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Saturday, April 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 59.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily

CITIZEN DAVE

Citizen Dave: Replace United execs with glasses guys from Warby Parker


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I know that many of you have been breathlessly waiting to learn of my decision regarding my new glasses. The overwhelming consensus was that my stylish large glass frames were more Mr. Magoo than Clooney, and that they should be replaced with ones that made me look less idiotic.

So, I put the wheels in motion to do just that, and the result was a lesson in customer service.

I called the Warby Parker frame folks and a real nice real person answered on the first ring. She said I could return the frames and she'd be sending me a pre-addressed, postage-paid shipping box right away. Then, when I tried to test drive some new frames online, I had to call Warby Parker back because I couldn't remember my password (as I can never remember my password for anything).

Once again, they answered on the first ring, and immediately gave me an easy to remember password over the phone that I used to complete my order. In a few days, I'll get five pairs to try on at home, and I can ship them back postage-free.

Contrast that with the dreaded United Airlines.

I got to know Warby Parker in the first place because United lost my bag along with my glasses. I filed a claim as instructed by United four weeks ago -- which they never acknowledged even though they have my email -- so I thought I'd call them up just to see what was going on.

United puts you through a phone tree designed to make sure you never get to talk to a real human being. They don't give you the option of "speak to a representative." You just have to say it, and then the electronic voice tries to talk you out of it by saying something like, "you can speak to a representative, but it'll be next Tuesday before you get through and they won't be able to help you anyway, so why don't you just give up?"

Also, there are no electronic response options for "you lost my bag with my glasses in it, and so I had to file a claim, and I just want to check to see if there's any hope that you will ever acknowledge my existence."

So, if you say the magic words "speak to a representative," you reject the electronic voice's attempt to talk you out of that, and then you are put on hold. Finally, a real person does answer the phone. This person is in India. Actually the real human being is pretty pleasant and responsive. Trouble is their bosses have set up a system whereby it will take "twelve to sixteen weeks" to resolve the claim. You are polite to the person in India as that person is not responsible for United's corporate attitude, which can only come from the top.

That United corporate attitude goes something like: You are chattel. Give us your money and be quiet and if we screw up, well, stuff happens, sucker.

There's no reason it has to be this way, as hungrier, better run businesses like Warby Parker prove. I say take the guys who run the eyeglass frame business and put them in charge of the big airline. They can only do better.

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