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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Castlewrite

Stop Stealing My Time!

“I spent at least 20 hours on calls and emails. Argued with at least 8 representatives, managers, store personnel, and filed multiple BBB complaints, before finally achieving a resolution.”

If you worked 4 hours and your company refused to pay you, wouldn’t that warrant some action? You would likely seek an attorney who would investigate the company's practices; possibly find others who have been cheated out of their wages, and it would potentially lead to a class action lawsuit. After all, there are numerous state and federal laws aimed at deterring employers from stealing your time.

So, why do we not have similar protections for consumers? Anyone who pays recurring bills - phone, electric, water, etc. - has at one time or another found an erroneous charge on their statement. It may have been arbitrary like an extra delivery fee or late charge even though the payment was made on time. These occur for a host of reasons - human error, miscommunication, technical glitches after a software update from the provider, etc.

As the consumer, you then have two options: Pay the fee or use your time. After all, if you discover the error, you must let the company know. So, you compose an email or wait on hold, explain the situation, and get the charges reversed. However, sometimes one call or email is not enough. You may have to do this multiple times, provide additional details, explain the situation to a manager, and so on.

Depending on the company, this may take up several hours of your life. This is time you could have spent working on a side project or a hobby. Perhaps you wanted to use it to be with your friends, family, or partner. If you have a traditional job or have taken the time to figure out how much you earn hourly, it is not difficult to compute the actual cost avoiding an erroneous $10 or $20 fee.

If the issue is resolved on your first call and you only had to navigate the automated menu. You may actually save money. However, if you have to follow up, you’re typically losing. Even if you work at Mcdonald's - which in many cities pays over $15/hr or $22.50/hr for overtime - it’s pretty clear that you’re going to pay for their error, regardless of what you choose to do.

The other common and far more costly occurrence is failure to deliver. I ran into this issue when switching to Verizon for my cellphone service. The cumulative discounts I was promised exceeded $1,500 - due to the number of lines and devices. I spent at least 20 hours on calls and emails. Argued with at least 8 representatives, managers, store reps, and filed multiple BBB (Better Business Bureau) complaints, before finally achieving a resolution.

For those of you still counting that is two and a half, full-time workdays! If you work at a company that offers PTO (paid time off), what is the value of 2.5 days? Yet, this was taken from me, just so that I could get what I was promised, nothing extra. You’re welcome #VerizonWireless!

Despite this initial horrendous experience, #T-Mobile was worse. I left them after almost 9 years of loyalty. Why? because I got tired of fighting them for all the benefits that I was “grandfathered” into. Over the last 7 years of being T-Mobile’s customer, I likely donated two to three weeks of PTO, for the honor of conversing with their staff.

According to TIME Business, in any given year, Americans spend an average of “13 hours on hold” with Customer Service. That does not include actually speaking with someone, explaining the issue, and negotiating the resolution.

In the end, these companies simply correct their error and move on. Why? It is their error that caused the problem in the first place. If, as they say, “Time is Money” why do companies get to take our hard-earned money, due to their own mistakes?

It just seems strange, that we will take our employers to court when they don’t pay us for a few hours. Yet, these companies which claim to value us and are profiting from our ongoing patronage, just walk all over us when it comes to fixing issues and delivering on promises. Why is one considered unethical while the other is accepted with no qualms?

Perhaps it is time to rethink our business relationships. Perhaps it is time to demand that we are compensated when a corporation takes time away from the things we care about. Maybe, if they were forced to pay for wasting the time of their clients, these companies would invest in better systems; improve training for their staff; and actually care about the speed at which they provide resolutions.

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