James made a post yesterday that got me thinking about the service industry, and in particular, bad service.
And what options we lowly consumers have for dealing with it.
Now, I'm one of those people who alternates between two extremes. I'll either be the doormat, silently seething but outwardly being treated like shit. That is the 'produce of her upbringing Sandra'.
Or I'll go up one side of a person and down the other until I'm sure I've put them in their place.
And then I'll go home and cry because I feel like shit.
But I have very strong opinions about service, about getting what you pay for, about being treated with respect. And I have fought the good fight on more than one occasion.
Like just after Kevin and I got married, he bought me a computer. This was before I converted him to the wonders of Mac's, and he bought me (shudder) a Hewlett-Packard P-O-C.
Within a month, the hard drive had gone. And then again. And again. And each time, I had to schedule myself at home to wait for some boneheaded repairman to try the same thing as last time, which clearly wasn't the problem.
Kev knew what the problem was. He tried talking sense to these idiots. Finally, the computer had to be sent in. A whole month and guess what? When it came back, it still didn't work.
I blew a gasket on the help line and threw the phone against the wall and busted it. At that point, it was all-out war. They finally told me they'd give me a full credit for the machine and to take it to the store where I'd bought it for my credit.
Which was when Office Depot started cursing HP, because that was the first they'd heard about it.
End of the day, the price of computers had dropped significantly. I got a new computer and a new printer and something else for the price of the original. And it damn well wasn't a HP, since the store honoured the credit.
Now, this all brings me to my present dilemma. You now know I can fight an 11-month war. You already knew I can be a bit of a bitch.
Two years ago, I subscribed to Firstwriter.com. For thirty-some-odd bucks per year I have access to their listings of agents, publishers, writing contests and magazines. I get updates of new information. Subscribers can post feedback, which is sometimes very helpful in figuring out if an agent is good or bad or otherwise.
I thought it a worthwhile subscription. Cheaper than the cost of the Writer's Market book, usually not as outdated.
But recent events have forced me to wonder about just who it is Firstwriter panders to.
Magazines, agents and publishers can all post listings for no cost. Great for them - free advertising.
Great for the scammers too, as Firstwriter relies on what the agencies and publishers choose to say about themselves. I have found many postings for publishers and agents that, upon checking preditors and editors, I've learned were swinderlers or Vanity presses.
Of course, my recent situation was born out of querying off of Firstwriter. There was nothing on anyone involved on P&E, so it came down to internet research. Couldn't find anything warning me off there either, so I decided to submit.
And we all know how that turned out.
But what bothers me is that I was looking at some stuff on Firstwriter the other day. A person had made a negative comment about an agent. And the agent responded with a comment of their own. Clearly, checking on the site.
I went to this publisher's listing and found only glowing, positive comments. From people who said they hadn't been offered contracts, but their experience was just so darned pleasant and encouraging.
I'm one to think I'd like to warn people to stay away from a vulture like that press. I'd like to spare people the heartache.
And I can be a bit of a vindictive bitch.
But if I post a comment about my experience, Firstwriter will no longer let me do that anonymously. They post the name and the town and country of residence of the poster.
I emailed about this. They say free speech has to be tempered with responsibility. And that the publisher can't sue me anyway.
No, I said, maybe not. But they've already wasted days of my life with multiple harassing emails and I'd rather not go through that again.
I made a suggestion about balancing the 'anonymity' of the posters and still giving Firstwriter recourse to not post the comments or remove them if inappropriate.
They brushed me off.
All of which has me completely pissed off. They do no research on the companies that list with them. The companies could be out of business, could be charging people for services, vanity presses - whatever.
The subscribers - the writers - who actually pay for the service have to find this out on their own.
And I've found myself turning to the Writer's Market anyway now, to substantiate information about presses and agents.
So why am I subscribing to Firstwriter? I haven't got a bloody clue anymore. I can find listings for most agents and publishers via free websites. What am I paying a few bucks a month for this lack of service for?
I started this off to pose the question to you all - should I stay or should I cancel my subscription? What do you think? Am I overreacting?
And what else, besides notifying P&E, can writers do to help protect other writers from scammers? How do we stop them?
I do think I'll write to Firstwriter and complain about one thing, though. Privacy laws. They shouldn't be allowed to dispense any personal information about their subscribers without consent, so I want my town and full name removed from posts I made.
Yeah, I can be a bit of a bitch... Am I wrong?