The New Consumer Retention Plan a.k.a. Consumer Enslavement!

I am a marketer with the mind-set of a consumer. I like to shop and pass on my finds to my friends and anyone else who will listen. Spreading the word is what marketing is all about whether the word is good or bad. Today, I must report on the bad. Recently, I have encountered what I call CUSTOMER ENSLAVEMENT! It’s not a new concept (cellphone, cable, and satellite services) but it has taken on a new form. I first encountered this new form of customer “retention” with Facebook. I got tired of having to change my privacy settings to get rid of those stupid game request no one really wants and I got tired of changing my password every week because I swear I was being hacked! Turns out I wasn’t being hacked. It was Facebook making all these changes that continually erased my privacy settings. So, I decided to delete my Facebook account. You would think that would be an easy thing to do. NOPE! Not easy at all! I had to temporarily deactivate my account so I could read through the Facebook “help” section to find out how to delete and not just deactivate. You have to jump through hoops, sign over your first-born, and add a drop of blood in order to get your account deleted. Facebook brings up this canned response about me not really wanting to leave and they will deactivate my account in case I change my mind. If you REALLY want it deleted, you have to reactivate and fill out a form and it will take 14 days to go away because I really don’t know my own mind and Facebook knows my mind better than me and thinks I will change my mind and assimilate! All you Trekkies will get the reference. NO I WILL NOT CHANGE MY MIND! I have thought about closing my Facebook account long and hard and decided it was time. So, I wait! Tick tock! Which brings me to the next part of this CUSTOMER ENSLAVEMENT. I USED to do business with an online shoe/purse company called I ordered from them once and decided I didn’t like any of the merchandise subsequently sent to me in my monthly gallery. As providence would have it, my credit card was compromised and I thought this works out great! I never updated it nor did I order anything else. For all I know, that website is the source of the compromise! So, I go to my account and look for the delete account section. I hit cancel membership and it takes to another page with a toll-free number I MUST call to cancel my membership! Are kidding??? You are an online company and I have call who knows where to cancel? So, I make the call and I am on hold for approximately 20 minutes and finally someone answers. I don’t even know what she said her name was but she asked me my name and verified “security” information which only consisted of my phone number. She asked how she could help me and I said I wish to cancel my account. This is when the hard-sell started on trying to make me stay a customer. I explained to her I didn’t want to stay a customer and that is why I was calling. She pointed out I have been a “loyal”, “fabulous” customer and I need to stay that way. At this point I am getting irritated because she just won’t cancel my account. I asked again for her to cancel my account and she stated she couldn’t do that at this time because I owed them money. I said exactly how is that possible since I purchased one pair of shoes and then my credit card was compromised! She says it’s because they were trying to charge that card and I had 6 credits that needed to be paid for. I said to hell with that! I said I WILL NOT give you another credit card for items NOT purchased because at this point I am quite sure it was their site that caused my personal information to be stolen! So then she gets nasty and I ask for a supervisor and she says I can’t speak to a supervisor because one isn’t available. I said isn’t that convenient! It wasn’t until I threatened to put on blast throughout ALL the social media websites that she agreed to cancel my account. I asked for a cancellation number and she says she can give me a confirmation number not a cancellation number. I nearly dropped the phone in disbelief at the words coming out of her mouth. I asked her what exactly is she confirming? She said, “You wanting to cancel your account.” I asked her wouldn’t cancellation be a more appropriate term? She didn’t respond. There was a slight pause and then she snapped  the number at me and I repeated it back in military alphabet form and she huffed! She then asked if there was anything else and before I could respond, she hung up! Now I am shaking my head at the person who thought this was a good way to retain customers. There are a lot of reasons people wish to cancel accounts or no longer do business with a company. I know they claim to want the reasons why but when you give them the reason, it isn’t good enough and they think you don’t know your own mind. I tried to explain to this “customer service agent” I no longer have that credit card and their website just doesn’t interest me anymore. I tried to explain having my credit card info stolen shortly after purchasing from them did not sit well. But again she tried to convince me I don’t know my own mind and I really don’t want to leave them as a FABULOUS customer! I know my own mind! I know it well! I also know treating me as if I am stupid ISN’T the way to retain me as a customer! You can’t force someone to continue a business relationship with a company if they choose not to. They will do exactly what I am doing in warning my family, friends, and anyone else tuned in not to do business with them. This reminds me of the saying, “If you love something, set it free; If it comes back, it was meant to be.” Apparently, didn’t get the memo! Enslaving consumers does not bode well for creating good brand awareness and can create a huge public relations nightmare. I wonder how many other folks out there have experienced feeling trapped  by a company’s lack of courtesy in allowing them to cancel their business? Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me.

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