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Oh, those hilarious corporations

July 16, 2012

 I have an account with Pitney Bowes that, for a monthly fee plus buying special printable labels, allows me to print postage at home.  Recently, while in the process of printing postage, I ran into a problem, which was eventually explained as a problem with their website.  However, in the process, I got charged for the postage I was trying to print, even though it didn’t print.  So I had to find a form on their website, print it out, fill it in, and mail it to Pitney Bowes (I paid the postage on this), along with the sheet of printable labels (which I’d paid for, and it wasn’t fully used up) that I’d tried to print postage on.  Each sheet of printable labels has a unique serial number so it was needed to help identify the incorrect transaction.

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 Within a reasonable amount of time, on 7/9/12, I got the following e-mail from their customer service department:

 “Dear Valued Pitney Bowes Customer,

 We recently received a request for a credit of postage that did not print correctly from our pbSmart™Postage online postage.

 The amount has been approved and will be credited to your prepaid postage balance in the next 24 hours.  The amount of postage available on your home page of pbSmart™Postage will increase. 

 If you have any questions please contact support at 1-877-822-0996 and press option 1, then 2.

 Sincerely,

[their representative’s name]

Pitney Bowes Support for pbSmart™Postage”

Notice that it says “will be credited to your prepaid postage balance in the next 24 hours.  I immediately went to their website so that I could note my current balance, so that I would know when the money had been added.  However, 48 hours after I received this e-mail, I had not yet seen my balance increase.  So, putting more time into this venture, I called the number given in their e-mail.  Now the good things that happened are: 1) it didn’t take very long to get to talk with a human being, & 2) he was able to find the record of this matter right away.  The bad thing is that he told me the 24 hours mentioned was the amount of time it was going to take their rep. to start the ball rolling, and that I should be credited within a week.  Again, her e-mail said “will be credited…in the next 24 hours.”  Not the same thing, it seemed to me.

Their site created the error.  I had to spend 20 minutes doing the paperwork necessary to get my money back, and pay the postage to send it to them.  They said on 7/9 that I’d be credited within 24 hours, but 48 hours later I had to spend another 15 minutes  to be told that this is not how they see it, but that I should have my money credited to my account within another week.  So I have to keep track of my balance each time it changed (because I’d printed postage, or because I’d purchased more postage credit).  Otherwise, how will I know if they’ve added to it – and I have to keep this matter in mind in order to make sure they follow through.  All in all, in terms of time for the money involved, it is no longer worthwhile.  There’s about $12 in play.

So, is this inefficient behavior on their part?  Is it purposely designed to frustrate their clients so that many of them will give up, not getting their money back, thus creating additional profit for Pitney Bowes?  Did the person who wrote the e-mail only mean that she would have gotten the ball rolling within 24 hours, rather than that I would be credited within that time.  Did the person I spoke to at their Customer Service Department purposely try to mislead me, and is that something he had been told to do as part of the way they want him to do their job?

After another couple of days, I wrote to the person who’d written their initial e-mail on 7/9/12 and explained the situation, and pointed out that I had not yet received the credit I’d been promised.  Someone else wrote back, saying that my account had been credited even before their initial e-mail had been sent to me.  So they’re saying the money had been credited to my account before I knew I had to keep track of the total, so there is no way for me to know whether or not they actually credited my account.  As we e-mailed back and forth, she was nice enough to say that there had been complaints from other customers about this matter, and they were looking into it.

Did I receive the nearly $12 in credit or not?  I have no way to know.  I suppose I was, but it’s a terrible way to do business.

When I was younger, I believed that if I were accidentally given too much change in a transaction at a store, or if I were given or shipped more than I’d paid for, I should let them know and return the extra.  I should be honest about it.  Maybe at a store I will still do this.  My feeling is this: If they give me too little, I’m going to let them know, so if they give me too much, I should also let them know.  On the other hand, I now feel that if I’m charged too little, or shipped too much, for a transaction that’s not done in person (via the internet, for example), I should just keep it.  Not so much because it evens things out for the losses, as that I would have to spend my time, unpaid, trying to be honest and fair with them, and I’ll only speak with people who are getting paid for their time, and who will probably transfer me to another department, which will ask me to explain the whole thing again before transferring me to yet another department where I’ll probably be disconnected, and all this after spending 3 to 7 minutes getting through their phone tree trying to find someone who can handle a matter like this.  It’s not worth it.  If they make an error in my favor, I’ll just keep it.  If they make an error in their favor, I deserve to be compensated for the error, and I especially deserve to be compensated for their error because of the time I’ll have to spend trying to get the error corrected.

Man, I’ve become an old grouch.

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