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By Herb Weisbaum
msnbc.com contributor
updated 10/19/2006 10:05:47 AM ET 2006-10-19T14:05:47

When I wrote about the demise of customer service , I hit a nerve.

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I knew there were a lot of dissatisfied out there, but I didn’t anticipate the hundreds of e-mails. I have covered the consumer sector for decades and I have noticed the slow erosion of consumer service. As a consumer myself, I am appalled by this. As a journalism, I am alarmed.

Shady business practices are just part of the problem. We consumers seem to get no help from governmental agencies created to be our advocates.

Obviously, many of you agree. Here are just a few of the comments I received:

That was the most inspiring article I have read in a while. I thought I was the only one who felt like companies are ripping people off and the government -- who is suppose to protect us -- is doing nothing at all. I hope this article is the beginning of changes in this country and that the government starts protecting the American people here and now. Thanks.
— Debra Ziegler, Oceanside, Calif.

I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore. That should be every consumers mantra. I am sorry, but I let them know it. If they don't say thank you, I say it to them and remind them they are to say it. If it says free, then it is free.
— Michael, Wilmington, Del.

Customers are disposable. Notice how companies routinely stick it to them. Rebates not honored, exorbitant late fees, misleading advertising and so on. The fools are driving customers away — we'll find somewhere to go.
— Hal Kempthorne, California

Regarding your commentary "Whatever happened to customer service?" 1. It went to India. 2. It went to "Please listen carefully to the menu options as they have recently changed". 3. It went when you have to press 1 for English. 4. It went to India, halfway across the world. 5. It went into the cheap, greedy, short sighted CEO's pocket.
— Walt Walker, Cary, Ill.

I am so annoyed by 'up-selling' at the cash register in retail businesses that I cringe when I have to check-out. Even the post office is engaging in this blatantly greedy practice. I attempted to mail a package, economically, and was so confused by the options pushed upon me by a surprisingly fast-talking postal clerk that I ended up paying for expedited service without being told it was expedited. I made it clear that I did not want to pay for next-day, second-day or any other pricey option. The postal clerk also lied about the cost of insurance and she finalized the whole transaction with a cheery "How about some stamps today?" Ugh. Is there anything a consumer can do to stop the hustling at the register? An employee at a movie store who was up-selling apologized and added that the corporation said they HAD to push additional "offers". If retailers only knew what a turn-off this is for consumers.

— Lisa, San Diego, Calif.

To some degree, I agree with what you say. But at the same time, I have to disagree. You say that consumers are not asking for much, that they are just asking for ads to be true and companies to treat us fairly. Well, I work in retail and I have to tell you, that these are not the only things that consumers are asking for. They are asking for anything they can possibly get out a company. They're demanding more and more and we let them because (and this article proves it) we've created a vicious cycle. Consumer asks, we give. Consumer demands, we give. Consumer is rude, obnoxious, threatens to never come back and then tell their friends not to shop there, we give. How's it going to stop? Now, I've had my share of customer service problems, but does this all come down to the companies values or our greedy "I'm always right" attitude? I have to tell you, that lately, I've seen first hand that it's the attitude and it's only going to get worse.
— Candice, Renton, Wash.

You are 100% right that consumers are being taken -- even by the biggest, most reputable companies. … One of the foundations of my little business is customer service.  It's really simple in this business, but the customer response and loyalty is incredible.  People from all over the world (Annapolis is a world sailing port and home of lots of history and the U.S. Naval Academy) are stunned at the way we deliver quality and service.  And, therein lies the secret: Start with a quality product and customer service is easy. I only wish the tech firms would get this message.
— Walter A. Giera, Annapolis, Md.

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