Circuit City Complaint - Circuit City’s “Firedog” Service: Den Of Thieves
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Several years ago, I had components for a home A/V system installed by Circuit City. Circuit City subsequently spun off its service division into a separate entity called Firedog. So, because I’d felt satisfied by Circuit City’s service in the past, I chose Firedog to handle two minor adjustments to the set-up. After reviewing Firedog’s offerings on line, on 6/6/08 I called Firedog to purchase the simplest option, called CONNECT3. But when confronted with my request, the salesman said that I should purchase the more expensive BASIC service instead. His stated reasons constituted gobbledygook to my ears, and when I politely asked him to please repeat himself, he did -- but with no more clarity than before.
Years ago, before the Giuliani administration cleaned up the Times Square district here in New York (where I live), the neighborhood was infested with what some Manhattanites called gun-in-your-back electronics stores. Independently owned and operated, they specializing in over-priced, “gray market” merchandise (much openly labeled “NOT FOR SALE IN THE U.S.A.”), and the shops were staffed by greasy-haired salesman with shifty eyes reminiscent of two olives rolling around on a plate. Highly manipulative and exquisitely skilled at playing upon customers’ emotional vulnerability, these fast-talking ne’er-do-wells had a well-deserved reputation for being a pox on the city. Strangely, though my Firedog salesman represented a reputable, national chain, everything about his demeanor screamed that I was dealing with the sleazy, gun-in-your-back type of salesman. But against my better judgment, I allowed the guy to sell me the BASIC service. The pounding breathlessness with which he processed my credit card information and swiftly terminated the call was reminiscent of the hurried footsteps of a mugger, running away with my wallet.
Two Firedog servicemen duly presented themselves at my apartment and performed the requested service -- which wound up being nothing more than turning a few switches on my already-installed equipment and explaining what to do if problems arose again. Ten minutes later, as I signed the contract acknowledging its completion, I remarked aloud that it seemed to me that CONNECT3 would have been the appropriate service package for my needs and that I felt I had been tricked into buying BASIC instead.
“Oh,” one of the men declared, “customers complain about those Firedog salesmen ALL THE TIME.”
Furious with anger, the next day I called Firedog to complain about what had been done, and the salesman openly admitted that my observation was correct. He explained that the sales staff works under strict instructions from management to try to over-sell services, and staff is even limited to exact language that is allowed with customers. Repeated entreaties to management for permission NOT to have to treat customers with such aggression had been to no avail.
In any event, he could not make an adjustment to my purchase. Instead, that had to be done by a Massachusetts-based office, where the phone number -- 800-347-3364 -- was handled by representatives devoted exclusively to Firedog services sold over the phone (as opposed to in-store or on line). It took numerous phone calls -- and long waiting periods on “hold” -- to get anyone to take action on my behalf. But eventually a conference call was set up with someone working under R.M., who is the operations manager for New York. The man queried me about exactly what the technicians had done. He then agreed that CONNECT3 -- not BASIC -- was indeed the service package that I should have been sold.
The prescribed remedy was for me to buy a CONNECT3 package (costing $155.99 including tax), and I was promised that I would then be credited the full price of the BASIC package (which had cost me $187.19 including tax). A credit subsequently did appear on my credit card statement, on 6/12/08 -- but for only $20.80.
Dismayed by the mis-handling of the issue, on 6/20/08, I wrote to Circuit City’s corporate headquarters in Virginia (“Attention: Firedog Customer Service/Refunds”), enclosing documentation and requesting that corrective action be taken. My letter never received so much as an acknowledgment.
I also sent a copy of my letter (with its enclosures) as a “pdf” file attachment to an e-mail addressed to email@example.com, and the response I received was simply a statement that I should call instead.
Erroneously thinking it would be a simple matter to correct the problem, I didn’t keep track of all my subsequent calls to the Firedog office in Massachusetts. But conversations with at least a dozen customer service reps and repeated empty promises of follow-up finally led me to realize that I’d better start documenting everything -- so I’d have solid evidence of misconduct to present in Small Claims Court, which is where I inevitably seemed to be heading.
Interestingly, after each customer service rep read through the files that had been created for each of my service orders, there was NEVER any disagreement about the issue: Firedog owed me $166.39. But returning my money to me could not be done without approval from someone else -- who would NEVER grant it.
The last customer service rep I dealt with was R.S., an “elite agent” on Firedog’s so-called “G. O. Team,” whose three e-mails to Field Service Managers J.B. and M.L. never received responses. Finally I asked R.S. if I might be granted PART of the money owed to me, and he said “yes.” At his request to Circuit City’s corporate office in Virginia, a credit of $155.99 was finally issued on 7/29/08.
It is UNCONTESTED that Circuit City’s Firedog is holding on to $10.40 of my money against my will, but I assume that management figures -- correctly -- that I do not consider that amount worth pursuing in Small Claims Court. Management can pat itself on the pack with pride over the success of its theft, but Firedog’s ill-gotten gain surely was offset several times over by the salaries paid to employees who had to deal with me.
In the end, of course, EVERYONE loses in this case. It also bears mentioning that management policies unencumbered by the structures of integrity are unsustainable. So I daresay it is only a matter of time until Firedog management undergoes a pogrom perpetrated by higher levels in the Circuit City hierarchy. Either that, or competitors for whom business practices are based upon principles of fair dealing will eventually force Firedog to close altogether, for lack of business.
If any Circuit City or Firedog employee who reads this posting has access to his/her employer’s computer records, the accuracy of my account can be verified by looking up my orders and reading their accompanying customer service rep notes. The Order Numbers are 4488-797017 and 4478-807138.