A Bunch of Yahoos Set Out to Run a Company . . .

angry 0419Once, several years ago, I was turned over to a collection agency for a medical bill I had already paid. This was at the University of Colorado Health Sciences, a vast conglomerate of medical services, an alleged non-profit that makes so much money it doesn’t know what to do except to keep producing buildings. (Here’s a thought: why not roll back your prices? Yeah, I know — what am I smoking?)

It didn’t matter who I tried to explain this to:  I ran up against a collection agent who pretended to be two different people so he could accuse me of racism (“Oh sure, you think we all sound alike”), a receptionist who was so sure I was wrong that she wouldn’t let me talk to anyone else in her office, a condescending woman whose job was to help people understand their bills (in such a “private place” that I listened to a farm couple explain their entire financial situation until I couldn’t stand eavesdropping anymore and removed myself from the office) . . . in a fit of rage one morning at 4 a.m. I sent an e-mail to Bruce Benson, President of All the CUs.

I doubt this option would have occurred to me except that Lynn, after one of her visits to CU Medical, had filled out a comment card praising her doctor. She got a personal reply from Mr. Benson (or at least someone authorized to sign his name). So, if he liked responding to good news, perhaps he should hear bad news, too.

I never heard from anyone authorized to pretend to be Bruce Benson, but someone in his office did listen, and respond, and resolve my issue. So far, so good, and I have lived up to my vow to be dead three times over before seeking further medical assistance from the University of Colorado. [This was also the same place that told me I couldn’t have a copy of my own medical records “due to HIPPA.” What the hell?]

And then the other day I ran up against Really Big Business, and so far have found no Bruce Benson, or his surrogate, to turn to.

Yahoo, you’ll recall, has destroyed my e-mail. Gone are 20 years of inbox, but it seems bigger than that: since I went into my account on Thursday, not one — not one — spam e-mail has shown up in my account. In two days my entire inbox content consists of three e-mails from Yahoo, all of them as helpful as this company can possibly be:

1) “As the owner of the email account in question, you know your emails better than anyone else. If your messages do not appear in your inbox after 8 hours, they may not have been retrieved, or they may have been archived or mistakenly sent to your recycle bin. Please check all your folders and check whether your account has filters enabled, which may prevent those emails from reaching your inbox.”

[I would like to point out, as I have tried in vain to do on multiple points of “entry” to Yahoo: this is not really addressing my situation, which is that my entire account is GONE.]

2) The feedback you provided was merged with someone who provided similar feedback. (That person was missing a month of e-mails, so yes, they are extremely similar.) No actual response to or assistance with my feedback, but they helpfully “merged” my topic and just wanted me to know.

3) How’d we do?

I know that every last company in America is in the survey business these days, but why do any of them bother? The internet is awash in complaints about an inability to reach real people at Yahoo — if they wanted to do better, although they clearly don’t, that would be a great place to start.

In an attempt to reach Yahoo, I tried their “restore” feature, I sent feedback, I e-mailed the “customer care center” (they could certainly rename that), and I tried “chatting” twice, both times, I’m pretty sure, with robots who don’t know the time of day.

I wasted an hour of my life yesterday “chatting” with “Kim,” who required 15-20 minutes to retrieve the instructions that are posted right on their “help” page. This is a true story. I waited more than 15 minutes for some idiot robot to offer that as “help.” This was after I had explained my situation and “Kim” initially asked, “What would you like me to do?”

I leave it to you: how did Yahoo do?

My survey, by the way, was sent to “Dear Last_null,” which made me feel particularly warm and loved. Cared about. Cherished as a customer.

Because at one point I did think to myself, well, that’s what I get for using a service for two decades without paying for it, before I realized that oh, yes, you and I pay all right: hopefully more talented robots than the ones who operate the “chats” troll through our inboxes every minute of every day, mining as much data as they can possibly manage. And then they sell that, over and over and over again. If that’s not payment enough, what is?

So then I searched for ways to talk to a real person at Yahoo, and the internet is filled with angry moments of rage just like mine. The few people who seem to have located a number then wait on hold for one to two hours, dealing with a phone tree that they foolishly think will take them somewhere other than in circles.

This person’s answer made me feel inexplicably better (at least until I checked to see if by some miracle someone had responded to my plight or my e-mails had returned, only to find a survey, with all the answers Yahoo can imagine — have I mentioned Yahoo’s limited imagination? — already provided, and no way for me to give them actual answers like you could in a survey that wanted to be useful):

“The Yahoo! Technical Services Department are all on their annual holidays and are not due back until just before their passports expire. In the meantime your issues will be dealt with by a computer with no more reasoning power than the type you would find in cheap digital watches. We do find empathy in your frustration, but as we’re on holiday there is not a lot we can do — however please check your inbox for a generic e-card. Yours Uncaringly, The Yahoo! Technical Services Department.”

At least they named themselves correctly. What a bunch of yahoos.

 

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