Quick fixes for cheques and dogs

Our neighbours have four unruly dogs in a yard that would be too small for four placid cats. Between our yards is a high wall and during the day, should you walk past the wall, you will be barked at with a ferocity that is impressive. During the day, this is annoying but not really objectionable. At night, things are different…

At night this micropack will detect a cat, an opossum, a falling leaf or the gods-know-what, and set to baying like The Hound of the Baskervilles. A few nights ago they got into a four-part harmony at around 3 a.m. that went on for about 30 minutes and then did an encore at 4 a.m.

Do my neighbours plan to fix this? They say they have bark collars on order, but this late night serenade has been going on for more than a year, so I’m not holding out much hope for a quick fix.

I am also holding out little hope for a quick fix from a company called TeleCheck International Inc. TeleCheck, a cheque-clearing service, made a mistake that resulted in one of my cheques – much to my embarrassment – being incorrectly declined. Let me tell you how this happened…

I took my car to get the stereo fixed and when I tried to pay by cheque, the store told me that TeleCheck had declined my cheque. To say I was surprised is an understatement. So I paid using a debit card (without a problem) and went home to track down the problem.

It took more than 20 minutes on the phone to deal with TeleCheck. This, of course, required me to explain the problem and give my name, driving license details, bank details and cheque details twice to different people, as well as being kept on hold for perhaps 15 of the 20 minutes. I was also told repeatedly and unctuously by the on-hold message that they were going to deliver outstanding customer service when I finally got to a human being. The result was as I suspected – there was absolutely nothing wrong with my credit. They told me that they had cross-linked my file with someone else’s file.

And to add insult to injury, for me to get the error fixed, I was told that I would have to fax them a cancelled cheque and my driving license.

“Let me get this clear,” I said, “you screw up, you know you’ve screwed up and I have to jump through hoops to get the problem fixed?”

“Yes,” replied the supervisor, “that’s the procedure.”

Now let’s consider what such a snafu takes to happen: There’s bad data collection, bad database design, bad data entry, bad data management, and of course, bad customer service. But who’s to blame?

You can reasonably get mad with supervisors, although in a company like TeleCheck they seem to be relatively powerless. Ideally you could get mad with the company’s management, but that requires you to find an e-mail address or telephone number. Which you can’t. Anywhere.

This is a company that can screw with your data, cause you embarrassment, and make you do work to solve a problem they gave you, all because they have a bad process combined with bad information technology and a customer service operation that goes through the motions but obviously doesn’t give a damn. TeleCheck’s behaviour is remarkably irresponsible for such a powerful organization.

If you were the head of IT there and your systems were so pathetic, wouldn’t you expect to be fired?

Gibbs is a contributing editor at Network World (US). He is at nwcolumn@gibbs.com.