Mar 2, 2009

Fallout from the economic crisis: Consumers spending more time fighting companies?

The last two weeks have made me very concerned that as the economy worsens, I'm going to have to spend more and more time fighting companies for no good reason.

The first incident that causes me concern is the amount of time I've had to spend getting Amazon to fix a billing problem. They screwed up and didn't apply my gift certificate balance to an order, and as result, I've had to send four emails and make one phone call, not to mention endure a lot of frustration.

I've had hundreds of uneventful orders with Amazon. I've even contacted them in the past and gotten relatively prompt responses with satisfactory resolutions. I'm quite disturbed at the fact that they're not responding to emails, and that even after I called and spoke to a person who directly contacted the Gift Certificates department while I was on the phone to ensure that my situation was rectified, I still didn't get an email telling me that things would be taken care of until the 48 hour deadline they had imposed upon themselves had passed. Even worse is the fact that after initially fixing the problem, they made things worse by reversing the correction, but incompletely and in a way that left me $7.14 short of where I had started. I'm afraid that this is a sign of things to come and that the headaches of shopping with Amazon aren't going to be worth the convenience or savings.

The second incident that worries me is a letter I got from my health insurance company, denying a test that was performed last May. The letter doesn't indicate why it took them so long to deny the claim, and now I have to spend time and energy filing an appeal, which may or may not be granted, for a medical test that my doctor obviously felt was necessary.

A friend who works for a doctor in his billing office has been telling me for a few weeks now that insurance companies seem to be automatically denying claims in the hope of saving money. She says their reasons for denying claims include "the information wasn't properly lined up in the box on the form." She assumes that the insurance companies are hoping most patients don't appeal, and that claims will be processed if they are appealed - but for some reason that's not making me feel better, given that my test was done back in May.

These incidents make me worry that I'm going to have spend my future time making sure my family gets the money it is due and keeps the money it already has – rather than being able to spend my time saving money by spending less and making money via this blog and other ventures. I really hope this isn't a sign of things to come – but I must admit, I'm not very optimistic.


Anonymous said...

If companies are downsizing and trying to save $ it stands to reason some will compromise quality.

Re: denied claims, many if not all states, have resolution procedures that are time specific. If you appeal your health insurance carrier must respond to you within 30 days, etc.

Read your contracts and contact your state dept. of insurance if necessary.

Insurance companies may find they need to hire extra staff to deal w/appeals in a timely matter thus erasing their initial cost savings.

Camille said...

I've started experiencing the same issues with various companies and I, too, am afraid it is a sign of things to come. I agree with AJ that as companies downsize, the customer service will just get worse.

I've been fighting my insurance as well and it is taking forever to get them to reimburse us for an out of pocket expense that was covered. I agree -- the forms are a headache and time consuming.

Anonymous said...


You bring up a very good point. While I've not personally experienced a lower level of service, many of my friends have. As companies lay off people and institue hiring freezes the same amount of work needs to be done with fewer employees. Ouch!

Michele P. said...

It really does stink that you have to deal with all that, but I agree that it is a sign of things to come. Employees having to do more are stressed-I know we are at fuel assistance as the applications went thru the roof this year AND they increased the income guidelines as well. I also had a hard time this weekend at Kmart-it was the end of the double coupons and the machine was refusing some of them which were valid and within limits, rather than give me the right amount of credit, they gave me only single coupons, which I had to get refunded at the service desk and they forgot a bag of my items as well. Service is not like it used to be, and in a time where companies should be fighting for our dollars to keep their businesses afloat, it just isn't happening in some instances. Let's hope that it does get better-but right now, I am not too optimistic.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's related, but I and many others have had trouble all last month with Walgreens online rebate program, with items being denied that were purchased and submitted correctly. I wonder if they are hoping people won't persue it in the hopes of saving the company money. I had $7 in rebates denied but I'm writing to them in hopes that I'll be able to get the rest of the rebate that is due to me. I know companies are trying to save money, but poor customer service is more likely to lead to lower consumer satisfaction and lower sales.

Chief Family Officer said...

@AJ - Thanks for the excellent advice.

@CJ - Interesting, I've seen the same thing but mine seems to have gone through okay. I'm willing to chalk that up to a computer glitch if MOST people get their rebates okay.