Thursday, September 18, 2008

Do they really think we are stupid?

Two customer care rants!

Rant Number One This evening I had a phone call from BT and the young lady’s opening remarks were;

“Hello Mr Gay - As you are a loyal customer of BT we want to GIVE you, free of charge, a satellite TV Box worth £200!”

Of course I didn’t believe her for one nanosecond but I played along a while until she said that it was conditional on me signing up for a 12 month contract at £14 per month.

Rant Number Two - Then there are these stupid offers of flying to some destination for £1. When you make enquiries it turns out the ticket to get on the plane is indeed £1 but airport taxes mean you pay well over £100 for the journey!

Conclusion - I can only assume the people who train these sales people must believe that all of us ‘out here’ in the big wide world are so thick that we will believe such crap.

On a serious note I often think to myself these sales people and/or their companies should be prosecuted for lying.

I don't think this is clever, smart, innovative sales management - Frankly I think it stinks.


  • A free TV Box is either free or not free
  • A £1 air ticket is either £1 or it is not £1


1 How can companies be allowed to lie legally?

2 How, morally, can they sleep at night?

3 Where is the ethical behaviour in this?

4 What does this tell us about the leadership in companies that do this sort of thing?


Mike Gardner said...

They wouldn't keep doing it if it didn't work. What does that say about the general population of customers? P.T. Barnum famously stated that "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." (But I'm certain this is not true in Britain!) ;-)

Trevor Gay said...

Good point Mike - it must be worth their while financially to pay people to tell lies to customers I guess. But is it worth their while in reputation and credibility?

Whilst it may say something about customers I think it says a lot more about the people running companies

‘Lying is perfectly ok in my company’

That is not a mission statement I would be proud of if I was in charge.

But then .. What do I know?

Anonymous said...

Something always makes me wonder the same thing on daily basis! Whether it's the Pontiac G3 or a weight loss pill; yes, they think we are very stupid.

Anonymous said...

I guess it must be election year politics fatique but as I read your four questions I saw an immediate correalation between the sales folks and our elected federal, state and local officials. The similarities are remarkable. Both get by with it because folks don't take the time to research and learn about what they're "buying" and there is really no accountability for moral or ethical behavior. Truth in advertising? Hardly! Buyer and Voter Beware!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Joefish and welcome to Simplicity Blog – I hope you visit again. Glad to know Im not the only one who thinks this sort of behaviour and ethics border on the criminal.

Dave – I hadn’t made the connection with politics but you are right. If a politician could answer those 4 questions to my satisfaction he/she would get my vote!

Joel D Canfield said...

At the risk of repeating myself, this is changing. Slowly, much too slowly for my taste, but it's happening.

And I'm not even sure it's because consumers are developing greater self-respect, although I hope that's a factor. This is a game whose tactics aren't secret any more. As folks realize that it's going to cost £100 to fly with the airline that acts as if they're stupid, or it costs £100 to fly with the airline which gives a fair service at a fair price, eventually there'll be a shift.

I, too, am really hoping this 'honesty' thing catches on in business.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Joel - There is something really sad when we hope for honesty in business don't you think?

J.KANNAN said...

Dear Mr. Trevor,

I was away on biz tour and returned couple of days back and was laid up with world’s fastest sickness (Pl ask Sriram about it and He will tell you). I miss a lot when I miss to read “Simplicity”

According to me , its we who behave like “Stupid” and make ourselves “Stupid” and thereby giving room for others think we are “Stupid”.

To your rant No.1 my impression is , Ladies, (I refer in marketing and sales only) by and large open their mouth with attraction and tempting words to trap men and make gains and attempt to prove their ability with their embedded inability. The lady has offered a TV Box and not a TV set- I could understand a TV Box mean a box that is used to pack a TV set, so literally the offer from the lady was a TV box and not a TV set and this lady really did try to make a stupid of you undoubtedly.

