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Firms try public's patience
How does Corporate America thrive when it drives away customers?

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Date published: 5/19/2002

HEY, VERIZON: Your stock is
down 15 bucks compared to
a year ago. I know the communications industry is hugely competitive, but there is an economic recovery going on. How about you and me getting in on the good times?

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

Please, stop it.

Not only is your stock down, but you're annoying the heck out of everyone with those commercials. This hardly seems to be a business-savvy approach coming from the upper reaches of corporate America.

But it is just one example of what seems to be an alarming trend: Attract customers by irritating them. Constantly.

While Verizon may be a bother--not to mention a strain on my portfolio--its former Ma Bell really takes the cake.

Why would any company intentionally pursue a strategy that alienates its customers and its potential customer base?

AT&T long distance seemed very concerned when I discontinued its service recently. Their telemarketers called and called--usually at dinnertime--to plead with me to come back.

Such telemarketing calls all have one thing in common: They are annoying. But they are also as different as the people who are doing the calling. One caller was very concerned that AT&T had offended me in some way, and wanted to make it up to me with a sweetheart of a deal if I would just please come back.

Another caller seemed to be berating me, telling me that I should know better than to leave AT&T. I thought she was going to tell me
to come back to AT&T--or else.

There were numerous such calls. I must have taken four or five. My wife told me at least a couple of times that AT&T had called when I wasn't home.

Then I got direct mail from AT&T with a $40 check. If I cashed it, I would automatically be switched back to AT&T. The company was so very sorry to lose me that it was prepared to bribe me to come back--with a smorgasbord of discounted services and free minutes to boot.

Before all of this maybe there was a chance I would go back to AT&T in the future. That will never happen now.

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