Customer Service

“I’ll Have a Venti Skim Half-Cap Frappucino and a BA, Please. No Foam.”

Amazon wants you to win you back. In addition to a new Prime Music Streaming service and a deafening whisper campaign about the super secret mystery Kindle smartphone it might have up its sleeve, it is also launching Smile, a program that allows you to choose a charity the store will support. Thanks, guys! But wouldn’t it be easier to treat authors, publishers, and maybe even employees a little better?

Starbucks, another massive corporation that has gotten flak for taking over the world and putting the little guy out of business, is trying to drum up some goodwill of its own in a very unusual, but more direct, way: subsidizing undergraduate education.

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday. The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. …

Many employers offer tuition reimbursement. But those programs usually come with limitations like the full cost not being paid, new employees being excluded, requiring that workers stay for years afterward, or limiting reimbursement to work-related courses. Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

Investing in your employees as a business strategy happens to be good PR. Win-win-win. Is Bezos taking notes?

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The Cost of Accidentally Dropping Your Phone

My iPhone once survived a 10-foot drop off of a subway train platform. I was holding the phone in my right and trying to push it into my coat pocket before exiting the subway car. When it slipped out of my hand, I grasped for it, but only managed to grab onto my headphones and phone case.

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There’s Probably No Hope for Consumers Who Aren’t Filthy Rich

My recent interactions with my former bank have prompted me to think about the feedback loop between consumers and the companies that squeeze profit from serve them. We like to think that when companies do something stupid or abusive, market competition will allow us to express our ire by taking our hard-earned dollars somewhere else. But what happens when that just doesn’t work? (Spoiler: it mostly never works. We just get screwed and keep coming back for more.)

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Flight Delayed? Get That Money (Or 75% of It)

Henrik Zillmer has started a company to get you some money back from all those damn delayed flights. Or wait. Henrik Zillmer has started a company to get itself 25% of the money it gets you back. Capitalizing on our airline rage! Possibly brilliant. How it works: if your flight has been delayed for reasons other than weather or security, Airhelp will file a claim on your behalf and then take the airline to court if they reject the complaint. And they usually win. With 20,000 customers already, they’ve won millions of dollars in airline compensation.

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Dear Bank: I’m Breaking Up With You

Dear Marie:

It was with mixed emotions that I read your letter, in which you wrote that Liberty Bank values its relationship with me. I must confess to some serious misgivings concerning that relationship and the bank’s true feelings.

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The Problem With Being a ‘Regular’

The City Room’s Metropolitan Diary is one of my favorite things because it’s filled with very short posts of very normal occurrences (calling a restaurant to make a reservation for Feb. 14, for example).

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In-N-Out Burger Has Remained Popular and Profitable While Treating Employees Well

Orange Coast Magazine has a profile about Lynsi Snyder, the 31-year-old president of the much beloved In-N-Out Burger chain, and it’s filled with a bunch of interesting tidbits about the family that founded the company in the 1940s and how it has remained profitable and popular even as competitors like McDonald’s saw a sudden rise, and other beloved chains like Five Guys entered the market.

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Credit Reporting Agency Says Woman Is Deceased, Woman Says Hey I’m Alive

Kimberly Haman was applying for a new mortgage when her application was put on hold. The reason? Equifax, one of the U.S. consumer credit reporting agencies, thought she was dead.

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Man Tweets at Brand, Sees Results

Adrian Chen lost his laptop at the airport. Jetblue helped him find it.

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More Retailers Were Victims of a Data Breach. Have You Looked at Your Accounts Lately?

On Dec. 19, Target was a victim of a data breach that initially affected a reported 40 million payment card numbers, but was later said to have affected 70 million customers. Neiman Marcus was also a victim of a cyber attack. And a new report by Reuters says that there are other retailers that were affected by smaller breaches, but those stores have remained unnamed.

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Which Business Gets You to Swear on the Phone the Most?

An analysis of 1.2 million U.S. consumer calls from March 2012 to November 2013 by Marchex, a mobile advertising company, found that we are most likely to swear while on the phone with satellite TV providers, housing contractors, and cable providers. Here’s their full list:

1. Satellite TV providers – 1 in every 82 conversations 2. Housing contractors – 90 3. Cable providers – 123 4. Auto Repair – 144 5. Tow Truck – 159 6. Locksmith – 192 7. Storage – 214 8. Pest Control – 215 9. Heating & Cooling – 215 10. House Cleaning – 218 11. Lawn Care – 271 12. Carpet Cleaning – 275 13. Plumbing – 334 14. Home Buying – 411 15. Auto Dealers – 870 16. Flowers – 1,110 17. Property Management – 1,390 18. Hotels – 1,486 19. Senior Living – 1,742 20. Veterinary – 2,634

Our favorite swear word to say on the phone? The F-bomb, though sometimes we’re polite enough to wait until we’re on hold to let it out.

Photo: Frederic Bisson

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