To your rant No.2, yes this is yet another easy trap being laid by many local airlines, travel agents and associates. In our country (India) even offers comes @ Re.1/- for destinations and if one opts to avail this at the end will land up in paying substantially huge sums. It is really yet another stupidity. The charges like SC/FSC/AFSC/AP TAX SERTAX etc etc (there are numerous abbreviations at the disposal of airlines to hide to lure the customers and display and revealed only at the end to trap the customers. A most shameful and derogative attitude, conduct and behaviour followed by some companies, airline operators. Agents and Traders.

Just a few days back I happened to read and advertisement appeared in a leading English daily captioned “BUY ONE MOBILE &TAKE TWO MOBILES FREE”.
Well I don’t know what will be inside the mobile phone, may be crap crapped with crappings.

According to me these kinds of sales tactics will work with “mass” and not “class” and many of you are aware that majority of such tempting sales offers attracts “mass” and not “class” which the promoters of such sales tactics are aware of and they feel protected with their unethical and illegal practice and conduct.

And people who train such idiotic sales forces are craps of the highest order with stinks and offensive odor all over them including the mind and the heart and they just don’t care about it- Therefore let’s be careful and attentive.

There is a good old saying in my mother tongue (Tamil) and I shall translate the same in English for the benefit of “Simplicity” readers.

“A Careless man’s money by luring is taken away by a Shameless man.”

Mind my dear friends, if you do not take care of your hard earned money, there are shameless people around in the form of sales guys to take it away from you.

My answers to your 4? S are follows:-

1 Companies/Firms/Organizations governed by statutory provisions and government laws of the respective countries, by and large does not indulge themselves into such stinking and unethical practices. To totally eliminate such acts provide for heavy penalties in laws, upon genuine complaints with evidence.

2. They don’t consider “morality “at the end of the day but reality in the money- and this cane be described only as “fault of the breed” and goes to a deep slumber with peace and without any difficulties.

3. it’s only most unethical, unclean and dirtiest of behaviour without any ethics whatsoever at all

4. There is no “leadership” at all involved in such companies but only “Bleeder ship”-Sorry state of affairs is the only consolation.


Trevor Gay said...

JK- sorry to hear you were not well – I trust you are feeling better now

Beware the man with the silver tongue is an old English saying and these sales people have silver tongues!

I love your Tamil saying; “A Careless man’s money by luring is taken away by a Shameless man.”

The thirst for money is like anew religion it seems JK and I am so pleased with out responses to the 4 questions – you and I think alike in many things.

David Wike said...

Not sure what is your problem with these sales pitches Trevor. From what you have said the set-top box is free – the company is giving you something for nothing as a reward for taking out a contract with them.

Equally, the airline is selling you a seat on the plane for £1. It is not the airline that levies the taxes. Having said that, it would be reasonable to regards taxes as a normal operating cost that should be included in the ticket price just as one would expect VAT to be included in the price of retail goods. I seem to recall that legislation is coming into force that will require airlines to show the actual cost to the customer.

I think that one has to be very careful about being too critical of companies pushing the boundaries to make a sale as long as what they do is legal. Companies have a duty to make a profit. If it is a public company they have a duty to shareholders, a good few of which will be pension funds. The world of sales is very cut and thrust. It is the responsibility of the sales department to sell. If they fail to do that the company will fail and people will lose their jobs.

I have a simple way of dealing with cold calling. I decline to speak to them. Likewise junk mail goes straight in the bin. We are all free to make choices as to whether we pay attention to this type of advertising. Equally, we are all free to decide whether we take up the offers of free set-top boxes or £1 airfares.

