Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"The only way Wall Street will change is if executives face jail time"

Big business and big government all too often seem on the same team, sharing a common love for big payouts, first-class perks and generous expense accounts. But it's an election year, so  someone decided to show a little muscle. 
Click here to watch US Senator Elizabeth Warren take down the Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo in an epic confrontation. 
Wells Fargo staff have been accused of opening illegal accounts for their customers to boost their own bonuses for cross-selling multiple products to customers. Well's apparent cross-selling success made Wall Street investors suck up the stock - except that much of it was fuelled by deceit and greed.
So today she took after Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf in an attempt to hold him accountable for the misdeeds that took place on his watch.  She concluded that "You should resign... and you should be criminally investigated." 
Here are some highlights from her summation:
"Here's what really gets me about this, Mr. Stumpf. If one of your tellers took a handful of $20 bills out of the crash drawer, they'd probably be looking at criminal charges for theft. They could end up in prison.
"But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket.
"And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multi-multi-million-dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich.
"This is about accountability. You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. This just isn't right."
Warren concluded by saying, "The only way that Wall Street will change is if executives face jail time when they preside over massive frauds." 

Let's hope this public scourging drives change at Wells Fargo. And the rest of Wall Street.
New Management Welcome. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bell Canada crosses the line. Again.

There's no company in Canada considered more "blue chip" than Bell Canada. And now they've been caught cheating -- again.

Last year Bell employees were encouraged to flood major app distributors iTunes and Google Play with positive ratings for the company’s new mobile app, MyBell Mobile.
The federal Competition Bureau has fined Bell $1.25 million for encouraging its employees to post fake app reviews and ratings.
The reviews have since been deleted. The app now rates an aggregate score of 2.9 stars on the Google Play Store.
But the ill will remains. As one unhappy user writes on Google Play, "Mobility plan is too much, app sucks, don't believe in the 5 star reviews they are all fake and Bell got fined for them."
Bell has agreed to host a workshop that will “promote, discuss and enhance Canadians’ trust in the digital economy, including the integrity of online reviews.”
“I am pleased that Bell Canada demonstrated leadership to fully resolve the Competition Bureau’s concerns in this matter. Bell’s senior management acted quickly to remove the reviews of the apps that had been posted by its employees and has taken steps to prevent it from happening again,” said John Pecman, Canada’s Commissioner of Competition, in a statement issued to mobile industry news site Mobile Syrup. “I commend the shared compliance approach taken by Bell to resolve this matter, which will benefit both consumers and the digital marketplace.”
You can read the story here: http://mobilesyrup.com/2015/10/14/bell-fined-1-25-million-for-inflating-its-own-app-scores/
As Mobile Syrup points out, earlier this year Canada’s Privacy Commissioner issued a scathing report on Bell's Relevant Advertising activities, through which the company sells data on its customers' media usage to third parties. Bell quickly agreed to terminate the program.
Let's Talk, Bell. New Management Wanted.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why is Expedia lying to me?

For an upcoming trip to Florida, I booked a rental car several weeks ago. Using carrental.com, an ugly but useful site owned by travel giant Expedia, I have been keeping tabs on changing rental rates during the week I’ll be away. The trend has been truly remarkable.

In the past four weeks, prices have been falling steadily. Today you can rent a car (from a second-tier, off-airport brand such as Payless or Fox) for just $6 a day during the week I will be away. I have never seen prices this low.

Even the big brands are part of this sell-off. Alamo is offering cars for $10 a day, and Thrifty for $14 a day.

And yet… CarRentals.com/Expedia continues to lie to me. An urgent looking notice at the top of the results page declares: “We are experiencing high demand at Tampa International Airport - Florida (TPA) in May. Book today to secure your car.”

Obviously, this notice is a generic closing device rather than a legitimate warning. But why would a company sacrifice its credibility like this? Does it have data showing that these warnings are so effective at compelling visitors to complete deals right now that it justifies making false statements?

Customers who use aggregator sites such as CarRentals.com are sophisticated consumers. They know that rental prices vary greatly, by brand, by location, and by day. Plus, booking a rental car costs the consumer nothing, so they may keep checking the site and making new reservations without cancelling their old ones. I just don't see any advantage in trying to scare/intimidate customers into buying now by giving them false information. 

I see only the downside: making people even more skeptical, more wary, of small-minded businesses lying to them for self-serving reasons. Distrust costs companies and consumers billions of dollars a year – in longer sales-closing times, generous discounts, warranties and return policies, customer churn, etc. Studies show that trusted brands are more profitable than non-trustworthy brands.

