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Company Policy

custservSome days, a rant is in order, and the topic of my particular rant is that great put-off claim of something being ‘company policy.’

I have used my recent house move as an opportunity to do a bit of mystery shopping about how consumers and tenants are treated. It’s also fascinating to discover which companies try to be helpful and flexible in the first instance, regardless of size, and those who hide behind the ‘company policy’ line.

Granted, it is fair for companies to have policies about customer service, but when that line is trotted out by all and sundry, without any quarter given to the fact that they are dealing with human beings, then it becomes unfair.

Tenants get a bad rap. Either by choice, or circumstance, more and more New Zealanders rent their homes. It is not easy, particularly when you are paying high rents. For the past six years, I have lived in two rented homes, the last one for four years. The rent in the last one (a three bedroom home/one bathroom home on a half section) in a fairly central Auckland suburb was rented for $750 per week. Over four years, that adds up to an eye-watering $156,000.

The property is managed by Anne Duncan Rentals as was the first property I rented. One of the most invasive things about renting is having the property regularly inspected, which happened every four months. Not once during six years have I been asked to correct anything as a result of these inspections, and it starts to feel like an exercise in self-justification for the property managers.

Then, when you come to move out (as the property was being sold), the end of tenancy inspection ramps things up to a whole new level. It is reasonable to clean the carpets, the oven, the kitchen and skirting boards, as well as ensuring everything is a good working order. Tenants expect this. However, property managers can with hold bond until the property is clean to their satisfaction, which, in my instance, was extreme (and rather ridiculous, given the property was about the tidied up for sale).

The last straw was the property manager Shane telling me that, despite my best efforts and many cleaning products, the soap buildup on the bottom of the shower was not ‘normal wear and tear’ on the house, as he could remove it by scratching it with the nib of his pen. When I asked if he actually wanted me to come and scrape the entire 1.5 x 1.5 metre shower with the nib of his ballpoint pen, he said yes. So I did, in front of him, wondering what kind of power trip it was. The company owner, when I spoke to her, seemed to think this was excessive, but he was adamant that my bond couldn’t be transferred until this was complete – ‘it’s policy.’

Another ‘policy’ crew is Flexibin. If you order one bag, and then decide you need another, you are charged for two separate pickups, even if the driver does them at the same time. So, for two 1m3 bags, you will pay 50% more than if they pick up one 2m3 bag, even though the total size and capacity are the same. They are a brilliant product, and their customer service team even admit that they get many inquiries to that effect. They are pleasant, yet, ‘it’s policy.’ Yawn.

Then, on the other hand, you can call large companies (Vodafone and Contact Energy), both of whom get their fair share of attack about response times and call centre waits, and get magnificent help. Both companies advertise that it can take up to two weeks to move service addresses (which seems a bit off), but when I realised, in a mild panic, that I was only going to give them four days warning, both companies ensured my services were moved in time, and with no trouble at all.

“It’s company policy,” is corporate-speak for “yeah, nah.” It’s an easy brush off, but it isn’t a good reason. For all those companies that pride themselves on their ‘dedication to customer service,’ they should ban it from their manuals and call centres – it’s entirely at odds.