven days of leeway on that. So basically, they have until a week after we get our keys to get all the little things done that need to be done. In our case, it was some drywall issues, some painting, some concrete problems, etc. Nothing that couldn’t get done in seven days, that’s for sure. Well, the seven days came and went, and not only did I not hear word one about getting this stuff fixed, the messages I started leaving for the construction manager on day six did not get returned until day thirteen! And actually, my calls weren’t even returned then — the assistant to the construction manager came by to tell me that they had screwed up our porch and would be jackhammering it out the next day while Lindsay was trying to sleep, and I mentioned to him that not only had my calls been ignored, but none of the work that was supposed to be complete a week before had even been begun, or scheduled, or thought about. So he called me an hour or two later to discuss it. We went down the list, which we had originally made at our inspection that came ten days prior to closing (March 9), and which we had confirmed at our Home Buyer Orientation (March 16), and which we had then confirmed AGAIN when we got our keys (March 22). As you can tell, because you are smart enough to do some simple math, I should have never had to deal with any of this on any date that didn’t start with “March.” But anyway, as Matt and I went down the list, the only things that got checked off were the things that I had either fixed on my own or learned to deal with. Everything that needed to be fixed on March 9, 16, and 22 still needed to be fixed on April 4.
At this point, let me tell you one of the big issues that needed to be fixed. At my March 9 inspection, I noticed that there was a major soft spot on the wall in Lindsay’s bathroom. What it felt like to my untrained finger is that there was a gap of a couple inches between the sheets of drywall, and they just taped over it and hoped we wouldn’t notice. I pointed it out, and I was told that they would fix it. “A mirror will cover most of it, but we will fix it anyway,” the guy said, and I said, “Yeah, I don’t care if a mirror goes over it, the entire wall needs to be fixed.” The guy doing the inspection, who I can only assume is an assistant to the assistant to the construction manager, agreed out loud.
So then a week later, we came back for our HBO, and the mirror was up, but the screwed up part of the wall still extended a foot to the left and a few inches to the right of it. I pointed it out to the construction manager, Brent, and I said, “I was told that they would fix this entire wall before they put the mirror up. You guys need to take the mirror down and fix that.” Brent’s reponse: “Yeah, we definitely need to do that. That is unacceptable.”
Six days later, we got our keys, and this time it was Matt we dealt with. We made another list of things that still weren’t done, and I (again) specifically pointed out that wall and said, “Brent assured me that you guys would take the mirror off and fix the entire wall.” Matt said okay.
Let’s get back to our story now. It’s April 4, and not long after getting off the phone with Matt, we got a voice mail from a guy at the drywall company. Getting in touch with him is a story in an of itself, but suffice it to say that eventually (early afternoon on April 6 — yesterday), I finally got a hold of them to make an appointment. What did the guy tell me? “Fieldstone (our builder) has us booked pretty solid, but we can get you in on April 17.” I laughed incredulously and said, “Well, I guess if that’s the earliest you can get me in, we’ll have to take it, but I find it hard to believe that you can’t rearrange some of your other Fieldstone appointments and give priority to the stuff that was supposed to be done a couple weeks ago.” The guy then said, “It was supposed to be done long ago? We didn’t even get notice of it until April 4.” So Fieldstone hadn’t even contacted any of their contractors to fix our stuff until I yelled at them about it. If I hadn’t said anything, it literally might NEVER have gotten done.
Wait, the story is just getting started.
So I hung up with the drywall company, appointment for April 17 in hand, and I called the new construction manager, Jason. (Why would a company transfer one construction manager right as the entire development is hitting full stride? And why would they replace him with a newly promoted guy who has never actually been a construction manager before? I don’t know.) So I called Jason, and he actually answered his phone, which was a first. I explained to him the situation, and I asked him if he could contact the drywallers and have them reschedule someone else so we wouldn’t have to wait a couple more weeks to get our stuff fixed. His response? “I’m the wrong person to talk to. I am only in charge of projects that are still in development.” I was, once again, incredulous. “So what you’re telling me is that all this work in my house, which SHOULD have been completed when the project WAS in development, back when it WAS your responsibility — because you didn’t get it done when it should have been done, it is no longer your responsibility?” “Yeah, pretty much,” he said.
