Posted On: Monday - May 17th 2021 10:29AM MST
In Topics: 
  Curmudgeonry  Artificial Stupidity  Customer Care

The phone number above is NOT, I repeat, NOT the Peak Stupidity customer care line. We don't have one because we just don't care that awful much.*. Who knows who you'll get on that line, but I would bet money on one thing: You won't get a live person on the other end without going through some phone menu.

C'mon, man! We know it's just the one girl at the counter.

We haven't got into the Curmudgeonry very much lately, so it's about time for a quick one. I just plain don't like unnecessary phone "tree" systems whether tone-operated or voice-operated. In fact, I've NEVER partaken in the latter yet, and gotten away with it so far. That's not easy at times - learning the right combinations of "0"s and other numbers in an order that will not result in one's being hung up on takes some memory skills. (If you're gonna call again, when you get the Rosetta Stone of the system down, WRITE IT DOWN! Example: "Wait 5 seconds for the 'Por hablo Espaniol...' crap, mash 1, mash 0, 0 again, then 4".)

One of our vehicles has had a crack in the windshield for a couple of years, but this spring, once the sun got high, it decided to grow**. We noticed it go a few inches each time in about 3 steps already, so that's it. Luckily insurance covers this one, as this vehicle has got the comprehensive coverage.

Good deal - I'll get something out of all those years of premiums and no claims. (I should be thankful anyway.) Bing.com showed a number of places to get this done. One was near a friend's place, where he could pick me up to hang out while I waited. However, the one nearest him had an 888 number shown vs. local numbers for the others. Seeing as I wasn't shopping based on cost this time, that phone number alone made my decision for me.

I know I've written this stuff before, but there's times when a phone tree does help the business get one routed to the right person or makes you do the work of entering information, saving employees some time, as opposed to the customer! Maybe that brings prices down, I dunno always. However, when calling the auto parts store for a price or availability, ordering a pizza, or calling the hair cut place to see when they're open****, I don't want to give my life story. Just get it over with, and answer the damn phone like a human being! It's not like we're gonna do it fully automated anyway, so you waste 30 seconds to a minute (this is for small business, not even Big-Biz) running me around, and then "hello".

Publishing that 888 number rather than a local number cost the auto glass business $550 this morning.***** Nice going, guys! The other place had a girl that answered right away. I checked whether they could get the windshield for my year/make/model, they could, and so we simply did business.

Small business owners or potential small business owners: Please keep this in mind. Someone has to answer the phone anyway. Think about skipping that phone system. We know you're not a huge place with 100 "associates" who are "busy serving other customers and will be with you shortly, so in the meantime, say your, I dunno, favorite Major League Baseball team..." If that's what the idea is, you're not fooling us all. Just get someone to answer the phone WHEN THE CUSTOMER CALLS, and, while you're at it, think about not telling her to reel off a 15 second greeting either.

Hey, I've been there, long ago. Yes, depending on the business, you may get from 5% to 50% of the callers actually doing business. (I was on the low end of this.) Still, they are more likely to do business when they don't get pissed at your computer voices and hang up, or not call up in the first place. Just sayin'....

* I would expect that our regular readers understand that our offering of Peak Stupidity alerts was also done in pure facetiousness.

** Be really careful about spraying washer fluid, or water in general on the windshield when it's been out in the sun with any existing crack in it, especially if you have a dark-colored dash. There are two factors that work in concert: 1) The top of the dash radiates to the inside of the glass, heating it way up. This gives the inside of the glass a tendency to expand against the constraint of the outside, which is cooler and even cooler when sprayed with water. 2) There is a chemical effect from the bi-polar*** water molecules (as I read about in a paper long ago) that increases crack growth in glass.

You've got the big thermal tensile stress on the outside of the glass from the differential temperature, then the water exacerbates it due to both factors.

*** Yes, those crazy-ass water molecules!

**** If you're closed, why not go to voice mail, with the hours? If you're not, well, don't waste my time.

***** Yes, they billed the insurance company that much. I asked, and it would have been only about half that if it were me, paying cash.

Tuesday - May 18th 2021 1:18PM MST
PS: Adam, a doctor friend who used to have 3 offices with a total of 51 employees (at one point) told me that 11 of those people were doing billing only. That means back-and-forth arguing with the insurance companies and with the patients, trying to get as much of the money due as possible. All of that employee time is completely unproductive along the lines of the purpose of the business.