Changing subjects, I’m a bit worried about Manchester United being on the edge of the relegation zone. Having said that, I think that you may have enough talent to avoid the drop this year.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David – lets deal with the important stuff first. Manchester United as you know always like to give the other teams a start at the beginning of each season just so that the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea can have their 15 minutes of fame. Let us review United’s position in the Premier League table in May 2009 at the end of the season and not in September. Sorry to remind you again it is now 19 years since Liverpool managed to win the top league. Many young Liverpool fans don’t even know what it feels like to be winners over a whole season in the most difficult league in the world. In those 18 years of course United have won the league 10 or 11 times. I can never quite remember because we United fans became a bit blasé because we win things so often. I am sure if the Liverpool team continues to improve there might just be a chance your great Grandchildren - when they are adults - may see Liverpool as champions again.

As regards the junk mail/cold calls debate I agree there should always be freedom of speech – more of it in my opinion and soap boxes are great – I am all for that. What I have a problem with is lies. If you owned ‘David Wike Fish and Chip Shop’ would you advertise Fish and Chips at 10p and then when the customers came in to your shop you charged £5 because they had salt and vinegar on the chips?

There are clever marketing techniques and there are lies - we can pontificate about what is a lie and what is the truth but most people with an IQ above freezing point recognise when they are being conned by smart (not) sales people.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

In the States we have devices that identify the phone number of the caller. (I assume those are available everywhere.) Any call that comes in to my home as "private" or "unknown number" - or even as a toll free number - I simply don't answer. Usually I don't even answer a local number if I don't recognize it, but I'm a bit of a misanthrope anyway. :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John – we have the same devices here and, like you, we often ignore numbers we don’t recognise.

David is quite right - we all have the ability to ignore calls or to ignore junk mail or cheap offers for air flight and I take that line of action 99% of the time.

My point is that ‘lying’ is not something to be proud of in any business and despite how people in sales teams like to dress this stuff up in flowery language …. to me it is ‘lying’ plain and simple I’m afraid to say.

Anonymous said...

I'm with David: they're not lieing if the box is free, even if it's conditionally so.

More to the point: why let yourself get so wound up about it? Why even waste your time playing along with the salespeople? If you don't want a set top box or a cheap flight, just say "Thanks for the call but I'm sorted." Life's too short.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark – it’s good that we have differing opinions about things because from difference comes discussion. I never expect everyone to agree with me.

I’m pretty sure you and David are ‘technically’ correct. In law it’s not ‘lying’ - but it is definitely a blatant ‘con’ and I don’t like cons. I passionately believe also that this is not an ethical or moral way to run any business. But I accept that you and David believe it is acceptable ethically and morally and the three of us will disagree forever about that.

I liken it to giving mortgages freely and easily to people who blatantly and obviously can’t afford repayments and then blaming the person for the fact they can’t afford the repayments. But we all know things like that could never happen in our enlightened world with such high standard of ethics and morality and regulation in the financial institutions …. don’t we?

I never apologise for getting ‘wound up’ about attempts to con people. If more people did get wound up perhaps we wouldn’t see so much conning going on. Whilst we just sit back and accept it … as if it is ok… then morals and ethics in business will continue to go South in a big way.

Life is indeed short and that is why I am enjoying the wonderful late summer sun we are seeing today in Shakespeare’s County.

‘Chewing the cud’ with my fellow Bloggers is always good for my blood pressure!

Cheers Mark and thanks again.

David Wike said...

Actually I think that you are completely wrong Trevor. There is no lie, technical, moral or however you want to express it. The set top box IS free. And in fact I am about to take advantage of such a deal.

Where I would agree with you is that the way the offer is presented in a less than completely up-front way. I doubt that I would run a company that way but that is a different issue.

Having said that I never get into a sales conversation on the phone. If people want to send me information so that I can study it at my leisure, that’s fine. But I do not enter into discussion with cold callers.

Trevor Gay said...

‘Actually I think that you are completely wrong Trevor’

Hi David – the deal I was offered is NOT a free box however hard you, BT or Mark try to tell me it is free. Maybe yours is a different offer from BT but this is how mine was offered:

They offered me the box ON CONDITION that I signed up for a contract - minimum of 12 months at £14 per month. According to my maths that is a cost to me of £168. That does NOT equate to a free box in my book.