So why would a smart business like Expedia feed this distrust?

New management welcome.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"One Job" - The world's funniest foulups

Discovered a funny site the other day called “You Had One Job." It's a series of photos depicting ridiculous  unintentional screw-ups, by individuals and corporations.  Most of them are hilarious, but some will make you sad and wonder, "How did this happen?" 
In the end, though, management is always culpable. Organizations - whether business or governments - must put  systems and incentives to protect the public against things that go wrong.
Some samples below. More at: http://memebase.cheezburger.com/tag/you-had-one-job

What Do You Even Need the Gloves For?

you had one job34 580x425 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job35 580x435 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job36 580x773 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job16 580x435 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job37 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

Now for Sharing!

you had one job38 580x762 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job20 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job3 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job7 580x435 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job15 580x776 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job23 580x776 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job33 580x775 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job45 580x435 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job47 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job43 580x435 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

you had one job31 580x326 Best Of You Had One Job (52 Pics)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dumbest email ever?

Some 1,300 employees at a British company received an email Friday saying they'd been sacked.

The memo certainly sounded official. The workers at Aviva, Britain's second-largest insurance company, were told they had been fired and that company property must be returned. The mail went on to say: "I am required to remind you of your contractual obligations to the company you are leaving. You have an obligation to retain any confidential information pertaining to Aviva Investors operations, systems and clients."

According to the Huffington Post, the email was actually only intended for one person. "One really, really unfortunate person."

As an Aviva spokesman explained, "It was intended that this e-mail should have gone to one single person. Unfortunately, as a result of a clerical error, it was sent to all of the Investors staff worldwide.”

The company sent a second mass email, described as "grovelling" by one media outlet, apologizing for the mistake. "Workers who remain employed will no doubt derive comfort from knowing if they ever face the chop it will be done by email."

How many ways is this thing all wrong?

New management welcome.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sears: Where Customer Service is for Cardholders (long, boring post)

You won't see me at Sears Canada again. I can't believe their rudeness.

I bought an electronics item from Sears online for my wife for Christmas. Two weeks after Christmas, with the product unopened, my wife decided she didn't really want that model. So a few days later I called Sears customer service to inquire how to return it -- only to find that I had missed the return deadline.

I was told I had only 15 days to return electronics. When I pointed out that that date would have come before Christmas, the voice on the end of the phone looked into it and admitted that yes, since it's an Xmas present I had till 15 days after Christmas. But that would have been Jan. 9, she said, which meant I had still missed it by five days. So, no return.

I didn't have time to pursue that conversation, so I took it up again the other day. Called customer service and told them I need to discuss a return-deadline extension. The operator who answered said she would pass me on to Customer Service, like it was a big deal. They answered the phone, I started explaining, then I realized I was talking to dead air. I had been cut off.

Called back. This time the agent who answered the phone wanted to get all my details before passing me to Customer Service. So I gave him my ID and phone number, the details of the transaction, and confirmed that I had already been told the deadline has passed. I told him that I found the deadline oppressive, and that as a longtime Sears customer I was politely asking for an extension. He took down all the details and said he would pass them on to Customer Service while I stayed on Hold.

The agent got back to me a minute or two later to inform me that Customer Service had said I had missed the deadline.

I replied, quite patiently I think, that I already knew that, and that I wanted to discuss an extension with someone empowered to do so. I also mentioned that since Sears accepts returns of items bought with its own credit card for up to 90 days, I knew that my deadline was an arbitrary choice, not a company-wide policy - and that I didn't like being treated like a second-class citizen.

He promised to connect me with the next available Customer Service supervisor. Again I waited on hold. Then I got the beep-beep-beep saying I had been cut off. Again.

So I called back, explained my problem to another telemarketer, and she promised to connect me to Customer Service. After taking my name and phone number. Soon after, a supervisor came on. I mentioned that I had been hung up on twice and hoped it wouldn't happen again. She said, coldly, "How can I help you?"

Not a good sign, I thought.

I went through the story again. As a longtime customer, I was asking Sears for a favor. She said I should have known the policy. I said the tight deadlines were not obvious on the website when I bought from them. She said I missed the deadline. When I persisted, she asked me for my name and phone number. She looked up my record and then said, as if this was something new, there was nothing she could do.

I said, one more time, I wanted to have a conversation as to why I thought I merited an exemption. She very brusquely made clear she had no interest in such a the discussion and said there would be no return.

