The bloke behind the counter couldn’t be nicer. He’s relaxed, smiling, honest, chatty and helpful. You can’t ask for much more from anybody working in a shop, but things are not going as well as they might.
I’m on a mission to buy a smartphone. The time has come. If I lived in my native London I’d have had one years ago, but up until now, living at the end of Europe’s western road, I’ve got away with using a Nokia dinosaur that’s held together with Sellotape.
These days my work demands I have online access away from my home office and although it’s embarrassing to admit it, there’s a marketing element at work here too. Over the last few months I’ve watched a succession of my clients’ eyebrows rise when they espy my ancient mobile. I take my work very seriously indeed, but if to them it looks in any way like I don’t, then that’s not good enough.
So I did a pile of research and pretty quickly came to the conclusion that all the deals are much of a muchness. Ooh mumma, what a surprise. Each network provider gives with one hand and takes with the other. Fine, then what I’ll do is stick with Meteor, because they haven’t given me any reason to leave them, and stay with Apple, because I’ve been using them since the Mac ’84.
What joy it then was to find out that Eircom own Meteor and because I’m an Eircom customer through my landline, I get several hundred squids of the price of a spanky iPhone 5. Great, this is all going well and I can keep my number, and himself behind the counter talks me through the jungle of plans and contracts until we find something that sounds just right.
Well it sounds just right right now, but gordknows what it’ll look like in two years time.
Now he needs to debit a euro off my credit card and run it through a check just so that they know I’m not a gangster. I tell him that my credit card's already cleared with them, for topping up from my phone.
“Sorry!” says he, “We still have to do it. Can you come back in an hour?”
“Hmm, well, no, not really. No bother, go ahead and do it, and I’ll come back in another day to pick up the phone and sign the paperwork. Oh, and there's still over 30 quids worth of credit on my mobile, so can I have that transferred to my new bill pay account?”
“Sorry, no that’s not possible. Different companies, you see.”
“Well no, I don’t see, because both names are above your shop’s door and one wholly owns the other.”
But I let it go and wander off, thinking to myself that I’ll use up that credit before I commit myself to my new phone. I’ll call everyone on my mobile and roar through it, rather than just let Meteor walk off with my dosh.
Bloomin’ right. Sod ‘em. Then the bad thing happens: the niggling unpleasant voice in my head goes from a nagging whisper to a demanding dirge, spreading all over my cerebellum like Nazis annexing the Sudetenland.
Oh you sly little bastards. You're off checking my credit card and nicking 30 quid off me while I’ve done nothing but show you supreme customer loyalty. There’s no need for you to check out my credit rating as you’re already creaming me through the direct debit set up from my bank account that pays my Eircom landline bill, as well as a credit card mandate cleared and already set up with Meteor.
I’m about to spend hundreds on a new phone with you and sign a two year contract with you and I’ve just approved a direct debit from my credit card to pay the bill, and you oh no, you can’t simply allocate a 30 quid credit to my bill pay account, because that might make me feel justified in showing you loyalty. It might make me feel you truly gave a damn about my custom, and the way I keep bringing it back to you.
Sadly customer loyalty means nothing at all these days. If fact, loyal customers appear to be the only people to suffer in our 21st century corporate culture.
Everywhere I go I hear tales of car insurance renewal premiums that suddenly go through the roof. No claims have been made, yet the insurance companies have taken their loyal customers and royally shafted them where it hurts. The same companies are simultaneously offering new customers excellent rates.
Silly me. There I was thinking that insurance companies might give better prices to people who’ve proved they can drive for years and make no claims.
Then there’s the banks, who reward the Irish people for rescuing their greedy repugnant backsides by closing windows in high street branches. There’ll be three employees doing naff-all behind the customer service desk and another prowling the massive queue, asking if anyone doesn’t actually need to be in the queue.
Some stupid part of me likes to believe customer loyalty is a two way street; that if I’m already a long-term committed customer of both parent company Eircom and its subsidiary Meteor, with direct debits pouring forth from me to them in various methods and directions, they might reciprocate with a little goodwill gesture.
Actually, stuff that. It’s not a goodwill gesture I’m after. I want my money back. I’ve paid them something and not used it, so I should just get it back. But if they ever do recompense me, you’d better believe they’ll call it a ‘good will gesture’, and maybe throw in a ‘without prejudice’ or two for good measure.
No, it won’t come to that. I’ll take the hit, sign the contract and buy the phone.
But not until I’ve used up the credit on my old phone. Oh no. I can be a horribly stubborn man, especially when someone won’t give back what is rightfully mine.