Tough Customers Told Tough Titties

We’re all about complaining and wheedling to get what you want from businesses. But according to an MSN Money article, you might be bitching your own hole.

Increasingly, businesses are finding ways to discourage highly unprofitable customers, or “bad customers,” those who spend much less than what they cost they company.

Among these are giving unprofitable customers longer hold times on the phone, removing them from promotional mailing lists announcing discounts and savings, or refusing to effect exchanges for chronic returners.

On the flip side, perks, upgrades and expedited service are given to those customers who drop large sums of cash into the company coffer’s.

There’s a difference between standing up for your consumer rights and needlessly abusing the system. Persistent but polite complaining is more effective than a ten-minute harangue. Just think of the signal vs. noise ratio in your communication, am I spending more time explaining the problem’s emotional impact or sticking to the facts of what went wrong?

Then again, you could always just speak softly and carry a big wallet.

“Are you a bad customer?” [MSNmoney]

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  1. TedSez says:


    This whole article is based on the assumption that company policies are implemented the way they’re supposed to be, which we all know is often not the case. Who, exactly, decides which customers are “bad,” and who decides to treat them differently as a result? For instance, if you have trouble with a customer-service rep and ask to talk to a supervisor, can that rep mark you as a “bad customer” in retaliation? If you assertively deny a salesperson’s attempts to foist an expensive warranty on you, will he or she mark you down as a permanent cheapskate? If you get annoyed when an AOL rep won’t let you end your service, will he put something in your file that will result in bad service from every other Time-Warner affiliate for the rest of your life?

    You get the picture…. This could be just another way to further abuse customers who object to abuse in the first place.

  2. RandomHookup says:

    Well, most companies can be pretty simplistic, so I’m thinking they mostly segregate by dollars. Buy lots of nondiscounted stuff = angel customer. Buy lots of heavily discounted merchandise, always use coupons, have lots of returns = devil.

    It’s interesting that some of the customer rewards program encourage behavior that isn’t profitable.

  3. ModerateSnark says:

    They may just log the time consumed by customer service, and compare that to sales in dollars.

    However, it would be a huge mistake to apply this kind of measure to relatively new customers. You can gain a loyal customer with good customer service on their first complaint (or two).

    Once a long track record of being a “bad customer” is established, I can see why companies would want to treat them differently. They’d be happy to lose them as customers–as long as they don’t make a big fuss and take other customers with them.

  4. MrBartokomous says:

    Well, I think I may have gotten into that trap with my phone company. See, I don’t pay as much per month as they’d like for me to, of course… they gave me a choice of plans and I took the one I wanted. But because I don’t spend enough to make them happy, they’ve basically nulled my ability to get phones at discount on a new contract. Regardless of whether I sign or not, I gotta pay full retail price. So… I got a nice new phone on craigslist, and I go month to month until Canada gets its number portability up and running.

  5. coldwarvet says:

    I had a problem with Packet 8 machine taking my INTERNET for some reason that I don’t understand I tried msn on line INTERNET sign up to get the machine to hook up to the net it did not work I canceled it that night Had a three month trial free. Well they did not cancel it so I called They were not able to charge anything as my debit card number had changed, I was told no way they would remove That I did not call even though it showed on their system that I called. and that I had recalled and instituted the service. Never did. They did and would not take 9.95 off.