So I asked for the name of her supervisor. She said there was no one else to talk to. She would give me her name, which was Tanya. But Tanya, it seems, is a dead end.

I said that I was surprised that a customer service supervisor would have so little empathy for a customer calling with a problem. Especially someone who had equipped two laundry rooms with Kenmore appliances, and had already been cut off twice. She told me she wasn't responsible for other people cutting me off. And, one more time, I had missed the deadline and there would be no return.

Ouch. Watch your back when shopping at Sears (see my note  on their mutilayered return policy, below).

Thank you, Tanya, for your interest and concern. I won't darken Sears' doors or website again. And I hope you get some customer-service training soon.
Once, you could count on department stores for the best price. Then, as the deep discounters emerged, it was service. Now I don't know what Sears is. But it doesn't really matter any more.

Returns Policy from Sears.ca (you have to click through two screens to get to this policy, so it's not exactly front and centre):
Our goal is that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. If for any reason you are not satisfied, simply return your purchase with your receipt for an exchange or refund within 90 days when purchased on your Sears Card, Sears MasterCard, Sears Voyage MasterCard or Sears Gift Card.

Items purchased with any other method may be exchanged or refunded within 30 days.
You have to read down for another 400 words (a full screen or more) to find that electronics has a different deadline.

Computers, Electronics, Electronic Games, Electronic Consoles and Health/home care products Exchange or refund within 15 days
Within 15 days of purchase, items may be returned providing that they are in new and unused condition, with all original packaging, accessories, instructions, etc. A restocking fee of 20% will be charged on returned product.

Sears. Where customer service is reserved for cardholders.
New Management Welcome.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"The Orchestrated Indignities of Air Travel"

From a 2010 blogpost on TechCrunch, here's Michael Arrington dissing on his unfortunate experiences flying with Delta Airlines from Seattle to JFK and back. No one does outrage better than Arrington.

Here are some of the highlights:

*  "Flying from one place to another, unless you are doing it from a small airport on a private jet, is just going from bad to intolerable."

* "What's really making flying just terrible are all the people that work for the airlines. My expectations are pretty low after flying mostly with United Airlines for the last decade. And even so, Delta managed to, somehow, make United actually look good."

* Boarding the flight to JFK, gate attendants told Arrington his carry-on bag was too big to take on board. "My bag has been carried on to countless flights without, as far as I know, endangering the plane or any other passengers," he writes.

* Gate staff demurred when they found out he was travelling first class. (Arrington's 6'4" and needs the leg room.) Still, he notes, "if that bag was a danger, it certainly wasn’t less of a danger just because I was in first class."

* "What really got me was just how gleeful the two gate employees were about the whole thing. I could tell that they lived for moments like this."

* Flying back home, Arrington decided to check his roller bag, "because they’d put the fear of God into me on that flight out." The airline lost the bag.
* First the plane waited 2 hours on the runway. Arrington admits that was the airport's fault, but denounces Delta's laxness: "The obligatory hateful flight attendants ... seemed pretty happy that they hadn’t stocked enough food on the flight."
* On landing, most of the first-class passengers found their bags had never been put on the plane.
* Arrington points out that Delta probably knew about this before the plane landed. "You’d think that they’d maybe let us know about it. Instead, they let us all wait 30 minutes for the bags to start coming out, and another 20 minutes until they were all gone."

* Now Delta's customer service ethic - or lack of same - rose to the fore. "They would not deliver my bag to my home. I could choose to come back to the airport over the weekend. Or they’d be happy to fedex it to me for delivery on Tuesday. Can I have a receipt? No, our printer is broken."

* "The guy next to me needed his tuxedo, he said. No luck. Another guy, traveling from India, said he had medication in his bag that he needed immediately. That put a smile on the baggage counter woman’s face as she told him to go find a doctor over the weekend and get new prescriptions."

What's the bottom line here? Accidents happen. Things go wrong. We can take it. What really matters is the attitude of the people we are forced to deal with in such situations.

"I can live with no leg room, no food, dirty bathrooms and long delays. I can even live with lost bags," writes Arrington.

"If only a flight attendant, or baggage person, or whoever, would just commiserate with me for one moment. Maybe smile and say they’ll try their best to help. But until all that bad energy is gone, and the airlines have employees that don’t stare daggers at their customers, I’m out."

Thus endeth the lesson. Systems may screw up, but the right people can save the day.

And companies that don't get this will be on the losing end of history.