Cable, Cellular, and Lawyers

It is amazing how certain industries seem to survive, regardless of the quality of service they deliver. As a consumer I am pretty easy going, but I do believe in accountability. Basically, I am just old-fashioned, deliver on your word and do what you promise. There are three industries though where this does not to be the case: cable television, cellular telephones, and law.

My experiences with cable and cellular companies began about 20 years ago. This is when I discovered the cable company could promise you an installation arrival time, but that was unrelated to the reality of when they might arrive. Throughout the last 25 years I have planned a day around “getting cable” and found myself at the mercy of the cable company regarding my time. If promised 9:00 am -noon, I have patiently waited and realized at 1:15p no one was coming. What do I do next? Leave? Call? And of course, once cable is installed if it fails or you need upgraded services one will be trapped in automated voice mail systems, in long lines at their offices, or without television.

Cellular telephones were supposed to make my life easier. I bought my first phone in 1988, a Panasonic Transportable, about the size of a dictionary and weighing a couple of pounds. The idea was I would not have to stop at a pay phone to call ahead, reschedule, or stay in touch with my family. As much as it was a novelty at that time, with my $1.50/minute charges, it was a business tool to serve the purpose of making phone calls. However, the phone dropped calls. Every two to three years for the last 20 years I have bought a new phone, always hoping that the latest model would not drop a call. But, the same problems continue today, dropped calls and lousy connections. I learned and never make critical calls on a cellular phone while moving. I have paid thousands of dollars to various companies, after considering all of the mergers, and yet the most basic service piece, making a call, has not been satisfactorily delivered.

Furthermore, the cellular companies have continued to miss the mark as buying a phone is not about telephone service, but cameras, MP3 players, and texting. I just want to make a call. At the same time each of us is personally robbed everyday we use our phone. We are forced to listen to voice mail system prompts that run up our charges. The next time you make a call to a cellular phone, pay attention to how long it takes to wait for the voice mail announcement to complete and leave a message. Or, call your voice mail to retrieve messages. Why can’t I skip the message? After years I know the routine and what to do. But, I am convinced this system is designed to collect a few minutes more from each of us, resulting in millions of profits for the cellular companies.

Attorneys are often the target of jokes and attacks. Most likely this stems from the perception of the lack of quality in the service they deliver. Unlike any other industry I know, this is a professional industry where a non-refundable payment is required before service is rendered. Regardless of the quality of service delivered, your non-refundable retainer has been captured. You have no mechanism to question the quality of service or the process that was used. I am convinced that attorney’s know they deliver the shoddiest services because of this payment process.

Are these rants? I don’t think so. Instead, I believe we are all entitled to a respectful relationship with the vendors and service providers whom we engage. However, when monopolies begin to exist, there is no competition, or there is no process for client satisfaction the quality of service degrades rapidly.