Customer Service

My wife Kathy went to a new restaurant/bar last night called Dewey's American Grill. Dewey's is two miles down the road on Centennial Avenue in Colorado Springs. It's a new place in an old location, a poor location that seems doomed to failure. This place will certainly fail if Kathy's experience is anything but a sad aberration.

Kathy called ahead and placed an order to pick up on her way home from work. When she arrived 20 minutes later, about the same time the order was promised, Kathy discovered her order hadn't even been placed yet. Her order was finally ready a half hour later, with no apology. Meanwhile, while she sat at the bar in nursing scrubs, tired and hungry, the bartender ignored her, not even offering a drink. After receiving her food, Kathy complained about the service to unsympathetic ears.

The food wasn't very good, either. May you go out of business quickly, Dewey's. The beauty of the free market is that my wish will probably come true, unless management at this so-far-miserable establishment wises up. I don't intend on returning, and I intend on relating my experience to as many would-be Dewey's customers as possible.

Today my wife attempted to contact our local government taxation office about real estate taxes we overpaid. She could not get a live person on the phone. Instead, she got a recording that said, "We can not handle anything over the phone." The message was delivered with snide and arrogant attitude. The recorded dominatrix ordered my wife to fax in a request, and even told her to word it in a submissive way. Of course we'll receive no receipt of the request, and we'll have to hope they decide to honor the request in a timely fashion.

It's not the first abuse in recent times doled out to me by my local government. Last year I had a frustrating couple of months dealing with the state of Colorado . I had received a threatening letter from a company only identified as 'Drive Insured.' This open threat said my automotive registration would be canceled if I didn't do exactly what they required: submit proof of insurance. No reason was included, but I later heard the reason was that Colorado 's computer system lost a bunch of data.

The threatening letter directed me to a private web site, This web site has no official government markings, but claims that the state had authorized them to gather this information. Before I did anything, I spent several frustrating hours to determine the veracity of the demand. God knows you don't want to send private information just anywhere based on someone's questionable demand for that information.

I sent my proof, then checked up to make sure the state of Colorado had received it. They hadn't. Apparently their system still has some holes. This went on for a few attempts. Submit request, wait, verify its receipt or lack thereof. Repeat. Along the way, I attempted a few phone calls, wasting several hours on hold. I got through to a live, snide, and unhelpful state employee after a number of failed attempts. After several weeks and probably a full day's worth of billable time destroyed by my state government, my acquiescence to their demands succeeded.

Had I not followed up with diligence above and beyond what Joe Blow would do, my automotive insurance likely would have been canceled, even though I thought I did everything I was supposed to. I'm sure other poor souls went through even worse. I did send a pointed complaint (by letter; there's no way to get these people on the phone anymore) to the state government. As expected, I never heard back from anyone.

Poor service abounds, but I'm usually pleased at the way the marketplace handles it. Businesses that abuse their customers usually don't last long. Businesses that treat their customers with respect thrive.

But with government, you have no choice, and there are no repercussions for bad customer service. You're forced to deal with them, particularly if they've stolen more than their legal quota or if they want to steal more from you. Almost universally my experience as a customer of the government has been negative. I don't bring it on, either; I always attempt to treat people with respect until they show me they don't deserve it.

Civil servants have forgotten that half of their job title suggests they treat you with some level of subservience, and the other half suggests they be polite when they do it. That subservience has been replaced with condescension. How dare you bother us with your petty needs, your whining, your complaints about unfairness, your expectation for basic human respect? Deal with our bureaucracy, our ivory tower attitude, our power, and we don't give a hoot whether or not you like it. We are the government. You, the customer, are always wrong.

It's bad enough that government has grown and sucked up more of my money while the economy has shrunk and my wages decreased. (Do these people ever get pay cuts, like those that we in the real world have undergone? Do they ever get laid off?) It only adds insult to injury when those behind the gilded curtain abuse those they manipulate.

We need to put government out of business. Customer service has long gone by the wayside. You are not being served by government. You are a human battery in the matrix of society; you exist only to serve the demands of others in power. It's time to wake up.

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Jeff Langr's picture
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Jeff Langr is the owner of a software consulting and training firm, Langr Software Solutions.  He is the author of two books on Java programming and over a dozen published software development articles.  Langr resides in Colorado Springs with his wife Kathy and three children.