November 01, 2003

Neil Cavuto's Really, Really Bad Day

GAWD. IT WOULD APPEAR NEIL CAVUTO is officially sick and tired of being sick and tired vis-a-vis the failings of America's various service industries.

In what we're guessing is about 800 words, Mr Cavuto expresses anger at his local movie-theatre operator, his physician, a restaurant at which he had a meal, and a major airline. Mr Cavuto is upset because all of these people or institutions brazenly lied to him in terms of the time they would provide their services. Actually, upset does not perhaps do justice to Mr Cavuto's writing. Perhaps a better descriptive would be "histrionics not seen since the days of Spiro Agnew."

We do not personally understand why Mr Cavuto is so upset. Of course the service one receives in America is generally bad -- this is, very simply, a function of market economics and organizational dynamics. Any large bureaucracy usually fails consistently in providing services to clients who are marginal to their bottom lines. With many corporations, this is even built into their business models.

For instance, let's look at the practice of banking. Now, large individual depositors with a banking institution -- say, those with account balances of more than $100,000, or perhaps $250,000 -- may avail themselves of a private banker who will attend to all their needs. The reason for this is simple: as banking laws have become more relaxed, said private bankers can encourage their clients to use the bank for more than just a money-market-based checking account.

On the other hand, the hoi polloi will find themselves lucky to speak with a low-level supervisor when a deposit is misrouted or a check is lost, and may even find themselves being charged for services that were previously regarded as free-by-rights (e.g. a charge to use an actual bank teller).
Indeed, small depositors are often looked on as nuisances, although most financial institutions are smart enough to realize that word-of-mouth complaints about their services are not beneficial.

This is not to say that we rank-and-file types do not have some economic recourse -- we can, of course, choose other service providers if we are so inclined. We here at The Rant also use what we call the Jack Ryan Plan in our dealings with firms whose services we buy. By this, we mean that we act as honorably and decently as we can until the company screws up. When that screw-up happens, we make it our mission in life to gain satisfaction from the offending company. We have found that a combination of polite letter-writing and friendly phone conversations often works wonders. And if that doesn't work, we cheerily inform the other party that it would be very much a shame if we had to pursue litigation or inform Government regulators of their transgressions. Not that we would do such a thing, of course. But even the threat usually does the job -- and did in the one time we had to resort to this tactic*.

Furthermore, we would suggest that Mr Cavuto's reaction is exactly the wrong one at that. The answer is not to get mad about things. The reason for this is because the person with which one is dealing, who most likely does not do as well as the complaintant, will react in a passive-aggressive manner and make it his mission in life to make one's problems even worse**. Rather, there are three right things to do.

First, be pleasant and cordial in all one's dealings; second, strive to do everything you can to solve the problem; and third, always, always take care of the people who help you out around Christmas time.

* This situation involved late-mailed hospital invoices, an incompetent medical-services provider, an unhelpful collection agency, and bills that went unpaid for more than a year due to said incompetent medical-services provider, who failed to remit its notices to our insurer. After a session of letter-writing and a phone call, we not only managed to have the problems resolved, some current billings of minor consequence were also written off, in error. So we came out ahead on the deal.

** This is especially helpful in dealing with airlines. We recall one situation in which our syrupy-politeness and general cordiality not only managed to get us a most agreeable new flight arrangement, we were given a first-class upgrade on the second leg of our journey.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 1, 2003 08:52 PM | TrackBack

Your absolutely right on this one Benjamin. Being pleasant and courteous when an issue comes up will almost always produce the best results and getting angry really never gets it done. While you are correct that our institutions have designed in many potential roadblocks to good service in the puruit of "efficiency" another factor is at work here as well, I think. American culture just doesn't lend itself to good service. To enthusiasticlly serve others as a vocation seems to conflict with our sense of individual equality. Providing good service sometimes gets confused with subservience by those providing the service.

Posted by: Swammi in Solon at November 3, 2003 11:36 AM