The system is so screwed up business-wise. The details I've seen are that the doctor's offices or hospitals (this was the delivery room) jack up the prices to 3 x or so what they really expect to get, as bargained down by the insurance companies. However, when I paid myself on things, I paid maybe 1/2 of what the nominal charges were.

Sure, if you drag out the payments at $1 per month, you can pay much less, with it dragging out the rest of your life. Per various people in the business, the charges can't be pawned off to a collection agency or put on your credit rating - the latter of which I don't give a damn about - so long as you keep paying regularly.

Then, there was the time, the charge for 1/2 hour behind the counter at the ER was $1,300. After paying ~ $250, I'd had enough. When a guy called about it I told him "look, that should cover our charges. I can't be paying for the 5 illegal aliens that were in there with us." (And there were - maybe it was 4, maybe 6.) The guy seemed taken aback by my not caring that he said that was racist or something. "I'm not paying for them. See you later.". Click. It's nice not to need credit!
Adam Smith
Tuesday - May 18th 2021 11:02AM MST
PS: Good afternoon everyone...

2) You're welcome Robert.

Rex, I know a kid who has been in and out of rehab facilities for hard core drug use. Fortunately for him his grandfather is very well off and has great health insurance for the family. He has been in facilities that give him 6 or 8 thousand dollars cash when he completes the program, obviously charged to the insurance company. You can imagine what happens when you give a 20 year old fresh out of rehab for abusing heroine and fentanyl 6 or 8 thousand dollars cash to go blow. He parties till the money runs out, then back to rehab again. Rinse and repeat. I know it's part of their business model to have repeat business, but it also seems like insurance fraud. What they've spent on rehab that obviously hasn't worked could have paid for a very nice house in an expensive part of the country.

When SafeLite replaced the windshield on my e34 it cost $275, but this was like 10 years ago. I paid in cash. I don't know what they would have billed if an insurance company was covering it. Maybe they charge insurance companies more knowing that they will have to fight for payment and that the insurance company will negotiate the price downwards, like health insurance companies.(?) I'm sure some of this is different state to state.

Mr. Moderator, I (not me, as I haven't been to a doctor in decades) have the opposite experience when it comes to healthcare billing. When my wife was self pay the cost was dramatically less expensive. Self pay was regularly less than half of what an insurance company would have paid. Letting the office know that she paid cash today would often lead to another 10-20% being shaved off the bill.

Now that she has coverage they regularly bill several times more than they did when she was self pay. The insurance company usually pays a fraction (maybe half) of the bill, but still more than when she was self pay. Now that she has insurance they keep her coming back more often and do a whole lot of testing that they didn't do before. I guess they know what they can charge for certain tests and such and where those thresholds are. She often has to follow up with the insurance companies to make sure her Doctors get paid at all. Lots of double billing, fraudulent billing and other nonsense too.

I can't think of any other service that can get away with these sorts of crazy billing practices.

Monday - May 17th 2021 9:01PM MST
PS: That's very blatant, Rex. I was surprised to learn today that the insurance companies paid more. In health care, they push the prices down, but if you pay yourself you've got to bargain hard to still pay 50% more than they do, from my experience.
Rex Little
Monday - May 17th 2021 8:11PM MST
PS Apparently it's standard to overcharge insurance companies for windshield replacement. There's an outfit around here that openly advertises that they'll give you $200 if you replace your windshield with them and it's covered by insurance. Don't know how they get away with that; seems to me like they're confessing to insurance fraud.
Monday - May 17th 2021 6:11PM MST
PS: 1) No, I've been meaning to change out the "NACA" graph at the top. I think we've got a ways to go, Robert! Glad to hear this about the grocery store. We just had some pushback in the form of legal changes in my State for the good, also regarding the face masks.
Monday - May 17th 2021 4:35PM MST

1) Completely off-topic, but employees at the local grocery store no longer have to wear masks! I could see and understand the cashier! Is the amount of stupidity actually decreasing? Is PeakStupidity a prescient name?

2) Mr. Smith: Thanks for your reply on the other thread about private businesses. That is basically what I thought you meant, but wasn't sure.
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