A free box would be a box that gives me free access to TV channels. Sorry David - until then the box would cost me £168.

It is a con – it is not clever sales or marketing.

We normally ignore cold callers too. We find they have a particularly annoying habit of ringing around evening mealtimes – that’s how clever sales people are (not).

Anonymous said...

Trevor - you say, "it's a con... then the box would cost me £168." In that case, they simply got the offer the wrong way round because it now appears that the 12 month subscription is free. Either way, you're getting 2 things and only being charged for one.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark – this is great fun! The box would have only given me the channels I already get with a Freeview Box we already have in the house. The Freeview Box cost us about £20. God only knows why their box is ‘worth’ 10 times the Freeview Box – remember they said their box was ‘worth’ £200!

I have no idea how much the annual subscription is normally. All I know is that they are – to be kind - being ‘creative’ with their use of words. This is neither clever nor smart.

I don’t see it in any way as getting 2 things for the price of 1

All I see is them trying to sell me something - with no incentive whatsoever for me as the customer to take them up on their ‘offer.’ Quite the opposite happened in fact - I was put off the whole idea by them using the word ‘free’ because I can’t see how it is free.

I am great fan of BT – I have BT Broadband and my landline is still with BT and they always provide good service. We had a bad experience with Freeserve (before it was taken over by Orange) which resulted in us switching to BT. This is the first time I have had occasion to criticise BT. I am just disappointed they have sunk to the low levels of lesser organisations - cold calls with promises of jam tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Trevor, come the day someone can become partially pregnant then the free yet conditional offers would be legit. You are or you aren't. It's free or it's not.

I recall my days on the phone as a customer care rep for a major wireless carrier. Some of the worst calls would be those from folks who thought that the "free" Petey Pablo ringtone they got by texting a short code to a specific number was actually free. These were "offers" from third party vendors and what wasn't made clear in the nano second the "fine print" was visible in the television commercial was the 8.99 per month subcription fee for their service. Customers demanded refunds and cancellations yet I could do neither, I could just refer them to the company they got the ringtone from. Most wireless companies took action to make these companies provide us the means of cancelling and refunding some charges as a condition of continuing to do business with us.

Free is free. Conditionally free? Partially pregnant? Happily married?...(done for the benefit of the wife who is looking over my shoulder)...some words just should not collide in the same sentence!

David Wike said...

Yes, why do they always call around mealtime? It provides a perfect excuse for not talking to them or letting the answer phone deal with the call. Mind you, some friends do the same thing. Maybe we just eat at the wrong times!

I had some work done on my trees last week. The tree guy said that he gets people calling him at 11:30 at night to ask him about doing work for them. Why don’t people use common sense or consideration?

Oh, and I hate to mention that box again, but it isn’t a BT offer that we are considering.

Trevor Gay said...

Dave – brilliant example of a first hand example where you had to clear up the mess because companies confused the customer because they were not told the full story. That is my whole pout about ethics and morality. Thanks for sharing that with us. I’m sure you dealt with the customers in a sympathetic way. I love the ‘half pregnant’ expression by the way - I first heard that term when a Minister was talking about how there is no such thing as a ‘half Christian.’
David – you raise a great point about using common sense when ringing people at crazy times. Of course lifestyles are much different nowadays I guess what with longer working hours etc. I remember when I was a kid my Mom and Dad (mainly Dad actually) insisted on meal times being at the same time every day. It was compulsory to sit down – as a family of five – at those times – there was no flexibility. There is no way Dad would have allowed that time to be interrupted by anyone or anything. Those days are gone and it seems to me many families have ‘separate’ sittings in separate rooms for the kids and the parents!

I think we can put the ‘TV Box discussion’ to bed now – it has been a good debate. I hope your non BT box works for you – we will stick to Sky and the Freeview box in our daughter’s bedroom!

Next time I get a call from BT I’ll recommend you and Mark as potential sales staff for them in your spare time… just joking – you both have plenty of money and don’t need the extra work.