DEAR MISS MANNERS: Occasionally I come across a customer service policy that is designed to serve the company better, as opposed to the customer. In those cases, I realize the representative is simply relaying the message and most likely had nothing to do with putting the policy in place. Yet I can’t help but show my displeasure to them, as they are acting as the face of the company in that moment.
Do you have a polite way to address this in the future so that I don’t feel I’m flogging the messenger?
GENTLE READER: We expect companies to operate within both social norms and the law; we do not necessarily expect them to be altruistic or work against their own self-interest.
Miss Manners therefore expresses neither cynicism nor disparagement when she expects all company policies to serve the interests of the company: Even a lenient return policy presumably does so by building customer loyalty.
A good company policy serves both company and customer. What you are describing is a bad company policy, which is one that appears to take advantage of the customer. In these days of instant online reviews and customer boycotts, companies promulgate such policies at their peril. The less-understood cost is the wear and tear on their own staff, who are forced to represent the policy and deal with the understandable wrath of you, the customer.
How do you object to the policy without killing the messenger? With a polite but firm demeanor, and a willingness to follow the process through the chain of command -- asking for a manager when a representative is not empowered to solve the problem -- rather than degenerating into a yelling madman.