Wouldn’t it be great if the world worked like Fieldstone Homes works? “Oh, cool! I forgot to pay my taxes, but now that it’s April 16, someone else has to do it!” “Sorry, Judge, I know that when I posted bail I promised to appear, but then I didn’t show up, so I am off the hook!”
I informed Jason in no uncertain terms (but also very civilly, never being rude) that I thought that policy was ridiculous. An hour or so later, I got a call from the drywall company, letting me know that they had rearranged some stuff and could have a guy out here at 8:30 the next morning. I thanked him profusely and told him that worked much better.
So the drywall guy showed up this morning, and I was showing him the different things that needed to be fixed. I pointed out the wall in the bathroom, and I told him that it needed to be fixed underneath the mirror, too. He said, “Well, Fieldstone will have to come take that mirror off, then.” I immediately tried to call the construction office, and of course, they didn’t answer. I happened to have Matt’s cell phone number in my caller ID from when we talked the other day, so I called him and asked him to have someone come remove the mirror so they could fix the wall. Then it got interesting.
Matt: “What we have decided is that we aren’t going to fix the wall underneath the mirror. It is fine the way it is.”
Jeff: “No, it’s not fine the way it is. There is a hole in my wall. I paid a whole lot of money for this house, and one of my expectations was that it would have full and complete walls.”
M: “With the mirror there, the wall IS complete.”
J: “Why did you bother putting a wall there at all, then? Why not just slap a mirror over a big hole and call it done?”
M: “Look, we’re not going to fix it.”
J: “Were you going to tell me that, or just hope I wouldn’t notice? Because the only reason we are talking right now is that I called you.”
M: “Well, that’s our decision.”
J: “Okay, who can I call who has the authority to change the decision? Because I have been promised by three separate people, including you, that this would be fixed.”
Matt then gave me the number of his boss, Glenn. I called Glenn and left him a voicemail, asking him to call me back ASAP, because the drywall guy was at the house already, working on the other things that needed to be fixed.
Not long after, who shows up at my door? Jason, the contruction manager. I took him upstairs and explained the situation to him, and he bluntly said, “Yeah, we’re not gonna fix that.” I asked him the same question that Matt had avoided: “Were you going to tell me? Because the only reason I found out is that I happened to have Matt’s cell phone number, because of course no one answered at the construction office.”
[Have you been hoping things would get a little less civil? Here we go…]
Jason: “Yeah, we don’t answer that phone, we just check the messages every morning.”
Me: “You check the messages every morning?”
M: “Can you explain to me, then, why the four messages I left last week were never returned?”
J: “If we got a message from you, we returned it.”
M: “So you’re telling me that I didn’t leave you a message?”
J: “All I’m saying is that we return calls every morning.”
M: “Well now I am having a hard time believing anything you’ve said, because I know for a fact that that’s not true.”
J: “I don’t appreciate being called a liar.”
At this point, I avoided the urge to say, “If you don’t want to be called a liar — don’t lie to me!” Instead, I glared at him, and he said, “This isn’t going very well, so I am going to leave now.” I said, “That’s a really good idea.”
At this point, I called Glenn back and left him another message. I then tried to call him back several more times, and finally, an hour or so later, he answered his phone. After he told me that he had not checked his messages (and I exhibited restraint again by not pointing out what a common trend that was), I explained the situation to him. He said, “Jason is absolutely right. There is no reason for us to fix the wall underneath the mirror.” I said, “I think the fact that three separate people promised me that you WOULD is a good enough reason. I understand your policy, and even though I think it is ridiculous, I can see where you are coming from. But the bottom line is that when your people promised it to me, at that point it was no longer a matter of policy — it became a matter of delivering what you promised to deliver.” Glenn said, “Let me finish what I am doing, and then I will conference with the guys (I assume by ‘the guys’ he meant Jason and Matt), and I will get back to you. It won’t be immediate, but I will definitely get back to you by the end of the day today.”
