Customer Disservice

The Giro d’Italia started without me. In this crazy, mixed-up year, the bike race that normally kicks the grand tour season off in May was set to start instead two weeks after the long-delayed Tour de France. And somehow it’s been two weeks, and I didn’t notice.

I only missed by one day, remembering on Sunday that it likely started Saturday, which it in fact did. But viewing options are more limited for the Giro (a good Americanized pronunciation: Gee-row) than the other two tours, and I couldn’t find an online feed. So Sunday evening I went to Flo Sports.

Lest you think this is going to be another dreary post about a sport you just don’t care about, don’t you worry: this is yet more anger at Corporate America, busy trying to maximize profits at the expense of human beings. It just happens that Flo Sports exemplifies everything that is wrong.

Flo Sports lists all kinds of fabulous bike races I can watch, most of which I don’t care about any more than you do, for the low, low price of $12.50 per month and I can cancel my subscription at any time.

Okay, I thought. I can spend $12.50 to watch the Giro and the first days of the Vuelta a Espana, which is going to overlap for a gluttony of grand tours this fall. But when I went to sign up, the only option presented to me was $150 for one year. Okay, I thought. I’ll cancel my subscription at any time and hopefully they will refund the balance of my money.

I signed up with this only option presented to me and tuned in Monday morning. But while I was supposed to be watching cyclists ride up Mt. Etna I was learning the ugly, inhuman truth about Flo Sports: it’s one of those places, like Yahoo, where you can never talk to a real human being and keep getting directed in circles around their “community support forum.”

“Cancel any time” turns out to mean: as long as it’s in year-long increments. I certainly am free to cancel today, if I’d like, and they will honor my request next October, $150 later (plus $4.35 sales tax).

This struck me as false advertising, and I wanted to talk to someone at Flo Sports about it, preferably to completely cancel my subscription, go without seeing the Giro — which seems wrong to be watching in October anyway, and so far I’m not very invested in it — and live my life more productively with my $150, less the couple of days I used their “service.”

But you can’t talk to anyone at Flo Sports. You can barely find any contact information at all, only teeny, tiny 6-point type at the very bottom of the page that says “Contact.” Which then gives you a street address and no other point of contact.

Thanks to the Miracle of the Internet, I found a phone number. And called. And listened as a mechanical voice informed me there were too many calls and they weren’t taking any.

I finally, somewhere on their site, found an e-mail form I could fill out. I filled it out and thought I was reasonably polite as I found fault with their “$12.50 per month, cancel anytime” that is really a $154.35 charge that you pay no matter what. I pressed the red “submit” button.

And that is when I learned this absolute truism of corporate America: that button does not give you license to question its actions; it is there as a reminder that I must bow to the company’s will. You will submit to us.

And so far, I have. There are too many other things going on, at least one more of which is going to require dealing with Corporate America. (Was it columnist Ed Quillen who used to keep us apprised of the Committee That Really Runs America? I think I’ve located it once more.)

I never did manage to get my e-mail form through, despite pressing the button perhaps 100 times over the course of several hours, clearing the form and starting over . . . the message got louder every time my cursor failed: You will submit.

I think my options at this point are to try going through my credit card company, where I may be able to talk to someone whom I may or may not be able to understand, and the Better Business Bureau, where I will fill out another electronic form and submit.

And I can use all the social media at my disposal — which means this blog, and you, my legionlet of followers — to denounce the shady business practices of the Faceless Flo Sports.

I would like to pause here one moment to mention two corporate companies who aren’t quite this inhuman and inhumane. When I took issue with WordPress’ new changes, I filed (submitted) a complaint — and got an e-mail reply from an actual human. And when I provided more details, as requested, I said I wasn’t expecting to hear from an actual person, that my complaints generally go straight into the ether — and got a reply to that: “We never really bought into the ethereal approach to supporting our customers, so you can expect responses from human beings here.”

And when I was having trouble with an “app” (I generally have trouble with all “app”s) that was supposed to let me watch an old show on Lynn’s FireTV, I sent a long, rambling blog post (essentially) mostly just to hear myself ramble — and got a reply that evening from the president of FilmRise. He turned me over the next day to a technician, who worked with me for several days before appearing to lose interest and no longer responding to my reports that the problem — watching the same commercial over and over, never getting back to the show — was continuing. But at least it was a response there for a minute.

Now I have to tackle a company called Grundfos, and while I have a positive report from WordPress (although they didn’t accede to my demands) and a semi-positive one from FilmRise, I am approaching it off the back of Flo Sports, up there on Sheldon Cooper’s enemies list along with Yahoo and Microsoft.

If you’ll recall from Monday, Lynn and I got nearly instant personal service from our neighbor who owns a plumbing company. Yesterday afternoon, earlier than expected, one of his guys (Mike, who lives on Irwin Street just like we used to) came to look at the pump that was identified as the problem.

It was so gratifying, I have to tell you, to have him say, “I’ve never had one of these pumps fail before.” Lynn and I feel so lucky to be the one house where nothing like that has ever happened before, and yet it continues to do so around here.

When he opened the pump, he found the problem (stay with me here): the base of the check valve was inside the impeller, in a place where it could never have made it without being put together incorrectly by the manufacturer.

I asked for a completely new pump, rather than replacing the now ground-up check valve, because who knows what else might be put together wrong, but now I would like the company to pay for at least the part, and preferably the labor.

I feel reasonably sure this would carry more weight coming from the plumber who installed our boiler, but since he is somewhere in the vast state of California, I doubt he cares. I have no faith in our contractor’s interest in the problem, either, so it’s up to me, fresh off my Flo Sports debacle, to see where in the corporate lay of the land Grundfos falls.

Submit, or submit. Wish me luck.

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