Well, it is now 10:54 p.m., and I just left my second voice mail of the evening on Glenn’s cell phone. (I was hoping against hope that he sleeps with his phone next to him so I could wake him up, but I knew that my hopes were in vain.) I have heard nothing.
I am resigned to the fact that they aren’t going to fix this wall. In reality, it’s not that big a deal — the fact is, it WILL always be covered by a mirror. But the principle of the matter is simple: I was promised something three times, and then I had to deal with either incompetence or rudeness when they decided to go back on their word. For that reason alone, I will fight this all the way to the top. My wall may never get fixed, but I WILL make them wish they had treated me with respect.
So that was my morning. What about my afternoon? Well, I was paying bills online, and I noticed an interest charge on our credit card that is supposed to have a zero percent interest rate until August 2007. We agreed to some trial of their Payment Protector plan for 30 days last August, only because we were told that we would get two years of no interest in return for trying it out. Well, I forgot to cancel in the 30 days, and I didn’t get around to it until February. Lo and behold, in March, we had interest charges.
So I called Chase and explained the situation. They had me call the Payment Protector people, who told me they had no control over interest rates, and that I should call Chase back. So I called Chase back, and I was told that they couldn’t put me on any rate other than my 7.99%. I said, “No, I was promised two years of no interest, so that is what it needs to be.” The lady told me she couldn’t do it, so I had her transfer me to her supervisor.
Now, one thing you should know about supervisors: the only time they talk to anyone is when that person is ticked off about something. They come into everything with a naturally bad attitude, so I generally try to be very nice to them. I don’t envy their jobs, and I know it is not specifically their fault when their company or their employees screw up.
So I was nice to this guy, and I explained the situation. He said, “We can’t do two years at zero percent interest.” I said, “But the thing is, it was promised to me, and it wasn’t until I cancelled the Payment Protector plan that I started having finance charges.” He said, “We are unable to do anything about your rate.” I asked, “Do you mean YOU are unable, or the Chase credit card company is unable?” He said the entire company was unable to do anything about my rate.
Come on now, Mr. Supervisor. Credit card companies make ALL their money because of interest rates, and you’re telling me NO ONE has the power and/or authority to alter mine?
I asked him why they were allowed to OFFER and PROMISE a zero percent interest rate if they weren’t allowed to DELIVER it, and he had no answer for that. I told him I was going to keep moving up the chain of command until someone fixed it, and he told me to send an email through their website. So I sent the email, and we will see what they have to say when they write me back.
So apparently it was the day for broken promises. Is this typical? Am I the only one who puts up a fight on these things? I have to believe that if more people would demand quality from Fieldstone Homes, they would be a lot better about delivering quality. And if more people called Chase Visa on their broken promises, they would feel some need to stop lying to people.
I don’t feel bad at all about going after Chase, because I have no respect for credit card companies anyway. My $20 a month in interest charges is a tiny drop in a huge bucket for them, and I will not stop fighting this until it is fixed.
But Fieldstone, I feel bad about. Why? Because until the last week or so, I have LOVED everything about my experience. I loved our sales reps, I love the value we got in our home, I love the quality of their work (in general), I love the floorplan of our home. Even in the last week, with the frustration of them not getting things done as quickly as they should have, I was generally happy. Up until this morning, I would not have hesitated even a nanosecond to recommend Fieldstone to my friends. In fact, I HAVE recommended them to several friends. But now, suddenly, all it took was Matt being dismissive and Jason lying to me and then getting mad at me for calling him on it, and I am ticked off. I shouldn’t hold the actions of two jerks against the entire company, but right now, I do.
Is it really asking too much for companies to deliver what they promise?